Towards a More Just World: Strategies for Increasing Opportunity and Mobility

February 29, 2020 | Harvard Kennedy School

About Us

The Conference on Poverty and Inequality is a student-run conference at the Harvard Kennedy School. Over the past four years, the Conference on Poverty and Inequality has rapidly grown into a leading platform for students, alumni, faculty, and policy practitioners across Harvard and the Boston area who are interested in addressing issues that affect individuals and communities experiencing poverty and marginalization.






Building Power Through Identity: Fighting Against the Status Quo

Poverty Alleviation and the

Social Safety Net

Stories of Healthcare Reform in the United States

Taxing the Wealthy





The Vision for Free College

Nourishing the Future:

Global Food and Nutrition

The Decline of the 9 to 5


Nisha Patel

What Would It Take to Increase

Mobility from Poverty?


Race & Mass Incarceration:

From Classrooms to Courtrooms

Housing Affordability:

Strategies and Solutions

Ensuring a Better Start:

Global Early Childhood Education



NishaGPatel_headshot2020 - Nisha Patel.j



Nisha G. Patel


Former Executive Director

U.S. Partnership on Mobility

Nisha G. Patel is a national expert on social and economic mobility and philanthropy in the United States. She has more than two decades of cross-sector experience leading and implementing initiatives to increase economic opportunities for low-income families. She served as Executive Director of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute. The Partnership was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and assembled 24 leading voices to identify ideas for investment to dramatically increase mobility from poverty. Patel served in the Obama administration as Director of the Office of Family Assistance within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing a $17 billion annual portfolio of federal grants that foster family economic security, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. She was previously Deputy Director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, where she led national efforts to expand two-generation approaches to improve outcomes for children and their parents. Prior to that, Patel was a Program Officer in the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a portfolio focused on increasing postsecondary success through community partnerships and policy development, as well as special initiatives. Patel previously held positions as Director of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University. Her work has been featured on NPR’s 1A and Here and Now and in the Atlantic’s CityLab, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Inside Philanthropy. Patel is a summa cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she was a Chancellor’s Scholar. She holds an MSW with a concentration in social and economic development from Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a Bettie Schroth Johnson Scholar. Patel was selected as a National Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute Fellow and a Washington University in St. Louis Brown School Distinguished Alumna. She serves on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Alumni Network Advisory Board and the Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Initiative Advisory Group. She served as an Expert Panelist for the Rockefeller Foundation/Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Communities Thrive Challenge and a Reviewer for the Catalogue for Philanthropy-Greater Washington.


Jared Brown.jpeg
0 - Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.jpeg
Sara Minkara.jpg
Tyrone Walker.png

Jared Brown

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan

Sara Minkara

Tyrone Walker

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is a Deputy Director for the All on The Line campaign of the National Redistricting Action Fund, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee chaired by former US Attorney General Eric Holder. All On The Line is a public advocacy campaign committed to ending partisan gerrymandering and creating fair district maps in the states during the next redistricting cycle in 2021-2022. Raffi was the Director of External Relations at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), where she oversaw public education and field organizing operations. She was also a Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement, where she served as the primary liaison to the LGBTQ community, and an Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel at the White House from 2015-2017. Raffi was the first openly transgender staffer to work at the White House. Raffi currently sits on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council as an appointee named by President Barack Obama. She is also a board member of SMYAL, a service provider based in Washington, which works with LGBTQ youth. Raffi has worked in non-profit and government sectors for over a decade. Her vast career includes prior employment at NCTE as Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative; a Legislative Director in the Massachusetts House of Representatives; LGBT Liaison for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts; and work with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and at Boston University's Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program. A graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Raffi was adopted from Honduras and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Sara Minkara is the founder and CEO of Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), a nonprofit committed to developing a more inclusive society through empowering youth with disabilities and transforming social and cultural stigmas against disability globally. ETI is committed to achieving inclusion for all people through groundbreaking initiatives that challenge stereotypes about people with disabilities. Sara strives to elevate marginalized voices and viewpoints and promote a robust, authentic respect for individual value through the organizations.

