Never A Spectator: A Civic Engagement Forum

Never a Spectator 2022 - Driving Change Through Public Service and Social Entrepreneurism

Date: Friday, November 11
Time: 4:00-7:00 PM
Location: University Club
Keynote: Taking Big Leaps One Step at a Time with Leah Lizarondo, CEO and Co-Founder of 412 Food Rescue
Registration is now closed 

Why Attend

The Never a Spectator Civic Engagement Forum is a unique opportunity for Pitt students to network with some of the region’s most prominent leaders, including leaders from government and politics, foundation executives, and nonprofit and business leaders. Students join these visionaries and mentors for an evening and dinner reception devoted to sharing a vision for public service, inspiring action, and developing the pipeline of leadership needed to foster sustainable growth and regional transformation as Pittsburgh continues to evolve as one of America’s premier cities. 
During the event, students learn about the incredible legacy of Elsie Hillman and engage in small group discussions with their community mentors from the nonprofit, business, and government sectors to learn how they can jumpstart their own community involvement and make a positive impact. 


  • Connect and grow relationships with established regional leaders
  • Learn how you can make a difference by getting involved with civic engagement programs at Pitt
  • Earn Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) credit - Leadership Development


All University of Pittsburgh students pursuing any major or degree are welcome to register and attend. 

Keynote Speaker

photo of Leah Lizarondo, CEO and Co-Founder, 412 Food RescueLeah Lizarondo is the CEO and Co-Founder of 412 Food Rescue, a social enterprise with a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are food insecure. Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue is one of the fastest-growing food recovery organizations in the U.S. Creating the infrastructure for national retailers, 412 Food Rescue has prevented over 7 million pounds of food from going to waste via technology that mobilizes over 8,000 drivers in 5 cities --food rescue heroes--the largest volunteer food transport network. 412 Food Rescue's innovative distribution model bridges the last mile and significantly impacts access and food security as well as mitigates food waste’s impact on the environment. By redirecting surplus food about to go to waste, 412 Food Rescue responds to SDG Target 12.3 - to halve per capita food waste by 2030, as well as redirects perfectly good food to organizations that serve those who are food insecure, responding to SDG 2. Food waste is one of the major sources of carbon emissions and wastes significant natural resources. By redirecting food from going to landfill, the organization also helps mitigate climate change, responding to SDG 13.
Set to expand globally, Leah’s work at 412 Food Rescue has been featured in national media including NPR, Fast Company, FoodTank, Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine, Saveur, Organic Life, Bust Magazine, Redbook, Success Magazine and Civil Eats. In April 2014, she gave the TEDx Talk “Why the Farm Is Not Getting to the Table.” Leah was named in FoodTank‘s “17 Food Heroes to Inspire Us in 2017" and in 2018 she was named "Pittsburgher of the Year" by Pittsburgh City Paper. Additionally, 412 Food Rescue was recognized as Pittsburgh Tech 50's "StartUp of the Year" in 2018 and received the Carnegie Science Award for Information Technology in 2019 - making it the first social enterprise to receive both awards.
Leah received her graduate degree in Public Policy & Technology from Carnegie Mellon University. She serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Block Center for Technology & Society at Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She was born and raised in the Philippines and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sustainable Development Goals 2 (zero hunger), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 13 (climate action).

2022 Community Mentors

Samantha BalbierSamantha Balbier

Director | The University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics (IOP) and Elsie Hillman Civic Forum

Samantha became the Director of the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the Elsie Hillman Civic Forum in early 2019. Prior to joining the IOP, she worked on a range of public policy issues facing the nonprofit sector as the Executive Director of the Forbes Funds’ Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP), a coalition of over 450 organizations from Southwestern Pennsylvania. There, she worked with regional leaders to advocate on behalf of the sector to address federal and state issues such as charitable tax status, healthcare reform, overtime rules, tax reform, behavioral health, state performance-based budgeting, and the upcoming 2020 US Census. She has a breadth of knowledge in issue-based policy, especially in the fields of pediatric environmental health, green building design, early childhood education, and human services. Over the past twenty years, she has filled a range of roles including working in philanthropy as program staff at the Heinz Endowments, as an Executive Director of an environmental health nonprofit, and as a special consultant to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, where she launched a statewide initiative that engaged five state departments. 

Her policy analysis and program development activities reflect the importance of strategically engaging content experts with elected and government officials and have resulted in Pennsylvania being awarded the Excellence in Environmental Protection of Children from the Children’s Environmental Health Network in 2014, as well as the Innovation in Education Award for the 2016 GPNP Behavioral Health Public Policy Cohort awarded by Mental Health America.

Samantha holds Bachelor’s degrees in Business and Social Work from Mercyhurst University. She received her Master’s in Social Work with an emphasis in public policy and community organizing from Pitt in 1998. Samantha received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work in 2018. She is incredibly grateful to the University and her former graduate school advisor, the late Dr. Morton Coleman, Founder of the Institute of Politics, who guided her towards this career in public policy. Connect on LinkedIn


Olivia Bennett

Member | Allegheny County Council District 13

Olivia "Liv" Bennett is a community activist that represents District 13 of Allegheny County Council.

