Media gallery

Tuesdays: June 7, 14, 21, 2016

Presented in partnership with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman

Summer Series Podcasts Now Available Online

The South Carolina Department of Education’s Speaking of Schools on South Carolina Public Radio featured podcasts of highlights of all three sessions of the 2016 Riley Institute/OLLI @ Furman summer series: “Education for Life: Fulfilling the promise of Education.” Click on the links for highlights from Session I, July 18Session II, July 25; and Session III, August 1.

Education for Life: Working together to fulfill the promise of education examined what matters most in early childhood development and success in school. Presenters showed how  educational institutions, parents, students, non-profits, and members of the community work together to build up our schools and prepare young people to be successful adults.

Week One looked at how we can improve outcomes for our youngest learners, Week Two focused on how and why community strategies are critical for successful school reform, and Week Three delved into how we should be thinking about higher education in a South Carolina that is changing demographically, culturally, and economically.

All sessions were moderated by Scott Henderson, Ph.D., (bio)William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Education, Director of Program Development and Evaluation, Director of National/International Scholarships

Session 1 | Parents and Communities Fostering Lifelong Learners  

What do parents, educators, and community members need to know about early child development? How can we strengthen families and communities to enhance early child development? How should we invest our dollars and volunteer hours for the greatest impact on outcomes?

To view Straight Talk SC Storify from Session I, click here.


  • Elizabeth DavisPh.D., President, Furman University
  • Sara Ryder, M.D., pediatrician and clinical assistant professor, University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
  • Susan Alford, State Director, South Carolina Department of Social Services
  • Dan Wuori, Deputy Director, South Carolina First Steps
  • Jamie Moon, President, Institute for Child Success
  • Kristy Way, member of the Collaborative’s Governance Committee
  • Robin Reed, Executive Director of KNOW(2) Cherokee County

Read Speaker Bios

Session 2 | No Blank Slates: Family, Communities, and Success and Failure in K-12

What strategies are essential for school reform to be successful? Are we asking too much of our schools?  What partnerships and innovative programs exist that are making a difference in student outcomes?

The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood


  • Karl Alexander, Ph.D., co-author of The Long Shadow, which examines who succeeds and why based on a 25 year study of nearly 800 Baltimore school children.
  • Terry Peterson, Ph.D., Director, Afterschool and Community Learning Network; Board Chair, After School Alliance
  • Russell Booker, Ph.D., Superintendent, Spartanburg County District 7, United Way’s OnTrack Greenville Middle Grades Success Initiative
  • Tobi Kinsell, Director, Dream Connectors, a Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) capstone project
  • Chip Wiper, M.D., DLI alumnus and project team member, Youth Apprenticeships: Creating a Workforce Pipeline for SC Companies
  • Carla Whitlock, Senior Apprenticeship Consultant, Apprenticeship Carolina, New Tech Network in South Carolina
  • Jacki Martin, Director of Operations, The Riley Institute

Read Speaker Bios

Session 3 | Reframing Higher Education for a Changing Society

What will South Carolinians look like in 5, 10, 20 years? What challenges and opportunities does a changing society create? How should institutions of higher education respond, and what initiatives are increasing access and opportunity to education beyond high school?

Changing Demographics in South Carolina: Implications for the State and Higher Education


  • Michael Usdan, Ph.D., president emeritus and senior fellow, Institute for Educational Leadership
  • Pam Davis, Director, Taking Ownership of Our Communities’ Success
  • Julio Hernandez, Greenville Technical College Northwest Campus Director, College Within the Prison Walls
  • Michael Murphy, Community College president for 25 years, Medical Experience Academy – A Pipeline to Medical School
  • Brenda Thames, Ed.D., Vice President of Academic and Faculty Affairs, GHS Clinical University, Greenville Health System

Read Speaker Bios

June 7: Parents and Communities Fostering Lifelong Learners


Elizabeth Davis

Dr. Elizabeth Davis became Furman University’s 12th President on July 1, 2014. Before coming to Furman, she spent 22 years at Baylor University in Texas, where she most recently held the position of  executive vice president and provost. In addition to being a member of the accounting faculty at Baylor,  she also served as vice provost for Financial and Academic Administration, associate dean for Undergraduate Business Programs, and acting chair of the Department of Accounting and Business Law. Before beginning her higher education career, she spent three years at Arthur Andersen & Co. in New Orleans. Davis is a member of the Council of Presidents, an advisory group of college and university chief executives who provide guidance to the Association of Governing Boards of  Universities and Colleges on issues of governance in higher education. She serves on the board of directors of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, and is an honorary member of the board of governors of the Commerce Club. She is also a member of the board of directors of Comstock Resources, Inc., an energy company based in Texas. She was recently named to Greenville Business Magazine’s “50 Most Influential People.” Davis has addressed numerous organizations in the Upstate since arriving at Furman, and she has also spoken throughout the U.S. on issues involving higher education, university leadership and financial management. She has written op-eds for The Greenville News, and has done numerous radio and television interviews on the subject of higher education. Davis received her undergraduate degree in business administration from Baylor in 1984 and earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1992.


