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Pathways Out of Poverty

Misericordia UniversityAetna - Aetna Better Health Pennsylvania

Misericordia University in partnership with Aetna Better Health will host an inaugural one-day conference that will bring together nationally recognized researchers and experts on poverty. As thought leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania gather with stakeholders in helping our region, we ask you to consider attending. It is our goal to raise awareness on the impact of poverty upon a multitude of systems, highlight effective programs and create new collaborations among them. Please join us as we host an impressive array of speakers on this highly impactful day at Misericordia University. Together, by building new pathways out of poverty, we can make a difference. We encourage you to share this with your colleagues, educators and community service providers.


Pathways Out of Poverty Conference-A Collaborative Approach to Address Poverty in Pennsylvania

The recent announcement of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program (SWEAP) includes a $5 million dollar investment in the Parent Pathways initiative in the 2019-2020 proposed budget. As this initiative takes form, an emphasis on community-based, holistic models that support both parent and child while gaining access to post-secondary education and training for single parent families will be the focus.

Through keynote presentations from national and state leaders including Pennsylvania State Secretary of the Department of Human Services, Teresa Miller and Pennsylvania State Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, we will further the conversation on the importance of two generation models, access to post-secondary education and training and the outcomes that can lead to family sustaining careers with an emphasis on:

  1. Pathways to and enrollment in post-secondary education for single parents throughout the state of Pennsylvania
  2. Emphasis on two generation model programming that addresses the social and educational needs of both parent and child with a particular focus on the social determinants of health
  3. Housing support for families served and partnerships needed to achieve it

Conference attendees will be encouraged to consider a new approach to the poverty issue in the state of Pennsylvania faced by single parent families in poverty by considering the following:

  • Collective Impact-Building multi-sector collaborations can remove historical silos that allow for more pathways to educational access and training within the state. Emphasis will be among higher education institutions, state agencies and non-profit organizations that serve single parent families including single mother households in poverty/working poor.
  • Campus and Community Engagement-Focusing in on the assets and community providers at large and among college and universities, the intersection of services will be discussed that best serve single parent families in poverty. Creating campus/ community linkages and case management systems through information exchange can pave educational pathways and post-secondary education and training opportunities for single parent families that have been historically out of reach.
  • Collaborative Leadership-The strength of partnerships through collaboration, quality information and reliable resource exchange will lead to a focus on a “process first approach” that allows for collaboration to take the lead resulting in sustainable solutions.
  • Community Innovation-Can we reshape the landscape of higher education? Can non-profit organizations promote and collaborate to establish pathways to education and training for single parent families? Can state agencies help to bridge the gap?
  • Research/Poverty Analysis-Measuring this will matter and poverty reduction is the goal.

The Pathways out of Poverty Conference will to bring together a cross-sector of organizations as we share information on the proposed Parent Pathways Model, critical research and resources on single mother families and children featuring national experts; Dr. Luisa Deprez and Dr. Lisa Dodson, an overview on Social Determinants of Health through Aetna Better Health and an in-depth presentation on the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University featuring staff, current students and alumni.

A panel of keynote speakers and experts will then provide answers to conference attendee’s questions and the announcement of a Pathways Out of Poverty Advisory Group will be made at the conclusion of the conference to advance next steps.

As the Parent Pathways Model throughout Pennsylvania takes shape, we are inviting leadership from community-based organizations and partners, post-secondary education administrators, philanthropy, Pennsylvania state agencies, and advocates to join us for the Pathways out of Poverty Conference at Misericordia University.