Liv has spent several years fighting for justice in Allegheny County. She has advocated for sensible gun control, for police accountability, and anti-racist policies in her work. Her interest in politics and activism began when she was a child, looking up to her father who held office as a Pittsburgh Public School Board member. Although he passed away when she was young, his impact continues to be a source of inspiration for her today.

Raised in Manchester, Liv saw the detrimental effects of violence and economic hardship. Witnessing the painful outcomes of poverty and the crack epidemic in her community shaped her vision to create a better society. She is currently a resident of public housing in Northview Heights and can be found working with area leaders and partners to ensure local residents receive the resources that they need. In 2018, she was involved in the process of opening the Northview Heights Public Safety Center in her neighborhood. She works with organizations such as Alliance for Police Accountability (APA), Take Action Mon Valley (TAMV) and was a mentor in the "Be a Middle School Mentor" for United Way. Liv is also an active member of Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh.

Liv graduated Magna Cum Laude from Carlow University in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in business management and a minor in information technology. She also attended the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her Masters of Public Policy & Management.

Liv is married to her husband, Terrence, and has four children, Renee, Raquel, Donald III, and Dominic. They also have four grandchildren, Aiden, Alaya, Hope, and Poppy. Liv feels it is a privilege and an honor to serve the people in Allegheny County. Connect on LinkedIn


Photo of Carlos CarterCarlos Carter

President & CEO | Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh

Native to Pittsburgh, Carlos T. Carter was appointed President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh in November 2021.
Carlos was the first in his family to graduate from college and is committed to leaving people and places better than he found them. His compelling life story and ability to overcome challenges to achieve success and fulfillment in both personal and professional spheres, puts him in a great position to motivate, lead and inspire all. Carlos uses his voice and experience to empower others to achieve their greatness through motivational speaking and his active blog.

Prior to joining ULGP, he was the Executive Director of Homeless Children’s Education Fund, a consultant for Holy Family institute/Nazareth Prep and held various roles in the banking industry for more than 16 years. He has a passion to empower people and organizations to realize their potential.

A well-recognized leader, Mr. Carter’s numerous accolades include the 2019 Lead Now Pittsburgh Fellowship, Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40 Award, National Diversity Multicultural Leadership Award, and New Pittsburgh Courier Man of Excellence Award. He earned his MBA from Robert Morris University, a B.S. in Business. Connect on LinkedIn


Cara CiminilloCara Ciminillo

Executive Director | Trying Together

Cara Ciminillo is the executive director at Trying Together (formerly the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children), the voice for early childhood in southwest Pennsylvania.  Cara works to ensure early care and education providers are their best for our youngest and that the system providers operate through supports their ability to focus on what matters to children’s optimal development—meaningful relationships, creativity, discovery and play.

Cara’s had a lifelong interest in bringing diverse individuals around a common goal. As a founding partner of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, Cara has helped to establish an avenue where various stakeholders work together to ensure play is valued as a critical element in the lives of all people at all ages.  Prior to her tenure at Trying Together, Cara was the project director for an evaluation and assessment collaborative at the University of Pittsburgh.  Cara also spent thirteen years directing an international service program in native communities in Australia, the Caribbean and North America. Connect on LinkedIn


Jo ClarkJo Clark

Vice President Value Based Care | Highmark Health

Jo Clark, R.N., B.S.N., M.A., is vice president of value-based care for Highmark Health, a $22 billion national, blended health organization that includes one of America’s largest Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers and a growing regional hospital and physician network. Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., Highmark Health’s 37,000 employees serve millions of customers nationwide through the nonprofit organization’s affiliated businesses including Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, HM Insurance Group, United Concordia Dental, HM Health Solutions and Helion. In her leadership role, Ms. Clark is responsible for driving the strategy and implementing the initiatives associated with the shift to value-based reimbursement and payment models within the blended health organization and among its strategic partners.

Ms. Clark serves as chair on the board of directors for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, a nonprofit that supports the educational needs of homeless children in Allegheny County, where Highmark Health is headquartered. She is also a member of the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders (PONL) and United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council. Ms. Clark has also been a Highmark Health Talent Advisory Council member and a mentor in the Highmark Health Mentoring Program. She is passionate about talent development and believes that investment in people is the key to Highmark Health’s success. A successful change leader, Ms. Clark is a key contributor leading Highmark Health on its journey to transform health and create a remarkable health experience, freeing people to be their best. Connect on LinkedIn


Sloane DavidsonSloane Davidson

Founder and CEO | Hello Neighbor

Prior to starting Hello Neighbor, Sloane worked for 15 years across the intersection of philanthropy and digital marketing. For 8 years, she created and led one of the leading cause blogs on the Internet called The Causemopolitan. She currently sits on the Board of Resolve Network, an NGO based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that focuses on jobs for women in post-conflict countries through microfinance, and the prestigious Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy Women’s Philanthropy Institute. She was a 2009 Kiva Fellow in the Philippines and has been invited to speak on her activism at The Clinton Global Initiative and The World Economic Forum. Sloane has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Vermont and a Master of Public Policy & Management from the University of Pittsburgh. A proud Pittsburgh native, Sloane returned to her hometown in 2015 and currently lives in Highland Park with her husband and two sons. Connect on LinkedIn


John DennyJohn Denny
Founder and Principal | Denny Civic Solutions

John Denny has spent a career transforming ideas into action. From his days as one of the youngest people in the United States to manage a statewide presidential campaign, to his work building an organization that aids at risk-youth and nonprofits, John and his team create results.

