2018 Conference Plenary Speakers

Monday, September 24, Conference Welcome 
Pedro A. Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education

Pedro A. Rivera was nominated by Governor Tom Wolf to serve as the Secretary of Education on January 20, 2015, and was confirmed by the state Senate in June 2015. 

He joined the Wolf Administration after having served as Superintendent of The School District of Lancaster, a position he held from 2008-2015.
Under Rivera's leadership, The School District of Lancaster developed and implemented a new curriculum, an aggressive professional development plan, and innovative classroom observation tools. These initiatives resulted in an increased graduation rate, notable improvements in math, science and writing proficiency scores, and enhanced the level of participation from high-performing students in programs that help prepare them for college and other post-graduation opportunities. 
In September 2014, Rivera was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for his efforts to transform urban education – one of ten recipients nationwide to receive the prestigious honor.
He brings extensive experience in public education to his role as a member of Governor Wolf's cabinet and has spent his entire career helping students. Prior to serving as superintendent of The School District of Lancaster, he served as a classroom teacher, staff member with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, assistant principal, principal, and executive director for the School District of Philadelphia.
Rivera is a first generation college graduate and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master's degree in Education Administration from Cheyney University, and his Superintendent's Letter of Eligibility from Arcadia University. 

Monday, September 24, Lunch Plenary
A. Wayne Johnson, Ph.D., Next Gen, Chief Strategy and Transformation Office


Dr. Johnson is the Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer who is responsible for the development and implementation of strategic operational transformation at Federal Student Aid to deliver federal student aid in a world class manner.   

His vision for the Next Generation (Next Gen) Financial Services Environment includes the modernization of the systems architecture, technology, and system solutions to the entire financial aid delivery process. As part of Next Gen, Dr. Johnson is leading the conversion to a fully mobile environment to provide the optimum customer service to students, parents and borrowers.   

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appointed Dr. A. Wayne Johnson as the chief operating officer for the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) on July 13, 2017.  Dr. Johnson assumed his current role in January 2018, focusing his efforts the strategic planning process and execution to improve the optimum use of technology for aid delivery, debt collection, and compliance efforts.   

Throughout a career spanning more than 30 years, Dr. Johnson has proven himself as a dynamic, creative visionary and an entrepreneurial leader. His extensive background includes conceptualizing, developing, and leading successful businesses across multiple industries, with a particular focus on the financial services sector. 

Dr. Johnson earned a Doctorate in higher education leadership from Mercer University, an MBA from Emory University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Mercer University. 

Tuesday, September 25, Morning Plenary

Breakfast Plenary: The Reinvention of Steel City

A diverse local panel will discuss the transformation of Pittsburgh’s economy from steel and mining to “eds & meds” and information technology, all driven by postsecondary education. How has the region attracted new industries and changed the way it educates its workforce? What skills and talents are today’s employers looking for? How has the relationship among businesses, K-12 schools, and higher education changed? Who has benefitted during the economic transformation, and who has been left out? What lessons has Pittsburgh learned that could inform other metropolitan areas seeking to diversify their economies and better prepare their workforces? This plenary session is sponsored by Strada Education Network. 

Rebecca Lucore, Covestro, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility

Rebecca Lucore is Head of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Covestro LLC’s America’s region, responsible for innovating new approaches to social programs, philanthropy and donations, community relations and partnerships and sustainability initiatives in North and South America. Ms. Lucore is a leading voice in corporate America for the transformation of traditional corporate volunteerism to next gen skills-based volunteerism in which teams of employees working on short-term consulting projects with nonprofit organizations to help them address organizational issues and build capacity. Prior to this, Ms. Lucore worked for 20 years in various capacities in corporate citizenship, philanthropy, environment/sustainability and STEM education and diversity. From 2012 to 2015 she served as chief of staff at Bayer Material Science LLC where she was responsible for leading and streamlining organizational initiatives, including talent management; donations; and community, executive and employee engagement. Before that, for more than a decade, Ms. Lucore served as executive director of the Bayer USA Foundation and head of U.S. CSR for Bayer Corporation. In these dual roles, she was responsible for

directing all CSR initiatives and was a lead architect of Bayer’s flagship CSR program, Making Science Make Sense. A leader in the Pittsburgh community, she is currently on the board of directors of Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board and is advisory board president for the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University where she also co-chairs the center’s 74% Project, which examines women and leadership in the nonprofit sector.

Stefani Pashman, Allegheny Conference on Community and Economic Development

Stefani Pashman is Chief Executive Officer of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD), which brings together public and private sector leaders to improve the economic future and quality of life of the 10-county Pittsburgh region.