Sara Ryder, M.D.

Dr. Ryder earned her medical degree from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey. She completed her residency training in pediatrics at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where she served as chief resident in 2014-2015. She and other pediatricians partnered with Reach Out and Read to develop early reading skills in children through its evidence-based approach. Dr. Ryder came to Greenville to join the faculty of USC School of Medicine and where she works at the Center for Pediatric Medicine and the Center for Family Medicine.


Susan Alford

Susan Alford, Director of the SC Department of Social Services, has worked for nearly 40 years as a child and victim advocate in South Carolina. She most recently acted as Director of the Girls Center and Associate Executive Director for Operations at Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute, and as both Interim Chief of Staff, Deputy Director for Treatment Services, and Associate Director for Policy and Planning at the SC Department of Juvenile Justice. The recipient of numerous state and national awards, Ms. Alford is a recognized speaker and consultant on topics such as trauma-informed interventions, gender-responsive programming, strategic planning, continuous quality improvement in the public sector, and the development and evaluation of programs for at-risk youth. Ms. Alford holds a Diploma degree in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, England, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology from the University of South Carolina.


Dan Wuori, Ph.D.

Dr. Dan Wuori is one of South Carolina’s leading voices in early childhood education. As a longtime kindergarten teacher and school district administrator, Dr. Wuori brings hands-on experience to his current role as Deputy Director of South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness – where he has overseen the state’s public-private prekindergarten expansion, the launch of Nurse Family Partnership and the reform of the state’s BabyNet early intervention system. He is a past president of the South Carolina Early Childhood Association and has served as an adjunct professor of education at the University of South Carolina and Columbia College.


Jamie Moon

Launched in 2010, the Institute for Child Success (ICS) is a private, nonpartisan research and policy organization that works to create a culture that facilitates and fosters the success of all children. Rather than being a direct service provider, the Institute’s approach focuses on helping those who help young children succeed by working with stakeholders to seek holistic solutions to complex early childhood challenges.  ICS President Jamie Moon is active throughout the community and state, serving on the education committee of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the development council of the GHS Children’s Hospital, the community advisory panel of the Junior League of Greenville, and the advisory Council for the Spartanburg Quality Counts initiative.


Kristy Way

Kristy is a past president of the Junior League of Greenville where she still serves as a representative on the Governance Committee for the Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative (NCFC). NCFC aims to create a community-based, two-generation community center with wrap-around services in a high-needs area of Greenville known as Nicholtown.  NCFC was established to provide services for the children and families of Nicholtown to improve child outcomes; provide parent training, education, and employment; and build lasting community infrastructure. Kristy also serves on several other boards and committees in the community that better the lives of children and families in Greenville.


Robin Reed

Robin’s background is in mortgage banking, from which she retired after 33 years. Since that time, she first volunteered, then served as assistant director, and is now director of KNOW(2), an organization attempting to break cycles of poverty by helping individuals first to succeed in education and from there to prosper in today’s knowledge and technology economy.  One intervention supported by KNOW (@) is Talk to Me, an early literacy effort in Cherokee County to close learning gaps which keep children from being successful in school.


June 14: No Blank Slates: Family, Communities, and Success and Failure in K-12


Karl Alexander, Ph.D.

Dr. Karl Alexander, along with two fellow researchers, spent 25 years tracking the life progress of nearly 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children through the Beginning School Study Youth Panel. The study monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults. Based on this study, he co-authored The Long Shadow, which unravels the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations to reveal a startling and much-needed examination of who succeeds and why. Dr. Alexander received a B.A. from Temple University and a Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill. He has been president of the Southern Sociological Society and editor of the journal Sociology of Education, and is a fellow of the American Education Research Association.


Terry Peterson, Ph.D.

Terry Peterson develops strategies and partnerships for education reforms and expanded learning opportunities and partnerships across America and in developing countries (e.g., Argentina, Brazil and Mongolia).While holding federal and state executive education positions, Terry helped develop numerous education policies. At the federal level: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, E-rate, GEAR-UP; and teacher and technology quality grants; at the state level: early childhood education; teacher recruitment; performance pay programs; innovation funds; accountability systems; and the arts in the basic curriculum. Terry serves on ten different national, state and local education committees and organizations including as chair of the National Afterschool Alliance Board.


Russell Booker, Ph.D.

