Educators, industry invited to upcoming Penn State New Kensington-led conference

"Education Vanguard: Building the Education of the Future Together" will be held Oct. 12-14
Individual holds tablet during augmented reality workshop

A participant of Penn State New Kensington's spring 2023 Faculty Future-Readiness Academy takes part in an augmented reality demonstration during the event. Individuals in higher education, K-12 education and industry are invited to the campus-led "Education Vanguard: Building the Education of the Future Together" conference Oct. 12-14. 

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Educators and industry members in southwestern Pennsylvania are invited to an upcoming conference with the goal of regional collaboration focused on building a foundation to prepare students and individuals with future-ready skillsets. The “Education Vanguard: Building the Education of the Future Together” conference will be held Oct. 12-14 at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry Township. The effort is led by Penn State New Kensington and is a project of the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative (SWPANEC), one of 21 federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) grant awardees.

"As a land-grant institution, we recognize that our mission to benefit the region and its businesses and industries hinges on producing highly skilled, well-informed and grounded workers,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington. “To achieve this, we've spent the past several years forging collaborations with other universities, K-12 institutions, government and industry.”

The upcoming event is set to bring together luminaries from various sectors, corporations, higher education institutions and K-12 school districts, all converging to shape the trajectory of regional workforce and industrial growth.

"The journey of exploration has revealed that preparing students to become productive leaders in the era of Industry 4.0 demands a collaborative approach, with educators playing a pivotal role," Snider said. "Our responsibility is to equip students to wield technology as a tool while ensuring it enhances our humanity and sense of self."

The conference was designed to serve as a gateway to groundbreaking technology and its profound influence on industries and society. By facilitating collaboration among peers across sectors and organizations, attendees will have the chance to explore complexities, tackle obstacles and seize opportunities in an era propelled by technological advancement. 

A preview of the event schedule can be found on the event’s informational website. Keynote speakers include Illah Nourbakhsh, the Kavcic-Moura Professor of Robotics, executive director of the Center for Shared Prosperity and director of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University who will speak about artificial intelligence (AI), humanity and education; Snider, who will present on the role of education in Industry 4.0; Karen Alexander, director of XRConnectED who will speak about the role of immersive technology in industry and education; and E. Michelle Ramsey, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State Berks who will present on the topic of AI in humanities. 

Featured panel discussions will cover topics including the impact of technology on a variety of business sectors; the state of K-12 education and future readiness; and workforce needs in advanced manufacturing. Attendees will also be able to choose from a variety of concurrent sessions encompassing areas such as robotics, technology in health care, STEAM education, community engagement, machine learning and virtual reality. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. 

Higher education professionals are also invited to take part in one of two pre-conference workshops on Oct. 12. The workshop choices include understanding AI presented by Camille Dempsey, an associate professor at PennWest University, or learning about immersive reality with Alexander, director of XRConnectED.

Registration is being offered at no cost thanks to the SWPANEC, funded by a Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant. Registrations are being accepted until Oct. 4 and are accepted via a brief, online form. For full details, visit the conference website. For questions about the conference, contact Shirley Campbell, instructional designer at Penn State New Kensington and conference organizer, at [email protected]

About Penn State New Kensington

Penn State New Kensington is one of 24 campuses that comprise Penn State. Located just 17 miles from the city of Pittsburgh, the campus is nestled on 72 wooded acres of Upper Burrell, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from almost anywhere in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland counties. Penn State New Kensington offers 11 baccalaureate and four associate degrees, as well as the first two years of almost all of Penn State’s 275+ majors through the University’s 2+2 plan. The campus continues to fulfill the University’s land-grant mission through its ongoing efforts in the city of New Kensington to drive economic development and revitalization and to prepare the Rust Belt region for the next industrial revolution. This work includes its Invent Penn State innovation hub, The Corner, and its digital manufacturing innovation lab, the Digital Foundry at New Kensington.

About the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative

The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative is an 11-county coalition formed to apply for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC). The collaborative includes 90+ organizations: community-based organizations, labor unions, educational and research institutions, economic development partners and leaders from the private, public and philanthropic sectors. BBBRC is the marquee program of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities.