Public Forum: Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America Fall 2016 Series

N120 College of Public Health Building (CPHB)
Thursday, December 1st, 2016 6:30 PM
Flag with dictionary page defining political behind it

These public panels are part of the undergraduate course, "Equality, Opportunity and Public Policy in America," supported by the Public Policy Center as part of the Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy.

The undergraduate course itself is a “Big Ideas” class.  It is an investigation — drawing on the insights of a number of disciplines — of a big problem, or idea, or question.  For us, that big question is this: What does the government do, and why? The course focuses in particular on:

  • What does the government do to ensure economic security or well-being?
  • What does the government do to create or ensure equality of opportunity?  

The class is organized into five units, each lasting about three weeks. The first unit establishes some of the basic elements of public policy: how we identify problems that need to be addressed, and how we decide what policies might work best. The following four units each look to a particular policy area, and the ways in which each of these address equality of opportunity and economic security, and conclude with public forums, bringing together the campus and local community to discuss major social issues facing us today.    

  • September 22: Education Policy in Iowa
  • October 13: Work and Wages: Labor Market Policy in Iowa
  • November 3: Anti-Poverty Policy in Iowa
  • December 1: Health Care Policy in Iowa

Each of these panel discussions are free and open to the public (see details below), and will be held in Room N120 College of Public Health Building (CPHB) from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
Session Details Speakers
6:30 PM Education Policy in Iowa - Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America Fall 2016 Series
  1. Patti Ruff
  2. LaTasha DeLoach, LMSW
  3. Mitch Gross
  4. Jennifer Gertson
  5. Deborah Reed
Thursday, October 13th, 2016
Session Details Speakers
6:30 PM Work and Wages: Labor Market Policy in Iowa - Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America
  1. Jennifer Sherer
  2. Jesse Case
  3. Rod Sullivan
  4. Melissa Wright
  5. Mazahir Salih
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
Session Details Speakers
6:30 PM Anti-Poverty Policy in Iowa - Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America Fall 2016 Series
  1. Joe Bolkcom
  2. Wendy Rickman
  3. Maryann Dennis
  4. Natalie Veldhouse
  5. Brian Loring
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
Session Details Speakers
6:30 PM Health Care Policy in Iowa - Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America Fall 2016 Series
  1. Dr. Eleanor Lisa Lavadie-Gomez
  2. Elizabeth (Betsy) Momany
  3. Barbara Vinograde
  4. Beth Jones
  • Joe Bolkcom

    Iowa State Senator, Human Resources Committee and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee vice-chair

  • Jesse Case

    President, Iowa City Federation of Labor

    Jesse Case has been an organizer for different unions for over 20 years, and currently is the business agent for Teamsters Local 238 . He is past-President of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, and a member of the Johnson County Task Force charged with assessing the implementation and impact of the County's minimum wage ordinance.

  • LaTasha DeLoach, LMSW

    Johnson County Social Services

    LaTasha DeLoach has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Iowa School Of Social Work. She is currently employed with Johnson County in the Social Services Department where she holds the title as a Community Projects Specialist. In her current position she is the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Coordinator and the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children Coordinator. She is a member of the Johnson County Georgetown Team which is specifically charged to reduce disproportionality in local youth serving systems.


    DeLoach is a member of the National Association of Black Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers, member of the State Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee, Governor’s Task for Detention Alternative – Implementation Committee, Girl Circle Assoc. facilitator, Co-Founder of G! World which serves self-defined minority girls in most secondary school in the Iowa City Area. She has created the programs My Beaut I Ful Self , Our Beaut I Ful Selves –Mother Daughter Luncheon, Kites for Kids and other amazing programs in the Johnson County area. She has been the Iowa City Area Juneteenth Coordinator for the last 5 years. DeLoach is the first African American woman to serve on the Iowa City Community School Board in 30 years.  She serves as the Council for Young Men and Boys facilitator, a member of the statewide Iowa Girls Justice Initiative, Coalition for Racial Justice member, Member of Black Voices Project, cultural diversity consultant and coach/mentor and community volunteer, event coordinator including conferences, seminars and workshops and community events. 