A Lebanese-American Muslim woman who lost her sight at age seven, Sara has transformed her unwavering passion for empowering persons with disabilities into innovative, empowering programs. ETI’s programs support individuals with disabilities to become catalysts for change in their own lives, their communities, and beyond.

Sara’s personal pledge to equip young people with disabilities with the confidence and skills to succeed as individuals and advocates blossomed as an undergraduate at Wellesley College. With support from the Clinton Foundation, she founded ETI in college and expanded its programs and mission while earning her master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Today, Sara is an internationally recognized advocate in the areas of disability inclusion, female leadership, and social entrepreneurship. Dynamic and memorable, she speaks and facilitates workshops across the globe, leveraging her personal background and professional expertise on disability inclusion, social entrepreneurship, empowerment, women’s leadership, and more.

Tyrone met his first mentor during his first month of incarceration when he was 19. This mentor recognized Tyrone’s intellect and aptitude, and he empowered Tyrone to take the steps to overturn his initial sentence, shorten the time he would serve, and get his GED.

While incarcerated, Tyrone tutored other incarcerated men studying for their GEDs, and he took it upon himself to mentor young men in his facility. Recognized for his leadership abilities, he formally became a mentor in the Young Men Emerging Unit, a program in the D.C. Department of Correction’s Central Treatment Facility, which matched young men with mentors. Through this program, Tyrone and his peers mentored a group of 25 young men between the ages of 18-25. Upon being released after serving 25 years in prison, he completed the Georgetown University Pivot Program, during which he served as a Pivot Fellow with JPI.  Through his fellowship and now as a full-time Associate at JPI he utilizes his experience, expertise and a passion for prison reform to advocate for change.

Tyrone also has translated his passion for coaching and mentoring into his work as a professional personal trainer instructor, which allowed him not only to help others in his facility toward their fitness goals, but to help them become personal trainers as well. Going forward, Tyrone has a passion for helping others reach their goals, and he also continues to love all things fitness. He has a particular interest in helping cancer survivors design exercise and nutrition plans to support their well-being and continued recovery. He also dreams of starting a weightlifting competition for at-risk youth, giving them training on clean eating and building strength. In his spare time, Tyrone is an avid Scrabble player. In his new life, he is enjoying spending time with his two children and three grandchildren, watching football, and reading the New York Times on Sundays.

Jared Brown, 28, was incarcerated for two misdemeanors at the age of 18. He has spent the past decade turning the obstacles of incarceration into opportunities to build safe and inclusive communities, where all young people feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity. He is currently the Network and Partnerships Associate for My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance at the Obama Foundation, an initiative established by President Obama in 2014 after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin to address persistent opportunity gaps facing young men of color. In this role, Brown launched and currently manages the MBK Network -- a community of learning and practice for youth and local leaders working to expand cradle to career opportunity in 250 cities and counties across the country. The Network addresses the need for continuous learning and development from local leaders advancing equity, and creates shared understanding of the skills and resources required to implement a results-driven and impactful local action plan. Prior to joining the Obama Foundation, Brown managed a first-of-its-kind, $25 million startup program designed to create pathways to college for low-income students and grow the pipeline of minority entrepreneurs at the United Negro College Fund. In this capacity, Brown awarded $4 million in scholarships, curated and administered online entrepreneurship training, and organized an Annual Summit for 350 students representing 90 colleges and universities. Strong program outcomes generated a $10 million renewal from the donor to expand the scope and scale of the initiative. Brown was recently recognized as a 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 honoree in the Education category and represented the United States at the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2017. He earned a MPS in Technology Entrepreneurship from the University of Maryland, College Park and a BA in African and African American Studies with Distinction from the University of Virginia.