At Denny Civic Solutions, John works to create positive change by managing civic campaigns and engineering public policy. With decades of hands-on expertise, he knows how to foster an idea from inception to execution. And with his experience as a former national political campaign manager; special assistant to the late community and political leader Elsie Hillman; and director of community relations for the Hillman Company, he thoroughly understands how to create a message, target its focus, and move audiences on an initiative, idea, or piece of legislation.

A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, John has honed his skills through a unique combination of professional endeavors, ranging from corporate communications to grant making in the Pittsburgh foundation and nonprofit communities. With a trifecta of expertise from corporate, political, and nonprofit work, John understands the needs, strengths and challenges each party brings to the table and can balance those needs toward positive outcomes. In addition, he understands local and statewide government because he has lived it. From that experience, John brings the understanding of the public sector to the forefront in assisting clients and helping them achieve their objectives. Connect on LinkedIn


Angela GarciaAngela Garcia

Executive Director | Global Links

Angela Garcia is the Executive Director of Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based organization that works to improve health for vulnerable communities, locally and globally.

A Pittsburgh boomerang, Angela spent nine years studying, working and volunteering abroad, including four years in Mexico and two years in Europe. Angela returned to Pittsburgh and joined Global Links in 2000 and in 2018 she became Executive Director. 

Under her direction, Global Links continues its focus on large-scale international medical programs focusing on primary care and maternal and infant health.  Since 2015, Ms. Garcia has also led the creation and expansion of Global Links’ domestic medical aid program, which supports our local community by providing the medical materials and equipment that nonprofit organizations need to better serve their clients and patients. 

Ms. Garcia serves on the PA State Advisory board of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, as well as advisory boards of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, Adagio Health, Pittsburgh Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership, and the Latin American Cultural Center; she is a founding member of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. She has been named a Pittsburgh “40 under 40”, Pittsburgh Business Times CEO of the Year, Pittsburgh Human Resources Association Leader of the Year and a Cribs for Kids Woman of Achievement. She lives with her husband and children in Emsworth and enjoys all things Pittsburgh, especially biking, kayaking and exploring the local food scene. Connect on LinkedIn


Christopher C. Heck

President & CEO | Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce

Christopher (Chris) Heck has had -year career working with companies at senior executive levels in the Pittsburgh association management arena specifically within the economic development, technology, energy, manufacturing and financial services sectors.

Chris currently serves as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.  With each new opportunity throughout Chris’ career the constant thread has been mission and client driven understanding the deep challenges of both. Recently Chris has been the catalyst in forming the Airport Area Corporate Partnership advocating for the growth and viability of economic development within the airport area.

A graduate of Florida Atlantic University, he received his B.A. in Business Administration and Management. A former petty officer in the USCG Reserves Chris has enjoyed successful employment opportunities with The Pittsburgh Technology Council, Marsh USA, K&L Gates, LLP, 5/3 Bank and the SMC Business Councils. Connect on LinkedIn

Within the local community Chris has held a variety of board positions with non-profit organizations and local municipalities including:
Allegheny County Airport Authority Foundation – Board Chair (current)
Mount Lebanon Economic Development Committee and Mt Lebanon Partnership – Board Member (current)
Pittsburgh Technical College – Education Advisory Committee (current)
Rosedale Technical College – Strategic Advisory Board (current)
Mount Lebanon Sports Authority – Board Member 2016-2018
Board Member, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh 2005-2010
2nd Class Petty Officer (retired), United States Coast Guard Reserves   


Elizabeth HeftElizabeth Heft

Vice President of Operations | Adagio Health

Ms. Heft has been at Adagio Health since 2018. She leads the Strategic Initiatives and Information Technology departments and is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of Adagio Health’s new organizational initiatives such as care for women veterans, LGBTQ competency, and integrated services; the advancement of new funding streams; and continuous quality improvement efforts across the organization.

Ms. Heft previously led grantmaking initiatives for The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation, dedicated to building the capacity of nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region. She is a Project Management Professional (PMP)® and an alumna of Leadership Pittsburgh’s Leadership Development Initiative. An advocate for gender, racial, social, and economic justice, she has worked and volunteered with a variety of community development organizations in Mexico, Central America, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh.  

Elizabeth loves being active and outdoors, and she is a new mom to a beautiful baby boy. She and her husband renovate houses, run a Victorian bed & breakfast, and enjoy good food and craft beer in their spare time.

