Skip to Main Content

Our News

District Dialogues Series Finale

The Richmond Fed’s six-part series, District Dialogues: Educational Disparities & COVID-19, wrapped up in early May with a two-session finale that examined ways schools can keep students engaged and how to connect graduates with in-demand jobs.

Richmond Fed Regional Economist Laura Ullrich moderated the series and said she’s hopeful that  economists andresearchers from the Bank, and special guests from across the Fifth District and beyond, not only imparted helpful information to, but also possibilities for, the nearly 700 individuals who registered to attend all or part of the virtual programming.

“COVID-19 has had an undeniable impact on students, from the youngest of children through those seeking higher education,” Ullrich said. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to so many experts, from teachers to administrators to researchers to business leaders, about the issues that students, educators, parents and employers are facing due to the pandemic. While the consequences have been overwhelming to consider, there are incredible solutions being proposed that can help close short-term, COVID-related gaps as well as those that may help improve long-existing inequities. I am thankful that the Richmond Fed opened the door for us to begin these important conversations.”

In Session 5: District Dialogues: After High School, Ullrich conversed with administrators and educators at community colleges and four-year schools about the steps they’ve taken since March 2020 to keep students engaged and to help them find their highest wage, best fit opportunities in the workforce.

Guests included Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College; Sarah Hemminger, CEO and co-founder of Thread, a program that serves high school students; Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University and a member of the Richmond Fed Board of Directors; Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Institute of Technology and a former Richmond Board member; and Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar College.

“Our position is that you have to have changes in policy but you also have to do the deep, interpersonal work,” Hemminger said.

Gullickson agreed, noting that Germanna incorporated training to help professors learn how to teach online and embedded tutoring into many of the courses to ensure that students stayed afloat.

“We are intrusive in our caregiving,” Gullickson said. “We buy computers, give them gas money, deliver food to their homes (if) they can’t come to our food pantry on campus. … Our job is to blow up the barriers for students and make the pathways as easy as we can.”

In Session 6: Connecting People to Jobs, Ullrich guided special guests through conversations about the strategic steps that educators, community leaders and business leaders are taking to connect students and recent graduates to employment opportunities in industries they may not have previously considered.

Guests were Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center; Gat Caperton, CEO of Gat Creek Furniture; and Paul Sinanian, manager of talent programs and training for BMW Manufacturing.

Technology may replace some jobs, particularly in manufacturing, but it also creates jobs, Reynolds said.

“Our challenge going forward is not that we don’t have enough jobs; the challenge is the quality of those jobs,” Reynolds said. “The U.S. has some of the worst-paying, low-wage work in the industrialized world. Technology tends to replace the lower-skilled work and complement the higher-skilled work. So what we want to do is bring everyone up to some of the more skilled work and use technology as a tool.”

Throughout the series, participants heard from school leaders in two Fifth District communities – Yemassee, South Carolina, and Vance County, North Carolina. – that Ullrich visited to conduct documentary-style interviews. Those videos are interspersed across various sessions of the series.

Each recorded session of District Dialogues is available on the Bank’s YouTube channel, and the information also will be posted on relevant pages on the Bank’s website, such as this Session 3: Increasing Digital Access conversation on broadband led by regional economist Alex Marre’, which is now shared on the Bank’s  Broadband webpage.

“The strong collaboration across departments of the Richmond Fed amplified the reach of the event, allowing us to reach new audiences and communities,” said Nina Mantilla, the Bank’s senior manager of Executive Engagement, who helped spearhead the series. “We're excited about building upon what we've learned for future events, like the Bank’s Broadband Summit on June 8 and our third annual Investing in Rural America Conference, which will take place on Oct. 7.”  

Subscribe to News

Receive an email notification when News is posted online:

phone Contact Us

Jim Strader (804) 697-8956 (804) 332-0207 (mobile)