Conference Speakers

Larry M. Bartels is University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Law and May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His scholarship and teaching focus on public opinion, electoral politics, public policy, and political representation. His books include Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (with Christopher Achen) and Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. His next book, to be published in spring 2023, is Democracy Erodes from the Top: Leaders, Citizens, and the Challenge of Populism in Europe. He has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other prominent outlets. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the American Philosophical Society.

Benjamin is a former Detroit resident and a new Tennessee transplant. He is a recent graduate of StreetSolid and the Middle Tennessee RISE program. He works two jobs - -as a tattoo artist at Mulvey Tattoo Shop and as a shift supervisor in Smyrna. He currently lives and works in Murfreesboro, with his wife and four children.

Born in Cuba, María Magdalena Campos-Pons grew up on a sugar plantation in a family with Nigerian, Hispanic and Chinese roots. Her polyglot heritage profoundly influences Campos-Pons’ artistic practice, which combines diverse media including photography, performance, painting, sculpture, film, and video. Campos-Pons taught at the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and gained an international reputation as an exponent of the New Cuban Art movement that arose in opposition to Communist repression on the island. In 1991, she emigrated to Boston, where she continues to live and work. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada. She has presented over 30 solo performances commissioned by institutions including the Guggenheim and The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Dr. Clark, an applied cultural anthropologist, has conducted ethnographic fieldwork for over 20 years with low-income urban and rural African American, Latino, and White families across the United States. Clark’s research specialty surrounds housing instability among poor families and examines the intersections of housing policy with health and welfare policies, marriage initiatives, migration, and the effects of residential mobility on the well-being of poor children and families. Her research is guided via the lens of the built environment in which spaces where the poor live, work, shop, entertain and relax are seen as socially produced, constructed, contested, and embodied. In 2021, Clark co-authored a book, Poverty Law and Advocacy in America.

Dr. Doyle, the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer at Aon and founder of its healthcare industry practice, is a Senior Lecturer at Vanderbilt University. In addition to DEIB, her areas of expertise are risk-financing and analytics-driven strategy. She is and/or has served on over a dozen corporate, nonprofit, and/or advisory boards.

Dr. Ghosh served as chairman for the Department of Economics and Finance at Tennessee State University from 2007 to 2015. Through his initiative, Ghosh expanded the academic program extensively: MBA concentration in finance; BBA concentration in economics, finance, and international business. Prior to this, he served TSU as the Director of its Office of Business and Economic Research (OBER) from Fall 2001 to Summer 2007. Ghosh’s primary focus of research is urban economics, environmental economics, water resources, renewable energy development, health economics, and economic development. His current research focus is in the area of economics of cooperation.

Lily Gonzalez is the Program Coordinator for Project Rebound at CSUN, a CSU support program for formerly incarcerated students. She is a co-founder of Revolutionary Scholars, a student organization grounded in prison abolition and supporting formerly incarcerated and system impacted students. Lily has been awarded the Just Leadership USA, 2017 Leading with Conviction Fellowship, Rockwood Leadership Institute’s 2018 Returning Citizens Fellowship, and the CSUN 2018 Newman Civic Fellowship.

Professor Maria Grahn-Farley is a child rights activist and scholar. Her research addresses children’s equal rights from the vantage point of race and gender. She is project coordinator of an EU Horizon Consortium examining the effects on individual’s rights protection when States use Human Rights to justify and legitimize its actions and decisions. She teaches at Leeds Law School, UK. Her first law degree is from Gothenburg University in Sweden. She earned her LL.M. and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

Hallett is a human capital professional with more than 25 years of broad ranging experience in Human Resources. Hallett is currently vice president, People eXperience and Technology (PXT) at Amazon, where she leads the PXT teams for WW Consumer Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Global Delivery Services, Global Specialty Fulfillment and Physical Stores. She supports initiatives for enhancing educational opportunities for at risk youth, the arts, and cancer research.

