Connecting California, Pt. 4
Build Back Better: Digital Equity In The Biden-Harris Administration
Thursday, February 25th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. PDT
Click here to view the recording

Join Michelson 20MM on February 25th for the next Connecting California event: Build Back Better: Digital Equity in the Biden-Harris Administration. Following President Biden’s pledge to make digital equity a cornerstone of his administration, our panel will share their insights on the government’s approach to technology policy, and how the Biden-Harris administration can lead on one of the most potentially transformative economic development investments of the century.

In August 2020, the Michelson 20MM Foundation launched its Connecting California learning series, which convenes the public, private and philanthropic sectors. Connecting California seeks to strengthen collective understanding of the history and root causes of the “digital divides”–the economic and educational gaps created by inequitable access to high-speed internet, computing devices, and digital literacy resources. Featuring business leaders, digital equity practitioners, philanthropic investors and policymakers, Connecting California provides a forum that speaks to different facets of the complex landscape for building digital equity solutions at national, state and local levels. 

Speakers Include:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is responsible for the largest public school system in the nation, with more than 6.3 million students and over 10,000 schools. Since taking office earlier this year, State Superintendent Thurmond has made improving equity, access, and opportunity for California’s public school students his top priority. He has created initiatives that are focused on closing the opportunity gap for our state’s most vulnerable students and is dedicated to supporting educators in delivering an equitable education to all students. During his 4-year tenure in the Assembly, Thurmond authored legislation that successfully expanded the free lunch program, bilingual education, and the Chafee Grant college scholarship program for foster youth. Additionally, Thurmond’s legislation guaranteed preferential voting rights for student school board members, improved access to families for early education and childcare, and shifted millions of dollars directly from prisons to schools. State Superintendent Thurmond is a social worker, educator, advocate, and public school parent who continues to work tirelessly on behalf of all student to ensure they reach their full academic potential.

Executive Director, Board Member, and Trustee, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Adrianne Furniss headshotAdrianne B. Furniss is Executive Director, Board Member, and Trustee of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, a private operating foundation with offices in Evanston, Illinois. Since 1981, the Benton Institute has been committed to access, equity, and diversity to fulfill its mission: that everyone in the United States should have equal access to open, affordable, High-Performance Broadband as a means to deliver individual opportunity, strengthen communities, and ensure a thriving democracy. Currently, Adrianne serves on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) and as Secretary and Executive Committee member of the Board of Directors for PCs for People.

Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy
Senior Fellow and Public Advocate, Benton Institute
Gigi Sohn headshotGigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. For over thirty years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open and protective of user privacy. 

Previously, Sohn was Counselor to Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler; Co-Founder and CEO of Public Knowledge; Project Specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit; Executive Director of the Media Access Project, a communications public interest law firm; and a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. 

Ms. Sohn holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Broadcasting and Film from the Boston University College of Communication and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

Manager, Broadband Research Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Kathryn de WitKathryn de Wit joined Pew in 2018 and leads Pew’s Broadband Research Initiative. Before joining Pew, de Wit was an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, where she focused on telecommunications, cybersecurity, and economic development issues. Before her work at Booz Allen Hamilton, she was a Senior Fellow with the Heinz Endowments. At the Endowments, de Wit led philanthropy efforts focused on youth engagement, place-based grantmaking, and regional economic development. De Wit holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Sociology from Penn State University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.


Connecting California is brought to you by the Michelson 20MM Foundation.
Special Thanks to Our Foundation Partners

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Angell Foundation LogoIf you missed our Connecting California events, you can find the recordings on our #ConnectingCA YouTube playlist.

Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Learn more at