Race and Mass Incarceration


Rahsaan Hall

Rahsaan Hall is the Director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. In this role Rahsaan helps develop the ACLU of Massachusetts’ integrated advocacy approach to address racial justice issues. Through legislative advocacy, litigation and community engagement, the program works on issues that deeply impact communities of color and historically disenfranchised communities. Rahsaan also manages the ACLU of Massachusetts' What a Difference a DA Makes campaign to educate state residents about the power and influence of district attorneys.

Learn more about Rahsaan here.


Ronald Ferguson

Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who focuses social science research on economic, social, and educational challenges.  He has been on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 1983, after full time appointments at Brandeis and Brown Universities. In 2014, he co-founded Tripod Education Partners and shifted into an adjunct role at the Kennedy School, where he remains a fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI).

Learn more about Ronald here.


Marc Schindler

As Justice Policy Institute’s executive director, Marc Schindler is a dedicated justice system reformer, while serving in a variety of roles. Most recently, he was a partner at a DC-based nonprofit philanthropic investment organization, Venture Philanthropy Partners. He served in a variety of leadership roles at DC's juvenile justice agency, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) including Chief of Staff and Interim Director. Schindler also served as Staff Attorney with the Youth Law Center, advocating for the rights of young people in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. He is also a former Baltimore City public defender. Schindler is a recognized expert in the field, providing commentary in the national media, including on CNN and NPR, and is also the author of numerous articles and book chapters.


Amanda Klonsky

Amanda Klonsky has worked as an educator in jails and prisons for 15 years and speaks widely on issues of education and incarceration. Her work focuses on expanding access to education for people who are impacted by mass incarceration. Klonsky earned a Doctorate in Education Leadership at Harvard University (2018) and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago (2011). Klonsky’s dissertation and her forthcoming book trace the challenges facing young men in Chicago who enter adulthood soon after they depart from the Cook County Jail. She uses the methodology of portraiture to explore racialized notions of adulthood in relation to police violence and mass incarceration of Black and Latinx youth.

Learn more about Amanda here.

The Vision for Free College

Sandy Baum

Sandy Baum

Sandy Baum is a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute and professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College. Dr. Baum earned her B.A. in sociology at Bryn Mawr College, where she is currently a member of the Board of Trustees, and her Ph.D. in economics at Columbia University. She has written and spoken extensively on issues relating to college access, college pricing, student aid policy, student debt, affordability, and other aspects of higher education finance. Dr. Baum has co-authored the College Board’s annual publications Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing since 2002. Through the College Board and the Brookings Institution, she has chaired major study groups that released proposals for reforming federal and state student aid. She has published numerous articles on higher education finance in professional journals, books, and the trade press. She is the principle researcher on the Urban Institute’s website on college affordability and her recent work includes Urban Institute briefs on Federal Work Study, Parent PLUS loans, and college endowments. She is the author of Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education Financing (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) and co-author with Harry Holzer of Making College Work: Pathways to Success for Disadvantaged Students (Brookings Institution Press 2017). Dr. Baum publishes frequent blog posts on the Urban Wire at

Donald Generals.jpg

Donald Generals

Dr. Donald Guy Generals became the sixth president of Community College of Philadelphia on July 1, 2014. As the chief executive officer, he guides Philadelphia’s only public institution of higher learning, which serves more than 35,000 credit and noncredit students from diverse social, cultural and educational backgrounds. Previously, Dr. Generals served as vice president for Academic Affairs at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ from 2008 to 2014. Before joining Mercer’s cabinet, he held positions as provost at the Katharine Gibbs Schools in New York City; vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at SUNY Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY, and dean of Student and Cultural Affairs at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ. Dr. Generals has twenty years of teaching experience. Dr. Generals earned his Ed.D. in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at Rutgers University after earning both his M.A. in Urban Education/Community Service and his B.A. in Political Science at William Paterson College.

