Welcoming World-Renowned Speakers

The Ellis School is committed to providing faculty with the leading research on how girls learn, partnering with parents around supporting girls throughout their development,and ensuring that students are exposed to an array of industries and topics that will impact their futures. This year, Ellis hosted a wide variety of distinguished thought leaders to educate students, parents, and faculty across campus about everything from diversity best practices to archeology, game design, and financial management.
ALEX DA CORTE, a featured artist at the 57th Carnegie International, spoke with students about his artistic practice and creative process. A painter, sculptor, and installation artist, Alex discussed how he finds inspiration for his work and also took the time to critique student work.

Six alumnae came back to campus for a  panel discussion with students where they shared about their career  paths and how their time at Ellis shaped their futures. The panelists included author Jamie Beth COHEN Schindler ’93, Professor Dara HALL Mendez Ph.D. ’98, Executive Director Ginnae HARLEY ’88, Professor Susan HIGINBOTHAM Holcombe Ph.D. ’58, Violist Katerina ISTOMIN ’03, and Antiquities Analyst Kate Schüler-WALSH ’08.

AMANDA KING ’07, Founder and Creative  Director of Shooting Without Bullets, spoke at CultureJam 2018: Allies in Action. During her keynote address, she spoke about instances of oppression and domestic terrorism and discussed how students can advocate for change. 

BONNIE GORDON spoke with students in World Languages about her work with the non-profit Bridges to Community, which coordinates  trips for American volunteers to travel to the suburbs of Masaya, Nicaragua. Here, they build houses, schools, latrines, wells, and more for local communities.

BRANDY AVEN is an Associate Professor in Organizational Behavior and Theory at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. Her research investigates social factors that facilitate or undermine individuals’ ability to coordinate. In particular, she focuses on network relations, employing a variety of methods, including content analysis,historical data, and experimental approaches. She visited  Ellis to conduct an activity with students about communication in teams. She then led a discussion about how teams work together and best practices for team organization.

DARREN LLOYD is an Associate Principal at Moss Architects in Lawrenceville. He has been a licensed architect in Pennsylvania since 2007 and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional. Darren visited fourth grade students to discuss environmental efficiency in architecture.

ELAINE FATH, a game designer at Schell Games, visited the grade 6 Creative Computing II class and introduced students to game design. She discussed game mechanics and the importance of play testing and iterative design, before advising students on creating their own games.

ELIZABETH ARKUSH is an archaeologist at University of Pittsburgh whose research focuses on warfare, social identity, ritual, and political dynamics in prehispanic Peru. As part of the grade 3 curriculum centered around how people  learn about the past, Professor Arkush talked to students about how archaeologists use artifacts to learn about history and solve mysteries.

GISELE FETTERMAN visited first grade students to share   a read-aloud story about a girl moving from one country to another, shining a spotlight on the culture of Gisele’s home country of Brazil. Students also celebrated Gisele’s visit through festive music, dance, and mask making.

Actresses HANNAH CRUZ (ELIZA) AND STEPHANIE UMOH (ANGELICA) from the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton visited Ellis to speak with students about their musical backgrounds, careers, and experiences in the wildly popular show. They covered topics such as being women in the theater and how they view Hamilton as a show creating change. 

REVEREND JOHN WELCH delivered a multi-faith observance to kick off Ellis’ first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration and Service before families headed to Kelly Strayhorn Theater to join community partners in a day filled with inspiring performances and family-friendly activities.

Olympian KATIE SMITH visited grade 5 to discuss her career in the WNBA and her current role as head coach of the New York Liberty. Katie shared how her path changed over time and emphasized the importance of chasing your dreams.

Senator KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND visited Ellis for a morning assembly with Lower School students and the Class of 2024 to accompany their studies on suffragettes. Senator Gillibrand spoke about her book, Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, and answered questions about her career, experiences, and background.

LEE AND EARL DINGUS, members of the Seneca and Cherokee Nations respectively, founded Echoes of the Four Directions, a resource for both Native and non-Native people. While at Ellis, they introduced grade 3 students to Eastern Woodland Native American Nations. Through an interpretive program using lecture and story-telling, displays, demonstrations, and visual and performing arts, students learned about Native culture from a historical perspective as well as what it looks like today.

