Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Cohort Nine August Convening

September 12, 2023

On August 9-11th, 2023, The Hunt Institute hosted the second and final convening of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows’ ninth cohort in San Diego, CA. 

The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program – unlike any other Fellowship in the nation – provides these leaders with the knowledge they need to cultivate smart and effective education agendas. This convening brought together elected officials from across the country to hear from resource experts and panelists on topics of educator workforce and higher education. The first convening, held in December 2022, in Washington, DC, centered around early childhood and K-12 student learning policies. 

Wednesday, August 9th 

After guests arrived at Kona Kai Resort & Spa, we opened the week with a discussion on educator workforce policy and practice, moderated by Laverne Evans Srinivasan of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Resource Experts Dr. Lynn Gangone of the American Association of Colleges For Teacher Education and Dr. Melody Schopp of SAS Institute spoke to fellows about how the teaching profession has changed over time, the advocacy and political influence of educators, and the major issues facing the workforce. 

We then took a deep dive into the current challenges and opportunities with teacher compensation in a session moderated by our very own Lucy Berrier Matheson, Deputy Director of K-12 at The Hunt Institute. In this session, The Honorable John Chiang of California and Dr. Lori Taylor of Texas A&M The Bush School of Government & Public Service explored the education labor market and various strategies for retaining teachers across the country. 

Fellows then gathered to hear from Leticia De La Vara of TNTP and Commissioner Penny Schwinn of Tennessee. This conversation, titled Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Educator Workforce, was moderated by our very own Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO of The Hunt Institute and gave Fellows the opportunity to learn about various strategies to attract and retain more diverse educators in their individual states, including lowering barriers to entry, strengthening supports, and increasing opportunities for leadership. 

Resource experts from the “Professional Perspectives” session pose in front of the Kona Kai Marina.

Fellows and staff then gathered on the Marina View Lawn to hear from teachers and school leaders during the “Professional Perspectives” session. Before dinner, Cohort 9 was able to hear from and engage directly with teachers and principals from around the country, all with a beautiful view of the Kona Kai Marina. Educators from Utah, Illinois, Arizona, California, Arkansas, and Virginia sat in small groups with Fellows, their staff, and former governors to share their day-to-day experiences and answer questions about the challenges and opportunities they face.  

Governor Susana Martinez, New Mexico 2011-2019, speaks to Fellows before dinner at Kona Kai Resort & Spa with special guest, Vivienne.

We brought Day 1 to a close on the beach for a sunset dinner. Dr. Javaid Siddiqi opened the floor for The Honorable Susana Martinez, who spoke about the importance of this leadership work, and the opportunities each Fellow has to influence education in their states.  


Attendees mingle during dinner at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa.

Thursday, August 10th 

To start things off on Day 2, Jennifer Zeisler, Senior Program Director of the ECMC Foundation, sat down with Dr. Joel Vargas, the Vice President of Programs at Jobs for the Future, and Dr. Muddassir Siddiqi, President of Central College, Houston Community College. This morning’s session focused on the importance of aligning workforce needs and educational offerings, closing equity gaps, and how state leaders can ensure their states are competitive for years to come.  

As the morning rolled along, The Hunt Institute’s Dr. Madeline Smith, Managing Director, moderated an in-depth discussion on the current state of postsecondary attainment and the various pathways students can use to achieve a postsecondary degree or credential. Commissioner Shannon Gilkey of Rhode Island and Zenia Henderson, Chief Program Officer at National College Attainment Network, shared their insights and expertise before Fellows, their staff, and former governors broke for a networking lunch on the lawn.

After lunch, Vice President Jessica Thompson of The Institute for College Access and Success, Dr. Kristin Hultquist of HCM Strategists, and Dr. Harry Williams, President & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund took the floor. This session made space for Fellows to consider the importance of creating equitable pathways to postsecondary education for all students and providing students with those requisite academic and financial supports. 

For Thursday’s final session, Dr. Archie Cubarrubia of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation opened the conversation for Dr. Dhanfu Elston, Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President of Strategy at Complete College America, and Dr. Wil Del Pilar, Vice President of The Education Trust. This session was a wonderful way to bring Day 2 to a close, as Fellows heard from these experts on best practices for holistically supporting students and ensuring they persist toward a degree or credential.  

Dinner on Thursday night took place at Coasterra restaurant, giving Fellows the chance to reflect on what they gleaned from Day 2’s conversations.  


Friday, August 11th  

Our final morning in San Diego was the perfect way to wrap up Cohort 9’s time in California as Fellows engaged on the topics of innovation, adaptation, and what it means to be an education leader. 

Scott Jenkins, Strategy Director for State Policy at the Lumina Foundation, led the first panel, which gave University and System Leaders space to reflect on the successes and challenges of their careers. President Sue Ellspermann of Ivy Tech Community College, President & CEO Eloy Ortiz Oakley of College Futures Foundation, and President Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College discussed how colleges and universities have adjusted to the conditions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provided insight into what colleges and universities must do in the current and post-pandemic eras to create the conditions for an affordable, equitable, and supporting environment for all higher education students. 

Before Fellows and their staff departed, Cohort 9 had the esteemed privilege to hear from The Honorable Chet Culver, The Honorable Susana Martinez, The Honorable Bev Perdue, and The Honorable Bob Wise as they shared their wisdom on the challenges of being their states’ education leaders. The Hunt Institute’s President & CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi moderated this discussion, which gave Fellows the perfect opportunity to reflect on their time with The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program and consider their next steps as they traveled back to their states.  

Fellows listen to the former governors on the Governor’s Panel.

Congratulations to Cohort 9 on their completion of the program! We look forward to seeing the positive effects on education each of them have in their states in the coming years.  

Learn more about the program here. 

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