past event
Employment and Jobs

Opportunity in America: What Does It Mean? – Speakers



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Gayatri Agnew

Gayatri Agnew
Senior Director,

Gayatri Agnew is a leader in corporate and social impact strategy focused on human capital trends and future of work. Gayatri worked throughout her winding path to and through both her undergraduate degree and her MBA. She has dedicated herself to ensuring more people have access to meaningful work and to effective ways to learn and grow.

Gayatri serves on the leadership team for Walmart’s Global Responsibility division where she leads strategy and partnerships on economic mobility, specifically human capital, shared value, partnerships and philanthropy. Her team focuses on key issues such as changing employer practices, better serving the learning and development needs of frontline workers, and scaling work-based learning and skills-based hiring. Gayatri’s personal mission is for more people to be able find purpose and to learn through work and that this luxury of learning is equality accessible for all.

Raised by a strong a resilient single mom, Gayatri is a lifelong advocate for women both in the civic and social sphere. She is a former candidate for the Arkansas State House and was among the wave of working moms who ran for office in 2018. She’s passionate about ensuring all voices are heard in centers of power including in government and in business.

Prior to joining Walmart Gayatri lived and worked in California and Washington. She worked on the campaign and in the administration of former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. She served as Director of the Career Center at Seattle University and ran the Seattle-King County City Year (AmeriCorps) site. She lived and worked in India researching skills development pathways and employment technology and training tools.

Gayatri and her husband Ryan live in Bentonville, Arkansas with their two young children, Rohan and Kamala.


Betsy Biemann

Betsy Biemann
CEO, Coastal Enterprises Inc.

Betsy serves as Chief Executive Officer of CEI, overseeing the organization’s strategy development, financial health and external relations. Before joining CEI, Betsy led the Growing Maine’s Food Industry, Growing Maine, a project of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University and advised businesses, nonprofit organizations and social enterprises in Maine and nationally. From 2005-2012, she was President of the Maine Technology Institute, investing in Maine companies and initiatives seeking to grow high-potential sectors of Maine’s economy. Prior to her move to Maine, Betsy served as Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation, where she managed a portfolio of grants and investments aiming to increase employment in low-income communities. She joined Rockefeller in 1996 after working in international development, principally in Africa. Betsy earned her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Betsy is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Job Quality Fellowship, Class of 2017-18.


Jennifer Briggs

Jennifer Briggs
Partner, GRITT Business Coaching

Jennifer Briggs brings over two decades of practice in human resources, organizational development, and executive leadership from a variety of industries. She served as vice president of human resources with New Belgium Brewing for 12 years creating a winning ‘best of’ workplace and now serves as an educator and advisor to companies who want to redefine value in a more holistic manner. Building healthy, profitable, democratically managed companies with shared capital ownership is her passion. A mentor once taught her to never let a rule get in the way of making a good decision and she strives to make critical thinking, intention and agile action-guiding principles. She brings a non-traditional HR viewpoint of relying primarily on values, communication, and community.

She is an advisor with the Beyster Institute with the University of California San Diego and serves on corporate boards for PFSbrands, GISinc., and Engineering Economics, Inc. She is on the advisory boards for The Moxie Exchange and Organically Grown and participates with the Democracy at Work Institute. She holds a Master of Science in organizational leadership, graduate studies in Enterprise Project Management and a Bachelor of Science in community health education. She is currently a fellow with the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing with Rutgers University.


Maureen Conway

Maureen Conway
Vice President for Policy Programs, The Aspen Insitute; Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program

Maureen Conway is vice president for policy programs at the Aspen Institute and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program. She leads a team of researchers and consultants in a variety of initiatives to identify and advance strategies that help low-income Americans gain ground in today’s labor market. A featured speaker at numerous national and regional conferences, she is a nationally recognized expert in sectoral, or industry-specific, workforce development and has been quoted in a variety of news media. Under her leadership, EOP’s Workforce Strategies Initiative has investigated the outcomes of sectoral workforce development, provided innovation seed grants to leading programs in order to illuminate promising practices and explored key operating features of programs in specific industry sectors. Maureen is the author of numerous publications including research reports, case studies and policy briefs. The Economic Opportunities Program has hosted a number of leadership development and fellowship programs that connect innovators from across the country to peers engaged in helping low- and moderate-income Americans to access opportunity, and now links these fellows together through the Economic Opportunity Fellows Network. In addition, current work includes multi-year evaluations of promising innovations in workforce development and a new project exploring an emerging practice of work that strives to create economic stability as a platform for economic mobility by engaging in strategies that seek to improve job quality while also helping workers improve their job skills. Ms. Conway’s experience includes consulting for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and work for the US Peace Corps, where she advised on the design, management, and evaluation of the organization’s economic development programs in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Maureen holds an MBA from Columbia University, where she was a Samuel Bronfman Scholar, an M.A. in regional planning from the University of North Carolina, and a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Holy Cross College.


