Community leaders talk innovation and inclusion at Tomorrow's Talent summit

This past Friday, December 14, many of Louisville’s top leaders in workforce, education, government, and business gathered at the Muhammad Ali Center to share ideas about how the region can better compete with the likes of Austin, Nashville, and other tech-savvy cities on the rise.

The summit’s first keynote speaker, new University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, spoke about the critical role UofL must play as the city’s anchor institution in re-imagining higher education and driving innovation. She wants to help create a college experience where students, rather than focusing solely on their interests and major, are tackling real-world challenges in their community and beyond.

Dr. Bendapudi also talked about the importance of fostering an inclusive learning environment for all students, pointing out that true inclusion goes beyond mere representation and is about whether students feel their unique backgrounds and perspectives are welcomed and valued.

I hope we can create a world where students ask ‘What big problem can I help solve?’
— UofL President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi

Heather Carroll Cox, Humana’s Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer and the event’s other keynote speaker, talked about the rapidly-changing tech landscape in her industry and the learning mentality she has adopted in order to keep up. She also identified the health tech niche as an area that the Louisville region should embrace in its search for a competitive advantage nationally.

Michael Gritton, Executive Director of KentuckianaWorks, showed that federal funding for workforce development has been steadily declining in recent years and called on Kentucky to join states like Texas and Massachusetts that are supplementing their workforce boards with state dollars.

Other speakers included Lauren Larin, PhD, who shared the impressive results of The Last Mile’s efforts to teach software programming to people in prison, as well as Paul Diaz, a businessman and former President and CEO of Kindred Healthcare, who talked about the importance of youth employment through programs like SummerWorks.

The last speakers of the day were some of the most powerful. Dustin Doom, a Code Louisville graduate, shared the story of his incredible journey from diffusing explosives in Iraq for the U.S. Army to being hired as a junior developer for local tech company El Toro.

Once I was there, I found myself surrounded by kindred spirits - folks who wanted to learn and transition into IT.
— Dustin Doom, U.S. Army veteran and software developer, on starting his Code Louisville training

Anjali Chadha, a senior at duPont Manual High School, talked about why she founded Empowered, Inc., a nonprofit that teaches technology skills to young women of color. She is an avid believer that if young women have mentors who tell them they are capable of achieving great things, chances are they will prove them right.

Click here to see the full event agenda.

Tomorrows Talent was hosted by KentuckianaWorks, 55,000 Degrees, Greater Louisville Inc., and the Greater Louisville Project. The event was sponsored by Humana, JPMorgan Chase, and UPS. You can view photos from the event below.