The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Annual Conference is highly regarded as a vibrant platform to explore and share new ideas. The conference is focused on CUMU member institutions, their community partners, and their work addressing contemporary challenges through dialogue and presentations delivered in a variety of formats that allow for in-depth conversations and actionable next steps.


  • Virtual conference, October 19–22, 2020
  • Washington, DC, October 18–20, 2021
  • San Diego, CA, October 2022

Leading voices. Leading change.

October 19–22, 2020 | Virtual Annual Conference
Three sessions. One price.  | $49 members. $99 non-members.

Thought-provoking and action-oriented events tackling economic inclusion and recovery, systemic and structural racism, and transformation through crisis.



Member pricing

  • $49.00/person

Non-member pricing

  • $99.00/person

Urban universities + economic inclusion and recovery

Bruce Katz, founding director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University

October 19, 1—2:30 p.m. ET

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on small businesses across the globe. In the U.S. alone, millions have shuttered, many will not survive. The pandemic has also dealt significant blows to higher education. Post COVID-19 our main streets and entire economic ecosystems will be in a state of recovery. With only so many resources available, how do we balance the recovery of our institutions while addressing economic inclusion and recovery for all?

Join Bruce Katz for a conversation on the intersection of economic recovery and structural and systemic inequities of Black and Brown communities, entrepreneurs, and businesses. Learn about practices, programs, and policies our urban and metropolitan universities can employ to make lasting, equitable change—on campus and in our communities. Andy Berke, Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, will join Bruce for this critical conversation.

Presenting sponsor

Featured speakers

Bruce Katz is the founding director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The Lab was founded in 2018 to help cities identify and implement innovative strategies to leverage public assets and fund public infrastructure for public benefit, with a focus on supporting inclusive and equitable growth.

Previously he served as inaugural Centennial Scholar at Brookings Institution and as vice president and director of Brooking’s Metropolitan Policy Program for 20 years. He is coauthor of The Metropolitan Revolution and The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism.

The role of urban universities in combating systemic and structural racism

Heather McGhee, distinguished senior fellow and former president, Demos; expert in racial healing

October 20, 1—2:30 p.m. ET

Racism is the common denominator in our most vexing public problems, and its legacy and impact in the United States are deep and profound for everyone. What role can urban and metropolitan universities play in moving the conversation surrounding equity towards concrete strategies that will effect real change in the communities we serve? How do we identify, strategize, and implement the change we all want to see?

In this presentation Heather McGhee breaks down the far-reaching and detrimental effects of racism in both public and private policy, and then lays out a vision for how we can collectively move towards something more equitable and just—something that serves all of us, including those of us carrying the most privilege, better.

Presenting sponsor

Featured speakers

As the former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos, Heather McGhee drafted legislation, testified before Congress, and became a regular contributor on shows like Meet the Press and Real Time with Bill Maher. She also led Demos’ own racial equity organizational transformation, resulting in a doubling of the organization’s racial diversity and growth across all measures of organizational impact. McGhee’s riveting talks communicate this with passion and seriousness, “challenging the paradigm of racial competition in this country.” Racism doesn’t just hurt us on a personal level. It divides and alienates companies and their employees, employees and their clients, clients and brands. The trickledown, explains McGhee, is far-reaching. In her upcoming book The Sum Of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together (February, 2021), McGhee will explore the self-destructive bargain of racism, and the rising cost to all of us.

The 2030 keynote: Leading through crisis

Transformational voices

October 22, 3—4:30 p.m. ET

What will the state of higher education be in 2030? CUMU invited transformational leaders to imagine higher education ten years from now and share perspectives on how to push the conversation forward.

Presenting sponsor

Featured speakers

Radical empathy and inclusive leadership

As campus leaders look to a post-COVID future, a more student-centered approach to leadership and learning will be required. Faculty and leadership development that goes beyond online learning will be a key component to creating a campus that is innovative and responsive to student needs. Terri Givens will discuss the importance of inclusive leadership and faculty development as campuses focus on diversity and the innovations that will help their students to succeed into the next decade.

Terri Givens is the CEO and founder of The Center for Higher Education Leadership, now known as Brighter Higher Ed. She is a political scientist who has written on the politics of immigration, the radical right in Europe and anti discrimination policy. Her most recent book, Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides, will be published in February of next year. She is a strong advocate for a student-centered approach to innovation in higher education. More info is available on her website

Crisis and Opportunity: Urban Universities and the Cities They Call Home

Millions of students are drawn to an urban setting for their college education, but what happens when a city is forever changed by disaster? President Michael Fitts from Tulane University argues that the fates of cities and schools are inextricably intertwined, and times of crisis present a unique opportunity for schools to help cities rebuild—and thrive.”

Michael Fitts is the 15th president of Tulane University. He arrived at Tulane in July 2014, bringing with him a strong emphasis on heightening cross-disciplinary education and research. President Fitts believes students and higher education institutions can set themselves apart in a fast-changing world and ever-shifting economy through the combining of different fields and skills. In his first year at Tulane, he launched task forces to lead the university in deepening its unique strengths for interdisciplinary collaboration. He sees powerful advantages in the university’s manageable size, its wide selection of professional schools, the unified undergraduate college and multiple cross-disciplinary projects already in place. He aims to create the most engaged undergraduate experience in the country through this rethinking of academic options, residential living, extracurricular activities and more. In graduate education and research, he will foster intellectual cross-pollination that can produce solutions to some of the world’s most fundamental problems.

After Surviving Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University Is A Model for Recovering from Campus Closure

K-12 transformations and sustainable higher education partnerships

What transformations are happening in K-12 today? What will successful and sustainable higher education partnerships look like in the future? How can we work to address critical issues such as poverty, access, affordability, and equity?

Dr. Michael Hinojosa has served for over 25 years as a superintendent/CEO of six public education systems, including two of the 25 largest school systems in America, Dallas ISD in Texas and the Cobb County School District in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. His career in public education, from teacher and coach
to superintendent/CEO, spans more than four decades.

Thank you to our sponsors.

annie casey foundation