From 2010 to 2017, Ms. Pashman was CEO of Partner4Work, the workforce development system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Working with city and county government leaders, Ms. Pashman led the transformation of this organization from a fragmented mix of government-run programs to a comprehensive workforce system aligned in a single non-profit agency. Partner4Work received the Pennsylvania statewide award for the top workforce board in 2013, and was chosen as first pilot partner for McKinsey’s international five country youth workforce pilot program.

Previously, Ms. Pashman was director of policy and special assistant to the secretary in Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services from 2003 to 2010. She also worked in several consulting/policy analysts roles for the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget (Washington, D.C.) and for several healthcare consulting firms.

Joel Simon, CAEL


Joel Simon joined the CAEL team in 2006 and currently serves as Executive Vice President overseeing CAEL’s Higher Education, Workforce/Economic Development, Veterans and Research/Policy program areas as well as CAEL’s Operations, Finance and Human Resources divisions. Joel brings more than 25 years of experience working with a broad range of stakeholders to help individuals attain meaningful learning, credentials and work. He has been fortunate to draw inspiration and gain innovative ideas from hundreds of communities and stakeholders across the 41 states where he has provided consulting and technical assistance to workforce, education and economic development initiatives. He began his career as a community organizer which cemented his commitment to supporting broad-based, multi-stakeholder efforts that increase educational attainment not in isolation, but as a part of communities’ efforts to improve employability, quality of life, civic engagement, equity and inclusion. Prior to working at CAEL he served in a variety of non-profit and public sector roles at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, and the Computing Technology Industry Association. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago and lives in Chicago.

He currently serves as the Secretary of the Board of Inner Voice, a homeless services agency in Chicago, and as Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Advisory Committee of the International Economic Development Council.

James E. Taylor, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

James E. Taylor, Ph.D., is one of the nation’s foremost authorities in the fields of diversity and inclusion as well learning and development. Dr. Taylor is both chief diversity and inclusion officer and chief learning officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), one of the nation’s largest and most successful integrated health systems. He is responsible for the development and implementation of strategic diversity initiatives that differentiate UPMC. To this end, Taylor executes leading-edge and next-generation diversity strategies to advance the organization’s diversity management capability, and its national presence as a diversity leader. He also is responsible for developing an integrated learning strategy that provides the organization with highly effective and technologically advanced employee learning, leadership development and consultative services aligned with the institution’s strategic priorities.

Prior to joining UPMC, Taylor served as chief learning and diversity officer at Carolinas HealthCare System. In this role, he was charged with ensuring the visibility and influence of diversity at the Carolinas HealthCare System through the development of products and services that enhanced the cultural competence of the workforce and improved its competitive position in the marketplace. Taylor also has served as executive director, diversity strategy execution and workplace inclusion at Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest managed care organization and not-for-profit health plan.

Tuesday, September 25, Lunch Plenary 
Dr. Mildred García, President, AASCU

Dr. Mildred García is the president at American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU.) As AASCU's president, Dr. García is an advocate for public higher education at the national level, working to influence federal policy and regulations on behalf of member colleges and universities; serving as a resource to presidents and chancellors as they address state policy and emerging campus issues; developing collaborative partnerships and initiatives that advance public higher education; directing a strategic agenda that focuses on public college and university leadership for the 21st century; and providing professional development opportunities for presidents, chancellors, and their spouses. She is the first Latina to lead one of the six presidentially based higher education associations in Washington, D.C.  Prior to joining AASCU, Dr. García served as the president of California State University, Fullerton. Under her leadership, the university saw a 30 percent improvement in six-year graduation rates and a 65 percent improvement in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen; and the achievement gap was eliminated for transfer students and cut in half for first-time freshmen. The institution is now number one in California and second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics, as well as sixth in the nation in graduating students of color.

President García previously served as president of CSU Dominguez Hills, CEO of Berkeley College, and has held both academic and senior-level positions at Arizona State University; Montclair State University; Pennsylvania State University; Teachers College, Columbia University; and the Hostos, LaGuardia, and City Colleges of the City University of New York. A recipient of myriad awards, and was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. She also served on Air University's Board of Visitors; and the the Committee on Measures of Student Success. She presently sits the boards of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Board of Trustees.

A first-generation college student, Dr. García earned a Doctor of Education degree and a M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University; a M.A. in Business Education/Higher Education from New York University; a B.S. in Business Education from Baruch College, City University of New York; and an A.A.S. from New York City Community College.