Sunanna Chand

Sunanna moved to Pittsburgh in June to work with The Remake Learning Network, 250 organizations working to create innovative learning experiences for the region’s students. As Learning Innovation Strategist for the Remake Learning Council, Sunanna gets to interact with “interesting, creative people in the education space and beyond. A huge fan of her new hometown, Sunanna says,  “I love how surprised my friends are when they come visit. Pittsburgh doesn’t get enough credit.”

Monday, February 22

Monday will start early, either with a tea made at home or (if I really need a jolt) a coffee from Espresso a Mano, a quick walk from my apartment. I came to Pittsburgh after two years in Nashville, and it was a great decision to move to Lawrenceville. I can’t believe all the new restaurants popping up every day, not just in my neighborhood but also in nearby places like Garfield, Bloomfield and the Strip District.

TechShop Pittsburgh. Photo by Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund.
TechShop Pittsburgh. Photo by Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund.

I’ll spend the morning planning for Remake Learning Days, coming up May 9-15. It’s a weeklong celebration of learning innovation, with 100+ events happening throughout the region. Then I’ll head to TechShop for a meeting with their education and community team. TechShop Pittsburgh is a huge part of the maker movement in this region. Check out their summer program, 412 Build, to learn more about how TechShop contributes to creative education in Pittsburgh.

Then I’ll head to The Sprout Fund, where a group from San Diego will be in town. We just recently released the Remake Learning Playbook, so we are getting a lot of visitors from other cities who are interested in what’s going on here.

At day’s end I’ll be in Oakland for happy hour with a couple of buddies: Dave Sanchez from the  Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and Daragh Byrne from Carnegie Mellon’s IDEATE program.

If Monday’s any indication, I wasn’t kidding—I get to meet, talk to and learn from some brilliant and interesting people because of my job, and I couldn’t love it more.

Tuesday, February 23

I’ll be listening to WESA as I drive to their studio for a meeting with my Leadership Development Initiative Steering Committee (part of Leadership Pittsburgh). We’re planning a community event in Wilkinsburg on May 21st.

Wilkinsburg Library
Tim Murdoch, Martha King & Josiah Gilliam. Leadership Development Initiative XXIII classmates outside of the Wilkinsburg Borough Building.

I’ll then head to the Energy Innovation Center for a meeting on credentialing and badging. Our key question is: How do we recognize the skills and knowledge that kids learn outside of school and outside of a standardized test?  These are the kinds of big questions a coalition of organizations like Remake Learning can tackle—questions that no one organization could answer on its own. Anne Sekula, the Director of the Remake Learning Council, leads this group; it’s a privilege to work with her.

Later on, I’ll meet with The Education Partnership. They do phenomenal work to ensure that school supplies are in the hands of teachers in underserved communities. When I was a teacher I spent hundreds of dollars a year on supplies for my students, so there’s a special place in my heart for an organization like this.

After work it’s my two stress relievers: cooking (often with my wonderful partner Ryan Rydzewski who works at The Pittsburgh Foundation) and yoga (at Amazing Yoga on Butler Street).

Wednesday, February 24

Today starts early, too, with a community stakeholder breakfast at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA. They are taking their Y-Creator Space to a new level soon and launching the Creative Youth Center with a huge maker classroom. Shout out to the fabulous work of the Lighthouse Program—Phase I of construction will allow the project to move to the YMCA, giving them more space and the ability to reach more students with their incredible programming in digital arts, visual arts and more.

I rush from there to the Carnegie Science Center, where the Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem is hosting a design session to determine cross-organizational goals for STEM education. Then I’ll help lead a session on the possibility of transforming some Citiparks locations into recreation centers (Rec2Tech, part of the City’s Inclusive Innovation Roadmap), with incredible people like Ani Martinez from The Sprout Fund, LaTrenda Leonard from the Mayor’s Office, and Mary Esther Van Shura from the County Executive’s office.

After that I’ll head to the Carnegie Library in the Hill District to visit a coding program for teens sponsored by the URA (organizers of Steel City Codefest Jr.) and the City of Pittsburgh as part of their My Brother’s Keeper initiative (#MBKPittsburgh).

Then I’ll head downtown for a quick run at Gold’s Gym.

Thursday, February 25


My day starts at a Remake Learning “Maker Meetup” at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Fab Lab. There’s still time to register for it—it’s a great opportunity to meet lots of folks involved in the intersection of making and learning.

Next I’ll head to ASSET STEM Education. Did you know that only 12% of professional engineers are women? February 25th is “Girls Day,” a day to show girls how creative, collaborative and fun engineering is. I’m excited to celebrate at a brown bag lunch with a group of phenomenal women to talk about how to ensure that girls feel more empowered in STEAM and maker educational programming, This group represents organizations like the Environmental Charter School, the Children’s Museum, Duquesne University, the YWCA, Woodland Hills School District, and Assemble.

Later on, I’ll head to the U.S. Steel Tower for a Leadership Development Initiative session. I couldn’t recommend the program enough. If you’d like to apply to next year’s cohort, you can do so here.

After our session we usually grab a drink somewhere. Last time it was NOLA on the Square . I’m not sure where we’ll head this time, but I know I’ll be there!

Friday, February 26

First thing on the agenda is a meeting at the Grable Foundation with Executive Director Gregg Behr  and Mary Murrin of Chevron, who co-chair the Remake Learning Council.

Later I’ll head to Oakland for a brown bag lunch at Pitt’s  University Center for Social and Urban Research, and while I’m in the neighborhood I’ll stop by Hair Friends for a haircut with Bess.

Sunanna and Ryan in Erie
Sunanna and Ryan in Erie

Then I’ll head to the Sprout Fund offices to meet with Cricket Fuller, the new Project Director for Education Innovation Clusters at Digital Promise. Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning Network is connected to other cities throughout the country that have developed “education innovation clusters,” and Digital Promise is a fantastic national partner who helps bring that wider perspective.

Friday night will consist of rest and relaxation, and perhaps quick stops at neighborhood spots like Round Corner Cantina and Spirit.

Saturday, February 27

Saturday will consist of my usual morning trip to the Strip District with a mandatory stop at La Prima. Then I head to Penn Mac for groceries, and usually walk to Labad’s if they’re grilling steak kebobs outside.

Then we’ll drive to Erie, where Ryan’s family is from. We’ll spend the evening with his parents, Randy and Trudy, and his aunt Jo at Serafini’s, a home-style Italian restaurant that’s been in Erie since 1938.

Sunday, February 28

Sunday will hopefully consist of sleeping in and grabbing a sub from Teresa’s Italian Deli. Before heading back from Erie we’ll definitely stop at Romolo Chocolates for chocolate-covered pretzels and sponge candy! Back in Pittsburgh, we’ll go to our friend’s house in Point Breeze for an Oscar party. Then it’s time for another busy, thought-provoking, exciting week.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.