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Fourth annual Focus Forward symposium emphasizes West Virginia strengths, stories of opportunity to stay competitive, resilient

Focus Forward Event info

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WHAT: The fourth Focus Forward symposium, hosted by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

WHEN: Wednesday, April 27, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

WHERE: Platinum Ballroom, Salons A-E, Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place, 2 Waterfront Place, Morgantown

WHO: Keynote speakers include Brian Anderson, Executive Director of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, and Gayle Manchin, Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Additional speakers include:

  • Brad D. Smith, President, Marshall University
  • Maryanne Reed, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, West Virginia University
  • Clayton Burch, State Superintendent of Schools, West Virginia
  • Sarah Tucker, Chancellor, West Virginia Community and Technical College System; Chancellor, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
  • Stephanie Tyree, Executive Director, West Virginia Community Development Hub
  • Jina Belcher, Executive Director, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority
  •  Brandon Dennison, Chief Executive Officer, Coalfield Development
  • Mark Gavin, Associate Provost for Academic Budget, Facilities and Strategic Initiatives, West Virginia University
  • Jen Giovannitti, President, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
  • Katherine Kopp, AI Academic Partnerships Director, DataRobot
  • Bryan Morreale, Associate Laboratory Director for Research and Innovation, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)
  • Illah R. Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Donna Peduto, Executive Director, West Virginia Public Education Collaborative
  • Scott Rotruck, Chair, WVPEC; Member, West Virginia State Board of Education
  • Joseph Stoffa, Technology Manager, NETL
  • Linda Topoleski, Vice President of Talent Strategies and Programs, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
  • Liz Vitullo, Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives & Executive Director, StartUp WV, West Virginia University
  • Nathan T. Weiland, Senior Fellow in Energy Conversion Engineering, NETL
  • Alex Weld, Executive Director, Generation West Virginia
  • Ruishu Wright, Research Scientist, NETL

View the full agenda.

RSVP: Members of the media who are interested in attending the symposium should RSVP to Katie Farmer at 315-256-8509 or

BACKGROUND: Building on past events that focused on future jobs affected by artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and supercomputing assets, Focus Forward looks at innovative approaches to transform West Virginia’s education system, the economy and workforce by harnessing the state’s resources and talent.

Focus Forward: West Virginia’s New Narrative will showcase stories of how West Virginia is already leveraging these opportunities through public-private sector collaboration, new technologies, innovation and innovative thinking, federal funding and community leadership with the hope of mobilizing business, government and education leaders across the state to think hard about how to transition into the future to stay competitive, relevant and resilient.



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