DSC_3886 - Tiffany Jones.JPG

Tiffany Jones

Tiffany directs the higher education policy team at The Education Trust, where she promotes legislation to improve access, affordability, and success for low-income students and students of color. Central to this work is supporting equity- and student-centered accountability and affordability policies at the state and federal levels. Tiffany and her team design and promote policy to make higher education more affordable, hold colleges accountable, and invest in student success. Tiffany advises federal and state policy makers, convenes national working groups of civil rights and ed reform advocates, and supports emerging equity coalitions in several states. Dr. Jones has published for public, policy, and academic audiences her recommendations on how higher education policy and practices impact college success for low-income students and students of color. Her work has been featured in places like the New York Times, CNN, and NPR, and in her book, Can equity be bought? Outcomes Based Funding for Racial Equity, she introduces a framework for prioritizing equity issues in higher education accountability systems. Other recent publications include A Guide to Statewide Attainment Goals for Racial Equity Advocates, A Framework for Equitable Free College Programs, and Outcomes-Based Funding and Race in Higher Education.

Learn more about Tiffany here.

Lena Shi.jpg

Lena Shi

Lena Shi is a doctoral candidate in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Her research interests include economics of education, labor economics, socioeconomic mobility, and higher education finance.

Before starting her PhD, Lena was a Policy Advisor in the Obama White House on education issues including financial aid access, higher education reform, and student debt. She also conducted higher education research as a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.

Lena graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA/MPP. 

Taxing the Wealthy

chyechinghuang-500x500 - CC Huang.jpg
headshot - Beth Kaufman (1).jpg

Beth Kaufman

Beth Shapiro Kaufman is a Member in Caplin & Drysdale's Washington, D.C., office. Ms. Kaufman assists wealthy individuals with their estate planning, with a focus on minimizing taxes. She also advises lawyers and other professionals on complex issues regarding estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Ms. Kaufman is member of the adjunct faculty for the University of Miami Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning, where she teaches generation-skipping transfer tax. Prior to rejoining Caplin & Drysdale in 2001, Ms. Kaufman worked for over six years in the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy, where she had principal responsibility for all tax policy matters affecting trusts and estates. Ms. Kaufman is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was Notes Editor of Harvard Law Review, and Pomona College.


Jonathan Rothwell

Jonathan Rothwell is Gallup's principal economist. He advises clients on research questions, methods and economic analysis and publishes articles on a range of social science topics in academic and popular publications. He frequently contributes to The New York Times’ “The Upshot” column and hosts the Gallup-Knight Foundation podcast, “Out of the Echo Chamber.” He recently published a book, A Republic of Equals, with Princeton University Press on the causes of income inequality. His other recent scholarly work includes measuring job quality, designing research strategies to measure the effects of technology on workers, measuring quality in higher education, analyzing the impact of international trade on the labor market and the causes of productivity growth, and examining the social factors that affect political preferences. Before joining Gallup, Rothwell was a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. He is currently a nonresident fellow at Brookings and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. Jonathan received a doctorate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University

Chye-Ching Huang

Chye-Ching Huang is Senior Director for Economic Policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priority’s Federal Fiscal Policy team, where she focuses on the fiscal and economic effects of federal tax and budget policy. She rejoined the Center in July 2011 after working as a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where she taught graduate and undergraduate tax law and conducted research in tax law and policy. She has also practiced as a tax solicitor. She holds an LLM from Columbia Law School and a bachelor of commerce in economics and a bachelor of laws from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The Decline of the 9 to 5

Kristy Milland

Kristy Milland

Kristy Milland is currently working towards her JD at the University of Toronto. She has been a crowd worker for more than a decade. Currently, she speaks about the ethics of crowd work, exposing worker exploitation in order to push industry and government to enact changes to protect workers.

Ben_Armstrong_II_500x500 - Benjamin Arms

Ben Armstrong

Ben Armstrong is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University. He is also a Research Affiliate with the Industrial Performance Center and the Work of the Future Task Force at MIT. His research explores the role of governments and universities in shaping cities’ economic trajectories. He also studies how workers and governments are adapting to technological change. Ben received his PhD from MIT in Political Science. He previously worked at Google Inc.

