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United Way Symposium Series

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June 16, 2016
Topic: The Impact of Widening Opportunity Gaps

Are hard work and determination enough to escape poverty in 2016? Even in a strong community like ours, poverty poses difficult challenges for individuals and families. It has an effect on services and systems across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Raising awareness about the issues faced by those in need is key, and it’s important to look in-depth at what causes these disparities in our community. Together, we will examine the causes, and identify action steps we can embrace - individually and as a community.


Keynote Speaker

Robert Putnam Web

Robert D. Putnam
Acclaimed Author and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. He has received numerous scholarly honors, including the Skytte Prize, the most prestigious global award in political science, and the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. Putnam has written fourteen books, translated into more than twenty languages, including Bowling Alone and Making Democracy Work, both among the most-cited social science publications in the last half century. His 2010 book with co-author David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, won the American Political Science Association’s 2011 Woodrow Wilson award in political science. Putnam has consulted for the last three American presidents, numerous prime ministers around the world including Great Britain and France, and grassroots leaders in many countries. His latest book on the growing class gap among American young people, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, was published in March 2015.


Mary Hawkins Web

Mary Hawkins, Ph.D., Moderator
President, Bellevue University

Dr. Mary Hawkins has established herself as a leader and national voice in higher education since joining Bellevue University in 1995. Before becoming University President in 2009, Dr. Hawkins served as Vice President of Enrollment and Outreach until 2000, when she took over as Provost. During her presidency, she has established the University’s presence in community colleges across the State of Nebraska and throughout the region. Additionally, she has formed a partnership with Guangzhou College of Commerce, part of South China Normal University, and established strong relationships with Shanghai Maritime University and Nangou College. Dr. Hawkins is a member of numerous local and national boards, including the Oracle Higher Education Advisory Board, Nebraska Independent College Foundation, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Omaha Business Ethics Alliance and United Way of the Midlands.

David Brown Web

David G. Brown
President & CEO, Greater Omaha Chamber

David G. Brown is president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber, one of the largest, most highly-accredited chambers in the nation, receiving the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ 2015 “Chamber of the Year” award. Backed by 30 years of experience, Brown advocates for a strong business climate and a strong community, which includes more than $5.8 billion dollars in capital investment since 2004. He serves on the American Chamber of Commerce Board and is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College with academic specialties in industrial location and environmental studies, and has completed courses at the National Development Council and the American Management Association. Brown’s civic participation includes service to Ak-Sar-Ben Future Trust, Boys Scouts of America, College World Series of Omaha, Omaha Business Ethics Alliance and the U.S. Strategic Command Consultation Committee.

Mark Foxall Web

Mark Foxall, Ph.D.
Director, Douglas County Department of Corrections

Dr. Mark Foxall began his law enforcement career as an Omaha police officer. He is an adjunct faculty member at the UNO School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Prior to joining Douglas County Department of Corrections, he was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Director of Project Impact with the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Nebraska. Dr. Foxall holds a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, both from UNO. Among his many board commitments, Dr. Foxall serves on the American Jail Association’s Jail Manager Certification Commission, Omaha Police Foundation, Christian Urban Education Services and Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless. He has received the Director’s Award for Outstanding Contributions in Law Enforcement from the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys-U.S. Department of Justice. His professional affiliations include the American Society of Criminologists, the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association.

Samuel Meisels Web

Samuel J. Meisels, Ed.D.
Founding Executive Director, Buffett Early Childhood Institute – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Dr. Samuel J. Meisels is the founding Executive Director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at UNO, professor of Child, Youth, and Family Studies at UNL and (by courtesy) appointments as professor of public health at UNMC, education at UNK, and public administration at UNO. A leading authority on the assessment of young children and early childhood development, Dr. Meisels is president emeritus of Erikson Institute in Chicago, one of the country’s premier graduate schools in child development. He had a distinguished 21-year research career at the University of Michigan, where he is professor and research scientist emeritus. Dr. Meisels was a Tufts University faculty member and director of its Eliot-Pearson Children’s School, and senior advisor in early childhood development for the Developmental Evaluation Clinic of Boston Children’s Hospital. He has authored more than 200 publications, holds a master’s and doctoral degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Carolina Quezada Web

Carolina Quezada
Executive Director, Latino Center of the Midlands

The daughter of immigrants from Mexico and Honduras, Carolina Quezada grew up in the working class and often violent neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where her parents reinforced the value of education. After graduation from high school in East Los Angeles, Quezada studied at Macalester College in Minnesota, returning to California to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Cal State University Los Angeles, where she worked for a county supervisor and a California legislator. Her non-profit career began with Proyecto Pastoral, a grassroots organization where she focused on early childhood education, grant writing, and fund development. Quezada later served as Director of Administrative Services for the Child Development Consortium of Los Angeles, while earning her Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management from Antioch University. She moved to Iowa in 2009 as a grant making fellow at Iowa West Foundation, and became Executive Director of Omaha’s Latino Center.

Jennifer Skala Web

Jennifer Skala
Senior Vice President, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Jennifer Skala is the Senior Vice President at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and has worked in multiple arenas including non-profit, school, nursing home, daycare, university, local public health department and other organizations to promote community solutions for child well-being. At the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, she has developed a nationally-recognized model for community change and built private-public partnerships for policy and practice changes in foster care and prevention. Prior to Skala’s current position, she was the Manager of Education and Training at CityMatCH, a national Maternal and Child Health organization based at UNMC. She holds a Master’s degree in Health Education as well as certification as a Health Education Specialist.

Thomas Warren Web

Thomas H. Warren, Sr.
President and CEO, Urban League of Nebraska

Thomas H. Warren, Sr. oversees programs in Education- Youth Development, Employment Services and Violence Prevention at Urban League. He served 24 years with the Omaha Police Department (OPD), the last four as its first African-American Chief of Police. Under his leadership, OPD was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as the “2007 Local Law Enforcement Agency of the Year.” He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Morningside College with a second Major in Sociology, followed by a Master’s of Science from UNO, with a Major in Criminal Justice and an Option in Public Administration. Warren was selected as a fellow and inducted into the National Academy of Public Administration, received a National Public Service Award from the American Society of Public Administration, and the Hubert Locke Distinguished Alumni Award from UNO’s College of Public Administration and Community Service.

Event Materials

PDF - Event Slides, Presentation

Link - Robert D. Putnam Presentation Materials