Keynote Address

Jennifer Smith, Secretary 

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

This keynote session will focus on the data challenges related to the Opioid Crisis. Proclaimed a disaster emergency in early 2018 by Governor Wolf, relevant data on the opioid issue is key to developing effective programs and policy, however several challenges effect the Commonwealth's ability to use data in such a way. First, even the most basic data - deaths related to opioid overdose -has several limitations as there are several originators of such data which all report different numbers and there data is not very timely as it takes time to gather and manage. Another challenge has been the lack of coordination among state agencies, police, fire, and emergency organizations; and other stakeholders in the effort to stem the epidemic. Alternate indicators of success as well as current efforts to coordinate data collection will be discussed.

Plenary Address

Jennifer C. Gibbs, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice 

Tara Reis, Senior in Criminal Justice Penn State Harrisburg

What to do about citizens' gun ownership is a divisive topic, so much so that the debate blocks legislators from passing "sensible" firearm policies. Given the sharp increase in the number of mass shootings - especially in school settings - across the United States, understanding why people hold a position on gun control is important to study. Even more so, research on the public understanding why others take positions counter to their own may offer insight to overcoming the debate on how to address gun violence. The presenters used questions from the Penn State Poll conducted by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg to explore these topics. Around 600 adult residents of Pennsylvania were surveyed via telephone in Spring 2016 on their positions toward gun control, reasons for their position, and why they think others hold opposing positions. A summary of the findings will be presented, with a particular focus on differences in opinion among social groups. Implications for policy will be discussed.

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Employment Outcomes for Individuals with Autism in PA 

Paul Turcotte, Research Associate Drexel University & Bureau of Autism Services

This presentation will focus on tracking employment outcomes for individuals with autism, who are currently receiving services through two Medicaid funded programs in the Bureau of Autism Services, the Adult Community Autism Program and the Adult Autism Waiver. Employment is a crucial part of an individual’s daily living, and Pennsylvania has prioritized employment for individuals with disabilities. These data are collected through monthly employment monitoring questions, which are filled out by a supports coordinator for each individual. Data collection started in November of 2016 is currently underway. This presentation will present longitudinal findings of employment outcomes, utilizing data visualization with tableau to give new insights into what the employment experience is like for this population. ​

Advancing Population and Personalized Healthcare through Big Data and Machine Learning 

Conrad Tucker, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Engineering Design and Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Penn State University

The prevalence of mobile devices and the rapid growth in the use of big data networks to communicate and share information, is providing health care decision makers with new opportunities to acquire large scale data that can potentially improve healthcare delivery through a better understanding of patient behavior and needs. This research proposes methodologies aimed at understanding social media network interactions and patterns. Textual, image, and geospatial data, generated through social media networks, can be used to quantify the health of a population by mining health-related keywords, and correlating them with real world healthcare outcomes. The goal of the proposed research is to advance the early diagnosis and monitor the progression/treatment response of patients’ medical abnormalities by using big data acquired from non-wearable sensors.

From a personalized health thrust, the research seeks to capture patients’ biometric data using non-invasive methods such as video capture. The research is based on advancements in sensing and information technologies that make it possible to capture biometric data such as heartrate and respiration rates, using data capturing devices such as a smart phone or video camera. This work expands the potential reach of sensor technologies capable of capturing patients’ biometric data using non-invasive methods. The research provides a scalable platform for integrating those technologies into healthcare in an effort to provide customized patient diagnosis and treatment solutions.

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A Spatial Analysis of Demographic and Economic Characteristics: Penn State Scranton Area          

Jaclyn Butler, Research Analyst Penn State University

This session discusses a paper about a methodological case study that examines the characteristics of the communities surrounding the Penn State Scranton campus through Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) and spatial regression. Do the economic and demographic profiles of these communities vary by their geographic proximity to the Scranton campus? What variables are associated with median household income in the Scranton area? The data for this paper were sourced from the Census and American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates. ArcGIS was then used to map these data, and GeoDa and GeoDa Space were used to conduct statistical analysis on the variables of interest. This paper will examine the following economic and demographic characteristics: median household income, percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher, median housing costs, and percent renter occupied.

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Pennsylvania Opioid Crisis: Data and Strategies to Combat It 

Phillip Burrell, Director of Research and Data Analytics Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

This session will examine trends in overdose deaths over the last 3 years (2014-2016) using interactive tools, presenting at a county level the numbers of overdose deaths and the most frequently reported drug or opioid. In addition, the presenter will review the programs and activity around the state to combat this crisis.