Lisa Dodson PhD, MPH

Lisa Dodson PhD, MPH is a retired research professor of sociology (Boston College) and currently, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy (Brandeis University). She is currently the co-chair of Scholars Strategy Network (SSN) Oregon. Her recent pieces have been appeared in SSN (2017, 2018) [], in the Huffington Post, The Conversation and The American Prospect. Dodson’s most recent book, The Moral Underground: How Ordinary People Subvert an Unfair Economy (The New Press, 2010) was called a "must-read" by Time Magazine. Recent academic articles include “Keeping us in our place: Low-income moms barred from college success” (2019, with L. Deprez) in Contexts, and “Social Network Development Among Low-income Mothers” (2014, with A Freemen) in Family Relations. A 2016 research report, Mothers Know Best: At the intersection of low-wage work, public assistance and child care uncovers the multiple obstacles that low-income mothers face seeking social mobility. A 2012 policy paper (Ford and Annie E. Casey Foundations) examined How Youth Are Put At Risk by Parents’ Low-Wage Jobs (2012) examines the interaction of youth development, family stability, and parents’ low-wage jobs. Professor Dodson specializes in face-to-face research methods, partnering with community-based organizations and national networks, ensuring low-income people are central in the development of public policy. Her earlier book Don’t Call Us Out of Name: The Untold Lives of Women and Girls in Poor America integrated years of field-based research to uncover an alternative account of welfare reform, told from the perspective of hundreds of single mothers and their children. Lisa Dodson’s work has been funded by the Ford, Annie E. Casey, Kellogg, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. Her research has been featured in The New York Times, Huffington Post Live, The Boston Globe, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Ed Show, Alternet, and YesMagazine. Dr. Dodson teaches courses on family poverty, policy and field-based research methods. In the past she has presented research findings in numerous US Congressional hearings and to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Dr Luisa Deprez

PhD, Professor Emerita of Sociology

University of Southern Maine.

Dr. Deprez’s commitment is to social justice, equality and equity. With a focus on social policy, her work unearths the politics of policy-making as well as the impact of ideology and public opinion on policy exposing the resultant social, economic, and personal consequences. Scholarship concentrated on welfare policy focuses on both its restrictive nature and its corresponding impact and effect on recipients, most particularly single-mothers pursuing post-secondary education. The power of higher education in sustaining privilege and its resultant impact on thwarting access to low-income parents emerges in these investigations. After a 40-year career in academia, Dr. Deprez lends her knowledge and expertise to work with non-profit organizations, government agencies, and state legislatures while continuing to be an active contributor to state and national policy discussions and debates that focus on vulnerable populations

Miller photo

Teresa Miller

Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Teresa Miller has served as Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS) since August 2017. In her time at DHS, Miller has focused on collaborating across agencies to advance Governor Wolf's health innovation and workforce development agendas, overseeing the successful launch of managed care for long term care services, and supporting efforts to address social determinants of health such as food security and housing. Prior to leading DHS, Miller served as Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner beginning in January 2015. As Insurance Commissioner, Miller prioritized increasing the Insurance Department’s consumer protection, outreach, and education efforts. Before coming to Pennsylvania, Miller help positions at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where she worked on implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Miller also previously served as the administrator of the Oregon Insurance Division. Miller received her J.D. from Willamette University College of Law, and her B.A., magma cum laude, from Pacific Lutheran University

Felicia Glover Photo

Felicia Glover

Felicia Glover is a public relations specialist for the Rockdale County Government located in Conyers, Georgia. She serves as the community engagement lead and staff liaison for the civic advisory group, Keep Conyers Rockdale Beautiful. Felicia is a 2017 graduate of Misericordia University and the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program with a B.A. in Communications. Felicia was also honored with the Mercy Charism award during her senior year at the university. Felicia resides with her family in Locust Grove, Georgia.

Asia Thompson headshot

Asia Thompson

Asia Thompson is currently pursuing her Juris Doctor from New York Law, New York City and is currently interning with the State of New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, Appellate Division in Newark, New Jersey. Asia is a 2017 graduate of Misericordia University and the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program with a B.A. in English. She was the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Adult Learner Award and served as President of Sigma Tau Delta, National English Honors Society. Asia has worked for Results, Washington, D.C. as a Community Outreach Consultant and Expert on Poverty and has conducted advocacy work on Capital Hill. Asia has also completed an internship with Senator Robert Casey and has been featured in the New York Times. Asia currently resides with her family in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Pedro head shot