In 2013, Elizabeth graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master of Social Work and Master of International Development, with specializations in nonprofit management and human services administration. She has her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish & Latin American Studies from Malone University.  Connect on LinkedIn


photo of Kirk HolbrookKirk Holbrook

Program Director - Gizmology | Deeplocal 

Kirk Holbrook began his career in community service in 2001, working within inner-city after-school programs in the Hill District, Homewood and other areas of Allegheny County, where he enjoyed more than a decade in youth programming. Later, Mr. Holbrook served as an educational advocate and in state government as a district office Chief of Staff for State Representative Jake Wheatley, before moving to the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 as director of the  Community Engagement Center [CEC] in the Hill District. Currently, Kirk Holbrook serves as Program Director of Gizmology, a racial equity initiative within Deeplocal’s global creative technology company based in Pittsburgh, working to eliminate barriers for Pittsburgh’s Black and underrepresented communities in technology. Holbrook’s Gizmology program joins other racial equity projects funded by WPP, Deeplocal’s parent company, across the globe, including projects in Detroit, Atlanta, London and Cape Town, South Africa.

Holbrook was appointed to the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Equity Advisory Panel in 2018, was named as one of the upcoming leaders in the field of education by Incline Magazine in 2019 and was appointed as a Remake Learning ambassador in 2022.

Holbrook believes that working together to weave a connective thread in civil society between non-profit organizations, anchor institutions and the private sector, we can develop targeted strategies, programs and initiatives to directly counteract legacies of inequity in black and brown communities locally, regionally, and across the globe. Holbrook does the work he does to ensure that every child and family has an opportunity to actualize their full potential, regardless of the zip code in which they reside. Connect on LinkedIn


Shenay JeffreyShenay Jeffrey

Director | The University of Pittsburgh, PittServes

Jeffrey was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and attended secondary school in Nassau, Bahamas. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in health information management from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in public management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. She is also currently a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at Pitt, with a focus on student civic engagement experiences.

As an active member of the Pittsburgh community, Jeffrey has held various leadership positions in regional organizations such as the chapter president of the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh, public policy and advocacy board chair of PUMP and board chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice. 

She has also received several awards including the Iris Marion Young award for Social Justice and a Western PA Rising Star award. She was named a Pittsburgh Magazine 2021 40 Under 40 honoree was also featured in the American Dream series from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a feature that highlights the immigrant contributions to the City of Pittsburgh. Connect on LinkedIn


Emily KinkeadEmily Kinkead

Pennsylvania House of Representatives | District 20

Representative Emily Kinkead has represented the 20th Legislative District -- Ross Township, Bellevue Borough, Avalon Borough, West View Borough, and parts of the City of Pittsburgh since 2020. As a member of the General Assembly, she sits on the following committees: Appropriations, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Human Services, Judiciary, and the Committee on Committees.

Representative Kinkead has dedicated her life to being a strong voice for those who most need strong voices. After earning degrees in biology and political science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, she began her career working and advocating with people with disabilities and advocating for good government reform with Common Cause in Washington, D.C.

Looking to make an even bolder difference by expanding the type of help she could provide, Kinkead attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School. While working toward her law degree, she protected the rights of HIV+ individuals and victims of gender or domestic violence through a legal aid clinic in Eldoret, Kenya. She applied those skills and refined them during her stateside internships at Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood Legal Services office and at the Pitt Law Immigration Clinic. After law school and prior to entering private practice, Representative Kinkead served as a judicial law clerk for Commonwealth Court Judge Michael Wojcik, assisting in the drafting of more than 60 opinions.

She is an avid volunteer who currently serves on numerous boards, including Scenic Pittsburgh, ALCOSAN, and the State Council for Interstate Juvenile Supervision. And as a member of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest 2019, she worked to raise both money and awareness surrounding cystic fibrosis.

A staunch believer that government’s calling is to do the most good for the most people, Kinkead is pursuing legislative priorities that promote a living wage, responsible development and infrastructure, criminal justice reform, reproductive justice, LGBTQIA+ equality, safer (and more equitable) communities, and clean air and water for all Pennsylvanians, along with working to make the Pittsburgh area live up to the moniker of “Most Livable” for every person. By providing outspoken and tireless representation in Harrisburg, and comprehensive resources at home in Allegheny County, she believes that we can work together to bring equity, fairness, and progress to working families and underrepresented neighborhoods. Connect on LinkedIn


Rob MercuriRob Mercuri

Pennsylvania State Representative | 28th District

Rob Mercuri will serve the residents of the 28th District with the values instilled in him during his Western Pennsylvania upbringing, including integrity, hard work and transparency.

As a husband, father of three and small business owner in Pine Township, Rob will focus on pandemic relief, fiscal responsibility and economic development through innovation, lower tax rates, less regulation and reduced barriers to entry.

Rob will also work to make progress across a number of legislative priorities including improving the openness of government, expanding educational opportunities while respecting taxpayers, reducing the cost of health care, developing programs to keep our communities safe, prioritizing the upkeep of critical infrastructure and harnessing the potential of advanced energy economy for the benefit of residents and the future of our Commonwealth.

