May 11 & 12

Chattanooga Tennessee

Chattanooga Whiskey Riverfront Headquarters

Changing America: Bridging the Urban-Suburban-Rural Divide

Public Assembly is a gathering of the nation’s most important voices, ranging from prominent authors, key elected officials, emerging journalists, and policy minds working on some of our toughest problems.

At this inaugural summit, we will focus on addressing a single comprehensive challenge facing our country: The Urban-Suburban-Rural Divide. This issue is present in so many facets of our public discourse, our politics, and our institutions. With a diverse range of perspectives and ideas, Public Assembly aims to grapple with that divide and chart a path forward for a more united union.

In partnership with The Aspen Institute Socrates Program, we’re also thrilled to be hosting the American Values Seminar at Public Assembly for a select group of emerging leaders in our community. The Aspen Institute Socrates Program is engaging cities across America to bring citizens together to discuss the fundamental values of American constitutional democracy. This half-day seminar will provide participants with the tools and insights to reignite civil discourse in their own daily lives.

Presented By:

The Speakers

Sandhya Dirks Enterprise Reporter for KQED


Sandhya Dirks is an enterprise reporter at KQED Public Radio in the Bay Area. She is the co-creator and co-host of American Suburb, a podcast about the flip side of gentrification and the transformation of suburbia. She hosted and produced Q’ed Up, when it was KQED’s signature documentary podcast. Currently she’s working on Season 2 of American Suburb, and reporting on race, equity, and housing. Sandhya lives in Oakland with her two cats.

Donna Ford, PhD Professor of Education and Human Development and Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair at Vanderbilt University


Dr. Donna Ford is Professor of Education and Human Development and Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Ford currently holds a joint appointment in the Department of Special Education and Department of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Ford conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education, specifically focusing on the achievement gap, recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education, multicultural curriculum and instruction, culturally competent teacher training and development, African-American identity, and African-American family involvement. She consults with school districts, and educational and legal organizations on such topics as gifted education under-representation and Advanced Placement, multicultural/urban education and counseling, and closing the achievement gap. She is also the former 2013 Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor and former Betts Chair of Education & Human Development.

Justin Gest Assistant Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government


Justin Gest is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. He studies immigration and the politics of demographic change. He is the author of four books: Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West (Oxford University Press/Hurst 2010); The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality (Oxford University Press 2016); The White Working Class: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press 2018); and Crossroads: Comparative Immigration Regimes in a World of Demographic Change (Cambridge University Press 2018). He has authored over many peer-reviewed articles, and provided analysis for BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, NPR, Politico, Reuters, Vox, and The Washington Post.

Devin Katayama Reporter for KQED


Devin Katayama is a host of The Bay, a KQED daily news podcast. He’s also co-host of American Suburb, another podcast that looked at one Bay Area city to show the flip side of gentrification. Previously, he was the education reporter for WFPL in Louisville. His work has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The Takeaway and Here and Now. Devin earned his MA in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago, where he was a Follett Fellow and the recipient of the 2011 Studs Terkel Community Media Workshop Scholarship for his story on Chicago's homeless youth. He won WBUR's 2014 Daniel Schorr award and a regional RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award for his documentary "At Risk" that looked at issues facing some of Louisville's students. Devin has also received numerous local awards from the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Patty Limerick Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado


Patty Limerick is the Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a Professor of History. Limerick has dedicated her career to bridging the gap between academics and the general public and to demonstrating the benefits of applying historical perspective to contemporary dilemmas and conflicts. In January 2016 she became the Colorado State Historian. In addition, in January 2016 she was appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities advisory board, the National Council on the Humanities. Patty was nominated by President Obama in Spring 2015 and was confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2015.

Gariel Metcalf President and CEO of SPUR (San Francisco bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association)


Gabriel Metcalf is the president and CEO of SPUR. He is responsible for defining the overall vision and strategy for the organization and has led SPUR through a major expansion of its work.

A co-founder of City CarShare and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, Gabriel serves on numerous boards and commissions. A frequent writer and speaker on planning and policy topics, he earned a Master's degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design.

Robinson Meyer Staff Writer for The Atlantic


Robinson Meyer is a staff writer for The Atlantic, where he covers climate change, technology, and democracy. In the past few months, he has written about a new form of geo-engineering, a College Republican-led plan to mitigate global warming, and what Facebook’s dominance mean for local communities. His reporting has brought him from Viking ruins in the Faroe Islands to Amazon data centers in suburban Virginia; and he has fished in fjords with climatologists, surveyed the Greenland Ice Sheet with cave scientists, and toured backstage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

He is also a member of the Climate-Nuclear-Security Working Group at the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan think tank. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Mark Stodola Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas and President of the National League of Cities (NLC)


Mark Stodola is the mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, and president of the National League of Cities (NLC), the largest organization representing America’s cities and their leaders. As president of NLC, Stodola advocates on behalf of more than 19,000 cities and towns, focusing on the critical issues of infrastructure, public safety, economic development and preparing cities for the future of work.

Schedule of Events

Friday
6:00pm Doors Open for Registration
6:30pm Opening Reception (drinks and hors d’oeuvres provided)
Saturday
8:00am Late Registration
8:30am Breakfast and Introduction (breakfast provided by Niedlov’s)
9:00-1:00pm Speaker Series
11:40am Lunch (provided by Taqueria Jalisco)
2:00-5:00pm Breakout Sessions at The Edney Innovation Center
6:30pm Closing Keynote Discussion
8:00pm After Party (drinks and hors d’oeuvres provided)

Our Partners