Pedro Rivera

Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education

Pedro A. Rivera was nominated by Governor Tom Wolf to serve as the Secretary of Education on January 20, 2015, and was confirmed by the state Senate in June 2015. He joined the Wolf Administration after having served as Superintendent of The School District of Lancaster, a position he held from 2008-2015. Under Rivera's leadership, The School District of Lancaster developed and implemented a new curriculum, an aggressive professional development plan, and innovative classroom observation tools. These initiatives resulted in an increased graduation rate, notable improvements in math, science and writing proficiency scores, and enhanced the level of participation from high-performing students in programs that help prepare them for college and other post-graduation opportunities.In September 2014, Rivera was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for his efforts to transform urban education – one of ten recipients nationwide to receive the prestigious honor. He brings extensive experience in public education to his role as a member of Governor Wolf's cabinet and has spent his entire career helping students. Prior to serving as superintendent of The School District of Lancaster, he served as a classroom teacher, staff member with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, assistant principal, principal, and executive director for the School District of Philadelphia. Rivera is a first generation college graduate and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master's degree in Education Administration from Cheyney University, and his Superintendent's Letter of Eligibility from Arcadia University.

Stephanie Ledesma Headshot

Stephanie Ledesma,

Chief Operating Officer | Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania.

With a career spanning over two decades, Stephanie Ledesma has been the driving force of innovation and technology for some of America’s strongest organizations in healthcare.

Holding a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Lindenwood University and a Master’s Degree in Applied Analytics from Saint Louis University, it’s not difficult to realize that Stephanie’s passion for STEM would position her be one of the most influential women leaders in the healthcare industry.

As Chief Operating Officer for Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania, Stephanie focuses her strengths to help members across the state of Pennsylvania gain access to quality health care. Stephanie is positioned as the developer and implementer of continuous process improvement efforts targeted at lowering administrative costs, providing both automated and procedural enhancements, increasing processing productivity and increasing program efficiencies across the board.

Stephanie is originally from California and has planted roots in Pennsylvania for the past several years. She lives in Phoenixville with her husband and three children. Stephanie loves traveling, reading and hopes to leverage her role and current relationships to inspire and mentor other young women to aim for professional careers in STEM now and for years to come through her volunteer work.

Jason Rottman,

Chief Executive Officer, Aetna Better Health® of Pennsylvania

As an executive level leader for over 25 years, and currently in Medicaid managed care health plans, Jason Rottman has a proven record of managing highly profitable organizations focusing on operational excellence and providing an unmatched customer experience.

After 10 years as CEO running a successful Washington, D.C. based data management company, Jason transitioned into leading managed care health plans. In his current role as CEO of Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania, he leads the only Medicaid Managed Care Plan to serve all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. He enjoys the challenge and responsibility to help improve the health outcomes of members.

Jason has a passion for developing programs that address the social impacts which affect the lives of the Medicaid population and have a huge impact on their overall life expectancy and quality of life. Jason and his team have deployed effective programs to address social determinants of health that have meaningful and long-lasting effects on both individual and community health outcomes. Jason and his team have developed and implemented these ambitious programs across the Commonwealth.

Jason earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland in College Park. At Aetna Better Health he has responsibility for over 240 employees who manage the health care for 220,000 health plan members.


Ruth Matthews Bouger Women with Children Program

Graduate Mom with child

Katherine Pohlidal photo

Katherine Pohlidal

Sandy Johnson photo

Sandy Johnson

Katherine Pohlidal, Director and Sandy Johnson, Coordinator of the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program will present on this innovative, two-generation model program at Misericordia University. Highlights on the history, programming and outcomes will be featured and will include a panel of Bourger Women with Children students and graduates..

A panel of experts from the day to include Aetna Better Health, State leaders, and experts on poverty will also be featured.

Meet Cora and be healthy

You can see a photo of Cora by clicking here.

We would like you to meet Cora! Cora is the name of our new mobile health & wellness RV! Cora’s name is short for Corazón, which means heart in Spanish. Cora wants to help you keep your heart healthy by being active and eating right!

When it comes to your health, we want to meet you where you are. That’s why we’re bringing Cora to you. That’s right; Cora may be coming to your town soon! Just check the schedule below.

