Speaker Information

This year's event features three keynote speakers, James H. Johnson, Jr., John Friedman, and Jay Sambaugh, as well as response panels from elected and civic leaders from through western Pennsylvania. Biographies and latest publications from 2019 Retreat speakers can be found below. 

James H. Johnson, Jr. (bio)

William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director, Urban Investment Strategies Center, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina 

Presentation Slides

  • Pennsylvania: Current Outlook and Distruptive Demographic Trends - (click here)

Additional Information

John Friedman (bio)

Associate Professor of Economics and International and Political Affairs, Brown University and Co-Founder, Opportunity Insights 

Presentation Slides

  • Developing Community Economic and Social Mobility - (click here)

Additional Information

News Stories

  • Vox Media - "America has a housing segregation problem. Seattle may just have the solution." (link)
  • NPR - "In Seattle, A Move Across Town Could Be A Path Out Of Poverty" (link)

Jay Shambaugh (bio)

Director, The Hamilton Project; Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution; Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University; and former Chief Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers

Presentation Slides

  • Place-based Policies for Shared Economic Growth - (click here)

Additional Information


  • Albert "Chip" Abramovic, Commissioner, Venango County (bio)
  • Camera Bartolotta, Member, Pennsylvania Senate (bio)
  • Savannah Barrett, Program Director, The Art of the Rural, and Co-founder, Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (bio)
    • Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange Video - (click here)
  • Diana Bucco, President, The Buhl Foundation (bio)
  • Jay Costa, Minority Leader, Pennsylvania Senate (bio)
  • Presley Gillespie, President, Neighborhood Allies (bio)
  • Michael Kane, President and Executive Director, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (bio)
  • Majestic Lane, Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Equity Officer, Office of Mayor William Peduto, City of Pittsburgh (bio)
  • Stefani Pashman, CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development (bio)
  • Purvi Patel, Director, Civic and Campus Engagement, Institute of Politics, University of Chicago (bio)
    • University of Chicago - Urban/Rural Exchange Program (click here)
  • Dave Reed, Regional President, First Commonwealth Bank (bio)
  • Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tempore, Pennsylvania Senate (bio)
  • Ada Smith, Institutional Development Director, Appalshop, and Co-facilitator, Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (bio)
    • Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange Video - (click here)
  • Jem Spectar, President, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (bio)
    • Washington Post - "Want to close America’s rural-urban divide? Digital infrastructure is the key." (link)
  • Jake Wheatley, Finance Committee, Democratic Chair, Pennsylvania House of Representatives (bio)


  • Kenya Boswell, President, BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (bio)
  • Jen Giovannitti, President, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation (bio)
  • Lisa Schroeder, President & CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation (bio