Strike a Spark Conference 2024

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Please join us for the PennWest California Strike a Spark Conference celebrating the research, scholarship, and creative activity of our students.

Student presentations, performances, and exhibitions of creative work from all disciplines are welcome.

Conference Schedule 


9:00 –10:40 am Morning Session 
Creative Works and Posters in Lobby 
Oral and Honors Thesis Presentation Sessions in North Wing 6 & 7 

11:00 am – 12:00 pm Keynote Session in South Wing
Keynote address. Pathways to Sustainable Regional Progress: Forging a Better Future, For All. Dr. Joylette Portlock. Sustainable Pittsburgh
Panel Discussion. Sustainable Development at PennWest California: Insights and Opportunities. Dr. Sarah Meiss, Dr. Azadeh Block, Dr. Candace Riley, Sabrina Hykes-Davis M.F.A. PennWest California

12:00 – 1:00 pm Break 

1:00 – 2:40 pm Afternoon Session 
Creative Works and Posters in Lobby 
Oral and Honors Thesis Presentation Sessions in North Wing 6 & 7

2:30 – 3:30 pm Performance Session in South Wing
Excerpts from She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen, and Big Fish (Book by John August, Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa). PennWest California Theatre Program.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Joylette Portlock

Joylette Portlock PortraitDr. Joylette Portlock is the Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a nonprofit working to empower decision-making that builds a fundamentally equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous region. Sustainable Pittsburgh regularly works with hundreds of partners in the region — including local governments, nonprofits, and the business community — to ensure a thriving region where stakeholders are connected, sustainability knowledge is shared and applied, and all people can succeed. Prior to her role at Sustainable Pittsburgh, Dr. Portlock served as Associate Director of Science and Research at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and as Executive Director of Communitopia, a nonprofit based in Pittsburgh that focuses on climate change communication. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in anthropology from MIT and a Ph.D. in genetics from Stanford University. Her work focuses on building community around sustainability topics, with a particular interest in making important scientific, technical, or complex information accessible and useful. Dr. Portlock has worked on environmental issues at the local, state, and federal level, and also currently serves on the Allegheny County Board of Health. She was an advisor to Project Drawdown, and serves in many other roles in the community, including as an advisory board member of the Black Environmental Collective. In 2022, Dr. Portlock was appointed as a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB) for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. She was also included in the Pittsburgh Business Times’ “Power 100” in 2021 and 2022 and named in City and State’s “Pittsburgh Power 100” in 2022 and 2023. Dr. Portlock has lived and worked in the Pittsburgh region since 2007.

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