Gary Cunningham

Gary Cunningham
President & CEO, Prosperity Now

Gary joined Prosperity Now in August 2019 as President and CEO. Prior to joining Prosperity Now, Gary provided strategic leadership to multiple national, regional and local organizations. His most recent roles include his position as president and CEO at Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA); vice president and chief program officer at Northwest Area Foundation; and president and CEO at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center. Gary is a thought leader whose ideas have been published in multiple reports throughout the field. He has also held leadership roles within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and the City of Minneapolis.

Gary earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in public policy from Metropolitan State University; and his Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.


Michelle De La Isla

Michelle De La Isla
Mayor, City of Topeka ; Supplier Diversity Manager, Evergy

Ms. Michelle De La Isla is the mayor of the city of Topeka since 2017 and the supplier diversity manager for Evergy, where she has worked in the community to develop the competencies of diversity and inclusion, inclusive prosperity and cooperative leadership. Ms. De La Isla is currently participating in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program as well as being an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow. She has focused her life work in advocating for underrepresented communities, empowerment and financial literacy education for women and has previously served in the capacities of Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity and CFO for Housing and Credit Counseling. Ms. De La Isla has been actively engaged in entrepreneurship development by bringing to Topeka the first Spanish First Step FastTrack program from the Kauffman Foundation.

Ms. De La Isla earned her B.S. in biology with a focus on molecular biology from Wichita State University.


Matt Heimer

Matthew Heimer
Senior Features Editor, Fortune

Matt Heimer, senior features editor, oversees Fortune‘s long-form storytelling. He directs the publication’s investment and finance coverage and edits feature stories about technology, healthcare, retail, entertainment and other industries. Matt is a co-chair of the CEO Initiative conference, where he leads working groups on workforce development.

Prior to joining Fortune, Matt was a senior editor at MarketWatch, where he launched the website’s revamped retirement and personal-finance coverage. Previously, he was a reporter, senior writer and deputy editor at SmartMoney magazine, where he won a SABEW Best In Business award for explanatory journalism. Matt holds a master’s degree from Yale Law School, where he was a Knight Journalism Fellow; he’s also a former Jeopardy! Contestant (but not, alas, a former Jeopardy! champion).


Joyce Klein

Joyce Klein
Director, Business Ownership Initiative, Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute

Joyce Klein is the director of the Business Ownership Initiative at the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, which works to expand economic opportunity through business ownership. Joyce assumed the leadership of BOI in 2012, after working as a senior consultant since the program’s inception in 1998. She is recognized as a leading expert on the field, speaking at national and regional industry conferences and being quoted in a variety of news media including The New York Times and National Public Radio’s Marketplace. Joyce has more than 20 years of experience studying and supporting microenterprise and entrepreneurial development programs in the United States, and has authored or co-authored numerous publications, including funder brief and strategy guides, evaluation and research reports, case studies and policy briefs. She has also designed and managed grant programs aimed at supporting innovation in the practice of microenterprise development in the United States.

Under Joyce’s leadership, BOI has launched the Microfinance Impact Collaborative, helped to create the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights and the Responsible Business Lending Coalition, and launched new research into the role of platforms and networks in expanding the scale and impact of the US microenterprise field. BOI has also expanded its work in examining the potential role of business ownership and the microenterprise field in addressing the challenges of financial inclusion, the racial wealth gap, and career development for youth.

Joyce also has worked as a consultant in the microenterprise field, providing assistance to clients including the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund of the US Department of the Treasury, and Prosperity Now.


