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Fall 2021 Speakers

Speaker Bios

Speakers are national and global experts drawn from university, business, and community contexts who explore interdisciplinary real-world poverty solutions from a wide variety of perspectives.

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Carolyn Barnes, assistant professor at Duke University | @sopolicyscholar

Carolyn Barnes is an assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Barnes completed a PhD in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of Michigan, where she worked as an affiliate of the National Poverty Center conducting research on the effects of nonprofit community-based service provision on parenting practices and the psycho-social well-being of families and children. Her research agenda broadly explores the social and political implications of social policy on low-income populations in the areas of child care policy, family services, and supports for young children.

Her book, “State of Empowerment: Low-income Families and the New Welfare State,” published in March 2020, uses ethnographic accounts of three organizations to reveal how interacting with government-funded after-school programs can enhance the civic and political lives of low-income citizens.

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Trevor Bechtel, student engagement and strategic projects manager at University of Michigan | @marpeck

Trevor Bechtel provides leadership and oversight to several Washtenaw County research projects managed by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, including the Prosecutor Transparency Project, and he engages students who seek to connect to Poverty Solutions. He manages academic initiatives like the Poverty Solutions Certificate (housed within the Community Action Social Change minor at the School of Social Work) and the Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions course, oversees research assistants, and liaises with student groups across the university. Related to the Prosecutor Transparency Project, Bechtel also is Senior Design Specialist with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office.

Previously, he served as dean of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Canada, and associate professor of religion at Bluffton University in Ohio. In addition to his academic work, which included launching a certificate program aimed at New Canadians, Bechtel was known for building close connections to students, whether formally in positions like honors director at Bluffton or creatively through initiatives like Anabaptist Bestiary Project, a student rock ‘n’ roll band. Bechtel holds a doctorate in constructive theology from Loyola University Chicago and has published “The Gift of Ethics” (2014) and “Encountering Earth: Thinking Theologically With a More-Than-Human World” (2018) with Cascade Press.

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Jonathan Cohn, senior national correspondent at HuffPost | @CitizenCohn

Jonathan Cohn is a senior national correspondent at HuffPost, where he covers politics and policy. A former senior editor at the New Republic, he has written for the New York Times, Atlantic, and Self, among others. He has won several awards and was called “one of the nation’s leading experts on health policy” by the Washington Post. A graduate of Harvard, Cohn grew up in Florida and lived for years in the Boston area before moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he lives with his family.

His book, “The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage,” published in February 2021, draws on hundreds of hours of interviews, plus private diaries, emails, and memos, to examine how the Affordable Care Act — better known as “Obamacare” — came to be, why it looks like it does, and what it has meant for average Americans.

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Kathryn Edin, the William Church Osborn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University | @KathrynEdin

Kathryn Edin is the William Church Osborn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and co-director of The Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW) at Princeton University. A qualitative and mixed-method researcher, Edin has taken on key mysteries about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: How do single mothers survive on welfare? Why don’t more go to work? Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place? Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives? How have the lives of single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform? The hallmark of Edin’s research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of women, men, and children with low incomes.

Edin has authored eight books and some 60 journal articles. “$2 a Day: The Art of Living on Virtually Nothing in America,” co-authored with Luke Shaefer of U-M’s Poverty Solutions, was met with wide critical acclaim. It was included in The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015, cited as “essential reporting about the rise in destitute families.” Edin is principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, was a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children, and was a member of the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy. In 2014, she was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. She was elected to the National Academy of Social Insurance in 2017 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

Edin received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from North Park University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. She has previously taught at Rutgers University, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University.

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Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-executive director of Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality | @IndivarD

Indivar Dutta-Gupta is co-executive director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality (GCPI), where he leads work to develop and advance policy recommendations that alleviate poverty and inequality, advance racial and gender equity, and expand economic inclusion for all people in the United States. He also is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown.

Dutta-Gupta serves as a board member for Indivisible Civics and the National Academy of Social Insurance and as an advisor for the Aspen Institute’s Benefits 21 Initiative, Liberation in a Generation, and The Policy Academies. He’s also a member of RWJF’s Healthy Children and Families Research Advisory Group. Prior to joining GCPI, he led strategic initiatives for major philanthropies, children’s groups, and workers’ organizations as project director at Freedman Consulting, LLC. Before that role, he was senior policy advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, focusing on budget and tax policies and cross-cutting low-income issues.