Cora is where you can go to learn about living healthy. At Cora, you can learn how:

  • to eat healthy on a budget
  • to set health goals
  • to achieve your health goals
  • to do more healthy activities

At Cora you’ll also enjoy healthy and fun activities like:

  • a healthy smoothie bar
  • physical challenges and video games
  • health screenings like Body Mass Index (BMI) screening


Continental Breakfast

Coffee, Decaf, Hot Water

Fresh Orange Juice/Cranberry Juice

Mini Fresh Baked Pastries, Blueberry Crumb Muffins

Yogurt with Granola and fresh berries, Fresh Hand Fruit


Spring Grains and Greens to Include: Mixed Spring Mix, Romaine, and Fresh Herbs, tossed with a Mix of Carrots, Grape Tomatoes, Yellow Peppers, Snap Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Toasted Farro, and Shaved Celery tossed with Herbed Red Wine Vinaigrette

Citrus Honey Marinated Chargrilled Chicken garnished with Mediterranean Rice and Thyme Pan Sauce

Mushroom and Spinach Pasta Pinwheels with Vodka Sauce

Rosemary Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

Mixed Vegetables to Include: Carrots, Roasted Zucchini, Red Peppers, and Cauliflower

Rolls and Butter


Dessert Station to Include: A selection of Cookies, Cannoli, Miniature Bars and Fresh Fruit


Water, Fresh Brewed Iced Tea

Coffee, Tea, and Decaf Coffee

Pathways out of Poverty Registration

Please click here to register for Pathways Out of Poverty or click the link on the left hand side of the page.


Courtyard by Marriott

879 Schechter Drive

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702


Hilton Garden Inn

242 Highland Park Boulevard

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702


Holiday Inn

Wilkes-Barre East Mountain

600 Wildflower Drive

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702


Host Inn All Suites

860 Kidder Street

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702


Post Secret Gallery Show

Post Secret Exhibit within the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery

The Pauly Friedman Art Gallery will devote a section of the PostSecretX exhibition to increasing awareness of the impact of poverty on academic progress, especially for women. We seek to demonstrate how the creative process makes the invisible visible. These anonymous postcards will illustrate responses to the question, “What are the specific obstacles for women, women with children, and children of single mothers as they pursue an education?” This exhibition follows the legacy of female artists such as Hannah Hoch, Barbara Kruger, and the Guerilla Girls, who have used paper and collage media as a catalyst for social action.

Read our Press Release



Contact: Marianne T. Puhalla April 25, 2019

Staff Writer

Office of Public Relations and Publications

Misericordia University

Dallas, PA 18612-1090

Office: 570-674-6286 Cell: 570-606-7603

Misericordia University to address need for collaboration at ‘Pathways Out of Poverty’ conference

DALLAS TWP., Pa. – The Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University, in partnership with Aetna Better Health, will host an inaugural one-day conference, “Pathways Out of Poverty,” designed to bring together nationally recognized researchers and government officials with social service providers to discuss the impact of poverty and what can be done to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the region and across the state. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall on the campus in Dallas, Pa. Staff and administrators of social service agencies in the region are encouraged to attend.

The impressive array of speakers includes Pa. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera and Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, as well as social research and public policy experts Luisa S. Deprez, Ph.D., professor emerita of sociology, University of Southern Maine, and Lisa Dodson, Ph.D., retired research professor of sociology, Boston College.

Drs. Deprez and Dodson have co-authored the briefs “Helping Parents Get a College Education Helps Children Succeed” (2018), and “Why Higher Education is a Must for Low-Income Mothers” (2019), published by Scholars Strategy Network (SSN). They also have co-written the article, “Keeping us in our place: Low-income moms barred from college success,” published in CONTEXTS (2019), the quarterly magazine of the American Sociological Association designed to make sociology available to general readers.

“It is our goal to bring together nationally-recognized sociology experts and thought leaders from across Pennsylvania with stakeholders from our region to raise awareness of the impact of poverty, especially on women. Our goal is to create new collaborations among community service providers, educators and legislators by highlighting best-practice programs, such as the Women with Children Program at Misericordia, that are working to end the cycle of poverty,” said Katherine Pohlidal, Bourger program director. “Together, by building new pathways out of poverty, we can make a difference for families for generations to come.”

State secretaries Rivera and Miller will headline a presentation on state programs including Governor Tom Wolf’s new education initiative “Parents Pathways,” that he launched during a visit to Misericordia in February.