Tracy Jan (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Tracy Jan
Reporter covering the intersection of race and the economy, The Washington Post

Tracy Jan writes about the intersection of race and the economy for The Washington Post, a beat she launched in December 2016 that encompasses racial economic disparities, immigration and housing policy. Previously she was an award-winning national political reporter based in Washington for The Boston Globe, where she covered the 2016 and 2012 presidential campaigns as well as national health policy. During her 12 years at the Globe, Jan also covered K-12 and higher education in Boston. Prior to joining the Globe in 2004, Jan worked at The Oregonian in Portland, Ore. Jan received her bachelor’s degree in communication and master’s degree in sociology from Stanford University. After college, she spent a year on a Fulbright Fellowship in Taipei, Taiwan writing for an English-language newspaper. She was a 2015 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. She has reported from Taipei, Beijing, Tibet and along the Yangtze River.


Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson
Regional Chief Operations Officer, US Retail Central Region, Aon

Kevin Johnson has been with Aon eight years currently approaching four years as regional chief operations officer for Aon’s US Retail Central Region supporting commercial risk solutions and related lines of business (Previously as national VP of Aon Cornerstone diversity solutions).

Kevin’s professional career total extends over more than 25 years and has included leadership roles in sales, marketing, finance, performance management and operational effectiveness representing Motorola and AT&T; both Fortune 100 firms.

Kevin’s education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in telecommunications management with additional studies in electronics. He is a member and past president of the Lions Club International. Currently sits on the board of the Golden Apple Foundation in Chicago and was appointed by the mayor to the Board of Commissioners for the Fire and Police for the village of Bolingbrook in Illinois.

Kevin also holds a real estate broker and property and casualty insurance licenses. In addition, Kevin recently authored his first book “The Success Makeover”, which helps its readers to redefine success by “connecting to what matters”.


Aparna Mathur

Aparna Mathur
Resident Scholar, Economic Policy, American Enterprise Institute

Aparna Mathur is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she researches income inequality and mobility, tax policy, labor markets, and small businesses. She also directs the AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family and Medical Leave, for which she was recognized in the 2017 Politico 50 list.

Before joining AEI, Dr. Mathur was an instructor in economics at the University of Maryland. She has been also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Public Policy (now the McCourt School of Public Policy).

Dr. Mathur has been published in several top scholarly journals and in the popular press on issues of policy relevance. Her work has been cited in academic journals and leading news outlets such as Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal. She has also testified several times before Congress, and government organizations such as the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office have cited her work in their own reports to Congress.

The holder of a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park, Dr. Mathur also has an M.A. in economics from the Delhi School of Economics and a B.A. from Hindu College at Delhi University in India.

Aparna Mathur is a member of the EOP Advisory Council.


Paul Osterman

Paul Osterman
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Professor of Human Resources and Management, MIT Sloan School of Management

Paul Osterman is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Professor of Human Resources and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management as well as a member of the Department of Urban Planning at MIT. From July 2003 to June 2007 he also served as Deputy Dean at the MIT Sloan School.

His research concerns changes in work organization within companies, career patterns and processes within firms, economic development, urban poverty, and public policy surrounding skills training and employment programs.

Osterman has been a senior administrator of job training programs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has consulted widely for government agencies, foundations, community groups, firms, and public interest organizations.

His most recent book is Who Will Care For Us: Long Term Care and the Long Term Workforce (Russell Sage,2017). Other recent books include Good Jobs America: Making Work Better for Everyone (Russell Sage, 2011); The Truth About Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, How They Matter (Harvard Business School Press, 2009); Gathering Power: The Future of Progressive Politics in America (Beacon Press, 2003),; Securing Prosperity: The American Labor Market: How It Has Changed and What to Do About It (Princeton University Press, 1999), and Working In America: A Blueprint for the New Labor Market (MIT Press, 2001).

Osterman is also the author of Employment Futures: Reorganization, Dislocation, and Public Policy; Getting Started: The Youth Labor Market; The Mutual Gains Enterprise: Forging a Winning Partnership Among Labor, Management, and Government; and Change At Work. He is the editor of two books, Internal Labor Markets and Broken Ladders: Managerial Careers in the New Economy. In addition, he has written numerous academic journal articles and policy issue papers on topics such as labor market policy, the organization of work within firms, careers, job training programs, economic development, and anti-poverty programs.

Paul Osterman is a member of the EOP Advisory Council.


