National Conference


Welcome to the Truman Scholars Association 2015 National Conference Page! This summer’s conference will be full of opportunities for reunion, networking, professional development, collective learning, and collaboration within the Truman community. We cannot wait to see you and your classmates there.

The Details


  • July 24-26, 2015


  • Downtown Washington, D.C.
    • July 23, 6:00pm – 8:00pm: Pre-Conference Happy Hour, hosted by Social Driver, 1030 15th St, NW, Suite 1050W
    • July 24, 5:00pm – 10:00pm: The National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW
    • July 25, 9:00am – 5:30pm: The Mount Vernon Place Conference Center, 900 Massachusetts Ave., NW
    • July 26, 11:30am: Brunch at locations around D.C.


  • The conference will include keynote, plenary, and breakout sessions with Trumans who are experts in their field, as well as a service activity, networking, and catching up with old friends and new scholars.

Conference Schedule

Conference Agenda:

Friday, July 24th, 2015 – All events at the National Press Club

5:00 PM Conference Check-in Begins for Registrants at the National Press Club
6:00 PM Cocktail Hour
7:00 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Remarks by Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and Truman Scholars Association President Katie Liberman
9:00 PM After-dinner Reception, with Harry S. Truman Drink Specials at the Press Club

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 – All events at the Mount Vernon Place Conference Center

9:00 AM Breakfast and TSA Strategic Planning Session
10:00 AM Plenary Session on Women & Leadership
11:00 AM Speed Networking
12:00 PM Boxed Lunch, seated by policy issue, remarks by Truman Foundation Executive Secretary Andy Rich
1:00 PM Plenary Session on Public Service through Elected Office
2:00 PM Breakout Sessions Round 1

1 Tools & Ethics of International Service Ground Floor, Classroom B102
2 Major Change: Energy & Environment 2015-17 Ground Floor, Classroom B103 A
3 New Concepts of Public Service Ground Floor, Classroom B103 B
4 Service Project Opportunity First Floor, Fellowship Hall
3:30 PM Coffee Break
4:00 PM Breakout sessions Round 2

1 Race, Justice, and Policing Ground floor, Classroom B103 A
2 Education Reform: Equity, Justice, Achievement Ground floor, Lounge
3 Service Project Opportunity First Floor, Fellowship Hall
5:30 PM Closing Remarks
6:30 PM Dinners around DC organized by class
9:00 PM Drinks/Celebration for all Trumans

Sunday, July 26, 2015 – Events at locations around Washington, DC

11:30 AM Scholar Community Brunches

All agenda items subject to change

Keynote Speaker


Stacey Abrams (MS 1994), House Minority Leader, Georgia

Photo of Stacey AbramsStacey Y. Abrams is the House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 89th House District. She is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and is the first African-American to lead in the House of Representatives. Stacey serves on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules, and Ways & Means committees.

Stacey attended Spelman College, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Political Science, Economics and Sociology) and was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. She received a Masters from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Click here for more info

Panels & Breakout Sessions

Elected Officials – Public Service through Elected Office

Running for and holding elected office is challenging, but it can also be an immensely effective and rewarding mode of public service. This plenary panel will feature a roundtable discussion about what it means to pursue public service through elected office, its challenges, and its opportunities.

Moderator: Emily Schlichting (NE 2011)–Special Asst., U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services & Inaugural Truman Democracy Fellows


  • Nader Baroukh (CA 1994)–Member of Falls Church, Virginia, City Council and former Mayor of Falls Church
  • Chris Nybo (IL 1998)–Republican State Senator in Illinois
  • Ryan Quarles (KY 2005)–Republican State Representative in Kentucky and current candidate for KY State Agriculture Commissioner
  • Bryan Townsend (DE 2003)–Democratic State Senator in Delaware

Education Reform: Equity, Justice, & Achievement

Description: Despite significant spending increases in recent decades, the academic achievement of low-income students of color is dramatically lower than their more affluent peers, and the U.S. is falling behind our global competitors. Key shifts to approach these problems include: next generation learning, the new science and Common Core standards, an upgrade in data infrastructure, a new-found focus on teacher and school leader effectiveness, and a commitment to turning around the persistently lowest-performing schools and expanding access to high-quality seats to those students who need them most. Panelists will share their experiences with these shifts and reflect on emerging opportunities.

Moderator: Samuel Roe (NJ 2001)–Advisor, Office of the Secretary, Office of Educational Technology- U.S. Department of Education (former)


  • John King (NJ 1995)–Senior Advisor to the Secretary with Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • Alex Johnston (MA 1993)–President, Impact for Education and Adviser, Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Ulcca Joshi Hansen (NJ 1997)–Founding Partner, Educating Potential
  • Margie Yeager–Chief of Staff, Washington DC Deputy Mayor For Education; Special Assistant to the Chancellor of DC Public Schools (former)
  • Sharhonda Bossier— Vice President Advocacy & Engagement, Education Cities

Major Change: Energy & Environment Until the Next TSA Conference

Major Change is the theme for this highly interactive exploration of U.S. and global environment and energy issues over the next two years. From the complicated rollout of the Clean Power Plan across the United States, to major innovations and disruptions in the private market for renewable energy, significant decisions on international climate policy expected at the winter 2015 UN negotiations in Paris, and the continued rapid death rate of other species, our world will be a different place by the next TSA conference in 2017. Rather than simply listening to panelists, audience members will be encouraged to share their own stories of major environmental & energy change and will be an integral part of the discussion.