  • Maryann Dennis

    Housing Fellowship

    Maryann Dennis has been the Executive Director of The Housing Fellowship since January 1993.  Ms. Dennis was the first employee hired by The Housing Fellowship and has facilitated its growth and reputation as one of the premier Community Housing Development Organizations in Iowa.  She has extensive experience in working with low-income neighborhoods and families and the administration of federal and private funding sources. She currently oversees all operations and affordable housing developments in addition to The Housing Fellowship’s partnership agreements and contracts with public and private financing.  Ms. Dennis is a certified Housing Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work Administration and Social Development from the University of Iowa.  She is a co-founder and serves as ex-officio of the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County and is part of Iowa City’s Invest Health team.  Ms. Dennis was appointed to the Iowa City Riverfront Crossings Inclusionary Housing Ad Hoc Committee, Johnson County Housing Task Force and the Equity Advisory Committee of the Iowa City Community School District, the Board of Directors of United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.  She is the Vice-Chair of the Affordable Housing Coalition of Johnson County.

  • Jennifer Gertson

    Riverdale Heights Elementary School, Pleasant Valley Community School District

    I graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education (was a Resident Assistant at Slater and Administrative Assistant of U of I Sports Camps while on campus).  Since graduating I have obtained a MA in Educational Administration.  I have taught:  K-5 Special Education, K-5 Music, 7th Grade Social Studies, Grades 4 – 6, served as a building Instructional Coach for 6 years and am currently in my 5th year as Principal at Riverdale Heights Elementary School in the Pleasant Valley School District.  I have coached varsity track and basketball in my career as well. 


    My  building received the Breaking Barriers Award in 2014 and 2015 for student achievement scores our Latino students obtained on Iowa Assessments.  We use a building wide MTSS (Multi Tiered System of Support) system to try to support the learning of every child.

  • Mitch Gross

    Iowa City Education Association

    Mitch Gross holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Ripon College and a MA in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Iowa. This is his fourteenth year teaching at Iowa City West High School.  His courses include Advanced Placement United States History and American Government. Since 2014, he has served as co-President of the Iowa City Education Association.


    Prior to becoming a teacher, Gross served in a variety of political and governmental capacities, including chief advisor to former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge and Campaign Manager for former Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver. Gross was elected to the Coralville City Council in 2007 and currently serves as Coralville’s Mayor Pro Tem.

  • Beth Jones

    Iowa Public Health Association

    Beth Jones is a 1999 Graduate of the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science in health and physical studies and holds a Masters of Public Administration from Drake University.  Beth’s background is in public health, stakeholder engagement, policy development and child health. 


    Beth worked for the Iowa Department of Public Health from 2001-2012.  During her time there she worked with maternal and child health, early childhood, outreach and policy development for children’s health insurance, led state level Health Care Reform efforts and served as the department’s interim legislative liaison. 

    Beth joined Delta Dental of Iowa in 2012. As the public benefit manager for Delta Dental of Iowa, Beth’s role includes leading a dental loan repayment program for private practice dentists in rural communities and leading community relations activities.  In addition, Beth’s primary role is to lead strategic funding initiatives for the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation with a focus on cavity free kids and access to care for older adults in Iowa. 


    Beth is a member of the 2016 Des Moines Business Record’s Forty under 40 class and serves as the president-elect for the Iowa Public Health Association. 

  • Dr. Eleanor Lisa Lavadie-Gomez

    University of Iowa Clinics, American Academy of Family Physicians Congress of Delegates

  • Brian Loring

    Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County

    Brian Loring is the executive director of Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County in Iowa City.  He has been in that position for 21 years.  Prior to his work with Neighborhood Centers, Brian worked for the Public Interest Center on Long Term Care in Sacramento, the Center for Health Care Rights in Los Angeles, and Citizens for Community Improvement in Iowa.


    Locally, he has served on the boards for Iowa City Housing Fellowship, Environmental Advocates, Johnson County Empowerment, Bicyclists of Iowa City, Johnson County Regional Trails Committee, Think Bicycles, and was the co-chair for the Iowa City Blue Zones Community Policy Committee. He is also the founder of the Iowa City Bike Library.


