Maria Flynn is president and CEO of Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems. Maria is a national authority on the future of work, the role of technology in the labor market, career pathways for underserved individuals, and employer engagement. In 2018, Maria launched JFFLabs within JFF to bridge the traditional education and workforce systems with innovative approaches and technology-enabled solutions. Before becoming CEO in 2016, Maria was JFF’s senior vice president and led the Building Economic Opportunity Group, helping entry-level workers advance to family-supporting careers while enabling employers to build and sustain a productive workforce. She also led JFF’s federal policy and advocacy strategies, which focus on advancing the educational needs of underserved Americans and developing a skilled workforce.
Before joining JFF in 2007, Maria was a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service in the U.S. Department of Labor, where she held several high-level positions involving employment, training, and research. At the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration, she oversaw the development of policies for training programs serving both young people and adults, supervised the agency’s research and evaluation strategy, and managed its $12 billion annual budget. She was a key driver of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the National School-to-Work initiative, and the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills initiative. Maria received her BA from Saint Joseph’s University and her Master’s of Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
Van Freeman currently serves as Director for Future Workforce Development and Strategy for the Aerospace Industries Association, where he is focused on developing a strong workforce pipeline for members through programs with government agencies, national STEM skills initiatives, and coherent workforce policy principles. Van previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the DC Department of Employment Services, directing the District of Columbia’s state labor agency. He oversaw all employment, training, business development, labor law enforcement, worker safety, universal paid family leave, and unemployment insurance programs funded at more than $150M in local, state, and federal funds. He also managed an additional $80M in active capital projects, including the DC Infrastructure Academy and the Universal Paid Family Leave program. Freeman managed the strategic messaging, communications, legislative portfolio, stakeholder engagement, and regulatory rule-making process for the Department, as well as human resource and talent acquisition for over 700 employees and the unemployment compensation unit that provides benefits to all district residence.
Van also served as the Senior Advisor to the National Director at the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), where he advised the National Director and senior leadership team on strategic decisions, national programing, high level fiscal approaches, and congressional priorities. Before Freeman transitioned to his role at MBDA, President Obama appointed him to serve as a Deputy Director in the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Secretary in 2013.
Van began his career at General Motors (GM) as a Manufacturing Engineer, eventually moving up to Production Supervisor at GM’s parts distribution center in Pontiac, MI. He then held a position with UBS Investment Bank in London, UK, as a Business Analyst. He then joined President Obama’s campaign staff in Cleveland, OH, for the 2008 and 2012 election cycles. Van holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Morehouse College and Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center.
Donna Ginther is the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research at the University of Kansas and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prior to joining the University of Kansas faculty, she was a research economist and associate policy adviser in the regional group of the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta from 2000 to 2002, and taught at Washington University from 1997 to 2000 and Southern Methodist University from 1995 to 1997. Her major fields of study are scientific labor markets, gender differences in employment outcomes, wage inequality, scientific entrepreneurship, children's educational attainments, and child abuse and neglect.
Dr. Ginther has advised the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, and the Sloan Foundation on the diversity and future of the scientific workforce. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Economic Association and of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession of the American Economic Association. Dr. Ginther received her doctorate in economics in 1995 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Rachel Lipson is the inaugural Project Director of the Project on Workforce at Harvard University’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Launched in 2019, the Project on Workforce is a cross-school, interdisciplinary Harvard initiative focused on policy and research at the intersection of education and labor markets, and is a collaboration with the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In this role, Rachel leads the Cross-Harvard Study Group on Future of Work and spearheads practitioner-focused research and convening initiatives that bring together perspectives from policy, business, and education.
Prior to joining the Wiener Center, Rachel was Director of Special Projects at Year Up, a social enterprise and workforce training provider that connects young adults without four-year degrees to meaningful careers in some of America’s most successful companies. She has previously worked on strategy for JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic investments in workforce training, on small business growth and effective governance at the World Bank, on community college research in California, and in training and organizing on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Rachel is an alum of Harvard College and the joint MBA/MPP program with Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government.
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
Eloy Ortiz Oakley was appointed the chancellor of the California Community Colleges in December 2016. Prior to that, he served as the Superintendent and President of Long Beach City College, a position he held from 2007-2016. He joined Long Beach City College in 2002, first as the vice president of administrative services then as the College's executive vice president of administrative services from 2004 to 2006. Chancellor Ortiz Oakley was vice president of college services at Oxnard College from 2001 to 2002 and an assistant vice president at Keenan and Associates from 1999 to 2001.
He is best known throughout California and the nation for implementing innovative programs and policies that help students succeed in college. He strongly believes that California’s emerging economies demand a workforce with quality credentials and that the state’s 113 community colleges play a pivotal role in moving California forward. Under his leadership, the Long Beach Community College District has received numerous awards and recognitions for its efforts to improve student completion rates and for directly supporting a strong small business and entrepreneurship eco-system throughout the greater Southern California region.
Chancellor Ortiz Oakley earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Analysis and Design and a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine. Chancellor Ortiz Oakley was appointed as a Regent in 2014 by Governor Brown to a term ending in 2024.
Lee Wellington is the Founding Executive Director of the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), a national nonprofit that builds robust, inclusive manufacturing sectors in more than 250 cities across the United States. Through a mix of collaborative research and ecosystem building and under Lee's leadership, UMA has become nationally recognized for knowledge transfer across public agencies and community-based organizations. She has led the UMA team in building national learning communities on a range of issues including access to capital, community-embedded workforce programming, and mission driven industrial real estate development. In 2018, Lee guided UMA's flagship research project, the State of Urban Manufacturing, a six-city study on small-scale manufacturing involving multiple Federal Reserve Banks, research universities, and hundreds of local manufacturing practitioners. Lee is a frequent presenter on urban manufacturing at conferences nationally and internationally, including Berlin's Urban Tech Summit, The White House’s National Week of Making, the International Business Innovation Association's Conference on Business Incubation, and the National League of Cities’ City Summit.
Prior to UMA, Lee worked in the public sector at the NYC Mayor's Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses and the New York City Council, at nonprofit planning organizations including the Pratt Center for Community Development and the Waterfront Alliance, and at legal services organizations including the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project and South Brooklyn Legal Services.
Lee holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, an M.S. in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute, and a B.S. in Economics from the Stern School of Business at New York University.
Lida Beninson - (Staff Officer)