Ron Johnson has been working with under-served youth and adults for over 20 years. He has been the director of youth programming at the Oasis Center in Nashville, an adult case manager for Welcome Home Ministries, a network of halfway houses for recovering addicts and former inmates and has held several other posts at community centers throughout the city. He is currently serving as Nashville's Community Safety Coordinator. In addition, he is a co-founder of StreetSolid Industries where he is one of the lead intervention specialists with under-resourced youth and oversees community relations.

Miguel Lugo came to Homeboy Industries in 2014 after serving an 18-year sentence in the California prison system. Miguel quickly connected to the Homeboy community and successfully completed their 18-month training program. During his years at Homeboy, Miguel has also worked on various issues affecting the Homeboy community and those still incarcerated, including Ban the Box, Proposition 47 and banning the use of pepper spray in youth facilities. In 2017, he was released from parole and discharged his California Department of Corrections number. Many of the men and women who walk through Homeboy’s doors come to look on Miguel as a mentor.

Tay McGee is a community leader with years of success and hands on experience. Strong commitment to serving youth and marginalized groups. He is killed at building relationships and community support and is accomplished in working in collaborative and results-driven environments. A graduate of Austin Peay State University, and co-founder of StreetSolid Industries, Tay has natural and proven leadership and interpersonal skills. He is a co-author and is a lead facilitator in StreetSolid's youth and adult programing.

Dr. Vincent Morelli is a family physician and professor at Meharry Medical College. He has published over 40 peer reviewed articles on topics ranging from environmental justice to juvenile recidivism and resilience, to medical care in under-served communities, to adolescent health screening in the age of big data. He has served as designer and lead editor for 13 books. His latest book, entitled, Social Determinants of Health: The Role of the Primary Care Provider has been accepted for publication in December 2023. He is a co-founder of StreetSolid Industries (along with Tay McGee and Ron Johnson) and has been working with under-resourced youth and adults for over ten years. He is the lead author of StreetSolid's social-emotional-cognitive curriculum, and has written and produced plays and documentary films.

Academy Award-winning writer, director, and producer Bobby Moresco started out as an actor in New York City, where he was raised in Hell’s Kitchen, three blocks and a world away from Broadway. His writing credits / creator and executive producer credits include Falcone (nominated for two Emmy Awards), Crash which he co-wrote and produced -- and which won an Academy Award for both best original screenplay and best picture. His other features credits include, Million Dollar Baby (2005 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture), which he co-produced and developed, 10th & Wolf, and several others. Moresco has just finished writing and directing, Lamborghini, The Legend, starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin. Moresco’s stage work includes writing and directing over 30 plays on, off and off-off Broadway.

Dr. Nabaweesi is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Endowed Chair and Associate Professor for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Her research focuses on understanding the etiology of racial disparities across disease spectrums including injury morbidity and mortality. She uses community engagement, implementation research and equitable evaluation tools to understand the complex health outcomes in minoritized populations. She is the Co-chair of the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research Science and Research Committee and is a RWJF Culture of Health Leaders fellow. She trained at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Makerere University Medical School.

A noted AI policy analyst and researcher, Nkonde writes widely and speaks at conferences worldwide about race and technology. She is currently an affiliate at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford and was a former fellow at the Berkman Klein Center of Internet and Society at Harvard. She was part of the team that introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act into the House of Representatives, and has testified to the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support the Act. In 2022 she was named a Global Leader of Digital Human Rights by the Ouano Foundation, alongside Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Safiya Noble.

With 15 years of experience in the academic sector working at various Hispanic-serving institutions and underserved communities, Edgar encourages Oracle executives and University administrators to build out and increase scholarships, curriculum development, and student engagement opportunities in STEM.

