2017 Speakers


Dr. Edward Montgomery

Dr. Edward Montgomery became President of Western Michigan University in 2017. Prior to joining WMU, he was Dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and served on President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force as Executive Director of the White House Council for Auto Communities & Workers. From 2003 to 2008, he served as Dean of the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, where he had been on the Economics Department faculty since 1990. He served in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Secretary of Labor and held prior positions of Counselor and Chief Economist at DOL.

President Montgomery is an economist whose research has focused on state and local economic growth, wage and pension determination, savings behavior, productivity and economic dynamics, social insurance programs, and unions. In 2011, he was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and he has been a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research for over two decades. He has been on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, Michigan State University, and the University of Maryland. In addition, he has held visiting positions at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and The Urban Institute.

President Montgomery has a B.S. (Honors) in Economics from Pennsylvania State University, and an A.M. and Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

Karen Pittman

Karen Pittman is the co-founder, president, and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment. A sociologist and recognized leader in youth development, Karen began her career at the Urban Institute conducting studies on social services for children and families. She later moved to the Children’s Defense Fund, launching its adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives and helping to create its adolescent policy agenda. In 1990, she became a vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, where she founded and directed the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research and its spin-off, the National Training Institute for Community Youth Work.

In 1995 Karen joined the Clinton administration as director of the President's Crime Prevention Council, where she worked with 13 cabinet secretaries to create a coordinated prevention agenda. From there she moved to the executive team of the International Youth Foundation (IYF), charged with helping the organization strengthen its program content and develop an evaluation strategy. In 1998 she and Rick Little, head of the foundation, took a leave of absence to work with ret. Gen. Colin Powell to create America’s Promise. Upon her return, she and Merita Irby launched the Forum, which later became an entity separate from IYF.

Karen has written three books and dozens of articles on youth issues, and was a regular columnist in the youth development newspaper, Youth Today. She is also a respected public speaker and has served on numerous boards and panels, including those of the Kauffman Foundation, the Educational Testing Service and the National Center for Children in Poverty. She currently sits on the YouthBuild USA board. Karen was recently tapped to serve on The Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, a national effort to unite leaders to re-envision what constitutes success in our schools. Among her many honors, Karen has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from

Partners for Livable Cities, joining previous awardees such as President William Clinton and Lady Bird Johnson.

Title: Equity, Opportunity, and Readiness - Changing the Odds Together

Promise programs are transformative only if they incorporate readiness and equity. Without readiness, students will not benefit from the opportunities provided by place-based scholarship programs. And without equity, Promise programs will fall short of transforming communities. Readiness and equity are two sides of the same coin. When readiness and equity are pursued as separate agendas, the opportunity gaps widen. If they are not linked, the shared commitments made by our partnerships and coalitions lack urgency; our efforts to improve program quality and practice lack precision; and our mobilization efforts suffer because those for whom we are advocating are not fully in the game. This opening keynote will explore equity, opportunity, and readiness within the context of the Promise movement. How can place-based scholarships serve as catalysts and incorporate these important elements in the interest of individual opportunity and community well-being?

Sara Lundquist

An employee of Santa Ana College, located in Southern California, for nearly 40 years, Sara Lundquist served as Vice President of Student Services at the college for 27 years and led all related resource development, philanthropy, strategic planning, implementation, and accountability/research work. She led the Santa Ana Partnership, a K-12 and higher education collaborative with local community and civic leaders, parents, and business representatives for over three decades and recently launched a Promise Program with five commitments to the greater Santa Ana community. The Partnership is dedicated to the advancement of learning and to improving the equality of outcomes at all levels in our public education system, with a focus on improving access to higher education and completion of college for students that have traditionally been less well served by our educational institutions. In 2011, Dr. Lundquist was appointed by President Obama to the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, where she serves as a member of the Higher Education subcommittee. In the summer of 2017 she transitioned from her Santa Ana College position to serve as a strategy consultant for Lumina Foundation.

Title: Keeping the Promise: Taking Stock of the Role of Higher Ed Institutions

Promise programs have the potential to leverage and support systems change in higher education – in particular, the shift to a completion-centered agenda. Without such institutional transformation, Promise programs may replicate existing opportunity gaps and fall short of their potential. This interactive session will focus on Promise programs through the lens of equity and institutional transformation, allowing time for the sharing of successful strategies that higher ed institutions have implemented to address these challenges.