Early in the 2022-23 legislative session, Rob was appointed to the Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) by Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler. The SBAC is focused on advocating for the small business community and moving policies that help small businesses. For the 2021-22 legislative session, Rob was appointed to serve on the House Education, Finance, Liquor Control, Urban Affairs and Commerce committees.

Before running for office, Rob attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and deployed to Baghdad as a member of an embedded military training unit. He returned home with a captain’s rank and a Bronze Star Medal.

Rob earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then worked for two major accounting firms in New York City. After being recruited by PNC, he served as the company’s vice president and financial risk manager. Currently, he and his wife, Kelsey, own a UPS store in Pine Township.

In service to his community, he has served as a member of the board of the YMCA, the United States Congressional Advisory Board and the American Corporate Partners, which is a nonprofit that helps connect veterans with careers after their military experience.

Rob lives in Pine Township with his wife, Kelsey, and their three school-age children: Mackenzie, Delaney and Kieran. They are active in their faith community at North Way Christian Community in Pine Township. Connect on LinkedIn


Sabrina Saunders MosbySabrina Saunders Mosby

President & CEO | Vibrant Pittsburgh

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, the “City of Bridges,” Sabrina Saunders Mosby has spent the better part of her career helping others cross them. A seasoned executive, Ms. Mosby currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for Vibrant Pittsburgh, a premier economic development membership organization and the region's central resource, spokesperson, and convener on workforce diversity and inclusion. 

A cross-sector leader, Ms. Mosby has held senior roles at numerous nonprofits and spent close to a decade in the government sector while advocating for local constituents at the local and federal levels. Ms. Mosby has a proven track record of partnering with business and community leaders to develop strategic change and build local programs. Described by stakeholders as highly creative, collaborative, visionary and results-oriented, she is a sought after keynote speaker, facilitator, and workshop leader. Ms. Mosby is a recipient of numerous awards and honors including being named an Athena Young Professional Finalist, Ebony Magazine Top 30, Pittsburgh Courier Fab 40, Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40, Whirl Magazine 50 Finest, and to the Pittsburgh Business Times' Power 100 list in 2021 and 2022. Sabrina is deeply involved in public service and her community and professional affiliations are many, including serving on the boards of Allegheny Health Network, the Pittsburgh Women’s Alliance, PA American Water, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Mount Ararat Community Activity Center, and as Vice-Chair of the board for her alma mater, Oakland Catholic High School. Ms. Mosby is an alumnus of Leadership Pittsburgh’s LDI XVII, holds a Master of Science degree from Carlow University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Sabrina lives in the Pittsburgh region with her husband Brandon and their son Lincoln. Connect on LinkedIn


photo of Anette NanceAnette Nance, MSW

Pennsylvania House of Representatives | District 24 Office Director

Anette Nance is a dynamic professional who is a servant-minded leader. She is an Operation Enduring Freedom Marine veteran and served 8 years, honorably. She is also graduate from the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her master’s in social work with a concentration in community organization and social action along with a certificate in Human Services Management.  She also has a bachelor’s in psychology which provides a theoretical foundation for her as a social service practitioner. She has done advocacy work in the veteran space locally, regionally, and nationally. Through her work, she was one of 10 student veterans nominated for the 2020 Student Veteran of the Year finalist in the nation for Student Veterans of America, which is headquartered in Washington D.C.  
As a masters level social worker, Mrs. Nance is involved with a variety of nonprofit within the Pittsburgh area. Recently she was appointed to Governor Wolf’s Commission on African American Affairs due to the work she’s done in the Western Pennsylvania region. She currently works for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for State Representative Martell Covington, 24TH Legislative District. Her background includes early childhood education, facilitation, military transition, community engagement, program evaluation, etc. Nance is also an elected official for the Braddock Hills Borough Council and serves as the chair of the health and sanitation committee and a member of the public safety committee. Additionally, she is on the Age Friendly Pittsburgh Steering Committee. Anette is married to a Pittsburgh native; Ramon and they have a son and daughter. 
Anette’s fuel for the work she does comes from her mother, a Haitian immigrant, who truly taught her the importance of leadership and hard work. Anette’s mindset continues to guide her many endeavors. Connect on LinkedIn


Mark NordenbergMark A. Nordenberg

Chancellor Emeritus | The University of Pittsburgh

Mark A. Nordenberg joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1977. He quickly built a reputation as an outstanding teacher, and was the initial recipient of the School’s Excellence in Teaching Award and one of the first faculty members to receive the University-wide Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award. His area of academic specialty is civil litigation, and he has served as a member of both the U.S. Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Civil Procedural Rules Committee. He holds the special faculty rank of Distinguished Service Professor of Law.

Early in his career, Nordenberg served the University as Dean of the School of Law and as Interim Provost of the University. In 1995, he was elected Interim Chancellor by the University's Board of Trustees, and in 1996, following a national search, he was elected Chancellor. He served in that role until 2014, and under his leadership, the University achieved new levels of quality and impact on virtually every front. Undergraduate applications and the academic credentials of enrolled students soared; faculty and students regularly received the highest forms of national and international recognition; Pitt consistently ranked among the top U.S. universities in federal research awards; and the University successfully completed a $2 billion capital campaign.

Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg has received many important honors. Among them, he has been named Pittsburgh’s Person of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine and a History Maker by the Senator John Heinz History Center. To celebrate the remarkable progress achieved during his first decade as Chancellor, trustees, alumni leaders and other friends contributed $2.5 million to endow a chair in his name. In 2012, he was again honored when the Pitt Board of Trustees announced the naming of the Mark A. Nordenberg residence hall and the creation of an endowed scholarship fund, already supported by more than $5 million in private donations, also bearing his name.

Nordenberg is a past Chair of both the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities and served on the executive committee of the Association of American Universities.  He is a member of the boards of directors of BNY Mellon, UPMC and the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation.

Nordenberg is an honors graduate of North Allegheny High School, Thiel College and the University of Wisconsin Law School.  Reflecting his role as a leader in higher education, he has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University, the Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, LaRoche College and Thiel College, as well as the University of Pittsburgh.

Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg now serves as Chair of the University’s Institute of Politics. For nearly thirty years, the Institute has provided a non-partisan forum for the consideration of policy issues of importance to the region by elected officials and other civic leaders. Among other topics, recent initiatives have addressed the changing face of poverty, the opioid addiction epidemic, incarceration policies and practices, and the plight of financially distressed municipalities.


Heidi Norman

CIO and Director, Department of Innovation & Performance | City of Pittsburgh

Heidi Norman serves as the CIO and Director, Department of Innovation & Performance for the City of Pittsburgh, PA. I&P elevates the work of city government by designing modern technology solutions for our colleagues, collaborating with partners to test innovative ideas, and developing leaders’ capabilities to achieve operational excellence. I&P has gained a reputation for being at the cutting-edge of open data and analytics, applying lean systems principles to improve government services, and utilizing a collaborative approach to innovation with internal and external partners.

In her current role, Heidi works with Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh to provide an open data platform through the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and partners with Carnegie-Mellon University and its Metro 21 Institute to advance the research, development, and deployment of novel technical solutions to identified community issues. She led the effort for Pittsburgh to achieve Silver Certification from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities program and fostered a partnership between Mayor Gainey’s administration and Pittsburgh Futures to achieve operational excellence and outcomes for the community. Further, Heidi catalyzed numerous organizations across Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to join the Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition which is working to close the digital divide for residents across our region within five years. 

Ms. Norman holds a BA in Political Science from Northwestern University and a MS in Information Systems from Syracuse University, as well as executive education certificates from the Tepper School of Business and the CIO Institute at the Heinz School of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Connect on LinkedIn


Michelle Pagano-HeckMichelle Pagano-Heck

President & Owner | Nonprofit Talent

President and Owner of Nonprofit Talent, Michelle works with the social sector to improve the capacity of organizations through transition management and executive recruitment. Mission-driven, Michelle listens to the needs of clients and works as a partner with organizations to fulfill their vision.

Prior to launching Nonprofit Talent in 2013, Michelle was Senior Consultant with Dewey & Kaye. Previously, Michelle worked as the Executive Director of WQEDfm, Community Relations Director of WQED Multimedia, Director of Development for the Children’s Home, Director of Corporate Relations for the American Cancer Society, and various other positions of leadership in the nonprofit community.

A 2019 Pittsburgh Women of Influence Award recipient, Michelle is a 2021 “Women & Business” honoree of Pittsburgh Magazine. Michelle is also on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO). She is a guest lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and various associations and organizations.

Michelle graduated from the College of Wooster and received her Master’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Connect on LinkedIn


Ken RegalKen Regal

Executive Director | Just Harvest 

Ken Regal was named executive director in July 2012 after having served as one of our co-directors since Just Harvest’s founding in 1987. An activist and organizer in Pittsburgh for more than thirty years, he organized the campaign in the 1980s which persuaded the Pittsburgh Public Schools to join the National School Breakfast Program. Ken has consulted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, served on the national grant-making advisory committee of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and has written and spoken on hunger and poverty issues for a wide range of audiences. He represents Just Harvest on the Board of the Pittsburgh United, the steering committee of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, and the Allegheny County Health Department Advisory Coalition for its Plan for a Healthier Allegheny. Ken is a native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Brandeis University and lives in the Highland Park section of Pittsburgh with his wife. Connect on LinkedIn


Dr. Angela M. Reynolds

CEO | YWCA Greater Pittsburgh

Angela comes to YWCA Greater Pittsburgh from United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where she served as Senior Director of United for Families and 2-1-1 while also teaching as an adjunct professor in the Public Policy and International Affairs program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.

Angela began her career testing for housing discrimination through the Fair Housing Partnership, before embarking on an Assistant Professorship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. There, she taught statistics, public policy, and research methods and conducted research on racial disparities in housing and criminal justice. Angela is a recipient of the Fair Housing Partnership’s Open Doors-Open Minds Award (2006).