Moderator: Kyle Gracey (PA 2005)–PhD Candidate in Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University; Policy Advisor, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


  • Tom Burack (NH 1980)–Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
  • MJ Shiao (DE 2006)–Director of Solar Research, GTM Research
  • Kenneth Degraff (TN 2002)–Policy Advisor, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Women & Leadership (Plenary Session)

Women in leadership” has been a topic of much significance historically, but 2016 could prove to be a truly monumental year on this front. With prominent women running for president on both the Democratic and Republican sides, the challenges and opportunities facing women in leadership could not be more timely. This forum, led by a group of experienced female leaders, will engage the participants and audience in an open discussion of key questions, such as “Can women leaders really have it all?” and “What does it actually take?

Moderator: Sarah Hammer (MN 1995)–  Adjunct Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School


  • Ashley Bittner (FL 2006)–Special Assistant, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation
  • April Joy Damian (CA 2005)–PhD candidate, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Randi Frank (CT 1977)–Owner, Randi Frank Consulting, Inc
  • Caitie Whelan (ME 2007)–Founder, the Lightning Notes

New Concepts of Public Service

Traditionally, “public service” has been defined in two ways: government service and work in the nonprofit sector, with the mental models that naturally accompany those paths.  In the past decade, however, leaders of social change have increasingly focused on lessons that can be learned from private enterprise.  Drawing on the skills, knowledge, and methods of profit-driven business, social entrepreneurs and innovators in the not-for-profit (as distinct from “nonprofit”) and corporate social responsibility sectors have been carving new paths to achieving social and environmental change.  This panel will focus on the role of private enterprise and the skills and methods associated with it in driving social and environmental missions.

Moderator: David Rubenstein (OR 2006)


Tools & Ethics of International Service

The more connected our world becomes, the more we are presented with meaningful opportunities to engage in public service abroad. And yet the age-old challenges of interpersonal connection across borders of culture persist; even in our attempts to do good overseas, we can end up doing harm, if we’re not careful. Through the diverse international development experiences of three panelists, this panel will explore how to be a responsible public servant outside the US, how digital tools both help and complicate our efforts to serve abroad, and what opportunities are available to help Trumans develop their international service career.

Moderator: Kate Otto (RI 2007)– Global Health Consultant, Author, MD Candidate, NYU School of Medicine


Race, Justice, and Policing

Recent police killings of people of color have led to protests and demonstrations across America, raising larger questions related to racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system and in our society. This panel will examine the intersection of race, justice, and the criminal justice system within America.

Moderator: Monica Bell (SC 2002)–Climenko Fellow & Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School; PhD candidate in Sociology. Harvard University

  • Brandon Scott–Councilman, Baltimore City Council
  • Dr. Marcia Chatelain (IL 2000)–Assistant Professor of History, Georgetown University
  • Walter Fortson (NJ 2012)–Academic Counselor, New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP)
  • Rob Sand (IA 2005)–Assistant Iowa Attorney General, Iowa Attorney General’s Office
  • Kevann Gardner— Attorney, The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS)

Lodging in D.C.

The 2015 Conference Planning Committee has arranged for reduced rates for conference members at the Marriott at Metro Center located at 775 12th St NW, right between the two conference locations. The reduced rate is $139 per night.

Individuals may make reservations by calling Marriott at Metro Center at (202) 737-2200 and ask to reserve with the Truman Scholars Association group rate (code TRU). The TSA Group Rate availability ended June 25. If you still need to reserve a room, email

Should you seek alternative hotel housing, previous conference attendees have had great luck with and

Sponsorship Information

The Truman Scholars Association National Conference is a biennial event bringing together nearly 300 members of the Truman Scholars community to network, discuss issues, learn and reunite. This event has included influential keynote speakers who are closely tied to our community. In the past speakers have included: Secretary Madeline Albright, Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Senator Chris Coons, among others. Sponsorship of the conference at various levels provides direct access to meet conference keynote speakers as well as to promote an organization or product among the 300 attendees. Sponsorship giving levels are included below.

  • Title Level Sponsor: $5,000 and above
    • Logo and prioritized Title Level Sponsor recognition on conference website and all registration materials, sent to over 1,000 Truman Scholars Association members
    • Full-page ad in conference program, distributed to over 200 participants
    • Large logo placement on keynote dais at National Press Club during conference
    • VIP seating and green room opportunity to meet keynote speakers for five (5) members of your organization
    • Podium recognition from one keynote speaker
  • Vice Presidential Level Sponsor: $2,500-$4,999
    • Sponsor recognition on conference website and all registration materials, sent to over 1,000 Truman Scholars Association members
    • Half-page ad in conference program, distributed to over 200 participants
    • Logo placement on keynote dais at National Press Club during conference
    • VIP seating and green room opportunity to meet keynote speakers for three (3) members of your organization
    • Podium recognition from one keynote speaker
  • Kansas City Level Sponsor: $1,000-$2,499
    • Recognition on conference website
    • Logo placement at conference registration and information table during conference
    • Half-page ad in conference program, distributed to over 200 participants
  • Haberdasher Level Sponsor: $500-$999
    • Recognition on conference website
    • Logo placement at conference registration and information table during conference
    • Quarter-page ad in conference program, distributed to over 200 participants

All donations will go directly to support the Truman Scholars Association Conference or future Truman Scholars Association activities. Donations do not support the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the conference please contact Adam Schmidt at