Next Century Cities has been selected to host a policy forum panel at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas in March 2018.

The panel, “Collaboration as a Path to Digital Equity,” will discuss how Charlotte, N.C., Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, and the non-profit Eliminate the Digital Divide all partnered to address the city’s “homework gap.” Panelists will talk about how the project came into being, the ways the community was mobilized, and how the schools collaborated to focus on shared digital equity solutions. The panel hopes to provide concrete action steps for others who are looking to pursue similar projects in their own communities.

Next Century Cities is thrilled to be highlighting Charlotte’s work in Austin next year. Look for updates about our panel on the SXSW EDU site, here.


The panel will be moderated by Next Century Cities’ Executive Director Deb Socia. Panelists will include:


Mayor Jennifer Roberts, City of Charlotte

Jennifer Roberts was raised in Charlotte and now she and her husband, Manley, are raising their two children here as well. Roberts attended UNC-Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship and has Masters degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the University of Toronto.

She has worked as a diplomat for the State Department, as an international business woman, and as a high school math teacher. She served four terms as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner, including five years as Chairman. She is only the second woman elected Mayor of Charlotte, and is the first person to serve as both Chairman of the County Commission and as Mayor.

Roberts is a proud recipient of the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Award. She was instrumental in creating a public/private partnership to build a new shelter for survivors of domestic violence and recently spearheaded the creation of Charlotte Next, an organization dedicated to improving after school programs for middle school students.


Pat Millen, Founder and President of Eliminate the Digital Divide (E2D)

Pat Millen spent 25 years in sports management, and is the founder of, President/CEO at Integrity Sports Marketing/FC Nutmeg, Inc., and started E2D in 2012. He has years of experience with public speaking, and since starting E2D has participated on panels and given keynotes on the topic of digital equity. Learn more about E2D in this video.


Valerie Truesdale, Chief Officer of Technology, Personalized Learning, and Engagement at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Dr. Valerie Truesdale joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2012, charged with transforming learning and schools using technology integration to spur innovation and prepare students for twenty-first century careers.

“Technology is transforming the way we learn, live and work. Schools need to teach digital learners in the way they learn best,” Dr. Truesdale believes. “We expect students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to graduate with strong foundational skills in academics as well as technology integration, prepared for college and careers. Our responsibility is to provide aligned, twenty-first century learning environments that stretch students to their highest possible level of achievement, engaging our community in this important goal.”

Dr. Truesdale, a native of Columbia, spent most of her career in public schools in South Carolina. In addition to serving over nine years as a superintendent in Beaufort County and Oconee County, she served as a chief instructional services officer in Lexington/Richland Counties. She previously led the policy division of the South Carolina State Department of Education, supervising student assessment, educator licensure, technology services and policy.

Dr. Truesdale is a former high school principal and teacher at high school and college levels. She worked in retail management before her education career. Dr. Truesdale holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Clemson University, an M.B.A. in Marketing from Georgia State University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Truesdale’s contributions to education have been recognized nationally and regionally.