A native of New Haven CT, Angela has called Pittsburgh home for many years. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis from the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University; an M.S. in Statistics also from CMU; and a B.A. in Mathematics (Sociology minor) from Bryn Mawr College. Connect on LinkedIn


Dr. Kendra Janelle RossDr. Kendra Janelle Ross 

Head of Social Impact | Duolingo

Dr. Kendra Janelle Ross is an award-winning musical artist, educator, and entrepreneur based in Pittsburgh. She has appeared at legendary venues such as New York City's The Blue Note, Highline Ballroom (opening for Gregory Porter/Blue Note Jazz Festival), BB King’s Bar & Grill (opening for Lalah Hathaway), and the Arena Theater in Houston (opening for Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds). In 2007, she celebrated the release of her debut album, New Voice, for which she was voted New Artist of the Year by the readers of The album features contributions from Eric Roberson, Ray Angry, and Maurice Brown, to name a few.

Dr. Ross is a proud graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools, K-12, and holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Business and Technology from New York University and master's degrees from Brooklyn College/CUNY and The New School for Social Research. A music industry veteran and business professional, she spent over twenty years working behind the scenes, most recently as the Director of Label Process Operations at Universal Music Group. Dr. Ross is now enjoying a thriving business career as Head of Social Impact for ed-tech company Duolingo while continuing to create music and advocate for the creator community as a member of the Board of Governors for the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy. Connect on LinkedIn


David SanchezDr. David Sanchez

Associate Director | The University of Pittsburgh, Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Dr. Sanchez is responsible for building research and scholarly initiatives around Sustainable Water, Sustainable Food, Sustainable Innovation, and Global Engagement. Dr. Sanchez is also responsible for managing and directing MCSI’s Faculty, Education, and Community Engagement programs, which include the John C. Mascaro Faculty program, the Len Peters Faculty Fellows, the Community Education Fellows, the Master’s in Sustainable Engineering, the university-wide undergraduate certificate in sustainability and the Student Sustainable Innovation Fund. Dr. Sanchez continues to expand our network of positive working relationships with faculty, administration, students, and external partners (e.g. NGOs, Government agencies, Startups, and Fortune 500 companies) that support our broad education and research agenda. He also oversees the undergraduate and graduate sustainability curriculum and our K-12 programming. 

David V.P. Sanchez is an Assistant Professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department and serves as the Associate Director for the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. He coordinates the Design EXPO that showcases 90+ projects from ~400 students every semester and serves as the Director for the Manufacturing Assistant Center’s Makerspace, Constellation Energy’s Inventor Labs, the Series Workshops and some engineering collaborations in the community of Homewood.  

His research is focused on identifying sustainable designs that address the Water and Energy grand challenges in the natural and built environment on a local/regional scale. Current projects include engineering electrode morphology for bio-electrochemical systems, designing sensors to identify water quality trends in real-time and, developing hydroponic systems for the phytoremediation of PFAS, removing off-flavors from Recirculating Aquaponic systems, and enhancing community agricultural systems.  

Dr. Sanchez is the recipient of several awards including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, IGERT Traineeship, Alfred P. Sloan Scholarship, Pittsburgh Business Time Energy Award, Best Mentor Award for Pitt’s Excel program, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Soska Wilds Outreach and Engagement Leadership award. David actively leads international engineering trips on behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering. Connect on LinkedIn


Beth SchwankeBeth Schwanke, JD

Executive Director | The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security

Beth Schwanke is the executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security.

Schwanke previously served as senior policy counsel and director of policy outreach for the Center for Global Development, a think tank researching international development.

Schwanke was also previously an associate in the Federal Law and Policy practice group in the multinational law firm DLA Piper, where she advised clients on matters related to congressional investigations and sanctions compliance. Prior to her time at DLA Piper, she served as legislative counsel for the non-profit organization Freedom Now, where she directed legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts to secure the release of political prisoners. Her clients included Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Schwanke has provided commentary to Al-Jazeera, CNN, and NPR, among other international news outlets. Her writing has been published in such publications as The New York Times, The Hill, Sydney Morning Herald, and the Wall Street Journal.

Schwanke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Wellesley College and her Juris Doctorate at the University of Michigan Law School, both with honors. She served as an associate and contributing editor of the Michigan Law Review. She is barred in the District of Columbia.

Schwanke serves on the Advisory Board for Pittsburgh DataWorks and on the Workforce Advisory Council of the School of Computing and Information’s Professional Institute, 
the Digital Inclusion Steering Committee of the Community Engagement Center in the Hill District, and the Steering Committee of the Collaboratory Against Hate. Connect on LinkedIn


Michelle StewartMichelle Stewart

Director | The University of Pittsburgh’s Community Engagement Center (CEC)

Michelle is a Homewood native who has always loved serving, teaching, inspiring and transforming the lives of those she encounters. Michelle graduated from Geneva College with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Community Ministry, from Carlow University with a Master's in Education as well as her PA Instructional Certification and has earned her K-12 PA Administrative Certification through the Robert Morris Principal Preparation Program.

She has always had a deeply rooted connection to not just her community, but to also wanting to get back into her community to serve and work in hopes of being able to work along-side great stakeholders who are also invested in ensuring that Homewood is known for our rich history, phenomenal world leaders, entrepreneurs, creators/artists and a wide range of excellence that too often goes unnoticed.