Rachel Lipson.jpg

Rachel Lipson

Rachel Lipson is the inaugural Project Director of the Project on Workforce, a newly-seeded, interdisciplinary Harvard initiative focused on policy and research at the intersection of education and labor markets. The project, based at the Malcom Wiener Center for Social Policy, is a collaboration with the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to this role, Rachel was Director of Special Projects at Year Up, an acclaimed social enterprise and workforce training provider that connects young adults without four-year degrees to meaningful careers in some of America’s most prestigious companies.

Learn more about Rachel here.

Steward_Photo - Shelly Steward.jpg

Shelly Steward

Shelly is an economic sociologist focusing on the changing nature of work in American society. She holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research examines how people understand their position in the labor market and the economy more broadly. She has particular knowledge in precarious and insecure work arrangements, including the so-called “gig economy.” At the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, she examines the ways in which work is changing, the challenges it presents to workers, and policy-based solutions for today and tomorrow.

Stories of Healthcare Reform in the U.S.

Elena Hung is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Little Lobbyists, a family-led organization that advocates for children with complex medical needs and disabilities. Her daughter Xiomara was born with a number of medical issues, and is thriving today as a result of quality care (and a bit of luck). Elena, Xiomara, and families like them have been visiting Capitol Hill and offices across the country to speak with lawmakers and their staffers about what is possible with access to quality, affordable health care, and what is at stake without it. Her opinion pieces have been published in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Vox, HuffPost, and other publications.

Learn more about Elena here.

331B3E37-339F-4176-B2B9-979294DD1DA0 - J

Joia Crear-Perry

Joia Adele Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG – a thought leader around racism as a root cause of health inequities, Speaker, Trainer, Advocate, Policy Expert, and fighter for justice – is the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Recently, she addressed the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge a human rights framework to improve maternal mortality. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department where she was responsible for four facilities that provided health care for the homeless, pediatric, WIC, and gynecologic services within the New Orleans clinical service area.

Learn more about Joia here.

AARP shoot, 12-4-17 - T. R. Reid.jpg

T.R. Reid

T. R. Reid has reported from 50 countries on five continents for The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS. Through his books and PBS documentaries on health care systems around the world, he has pushed for a system that will give every American high-quality medical care at reasonable cost.

Elena Hung

Elena Hung

Learn more about Elena here.

Suzanne Curry.jpg

Suzanne Curry

Suzanne Curry is a Co-Director of Policy and Government Relations at Health Care For All, a consumer health advocacy organization that advocates for health justice in Massachusetts by working to promote health equity and ensure coverage and access for all. Suzanne leads the organization's public health coverage, children's health, and behavioral health policy and advocacy work, including managing and participating in multiple coalitions. She has a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science from Boston University.

Nourishing the Future

Housing Affordability

Headshot-ESmith - Emily Smith.JPG

Emily Smith

Emily Smith is an Assistant Professor of Global Health and Nutrition at The George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health and holds a research appointment at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Prior to joining the faculty at GWU, she worked as a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her research focuses on generating, analyzing, and translating nutrition and epidemiological data from across the life course to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in low- and middle-income countries. She has worked on the design, implementation, and analysis of randomized trials and program evaluations in Tanzania, Bolivia, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, Afghanistan, and the U.S.. Dr. Smith has also lead efforts to synthesize and translate research evidence for use in global policy contexts.

Kim headshot - Kimberly Cernak.JPG

Kimberly Cernak

Kimberly Cernak serves as the Global Policy and Advocacy Director of The Eleanor Crook Foundation. Prior to joining ECF, Kim served as the Senior Director for Global Policy and Advocacy at 1,000 Days. In that role, she led the organization’s work to educate and influence global policymakers and stakeholders to increase action and investment in maternal and child nutrition and, serving on 1,000 Days's senior leadership team, focused on the organization's management, funding, and operations priorities. Kim also spent two years as the Deputy Director of Friends of the Global Fight, where she provided leadership, direction, oversight, and coordination in the day-to-day operations of the organization’s policy, communications, and development efforts.

Learn more about Kimberly here.

CSW-YearOfMandela-Jhila Farzaneh for Glo

Mwandwe Chileshe

Mwandwe Chileshe is a Global Citizen Campaigner passionate about issues relating to poverty reduction and nutrition. She currently leads Global Citizen's Food Security and Nutrition efforts in Africa. Mwandwe has worked on Food Security and Nutrition in various roles, including supporting the management of the International Coalition for Advocates on Nutrition, through her previous work at 1,000 Days. Mwandwe also previously led the Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance, and was significant in the start-up of Zambia’s first Parliamentary Caucus on Food and Nutrition.


Chris Herbert

Chris Herbert is Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Dr. Herbert has extensive experience conducting research related to housing policy and urban development, both in the U.S. and abroad. A key focus of his research has been on the financial and demographic dimensions of homeownership, and the implications for housing policy. Having previously worked at the Center in the 1990s, Herbert rejoined the Center in 2010 from Abt Associates, to serve as the Director of Research. In this role, Dr. Herbert led the team responsible for producing the Center’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing and its biennial America’s Rental Housing reports, essential resources for both public and private decision makers in the housing industry.


Lydia Edwards

Councilor Edwards has spent her entire career as an advocate, activist, and as a voice on behalf of society's most vulnerable. She served as the deputy director within the Mayor's Office of Housing Stability where she was responsible for developing and delivering innovative solutions to fight displacement and brought together all stakeholders: landlords, management companies, housing authorities, and tenants. Councilor Edwards worked as a public interest attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services focusing on labor issues such as fighting for access to unemployment insurance, back wages, fair treatment for domestic workers, and combating human trafficking. She served as the statewide campaign coordinator for the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers, which advocated for the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. In 2015, she was named Bostonian of the Year by the Boston GlobeHer mother is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and current union worker with the Veterans Administration. She raised both Councilor Edwards and her twin sister. Councilor Edwards graduated from American University Washington College of Law and received a LLM in taxation from Boston University School of Law.

Lawrence Vale.jpeg

Lawrence Vale

Lawrence Vale is Associate Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, which he headed from 2002-2009. He was president of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History from 2011-2013. Vale holds degrees from Amherst College, M.I.T., and the University of Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar and Guggenheim fellow, Vale is the author or editor of ten books examining urban design, housing, and planning, including Purging the Poorest (2015 Best Book in Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Association; 2014 Best Book on United States Planning History, International Planning History Society); Architecture, Power, and National Identity (1994 Spiro Kostof Book Award, Society of Architectural Historians); From the Puritans to the Projects (2001 Best Book in Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Association); Reclaiming Public Housing (2005 Paul Davidoff Book Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning); and Planning Ideas That Matter (2014 Best Edited Book, International Planning History Society).

Learn more about Lawrence here.

Photo of AG.jpg

Aaron Gornstein

Aaron Gornstein became the President and CEO of POAH, Inc. in June 2015.  He provides overall leadership and oversight of the organization, including strategic planning, financial management, supervision of the executive team, and external relations and partnerships. From 2012-2015, Gornstein served as undersecretary for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), under former Governor Deval Patrick, where he greatly expanded rental assistance and homeless prevention programs, reformed and improved state public housing, and launched a comprehensive supportive housing initiative. Prior to that, he served as executive director of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) for 21 years, where he spearheaded passage of state and federal legislation, launched innovation programs, and helped to form numerous coalitions. Gornstein earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and his Master of Arts degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University.  He serves as the chair of the board of directors for the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) and serves on the boards of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Technical Assistance Collaborative, and New Lease for Homeless Families.

Mike Leyba.jpg

Mike Leyba

Mike Leyba is a director with City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots community organization committed to fighting for racial, social and economic justice and gender equality by building working class power. City Life/Vida Urbana promotes individual empowerment, develops community leaders and builds collective power to effect systemic change and transform society. Mike studied Public Policy and Administration at Northeastern University and volunteers his time to help elect and support progressive legislators.