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Leveraging Census Data for MPO Equity Analyses 

Shoshana Akins, Public Participation Planner 

Kim Korejko, Manager of Data Coordination 

Ben Gruswitz, Senior Planner Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Executive Order on Environmental Justice ( #12898 ) task agencies that receive federal funding to evaluate environmental justice (EJ) and equity issues but do not provide specific guidance on how to complete this important task within a region's transportation planning process. Therefore, MPOs must devise their own methods for ensuring that EJ and equity issues are investigated and evaluated in transportation decision-making. In 2001, DVRPC developed an EJ technical assessment to identify direct and disparate impacts of its plans, programs, and planning process on defined population groups in the Delaware Valley region. This assessment, the Indicators of Potential Disadvantage (IPD), formerly called the Degrees of Disadvantage (DoD) Methodology, is used in a variety of DVRPC plans and programs. This presentation will cover:

- What ACS and CTPP datasets we use to identify communities of concern - Statistical methods to highlight these communities throughout the region - How we use margins of error and coefficients of variation to gauge data reliability - Plans for applying our new EJ indicators at DVRPC in our various transportation programs

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Census Products and Tools/2020 Census Update 

Noemi Mendez, Data Dissemination Specialist

Lynne Newman, Partnership Specialist U.S. Census Bureau

What’s new for the 2020 Census – did you know you will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail? This presentation will provide information about how Census data is used, how local governments can work with the Census Bureau, and how you can form or join a complete count committee.

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Transitioning to a Modern Data Platform          

Michael Ghen, Data Science Program Manager Benefits Data Trust

This presentation give the audience an inside look at Benefits Data Trust's transition away from SAS towards a modern data platform. When we say "data platform" we refer to a collection of technologies and process that aim to satisfy our organization’s data needs. Michael Ghen will present the Data Science team's progress toward developing a data platform using modern technologies like BigQuery, Apache Airflow, and Looker. The focus of this presentation is on the infrastructure and operations that encompass BDTs data platform. Within the context of infrastructure and operations, Michael will highlight organizational challenges and benefits encountered during the transition to these new technologies. Attendees will leave with an understanding of what data platforms are as well as some recommendations for transitioning to a modern data platform.

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Census Rural Geography 

Michael Ratcliffe U.S. Census Bureau

“Rural” often is a residual category in urban-rural classifications; that is, rural is what remains after individual urban areas have been defined. There is growing interest, however, in proactively defining “rural,” including various kinds of rural areas and populations, and at various geographic scales, to enhance the relevance and quality of statistical data for rural areas. Through this presentation, I hope to encourage thought and discussion about new approaches to defining rural areas and rural populations to meet the needs of analysts and policy makers.

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Census of Agriculture: Then and Now 

Gina Geffrard, Megan Lipke, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers are only a few examples. NASS is committed to providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture. To uphold our continuing commitment, NASS will Conduct the Census of Agriculture every five years, providing the only source of consistent, comparable, and detailed agricultural data for every county in America. Presenters will give brief presentations of the methodology used, data collection strategies, challenges, and updates on the 2017 Census of Agriculture.  Time will be allotted at the end of the session for questions and open discussion.

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Proposal for Better Aligning Block Groups and TAZs 

Ben Gruswitz, Senior Planner 

Kim Korejko, Manager of Data Coordination

The Census Transportation Planning Products (CTPP) Program Oversight Board recently changed its policy of reporting data by Transportation Analysis Zones (TAZ) [see policy statement]. The Board is recommending transportation planners get involved with the 2020 Census Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP) in order to better align travel model geographies with census block groups which will be the smallest geography reported in the CTPP going forward. We will explain the rationale for the Board’s decision and ideas for collaborating with traditional PSAP participants to achieve delineation outcomes that meet various parties’ goals.

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Speaker Biographies

Jennifer Smith

Acting Secretary
Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs


Ms. Smith began her career as an accountant in Pennsylvania’s Office of the Budget shortly after college graduation in 2004. Through 2009, she served in a variety of accountant positions in the Office of the Budget, eventually taking the role of Project Manager. Ms. Smith became the Director for Strategic Planning and Communications within the Office of the Budget in 2009. Three years later, she was promoted to the Bureau Director for Planning and Management. In November of 2015, Ms. Smith accepted the position of Deputy Secretary for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Ms. Smith currently serves as Acting Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.



Jennifer Gibbs, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice

Penn State Harrisburg


Jennifer C. Gibbs joined the faculty at Penn State Harrisburg in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Public Affairs. After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Keuka College and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Niagara University, Dr. Gibbs earned her Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she completed her dissertation focusing on the influence of police and state legitimacy on terrorist attacks targeting police in 82 countries – research that won the Homicide Research Working Group 2012 Richard Block Outstanding Dissertation Award.


Dr. Gibbs’ research interests include policing, terrorism, violence and victimization and the scholarship of teaching and learning, and her research has been published in journals such as Crime, Law and Social Change; Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management; Police Practice and Research: An International Journal; Violence Against Women; and Journal of Active Learning in Higher Education. Notably, her research, “Race and attitudes toward police: the mediating effect of social distance”, published in Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management was selected as a highly commended paper in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. Dr. Gibbs is a member of the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.