Michelle leads the Homewood Community Engagement Center in the “heart” of our community ensuring that our doors are open, we are available, and that we create mutually beneficial partnerships resulting in greater opportunities to our community families and stakeholders. 


Erika StrassburgerErika Strassburger

Member | Pittsburgh City Council 8th District

Erika Strassburger is a member of Pittsburgh City Council, proudly serving the residents of the City’s 8th District. She is the first woman elected to this seat. Previously, Erika served as Chief of Staff for her predecessor, former-Councilman Dan Gilman. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade advocating for clean air, clean water, and a clean energy future at the state and federal levels.
Since being sworn in on City Council in April of 2018, Erika passed trailblazing legislation to guard against employment discrimination for pregnant workers and their partners throughout Pittsburgh; led the charge to overhaul and modernize Pittsburgh’s municipal waste and recycling code; and passed policies to prevent against discrimination based on gender identity and expression citywide.
As the Council Member representing the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Erika was immediately impacted by the October 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. In response, she helped lead the way on a package of ordinances to ban the use of assault weapons and certain firearm accessories, implement red flag policies for those at risk of harming themselves or others, prevent the extreme risk to children by holding gun owners accountable, and increase funding for the City’s violence prevention initiatives.
She has been an outspoken advocate for policies promoting clean water and air, equitable and diverse communities, safe, complete streets, and an open, transparent, and responsive government, and is passionate about offering new ways for her constituents to be informed & involved in city government.

Erika graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in International Relations. She lives in Squirrel Hill with her husband, Jordan and her son, Evan. Connect on LinkedIn


Photo of DaVaughn Vincent-BryanDaVaughn M. Vincent-Bryan

Inaugural Director of Involvement and Student Unions | The University of Pittsburgh

DaVaughn Vincent-Bryan serves as the Inaugural Director of Involvement and Student Unions at the University of Pittsburgh. He joined Pitt’s residence life team in 2016 as assistant director for programming, and later served as associate director for residential experience. DaVaughn is the first in his family to pursue higher education, earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology and public communication from the University of Vermont, his master’s in organizational leadership from Southern New Hampshire University and is currently pursuing a Doctor in Education in Pitt’s School of Education with a research focus on fostering cohesion through shared mission development.

DaVaughn portfolio includes William Pitt and O’Hara Student Center, The Student Organization Resource Office, Technical Services, The Pitt Program Council and PITT ARTS. He works each day to enhance and build relationships across multiple constituent and stakeholder groups through his collaborative leadership style. He is dedicated to partnering with campus colleagues to remove barriers and create inclusive environments for all students, faculty, staff and community members. Connect on LinkedIn

Doris Carson WilliamsDoris Carson Williams

President and CEO | African American Chamber of Commerce

Doris Carson Williams is a board member of Highmark and vice chair of the Highmark Foundation. She also serves on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and is President of the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline. A certified member of the National Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, Doris co-chaired the 2014 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. A member of the International Women’s Forum, Doris holds the entrepreneur of the year award by Washington and Jefferson College, and the 2017 Pittsburgh Opera Maecenas Community Leadership Award. She and husband James have one son, James III, and are the proud grandparents of James IV and Jade Williams. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Carlow University in 2020. Connect on LinkedIn


Colleen YoungColleen Young

Director of Government Affairs | Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Colleen Young (she/her) currently serves as the Director of Government Affairs for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. In this role, she advances just food policies by centering the voices of those with lived expertise and partnering across intersectional coalitions to address the root causes of hunger. Colleen is a passionate advocate for co-designing dynamic solutions to complex issues by bolstering power within communities and fostering deep relationships with both likely and unlikely partners. 

Prior to her role at the Food Bank, Colleen held leadership positions as both the Director of the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership at the Forbes Funds and the Director of Community Programs at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development. In both roles, she focused on building capacity with community leaders and nonprofit organizations to advocate for and implement equitable and high-impact policies and programs.

Colleen is also the Board Secretary for Just Harvest and has volunteered on countless advisory committees for Allegheny County Departments of Human Services and Health, Pittsburgh Public Schools, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Women for a Healthy Environment, among others. 

Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Colleen lived in Virginia and Washington, DC where she worked for both 501c3 and c4 organizations supporting advocacy efforts around women’s retirement and environmental justice. She holds an MSW with a concentration in Community Organizing and Social Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in Psychology and Women’s Studies from the College of William and Mary. In her free time, Colleen enjoys camping and kayaking with her husband and two children. Connect on LinkedIn

Graduating from being a spectator to being spectacular.

On March 11, 2021, over 100 students and mentors joined the Elsie Forum to talk with each other about advocacy and activism. Our keynote speaker, Emmai Alaquiva, talked about graduating from being a spectator to being spectacular.

These were his five steps on how to go from being a spectator to being spectacular:

  1. Knowledge of Self
  2. Establish your Attributes
  3. Discover the Possibility
  4. Allyship & Advocacy
  5. Activate your Actions

In case you missed the event, check out Emmai's powerful keynote below.