An innovative new curriculum and public school model at Cleveland Academy is one part of the realization of the vision of Spartanburg’s Northside Initiative.  This year-round school is one of the many examples of how Superintendent Booker frequently collaborates with civic, non-profit and faith-based organizations in innovative and productive partnerships. Named the 2015 South Carolina Superintendent of the Year by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, Booker earned a B.S. in education from Wingate University in North Carolina, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of South Carolina.


Tobi Kinsell

As director of United Way’s OnTrack Greenville Middle Grades Success Initiative, Tobi Kinsell leads a community-wide effort funded by the Social Innovation Fund, community partners, and funders to ensure all middle school youth stay on track toward high school graduation. Utilizing collective impact principles, she works collaboratively with community stakeholders and facilitates public/private partnerships to implement initiatives and programs resulting in transformative change and outcomes.


Donald (Chip) Wiper, III, M.D.

A graduate of the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, Chip Wiper works with his capstone project group, Dream Connectors, to provide seventh grade students, primarily those from less advantaged backgrounds, with the opportunity to learn about diverse career opportunities available in the Upstate. The project consists of pilot programs that connect students at the Hughes Academy of Science and Technology and Lakeview Middle School with Upstate businesses, namely BMW, Greenville Health System and Michelin.


Carla Whitlock

Carla has statewide responsibilities for the development of registered apprenticeship programs for companies across all industries throughout South Carolina.  Her professional background includes public accounting, government relations, marketing and economic development consulting.  Throughout her career, she has worked with a number of industries including manufacturing, energy, health care, transportation, distribution and logistics.  Carla is a SC Certified Economic Developer and is a graduate of the UNC Basic Economic Developers program.


Jacki Martin

Jacki Martin is Director of Operations at the Riley Institute at Furman University, where she assists the Executive Director in developing and funding the spectrum of the Institute’s programs and in supporting the staff who are managing them. Jacki also serves as the leader of the Riley Institute’s Center for Education Policy and Leadership. Her background is primarily in policy and program management around community development issues, with an emphasis on management of large-scale, multi-county, multi-sector outreach initiatives. She has an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of South Carolina.


June 21: Reframing Higher Education for a Changing Society


Michael D. Usdan, Ph.D.

For two decades, Michael D. Usdan served as President of the Institute for Educational Leadership. Before that, he was Connecticut’s Commissioner of Higher Education (1978-1981) and president of the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit (1974-1978).
A graduate of Brown University with graduate degrees from Columbia University, Usdan worked on the staff of the late Dr. James B. Conant in the latter’s famous studies of American education. He has taught at Columbia University, City University of New York, Northwestern and Fordham Universities, and in schools in New York City and White Plains.
A prolific writer on various aspects of education, Usdan has been a consultant to boards of education and educational organizations and has spoken around the country and in China, India Nepal, Hungary, Russia, and Japan. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine and a consultant to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hunt Institute, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  He also serves as a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the George Washington University.


Pam Davis

Pam is the Director for Bridges to a Brighter Future. Furman University’s Bridges to a Brighter Future program is a nationally awarded comprehensive college access and success program for Greenville County high school and college students whose potential outdistances their circumstances. Bridges is designed to not only expose students to college, but to address and eliminate the personal, social and cultural barriers that often prevent low-income and first-generation students from achieving college graduation. Having worked in student affairs at Converse College, Furman University and Clemson University, Bridges Program Director Pam Davis joined Furman after a five-year career with the City of Greenville Parks and Recreation Department.


Julio Hernandez

Julio Hernandez serves as a campus director for Greenville Technical College Northwest campus. As a community leader, Julio serves to build relationships within the target populations such as adult learners, veterans, internationals, unemployed, high school & transfer college students, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students in Greenville County. In addition, Julio works towards educating, guiding, and empowering underserved families on where to go for educational resources. Julio collaborates with local businesses, schools, non-profits, and other community partners, in order that those underserved have an opportunity to obtain an education.


Michael Murphy, Ph.D.

A lifelong educator, Mike Murphy was a community college president for over 25 years. At a university early in his career, he started a degree program within the walls of a prison in Maryland. Later, as president of Lee Community College in Texas, he was  involved with a similar program. He is exploring interest in South Carolina for similar ‘Within the Walls” college degree programs.  Mike holds graduate degrees from Indiana University and Loyola University of Maryland, and a certificate from Harvard University.


Brenda Thames, Ed.D.

Dr. Thames is responsible for providing academic strategic direction and leadership for initiatives designed to advance patient care through education and research. She also works with local colleges and universities to develop collaborative relationships that are focused on health care. Prior to joining GHS, Dr. Thames served as associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Health, Education and Human Development at Clemson University. She serves on numerous boards and committees representing the voice of health care particularly from the education and workforce perspectives.