Recently highlighted by Gov. Wolf as a model that the state would like to replicate, the Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia was founded in 2000 and provides free housing for up to 16 academically qualified, single mothers at or near the poverty level, with up to three children each, at three houses on the Misericordia campus. The program provides a wide range of social services, nutritional training, and support as the mothers earn a degree in four years. So far, 30 women have graduated from the program and have gone on to successful careers, graduate school and law school.

Bourger Women with Children program alumna Felicia Glover will present “Truth on Poverty: A Single-Mother Family and the Pursuit of a College Degree,” a first-person report on the impact the program has had on her life and that of her two young sons. A 2017 graduate, Glover is a public relations manager for a tri-county initiative in Georgia.

Fellow 2017 graduate Asia Thompson, who at times lived in her car with her two small children prior to enrolling at Misericordia, is currently pursuing a law degree at New York Law School. In her presentation, “I Am the Outcome, My Children are the Future,” she will discuss the outcomes on single mothers of educational efforts such as the Bourger program.

The opening keynote speaker, Dr. Deprez will present, “A Pathway to the Future: How a College Degree Can Change a Life and a State.” Well known for her study of social justice, equality and equity focus on welfare policy, she will examine the power of higher education in sustaining privilege and the resultant impact on low-income parents. After a 40-year career in academia, Dr. Deprez continues to be an active contributor to state and national policy discussions that focus on vulnerable populations. Among hundreds of articles and presentations, she is the author of the books “SHUT OUT: Low-Income Women and Higher Education in Post Welfare America,” (2004) and “The Family Support Act of 1988: A Case Study of Welfare Reform in the 1980s,” (2002). She holds a doctorate in social policy from the Heller School, Brandeis University, and a Master of Social Work from Rutgers University.

Dr. Dodson will take the discussion forward with the presentation, “Where Do We Go from Here.” She currently is the co-chair of SSN Oregon. Her most recent book, “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary People Subvert an Unfair Economy,” (2010) was called a “must-read” by Time Magazine. In a 2016 research report, “Mothers Know Best: At the intersection of low-wage work, public assistance and childcare,” she addressed the multiple obstacles that low-income mothers face seeking social mobility. Professor Dodson’s research has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Chronicle of Higher Education, and presented at numerous U.S. Congressional hearings and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She holds a doctorate in social research and public policy from the Heller School, Brandeis University, and a Master of Public Health from Boston University.

Following her talk, Dr. Dodson also will moderate a panel discussion featuring state secretaries Miller and Rivera; Dr. Deprez; Stephanie Ledesma, chief operating officer, Aetna; and Pohlidal. The group will answer questions submitted by guests during the morning sessions.

During the luncheon session, Aetna CEO Jason Rotman and Misericordia University President Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., will also discuss how collaborative efforts are needed to provide long-term solutions to provide education to single parents.

In addition, participants will have the opportunity to tour Corazon, Aetna’s mobile health and wellness recreational vehicle, where they will be able enjoy a healthy smoothie bar, take part in Body Mass Index and other health screenings, and gather information on healthy living and how to eat healthy on a limited budget.

Guests will also have the chance to examine the art installation, PostSecretsX, on display through June 9 in the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery. The installation features anonymous postcards submitted both globally and locally offered to explore the impact of secrets, secret-sharing, and artistic expression of secrets on mental health. The installation consists of postcards submitted to Frank Warren since he established PostSecret in 2004, highlighting the topics of poverty, food insecurity, and mental health, and issues particular to college students.

The program will conclude with the introduction of the Pathways Advisory Panel, involving representatives from various sectors across the community who have committed to continuing the work and discussions initiated at the conference.

The fee is $25 and includes a continental breakfast and networking lunch. Registration is required, and can be made online by going to For more information, please call Katherine Pohlidal, director of the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University, at (570) 674-6728 or email her at

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County’s first four-year college and offers 56 academic programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 edition of Best Colleges. The Princeton Review recognizes MU as a 2019 Best Northeastern College and MONEY Magazine includes Misericordia in its 2018-19 “Best Colleges” list.

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