Global Early Childhood Education


Dana McCoy

Dana Charles McCoy is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Her work focuses on understanding the ways that poverty-related risk factors in children's home, school, and neighborhood environments affect the development of their cognitive and socioemotional skills in early childhood. She is also interested in the development, refinement, and evaluation of early intervention programs designed to promote positive development and resilience in young children, particularly in terms of their self-regulation and executive function.

Learn more about Dana here.

Devon Wilson.png

Devon Wilson

Devon is a Project Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Studies Project at Project Zero and is a graduate of the International Education Policy Master’s Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Devon has over 10 years of experience working with educational projects in the US and China including serving as 3rd-6th grade teacher; grade level chair; and curriculum writer with Teach for China (美丽中国); and a program manager for a young entrepreneur non-profit through UC Berkeley.

Poverty Alleviation and the Social Safety Net

Mark Shepard.png

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard is an assistant professor at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). His research studies health care markets, with topics at the intersection of health, industrial organization, and public economics. Much of his work focuses on competition and policy design in health insurance markets, particularly in public programs like the Massachusetts/ACA health insurance exchanges and Medicaid managed care. Mark received his PhD in economics from Harvard University (2015) and his A.B. in applied math from Harvard (2008). He was a Post-doctoral Fellow (in Aging and Health Economics) at the NBER during the 2015-16 academic year before starting as an assistant professor in 2016-17. Before graduate school, Mark spent a year working at the Brookings Institution's Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform (2008-09).


Tianna Gaines-Turner

Tianna Gaines-Turner is member of Witnesses to Hunger who lives with her husband and her three children in Philadelphia, PA. Though Tianna has experienced many barriers to success, including homelessness and difficulty finding living-wage employment, she remains a passionate advocate for the people in her community. Tianna regularly works to educate the public and policy-makers, and has spoken at many conferences and hearings. She submitted written testimony for a House Budget Committee hearing on poverty in August 2013. Tianna also attended the State of the Union Address as Senator Robert Casey’s guest. Tianna has been featured on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, CNN’s American Morning, WHYY’s Voices in the Family with Dan Gottlieb, Media Voices for Children, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Meet The Team

Meet the Team

WhatsApp Image 2020-01-31 at 2.54.44 PM.

Amanda Hallock

Poverty and Inequality PIC Co-Chair


Kate Williams

Poverty and Inequality PIC Co-Chair


Rebekah Woo

Conference Co-Chair


Ama Peiris

Conference Co-Chair

WhatsApp Image 2020-01-30 at 9.43.42 PM.

Peggy Moriarty

Content Lead

WhatsApp Image 2020-02-03 at 9.24.06 PM.
White Bowl

Carl Lawrence

Farhana Roslan

Amanda Graff

Isaac Yoder

Alex Samuels

Equity and Inclusion Lead

Fundraising Lead

Logistics Lead

Poverty and Inequality PIC  VP of Finance

Poverty and Inequality PIC VP of Communications

Sasha Rauch-Kelly

Content Committee

Alex Foley

Content Committee

Danielle Porfido

Content Committee

Adam Staveski

Content Committee

Jacob Greenspon

Content Committee

Jaylen Hackett

Content Committee

Abby Conyers

Content Committee

Vicki Dzindzichaschvili

Content Committee

Michael Tolan

Content Committee

Jingxin Bao

Content Committee

Austin Gragson

Content Committee

Thomas Franco

Content Committee

Charlotte O'Herron

Content Committee

Sybill Hebb

Content Committee

Hasaan Ebrahim

Content Committee


Towards a More Just World: Strategies for Increasing Opportunity and Mobility

February 29, 2020 | Harvard Kennedy School

  • Instagram
  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
The Conference on Poverty and Inequality 2020 is brought to you by the Poverty and Inequality Professional Interest Council at the Harvard Kennedy School, with generous support and inputs from the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and the Kennedy School Student Government.

Housing Affordability