Pennsylvania Secretary of State - Hon. Pedro A. Cortés
Tues 5/31 6:00pm - Sykes Ballroom A
The Honorable Pedro A. Cortés was nominated by Governor Tom Wolf on January 20, 2015 and confirmed by the Senate on June 2, 2015. He previously served as Secretary of the Commonwealth from 2003 to 2010. At that time Cortés was the first confirmed Latino Cabinet member and the longest serving Secretary of State in Pennsylvania history.
As Secretary, Cortés leads the Pennsylvania Department of State. The mission of the Department is to promote the integrity of the electoral process, to support economic development through corporate filings and transactions, and to protect the health and safety of the public. The Department accomplishes its mission by furthering the highest standards of ethics and competence in the areas of elections, campaign finance, notarization, professional and occupational licensure, charitable solicitation, and professional boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Cortés is the Commonwealth’s Chief Election Official. By statute, the Secretary is also the Chairperson of the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries, and a member of the Board of Finance and Revenue, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Board and the State Athletic Commission. The Secretary is the keeper of the Great Seal of the Commonwealth and has the duty of authenticating government documents through the seal's use.
During Cortés previous seven-year tenure, the Department successfully administered 15 primary and general elections, reduced the processing time of corporate filings from 36 business days to one day, spearheaded the nation’s first statewide electronic notarization program, and decreased the time it took to review professional and occupational licensure complaints. He was also the first Pennsylvanian to serve as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State in the Association’s 104 year history.
Cortés began his Commonwealth government career in 1993 as a caseworker with the Department of Public Welfare. Subsequently, he worked as a recruiter and attorney with the State Civil Service Commission, and was the Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs for two Pennsylvania governors. Prior to his most recent appointment as Secretary of the Commonwealth, Cortés was a partner with the law firm of Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer and Kupersmith.
Cortés has been the recipient of numerous awards, including: Hispanic Business Magazine's 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States; the National Notary Association’s 50 Most Influential People in Notarization in the Last 50 Years; Legal Intelligencer’s Diverse Attorney of the Year; Multicultural Affairs Congress' Delaware Valley's Most Influential Latino; Central Penn Business Journal's Top Forty Under 40 Business Leaders in Central Pennsylvania; and The Pennsylvania State University Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.
Cortés earned a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration from the University of Massachusetts, a Master of Public Administration from Penn State University, and a Juris Doctor Penn State Dickinson School of Law. He also holds Doctorate Degrees honoris causa from King’s College, Harcum College, and Widener University School of Law.
A native of Puerto Rico, Cortés has lived in Pennsylvania since 1990. He is married to Lissette Lizardi-Cortés and they have a daughter, Gabriela.
President of Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica. - Alberto Salom-Echeverría
Wed. 6/1 8:15am-9:00am - Sykes Ballroom A
He is Costa Rican and holds a PhD in Government and Public Politics. Professor and Researcher of the Universidad Nacional for almost 40 years.
Political leader since High School, he was the President of Student Federation of Universidad de Costa Rica, member of the Pueblo Unido Party, United Nations Consultant and Editorial Director of Porvenir.
He was the Director of the Institute of Work Studies and the Vice-President of the Student Affairs of the Universidad Nacional. He was a Congressman of the Costa Rican Congress.
He has published books and articles in national and international Journals, also in national newspapers.
Arab-American Comedian, Speaker, Writer, and Adjunct Professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law - Amer Zahr
Thurs. 6/2 8:15-9:00am - Sykes Ballroom A
Amer Zahr is an Arab-American comedian, speaker, writer, and adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Drawing on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian parents, he finds the humor in society, culture, and politics.
In February 2016, Amer headlined a packed house at New York City's world-famous Carnegie Hall, alongside Palestinian-American comedians Said Durrah, Mona Aburmishan, and Mike Easmeil.
In June 2015, Amer headlined at the world-famous John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. He produced this show as well, making it the first time that an all-Palestinian cast took the stage at the internationally-renowned venue.
He has produced and headlined in 3 of his own comedy tours, "1001 Laughs Comedy Tour," "We're Not White!" and "In 1948."
He founded and produced the first-ever "1001 Laughs Ramallah Comedy Festival," a production in Palestine that featured 10 comedians and 7 shows in August 2015. The festival entertained over 2,000 locals and was funded by the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, a branch of the United States Department of State. Amer, as the producer of the festival, received great acclaim and much media attention from the following outlets: CNN, CNN Arabic, BBC Arabic, Haaretz, Al-Hurra, Palestine Today, Wattan TV, MAAN Network, 972 Mag, Palestine News Network, and Sky News.
Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement for the City of Philadelphia - Nina Ahmad Ph.D.
Fri. 6/3 12:30pm-1:30pm - PASSHE Philadelphia Center, 701 Market St., Philadelphia
Nina Ahmad, Ph.D., is the Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement for the City of Philadelphia. She is the co-founder, and previously served as the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, of JNA Capital, Inc., a real estate development and finance company based in Philadelphia. She has been appointed by President Obama to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and used to serve as the Chair of the Mayor's Commission on Asian American Affairs during the Nutter Administration. Nina is also the recent past president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Phila-NOW). Nina is a founding member of the Asian Mosaic Fund giving circle, and also sits on the Diversity Committee of William Penn Charter School. She is one of the founding members of Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, as well. Dr. Ahmad received her Doctoral degree in 1990 from the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania, and trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow with noted collagen expert, Darwin Prockop, M.D., Ph.D. at Thomas Jefferson University. She currently resides in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia with her husband Ahsan Nasratullah and two daughters.