LIZ PARK, Associate Curator of the Carnegie International, spoke to students in grades 5–12 about the 57th Carnegie International, what daily life looks like for an art curator, and what it means to curate. She gave students an insider’s look into who works at museums behind the scenes to make exhibitions possible, how artists are selected for exhibitions, as well as gave students pointers on what to look for when they visit the 57th Carnegie International exhibition.

MICHAEL HAGGERTY works at The Hillman Company and visited Ellis to speak with grade 4 students about the stock market. He gave a brief history of the stock market and shared the story of how Amazon became a publicly traded company.

MICHAEL P. RIORDAN is Managing  Director and co-founder of SRS Capital Advisors. Michael visited to speak with grade 4 students about financial investing and focused on the magic of compound interest.

The Ellis English Department hosted a writers panel for students featuring Yona Harvey, contributor to Marvel’s World of Wakanda anthology and co-writer of Marvel’s Black Panther & The Crew; Mila Sanina, Executive Director of PublicSource; and Siobhan Vivian, bestselling American novelist, editor, and screenwriter. Designed to show students the many different applications and careers involving writing,the panel highlighted the women’s backgrounds, expertise, and experiences in the industry

New York Times bestselling author RACHEL SIMMONS visited The Ellis School to discuss her book Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives. In addition to providing professional development to Ellis faculty and staff, Rachel held a forum for parents about girls’ development. The following day, she spoke at assemblies for both Middle and Upper School students. 

Born with Usher Syndrome Type I, RICH MCGANN is a Deafblind activist in the Pittsburgh area. McGann visited the grade 3 class to discuss how he navigates the world as a deafblind man and answer any questions students had. He also taught students about American Sign Language and discussed different ways they could make a difference in their own communities.

ROBBIE WHELAN, a journalist  for the Wall Street Journal, joined classes in the Upper School to discuss his role as a correspondent in Mexico City. Robbie spoke to students about Mexico’s new president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and debriefed the class on the current state of politics in Mexico.

Diversity educator ROSETTA LEE visited Ellis to speak with families, students, board members, and faculty and staff about equity and inclusion best practices. An Outreach Specialist at Seattle Girls’ School, Rosetta is an expert on a variety of issues: cross-cultural communication, identity development, prejudice reduction, coalition building, gender and sexuality diversity, facilitation skills, bullying in schools, and gender bias in the classroom.

New York Times bestselling author SIOBHAN VIVIAN joined Middle and Upper School English classes to teach creative writing workshops to students. Familiar with her books The List, Stay Sweet, and Not That Kind of Girl, Ellis students were eager to hear the well-known young adult author speak about the characters, plot lines, and places they read about in her books.

Machine learning algorithms are the driving force behind  many of the emerging technologies discussed in the AP Computer Science Principles course. To better understand the advanced theory and math behind these algorithms, STEPHEN LOMBARDI of Facebook Reality Labs led an interactive lesson that allowed students to tinker and enhance code that learned  to identify hand written digits.

Pittsburgh photographer SUE ABRAMSON spoke with advanced art students about her work, including her exhibit “The Only Constant is Change” at the Westmoreland Museum. She shared how her creative practice has been influenced by transitions in her personal life. 

Fashion designer TERENEH IDIA joined grade 5 art students to discuss her career as a designer. She shared clothing and jewelry pieces, and educated girls about the sustainability impact of fast fashion in today’s world. 

At the request of students in the Upper School’s Jewish Student Union, Sheryl Olitzky, Director of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, visited Ellis. Sheryl led a panel with Dr. Tara Hyder, Pittsburgh SOSS chapter president, and local teen chapter leaders about the importance of interfaith engagement and friendship. The following day, Sheryl and Tara spoke with Middle and Upper School students and met with members of the Jewish Student Union.

Ellis alumna and board member TOMAR PIERSON-BROWN ’97 joined the Ellis community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to deliver the opening remarks at Ellis’ first-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Celebration. Tomar is a clinical assistant professor of law and director of the Health Law Clinic at University of Pittsburgh.

The Library Department in partnership with the Ellis Parent Association brought New York Times bestselling author TRACEY BAPTISTE to campus to speak to students. Tracey is the author of Minecraft: The Crash and the series The Jumbies, which includes The Jumbies, Rise of the Jumbies, and The Jumbie God’s Revenge. During her visit, Tracey spoke with Lower and Middle School students about her work, signed books, and participated in classroom workshops.