Prior to joining AB in 2022, Plummer was vice president of Equity, Inclusion & Community at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC), a not-for-profit, public-private start-up incubator. At the NEC, Plummer grew the LGBTQ+, Black, woman and Latino entrepreneur community by more than 400%. She also co-founded Twende, a pre-accelerator for Black and Latino start-ups, and later led the campaign that made the program the state of Tennessee's official minority-owned business acceleration program. Plummer is a board member for the Art & Business Council and is founder and owner of Dissocialite Design Co.

Dr. Anya Schiffrin writes on journalism and development, as well as the media in Africa and the extractive sector.  She is the co-editor, with George Lugalambi, of African Muckraking: 75 years of Investigative Journalism from Africa. Her most recent book is Media Capture: How Money, Digital Platforms and Governments Control the News.

Molly Secours is an author/filmmaker/speaker/voice artist who has used her voice to effect social change and public policy for two decades. She has written on local and national platforms including the Nashville Scene, The Tennessean and the Huffington Post. In her recent book, White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting on Whiteness.  ​Her latest film, Scouting For Diamonds: The Invisible Heroes Of Baseball, is a feature documentary which explores the never before told love story between scouts and baseball. The film features Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Willie Mays and George Brett along with narrator and co-producers Bill Murray and brother, Brian Doyle Murray.

Daniel Sharfstein teaches courses on property, federal Indian law, and American legal history. A scholar of race, Reconstruction, and citizenship in the US, he is the author of two books: The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for narrative nonfiction, and Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War.  He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fletcher Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Leo Smith designed and implemented Chicago CRED’s educational programs when he first joined CRED in October of 2016. In 2018, he led CRED’s employment, training, and job placement efforts for two plus years. Prior to joining Chicago CRED, Smith taught reading, history, and civics in high schools and a middle school for ten years. He brings a wealth of practical knowledge to his work as a former a lawyer, children’s advocate, businessperson, and chief financial officer with Start Early.

Dr. Snyder-Mackler completed his bachelor's and PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and his postdoc at Duke University. His research sits at the nexus of the social environment and the genome. His lab uses molecular genetic techniques to probe the dynamic interaction between the environment and the genome with the aim of understanding how environmental experiences "get under the skin" to affect health, reproduction, and survival.

Dr. Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001. He is the co-chair of the OECD’s High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, and Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute. He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and a former chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. In 2000, Stiglitz founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. Time magazine named Stiglitz one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Known for his pioneering work on asymmetric information, Stiglitz’s work focuses on income distribution, risk, corporate governance, public policy, macroeconomics and globalization. He is the author, most recently, of People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

After graduating with a B.S. in Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship, Threalkill taught community art classes and worked as an instructor for the Metro Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation, as well as at the Centennial Art Center. In addition, Threalkill collaborated with artist Michael McBride and Metro Nashville school teachers to develop the groundbreaking children's book series, Visions: African American Experiences. The book was later featured on the television program Sesame Street. Threalkill's artwork has also been featured in international films and television series, including Snow Dogs with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Coburn, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Living Single. Threalkill’s work is included in collections such as the Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, the Dollar General Corporation, the Tennessee State Museum, and many others.

Dr. Tyler has 29 years of experience providing a range of human services: substance abuse counseling with adults on probation/parole; drug and delinquency prevention programming for youth living in public housing; academic support for youth at risk of school failure; individual and family therapy for adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system; early intervention with pre-school children and parents, and comprehensive psychological services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families in communities characterized by persistent poverty and high levels of community violence. Since 2016, Tyler and his team at Chicago CRED have been providing trauma-focused behavioral health services to youth and emerging adults involved in gun violence.

Chandra Vasser drives Nissan's diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, while developing partnerships and plans to share the company's DEI commitment with employees, customers and the wider community.  She is also president of the Nissan Foundation, which annually awards grants to nonprofit organizations in support of innovative programming that breaks down societal barriers and builds inclusive communities. A certified public accountant, Vasser holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from Tennessee State University and a master's in business administration from Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.