    Brian has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa. 

  • Elizabeth (Betsy) Momany

    University of Iowa Public Policy Center Health Policy Research Program

  • Deborah Reed

    Iowa Reading Research Center

    Deborah K. Reed earned her Ph.D. in special education at the University of Texas at Austin. She spent the first 10 years of her career as a English language arts and reading teacher and preK-12 reading specialist. Since 2003, she has been active in the field as a researcher and technical assistance provider. Most recently, Dr. Reed has served as an assistant professor at Florida State University and the Florida Center for Reading Research. She has developed numerous instructional materials and professional development programs on evidence-based literacy practices, particularly for middle and high school students.


    Dr. Reed was awarded the Council for Learning Disabilities’ 2010 Outstanding Researcher of the Year award, served as the chair of that organization’s Research Committee from 2012-2015, and is now the Vice President. She has over 30 peer reviewed journal articles and serves on the editorial boards of Learning Disability Quarterly, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, and the Elementary School Journal. Her current research interests include appropriate uses of reading data in instructional decision making, addressing the literacy demands of science classes, and providing reading instruction in correctional settings.

  • Wendy Rickman

    Administrator, Division of Adult, Children & Family Services, Iowa Department of Human Services

    Wendy Rickman has been employed with DHS since 1987. Since beginning her employment with DHS, Wendy has served as an abuse assessor, ongoing case manager, service administrator for Scott County, and a service area manager for the Davenport and the Des Moines service areas. Wendy is currently serving as the Division Administrator for the Division of Adult Children and Family Services. This division is responsible for policy development in the areas of Medicaid eligibility, Child Care, FIP, Food Assistance and all of the Child Welfare and Dependent Adult abuse eligibility policies. 

    Wendy graduated from Carroll College in 1981 with a BA degree in sociology, from the University of Iowa in 1996 with a MSW, and is currently licensed at the independent social work level with the State of Iowa.

  • Patti Ruff

    State Representative House District 56, House Education Committee

    State Representative Patti Ruff of McGregor is running for re-election to the Iowa House of Representatives in District 56, which includes Allamakee and Clayton counties.


    Ruff is currently serving her second term in the Iowa House and is the Ranking Member of the House Education Committee. She also serves on Agriculture, Natural Resources, Ways & Means, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Subcommittee.


    Ruff started her twentieth season at the grain elevator in McGregor, run by Bunge North America. She served on the MFL Mar-Mac School Board and as president for four years. As a school board member, she saw over the development of child care centers adjacent to the school and a premier early childcare program put in place.


    Patti and her husband Dan live in rural McGregor and have 3 sons: Liam, Bryar, and Tucker.

  • Mazahir Salih

    Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa

    Mazahir Salih is vice-president of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ), a dynamic grassroots organization based in Iowa City whose membership is comprised mostly of recent immigrants of Latin American and African origin. As coordinator of CWJ’s Immigration Committee, Ms. Salih has been at the forefront of a host of local initiatives to defend the rights of low-income and immigrant workers including: passing the Midwest’s first Community ID program in Johnson County; convening a coalition of university, labor, and community allies to host free, high-quality naturalization clinics and educational forums on DACA II and DAPA; planning large-scale direct actions in defense of local residents facing deportation; organizing workers to recover unpaid wages; and winning a commitment from county law enforcement to reverse a prior policy of honoring all ICE detention requests. She advocates for the civil rights of local residents as a member of the Iowa City Police Citizens Review Board, and traveled to Washington, DC to testify before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during immigration reform debates in 2013.

    A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from Sudan, Ms. Salih has been a community activist for decades. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., she attended the Parent Leadership Institute and served as the Vice-President of the Head Start Policy Council in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to her volunteer leadership with CWJ in Iowa City, she has held the position of academic secretary with the local Sudanese-American Community Association. She is studying electroneurodiagnostic technology at Kirkwood Community College, and lives in Iowa City with her husband and five children.