Erin Patinkin

Erin Patinkin
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Ovenly

With a background in social justice and nonprofit leadership, it’s no surprise that Erin turned her passion for food and community building to leading a progressive business. Besides pioneering the company’s financial, marketing, and retail strategies (including real estate and sustainability). Erin believes that the demystification of entrepreneurship is essential to building a diverse economy, and so she works to educate others about the realities of business through her writing (Vice, Lucky Peach, Cherry Bombe, Ovenly), through her podcast Start to Sale (which she executive produces and co-hosts with Natasha Case of Coolhaus) on Vox, through consulting, and by teaching and speaking at events nationally. Since she launched her first business over decade ago, Erin has become a leading voice of ethical entrepreneurship, dedicating her work to “radical responsibility” and to the creation of a more empathetic economy that works for everyone. She has appeared in print and TV internationally (New York Times, Inc, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Eater, Good Morning America, et cetera), has been named one of the most “badass women in food” by Zagat, as a “world changing woman” by Conscious Company magazine, and as one of the Cherry Bombe 100.

Her favorite color is chocolate, but her favorite treat is the peanut butter cookie.


Mark Popovich
Director, Good Companies/Good Jobs Initiative, Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute

Mark Popovich joined the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program as director of the Good Companies/Good Jobs Initiative in December 2016. He previously served 12 years as vice president for programs at The Hitachi Foundation, where he led the team managing the Good Companies @ Work program. The program emphasizes the role of business in society in general and the importance of social sustainability. His work focused on identifying and examining the practices of exemplary employers as they create pathways to greater prosperity and career advancement for frontline workers. He helped spearhead the launch a decade ago of the collaborative National Fund for Workforce Solutions. These projects garnered the two highest awards from the Council on Foundations. Before joining the Foundation, Mr. Popovich was a co-founder and senior partner of The Public’s Work, a consulting practice serving clients from the foundation, nonprofit, and public sectors. Over his career, Mr. Popovich was a senior advisor to a state senator, governor, and congressman. At the National Governors Association, he was a senior staff member on energy and environmental issues and he was a senior research analyst at the Council of Governors’ Policy Advisors focusing on economic, community, and rural development.


Dan Porterfield

Dan Porterfield
President and CEO, The Aspen Institute

Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D., has served as president and CEO of the Aspen Institute since June 2018. He was selected by the Institute’s Board of Trustees because of his intellectual depth, commitment to inclusivity and diversity, and ability to lead a complex, mission-driven organization to create impact and make a difference in the world. His career embodies the ideals of values-based leadership upon which the Aspen Institute was founded.

Prior to leading the Aspen Institute, Dan served for seven years as the president of Franklin & Marshall College (F&M), a leading national liberal arts college founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1787. Under his leadership, F&M set records for applications, fundraising, and fellowships; developed cutting edge new centers for student wellness, career services, and faculty excellence; constructed a new athletics stadium; and embarked upon the process of building a groundbreaking new visual arts center.

Perhaps most important, Dan led F&M in the development of the Next Generation Initiative talent strategy, through which the college strengthened its academic excellence and competitiveness by tripling its percentage of incoming low-income students and more than doubling its percentage of domestic students of color.

For this work, Dan and F&M received national recognition and visibility, including high-profile coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, on the PBS NewsHour, and at several summits of college and educational leaders held at the White House. The Next Generation Initiative also helped to galvanize the creation of a national project of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, the American Talent Initiative (ATI). Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the ATI has a national goal of enrolling 50,000 more high-achieving low-income students in leading institutions by 2025.

Dan has been recognized as a visionary leader and advocate for expanding educational opportunity and improving the human condition by the KIPP Foundation, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, the Posse Foundation, and the Kaplan Educational Foundation. He serves on the National Board of Directors of Teach For America and on the board of the Education Trust, and is a former trustee of the College Board. Porterfield was named a White House Champion of Change in 2016.

Prior to his appointment at F&M, Porterfield served as senior vice president for strategic development for his alma mater, Georgetown University. In this role, he led Georgetown’s institutional positioning, strategy formation, communications, government relations, community relations, and intercollegiate athletics, and spearheaded the University’s relationship with DC Public Schools and founded a number of Georgetown programs for immigrant children, DC students, and at-risk youth. He was also an award-winning professor of English.

Before coming to Georgetown in 1997, Porterfield served for four years as a senior public affairs official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He earned B.A. degrees from Georgetown and Oxford—where he was a Rhodes Scholar—and his Ph.D. from The City University of New York Graduate Center, where he was awarded a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities.

A native of Baltimore, Dan and his wife, attorney Karen A. Herrling, have three children.


Event information
Fri Oct 25, 2019
12:00pm - 5:00pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
2300 N Street NW Suite 700
Washington DC 20037