ERCC 2015 Conference Speaker Bios

Moving Us Forward: At the Intersection of Community Engagement and Collective Impact

ERCC is pleased to welcome a diverse set of speakers who are scholars and leaders of civic engagement and social change efforts in higher education and civil society. Attendees will interact with these experts through pre-conference institutes, workshops, keynote, plenaries and panels throughout the program.


Mayor Ras J. Baraka was elected Mayor of the City of Newark in May 2014. A native of Newark whose family has lived in the City for more than 70 years, Mayor Baraka was educated in the Newark Public schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a Master’s degree in Education Supervisions from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. He has spent more than two decades tackling issues that affect the quality of life for Newark residents, including public safety, employment, health, economic development, and civic engagement. Specific highlights include legislation to acknowledge and address violence as a public health issue, to address complaints on late-night loitering, and to address abandoned properties and blight. Before being elected mayor, he served on the Newark Municipal Council and taught elementary school for 10 years and coached girls’ basketball, going on to become the highly transformative principal of Central High School from 2007 to 2014.


Jeanna Keller Berdel is Senior Strategy Officer for Lumina Foundation. She joined the newly formed Foundation in 2002, working primarily on pre-college access issues for underserved populations. Her current work focuses on strategies for sixty percent of the adult population to attain a post secondary education by the year 2025 through regional/ metro networks and community organizations. Her other major responsibilities include supporting a major Lumina Latino Student Success initiative in four metro areas. Prior to joining Lumina Foundation, Berdel worked in corporate philanthropy and educational outreach. She has held a variety of positions including positions in sales and marketing, corporate communications and community development. Berdel graduated from Purdue University with a degree in education and earned an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.


Dr. Joel S. Bloom is President of New Jersey Institute of Technology. He started his career in industry working as an economist. He subsequently became an educator and administrator for the New York City public schools. Prior to coming to New Jersey, he worked as a research director and instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Bloom is presently chair of the Science Park Board, treasurer of the NJ President’s Council, and treasurer of the NJEDge.Net Board. In addition, he serves as a member of the following boards: the Board for Communities and Schools, Newark Alliance, Philadelphia Alliance for Minority Participation, La Casa de Don Pedro, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Presidents Council. Dr. Bloom has been the recipient of national and state education awards, as well as federal, foundation and corporate grant awards. He has published journal articles and presented papers on school improvement, curriculum department, college transition, and student assessment. He holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.


Dr. Nancy Cantor is Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark. A distinguished leader in higher education, she is recognized nationally and internationally as an advocate for re-emphasizing the public mission of colleges and universities, both public and private, viewing them not as a traditional “ivory towers,” but as anchor institutions that collaborate with partners from all sectors of the economy to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. Prior to her current position, Dr. Cantor was chancellor and president of Syracuse University, where she led multi-faceted initiatives that built on the university’s historical strengths, pursuing cross-sector collaborations in the City of Syracuse that simultaneously enriched scholarship and education, spurring transformation of that older industrial city. These local engagements in areas such as environmental sustainability; art, technology, and design; neighborhood and cultural entrepreneurship; and urban school reform demonstrated the impact and importance of engaged scholarship and the inter-connectedness of the pressing issues of our world.


Dr. Todd Clear is Provost at Rutgers University-Newark, having previously served as Dean of the School of Criminal Justice there. Clear has also held professorships at Ball State University, Florida State University (where he was also Associate Dean of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice) and John Jay College of Criminal Justice (where he held the rank of Distinguished Professor). He has authored 13 books and over 100 articles and book chapters. His most recent book is The Punishment Imperative, by NYU Press. Clear has also written on community justice, correctional classification, prediction methods in correctional programming, community-based correctional methods, intermediate sanctions, and sentencing policy. He is currently involved in studies of the criminological implications of “place,” and the economics of justice reinvestment. His work has been recognized through several awards, including those of the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, The Rockefeller School of Public Policy, the American Probation and Parole Association, the American Correctional Association, and the International Community Corrections Association. He was the founding editor of the journal Criminology & Public Policy, published by the American Society of Criminology. He holds a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from The University at Albany.


Jeff Edmondson is Managing Director of StriveTogether, a national cradle-to-career initiative that brings together leaders in Pre-K-12 schools, higher education, business and industry, community organizations, government leaders, parents and other stakeholders who are committed to helping children succeed from birth through careers. Mr. Edmondson has also served as founding executive director of the StrivePartnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, as the foundation officer for KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and as a Program Assistant at the 21st Century School Fund where he conducted research, published papers, and wrote legislation on local and national policy issues related to school facilities. He also worked as the Peaceable Schools Coordinator at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, the largest public secondary school in Washington, D.C. Mr. Edmondson holds a Bachelor’s of Science in biology from University of Richmond and a Master’s in public policy from Johns Hopkins University. In addition, he served as a volunteer and supervisor for three years in Peace Corps Gabon, Central Africa.


Ryan Fewins-Bliss is Assistant Director for Network Development at the Michigan College Access Network. He has made youth empowerment and education the focus of his career. Beginning at Central Michigan University’s Volunteer Center working with student volunteers and leaders, he has also served at Saginaw Valley State University’s Student Life Center, Michigan Campus Compact and the Jackson College Access Center. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Integrative Public Relations and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Community Leadership, both from Central Michigan University. He serves on the Boards of Directors for the Michigan Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, the Central Michigan University National Alumni Association and is an elected member of the Bath Township Board of Trustees.