  • Jennifer Sherer

    University of Iowa Labor Center

    Jennifer Sherer is Director of The University of Iowa Labor Center, where she coordinates statewide education and outreach programs reaching over 2,500 workers each year and teaches non-credit classes on a range of workplace rights, communications, labor history, union leadership, and public policy subjects. She also directs the Iowa Labor History Oral Project, and serves on the boards of the UI Center for Human Rights, the Iowa Policy Project, the Labor Studies Journal, the UI Occupational Medicine Residency Program, and on the Finance Committee of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa.


    She was a co-author of the 2012 Iowa Policy Project report “Wage Theft in Iowa” and is currently working on an article chronicling the history of debates over “right to work” legislation in Iowa. Other forthcoming publications include “Making History Every Day: The Iowa Labor History Oral Project and Popular Education” (forthcoming in Civic Labors: Scholars, Teachers, Activists, and Working-Class History U of Illinois Press) and “Labor Education and Leadership Development for Union Women,” with Emily E LB Twarog, Brigid O’Farrell, and Cheryl Coney (forthcoming in Labor Studies Journal).


    She first gained experience in the labor movement as a local union officer, a Project Staff Organizer for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE), and an activist in student anti-sweatshop campaigns while earning a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and a BA from Oberlin College.

  • Rod Sullivan

    Johnson County Board of Supervisors

    Rod Sullivan of Iowa City is a Johnson County Supervisor, first elected in 2004 at the age of 38.


    Rod grew up on a Heritage farm near Sutliff, and attended K-12 in the Lisbon school system. He went to the University of Iowa, earning a BA in 1988. He has held several positions in the field of human services, including 6 years with the Department of Human Services and 6 years as Executive Director of the Arc of Johnson County.


    Rod is married to Dr. Melissa Fath, a Research Scientist at the UI and a volunteer Pharmacist at the Free Medical Clinic. They have 3 adult children and have served as foster parents for another 40+ children.


    Rod has been active volunteering for the Shelter Overflow, United Way, Community Foundation of Johnson County, Affordable Homes Coalition, Coalition for Racial Justice, City High Little Hawks Club, and the Batterer’s Education Program.


    Rod is a member of several community organizations, including: St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parent Association, Sierra Club, Johnson County Ag Association, Center for Worker Justice, ACLU Hawkeye Chapter, AFT Local 716, and NAMI. He also served 4 years as Chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party.


    Rod feels his biggest accomplishments as a County Supervisor include the passage of several ordinances: Human Rights, Sensitive Areas, Minimum Wage, and Storm Water Management, just to name a few. The passage of the Conservation Bond, kickstarting the 1105 Project, and restoration of the Sutliff Bridge are three proud moments. He is also proud of starting the Livable Community for Successful Aging and Local Foods Policy Boards, along with the County’s first Trails Committee. Rod also points to the Community ID program, rural warning sirens, Free Tax Help program, and investments in sustainability as major accomplishments.

  • Natalie Veldhouse

    Former Community Food Security VISTA, The Crisis Center of Johnson County

    Natalie Veldhouse is the Community Food Projects Coordinator at the Crisis Center of Johnson County. She works to open and coordinate school food pantries in middle and high schools. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Iowa. In her studies she focuses on macro-level social work including poverty, social policy, advocacy and community organizing. 


    Natalie recently completed an AmeriCorps VISTA year of service, in which she coordinated research efforts for the Johnson County Hunger Task Force. She received her Bachelor’s in Ethics and Public Policy in May of 2015 from the University of Iowa and minored in sociology and French. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant for professors in the departments of sociology and economics, and completed her honors thesis titled Prekindergarten Programs and Social Mobility: A Policy Analysis. 

  • Barbara Vinograde

    Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic

  • Melissa Wright

    US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division Representative

    Melissa Wright is the Community Outreach & Resource Planning Specialist for the Des Moines District of the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. She is responsible for all community outreach and strategic enforcement planning for the district, which encompasses all of Iowa and Nebraska.   Melissa was an Investigator for five years prior to this position and conducted many complex investigations relating to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Davis Bacon Act, and more. She graduated from Drake University and earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Public Administration.

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