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Terri Friedline, associate professor at University of Michigan | @TerriFriedline

Terri Friedline is an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on financial system reform and consumer protections to ensure that people and communities have access to safe and affordable financial products and services. Friedline holds a PhD in social work and a Master’s of Social Work with an emphasis on community organization and social administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

Her book, “Banking on a Revolution: Why Financial Technology Won’t Save a Broken System,” published in November 2020, takes a critical look at advancements in financial technology (“fintech”) in the banking and financial industries. The book makes a compelling case for a revolutionized financial system that centers the needs, experiences, and perspectives of those it has historically excluded, marginalized, and exploited.

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Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor | @EricGarcetti

Eric Garcetti is a fourth-generation Angeleno and the 42nd mayor of Los Angeles. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley — the son of public servants and the grandson and great-grandson of immigrants from Mexico and Eastern Europe — Garcetti’s life has been shaped by a deep commitment to the core values of justice, dignity, and equality for all people. His government service began on the L.A. City Council, where he spent four terms as council president before being elected mayor in 2013 and winning re-election in 2017 by the widest margin in the history of Los Angeles. Beyond his time at City Hall, Garcetti has served his country as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve and taught at the University of Southern California and Occidental College.

Samuel Hammond, director of poverty and welfare policy at the Niskanen Center | @hamandcheese

Samuel Hammond is the director of poverty and welfare policy at the Niskanen Center. His commentary has been published in the Atlantic, the National Review, and the American Conservative. He has also been featured in New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vox, and Slate.
He previously worked as an economist for the Government of Canada specializing in rural economic development and as a graduate research fellow for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses on the effectiveness of cash transfers in alleviating poverty and how robust systems of social insurance can complement free markets.

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Andy Levin, U.S. Congressman (MI-09) | @Andy_Levin

Andy Levin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing Michigan’s 9th District in 2018. He has been advocating for working families since the 1980s, when he organized hundreds of health care workers for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). After working with Haitian immigrant workers, Andy co-founded an organization to assist immigrants with challenges posed by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Continuing his work to strengthen organized labor, Levin worked in Washington, D.C. as a staff attorney to the presidential Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations and also in the secretary’s office of the U.S. Department of Labor. He worked with unions and employers on legislation critical for workers’ rights including the National Labor Relations Act, the proposed TEAM Act, the Federal Transit’s Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

From 1995-2006, Levin served as assistant director of organizing at the national AFL-CIO. He then took his advocacy work to the Michigan state government, where he created and ran the state’s No Worker Left Behind initiative that helped more than 160,000 unemployed and underemployed Michiganders go back to school during the Great Recession. He also helped create Michigan’s Green Jobs Initiative in 2008, the Green Jobs Report in 2009, and created the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA), which trained hundreds of unemployed and incumbent engineers to electrify cars. In 2011, Levin founded Levin Energy Partners LLC as an entrepreneurial force to help shape Michigan’s and America’s energy future.

Born in Detroit and raised in Berkley, Michigan, Levin is an honors graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School and holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in Asian Languages and Cultures, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. He has long been active in the spiritual and social justice life of the Jewish community.

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Jeremy Levine, assistant professor at University of Michigan | @Jeremy_Levine

Jeremy Levine is a sociologist interested in politics, organizations, and inequality in cities. He is an assistant professor of organizational studies and sociology, and he has published articles on on the political role of community-based nonprofits in poor neighborhoods, cultural processes and inequality in participatory democracy, and the relationship between neighborhood racial composition and an important, but under-studied political behavior: contacting government for basic city services. His current major project traces the historical development of victim policy in the United States.

Levine’s book, “Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development and Inequality in Boston,” published in June 2021, is an ethnography of urban governance and the role of private nonprofits in community development policy. Before joining the faculty at U-M, Levine earned his master’s degree and PhD in sociology at Harvard University. He graduated from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in history and sociology in 2008.

Vonnie C. McLoyd, the Ewart A. C. Thomas Collegiate Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

Vonnie C. McLoyd is the Ewart A. C. Thomas Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. McLoyd’s research investigates the role of parental behavior and family relations:

  • as paths through which economic conditions such as poverty, parental job loss, and parental work characteristics exert their influence on youth’s socioemotional adjustment; and
  • as processes that protect youth from, or increase youth’s vulnerability to, the effects of experiences in peer and neighborhood contexts known to compromise socioemotional adjustment (e.g., neighborhood violence, peer victimization, racial discrimination).

A second research interest centers on the predictors and correlates of adolescent employment and the paths through which race, social class, and experiences during adolescence shape the transition to adulthood. McLoyd’s work draws from economic theories of the family emphasizing resource investment and from family stress models emphasizing the implications of parents’ psychological well-being for parenting behavior and youth socioemotional development. She has a PhD from U-M.