Tara Reis

Senior in Criminal Justice
Penn State Harrisburg


Tara Reis is a student in her senior year at Penn State Harrisburg. Ms. Reis is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice through the School of Public Affairs. She is currently President of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society.


Paul Turcotte
Research Associate
Drexel University & Bureau of Autism Services

Paul Turcotte is the Data Director for the ASERT Collaborative Eastern Region at the AJ Drexel Autism Institute. Paul has experience in examining healthcare use, primarily in Medicaid claims data, and has done other program evaluation in conjunction with the PA Department of Human Services. Paul has a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Drexel University.



Conrad Tucker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Engineering and Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
Affiliate Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering
Penn State University


Dr. Conrad Tucker holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor in Engineering Design and Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. He is also affiliate faculty in Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Tucker is the director of the Design Analysis Technology Advancement (D.A.T.A) Laboratory. His research focuses on the design and optimization of systems through the acquisition, integration and mining of large scale, disparate data.


Dr. Tucker has served as PI/Co-PI on several federally funded grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). He is currently serving as PI and Site Director of the NSF Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center at Penn State. He received his Ph.D., M.S. (Industrial Engineering), and MBA degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Dr. Tucker is part of the inaugural class of the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Jaclyn Butler
Research Analyst
Penn State University

Jaclyn L. W. Butler is currently a Research Analyst in the Office of Planning and Assessment at Penn State. Jaclyn is responsible for analyzing University data, as well as helping develop institutional dashboards and supporting strategic planning. Her interests include demography, history, and sociology. She enjoys learning about the impact of historical settlement patterns on contemporary demographic trends and the role of higher education in research innovation and economic development at local, state, and national levels. She also enjoys learning new tools in data management, analysis, and visualization.

Jaclyn has a B. A. in Sociology from Georgetown University with minors in History and French and a M.Ed. in Higher Education from Harvard University. In Fall 2018 she will be transitioning to a dual-title PhD program at Penn State in Rural Sociology and Demography. She will be working on a USDA-sponsored research project that examines how longitudinal demographic and economic trends have impacted the economic restructuring of rural labor markets and income inequality in rural areas


Shoshana Akins
Public Participation Planner
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Shoshana Akins holds a Master’s degree in Public Health. Her work centers around equity, environmental justice, civil rights, public participation, and community engagement strategies in DVRPC’s regional planning projects with a focus on systems thinking, policy, and vulnerable populations. She is the manager of DVRPC's Public Participation Task Force and has led many of the agency's equity initiatives, including the update to Indicators of Potential Disadvantage (IPD) and the design and implementation of Equity Through Access (ETA) project. She currently lives in Philadelphia and plans on being a lifelong resident.

Kim Korejko
Manager of Data Coordination
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Kim Korejko is responsible for establishing and implementing planning data policies, standards, organization, and innovation of data at the enterprise level. Her work also involves researching and improving the way DVRPC discovers and shares planning data between departments, member agencies, and the public. Prior to this role, Kim worked in DVRPC’s GIS department, where she contributed to numerous plans and studies, including Equity Through Access, DVRPC’s Long-Range Plans, and the Greater Philadelphia Food System Plan and Study. Kimberly’s work in the Greater Philadelphia Food System Plan was featured in Volume 26 of the Esri Map Book. Kim graduated summa cum laude from Rowan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and a specialization in GIS.


Ben Gruswitz
Senior Planner
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

A former travel demand modeler at the agency, Ben Gruswitz now forecasts population and employment, develops regional indicators, and performs various analyses on travel patterns and demographics, in support of DVRPC’s long-range plan. Ben is a member of the Oversight Board for the Census Transportation Planning Products (CTPP) Program. He began his career at Montgomery County Planning Department in Maryland and has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.


Mike Johnson
Graduate Student of Applied Demography
Penn State University

Mike Johnson is a first-year graduate student in the Applied Demography Masters program at Penn State University. He is also the Data Director at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions that represent 800,000 workers across the Commonwealth. His professional and academic interests revolve around political demography, redistricting, workforce statistics, and public policy. Mike lives in Harrisburg with his wife Kate, his son Alex, and their two dogs, Casio and Duffy.


Michael Ghen
Data Science Program Manager
Benefits Data Trust

Michael Ghen is a Pennsylvania State University Computer Engineer (BS ’14) working on data science projects in the healthcare space. Prior to joining Benefits Data Trust’s Data Science team, Michael worked as a platform engineer for a healthcare logistics startup and consultant with pharmaceutical and health insurance startups. He earned his Master of Science in Strategic Analytics from Brandeis University and has been an avid computer programmer since 2005.