Dr. Gale E. Gibson is the seventh president and second woman to lead Essex County College in Newark. Prior to serving as the College’s Interim President, Dr. Gibson previously served as ECC’s Senior VicePresident for Academic Affairs & Chief Academic Officer. Dr. Gibson came to Essex in December 2011 after serving as founding Dean of the College of Freshman Studies, and Professor in the Department of Student Affairs and Services, at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. Dr. Gibson earned her Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University and her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Binghamton University – State University of New York.


Dr. Dwight Giles is a professor of higher education in the College of Education and Human Development at University of Massachusetts, Boston. Dr. Giles is one of the leading experts on service learning. He teaches courses in teaching and learning, curriculum, and communication and collaboration. He has authored and co-authored numerous books and articles on service-learning research. His research interests include community development, civic participation, the scholarship of engagement, campus/community partnerships, internships, and service learning. Dr. Giles is also a Senior Associate with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education ( at UMass Boston. He holds a Ph.D. in Community Development from the Pennsylvania State University and a M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.


Dr. Matthew Hartley is a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School ofEducation. His research focuses on academic governance, especially how academic communities define their educational purposes. Dr. Hartley is currently examining how academic leaders in Kazakhstan are responding to education reforms aimed at promoting greater institutional autonomy and shared governance. He has also been working with the Council of Europe in Strasburg, France, exploring partnerships between universities, schools, and civil society organizations aimed at promoting education for democratic citizenship. In 2011, he completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Bratislava, Slovakia, in partnership with the Slovak Governance Institute, studying the launch of community-based learning efforts at several universities. His book, To Serve a Larger Purpose, co-edited with John Saltmarsh, examines the roles of universities in democratic societies. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.


Dr. Diane Hill is Assistant Chancellor for University Community Partnerships at Rutgers University-Newark and a native of Newark. She is the co-founding Director of the Center for Pre-College Education and Outreach at Rutgers-Newark. In 2002, she founded and directed the Office of Campus and Conference Services which eventually evolved into the Office of University-Community Partnerships, the campus’s first institutionalized office to advance university-community partnerships. She is responsible for creating and promoting partnerships and research collaborations between the university and public,private and community-based organizations. She has been a member of the Rutgers University administration since 1988 and has served in key senior leadership positions during her tenure. Dr. Hill received a Ph.D. in Urban Systems, a joint program administered by New Jersey Institute of Technology,Rutgers University, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Her research interests include advancing community engagement in higher education, with special emphasis on university-community partnerships in urban universities, school-based youth college and career development and engagement demonstration models, and community-based participatory research.


Dr. Matthew H. Roy is Assistant Provost at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where he also serves as the Director of Leduc Center for Civic Engagement. He has recently served as a member of the statewide Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning with other legislative, administrative, education, and special interest group leaders and officials, which is calling for strengthened efforts to integrate civic engagement with learning. Dr. Roy has also served on the Department of Higher Education committee that developed recommendations for civic engagement goals for Massachusetts public higher education. He holds a doctorate in management from the University of Rhode Island.


Dr. John Saltmarsh is Director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, as well as a faculty member in the Higher Education Administration Doctoral Program in the Department of Leadership in Education in the College of Education and Human Development. He leads the project in which NERCHE serves as the administrative partner with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for Carnegie’s elective Community Engagement Classification. He is the author, most recently, of the edited volume “To Serve a Larger Purpose:” Engagement for Democracy and the Transformation of Higher Education (2011) and a book with Edward Zlotkowski, Higher Education and Democracy: Essays on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (2011). From 1998 through 2005, he directed the National Project on Integrating Service with Academic Study at Campus Compact. He holds a Ph.D. in American History from Boston University.


Dr. Andrew J. Seligsohn is President of Campus Compact. Before joining Campus Compact in June 2014, Dr. Seligsohn served as Associate Chancellor for Civic Engagement and Strategic Planning at Rutgers University–Camden, where he worked across the campus to develop the university’s engagement infrastructure to maximize community impact and student learning. Dr. Seligsohn previously served as Director of Civic Engagement Learning in the Pace Center at Princeton University. He served as a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Hartwick College, where he earned tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor and was the elected chair of the faculty. Dr. Seligsohn also taught at both Princeton and Rutgers, and he has published articles and chapters on constitutional law, political theory, urban politics, and youth civic engagement. Dr. Seligsohn holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in modern intellectual history from Williams College. Campus Compact has more than 1,100 national and international member institutions with 34 state affiliates. Headquartered in Boston, Campus Compact has a long tradition of leadership in the field of civic engagement and an extensive, diverse network of Presidents, faculty and staff to sustain and support the community engagement efforts of our members.


Brian L. Strom, M.D., M.P.H. is the recently appointed inaugural Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Rutgers University. Dr. Strom was formerly Executive Vice Dean of Institutional Affairs, founding chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, founding director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and founding director of the Graduate Program in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, all at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Strom holds a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University, an M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and an MPH in Epidemiology from University of California, Berkeley. He has been on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine since 1980.


Dr. Laurie Worrall is Executive Director of New York Campus Compact. Prior to joining NYCC, Dr. Worrall served as Associate Vice President in Academic Affairs and founding director of the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning at DePaul University in Chicago and then as Dean of the McMaster School for Advancing Humanity at Defiance College in Ohio. She has overseen the development of local, national and international community-based learning programs at both institutions. While at DePaul she oversaw the development of an interdisciplinary minor, Community Service Studies; the cohort-based undergraduate Community Service Scholars program; a community-based internship program; and the Catholic Schools Initiative, an effort to connect the educational and service initiatives at DePaul with the Catholic Schools of Chicago. She holds a doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in Public Services Management from DePaul University.

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