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Mara Ostfeld, assistant research scientist at University of Michigan | @Mara_PhD

Mara Ostfeld is an assistant research scientist and faculty director of communications at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. She oversees the initiative’s communications efforts; continues her research on the relationship between race, media and political attitudes; and contributes to the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, which is supported by Poverty Solutions.

Ostfeld also is a research associate with the Center for Political Studies at U-M, and she has a courtesy appointment as an assistant professor of public policy at U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Previously, she served as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at U-M. Ostfeld is working on projects exploring media coverage of protest activity; the implications of different methodological approaches to studying Latino public opinion; and the attitudinal consequences of descriptive representation. Her work has been published in journals that include Social Forces, Political Psychology and Political Communication and been funded by places including the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation. She has a forthcoming book project that explores the political, social, and psychological factors that shape how we identify our skin color. During national elections, Ostfeld works as an analyst at NBC and Telemundo. She holds a PhD and master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania; a master’s of public policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Rutgers University.

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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor at University of New Hampshire | @IBJIYONGI

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and a core faculty member in women’s studies at University of New Hampshire. Prescod-Weinstein is a leading physicist of her generation and also one of fewer than 100 Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her research focuses on theoretical work at the intersection of particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics. She is a member of the LSST Dark Matter Group and the STROBE-X Science Working Group, where she leads Team STROBE-Ax. Before coming to the University of New Hampshire, she held a NASA postdoctoral program fellowship at Goddard Space Flight Center, a Martin Luther King postdoctoral fellowship in physics at MIT, and was a research associate at the University of Washington.

Her book, “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred,” published in March 2021, urges us to recognize how science is rife with racism, sexism, and other dehumanizing systems. Prescod-Weinstein lays out a new approach to science and society that begins with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky.

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Kristin Seefeldt, associate professor at the University of Michigan

Kristin Seefeldt is an associate professor of social work and public policy and associate faculty director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. Her primary research interests lie in exploring how low-income individuals understand their situations, particularly around issues related to work and economic well-being.

Her most recent book, “Abandoned Families: Social Isolation in the 21st Century” examines the ways in which political and economic changes have altered the pathways of opportunity for low-income families. Through in-depth interviews over a six-year period with women in Detroit, Seefeldt charts the increasing social isolation of many low-income workers, particularly African Americans, and analyzes how economic and residential segregation keep them from achieving the American Dream of upward mobility. In addition to numerous journal articles, she also is the author of “Working After Welfare,” which discusses employment and work-family balance challenges among former welfare recipients, and a co-author of “America’s Poor and the Great Recession.” Seefeldt has a PhD in sociology and public policy and an MPP from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

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H. Luke Shaefer, Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the University of Michigan | @profshaefer

H. Luke Shaefer is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy and Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. At U-M, he is also a professor of social work and the inaugural director of Poverty Solutions, an interdisciplinary, presidential initiative that partners with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty. Through his role at Poverty Solutions, Shaefer acts as a special counselor on anti-poverty policy to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Shaefer’s book with Kathryn Edin, “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,” was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by the New York Times Book Review, and won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism among other awards. His research on poverty and social welfare policy in the United States has been published in top peer-reviewed academic journals in the fields of public policy, social work, public health, health services research, and history, and his work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and U.S. Census Bureau, among other sources. Shaefer also is an Andrew Carnegie fellow. He has a PhD from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Gene Sperling, The White House American Rescue Plan coordinator | @genebsperling

Gene Sperling is an economist who serves as The White House American Rescue Plan coordinator and senior advisor to President Joe Biden. He was director of the National Economic Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Sperling founded the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, has been a senior economic advisor on multiple presidential campaigns, and was a consultant on NBC’s The West Wing for four seasons. His 2020 book, “Economic Dignity,” reframes definitions of economic success and examines whether the economy succeeds in lifting up people’s sense of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and security.

Sperling is an Ann Arbor native. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and he attended business school at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dorian Warren, co-president of Community Change | @dorianwarren

Dorian Warren is co-president of Community Change and co-chair of the Economic Security Project. A progressive scholar, organizer, and media personality, Dorian has worked to advance racial, economic, and social justice for over two decades. He previously held the position of vice president at Community Change, a national organization that aims to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that impact their lives. He taught for over a decade at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, where he was co-director of the Columbia University Program on Labor Law and Policy. He also worked at MSNBC, where he was a contributor and host, as well as the executive producer of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC’s digital platform. He serves on the boards of Working Partnerships USA, the Leadership Conference Education Fund Board, the National Employment Law Project, and The Nation magazine, among others.