Nashville 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 Nashville Fellows

Katie Alexander, Field Director, Tennessee Justice Center


Katie Alexander is the Field Director at the Tennessee Justice Center, a small non-profit law firm that helps Tennesseans access health care coverage. Since Governor Haslam announced Insure Tennessee last December, Katie has been working with grassroots activists from across the state to bring equal access to health care to Tennesseans. She is passionate about education and engagement around issues of health care coverage, and is fighting for the day when all Tennesseans see the same basic rights. Katie grew up in a small town in the Hudson Valley in New York, and graduated from American University in Washington DC with a BA in Literature and in the African Diaspora. While in DC, Katie worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency, and interned Earth Day Network and the Feminist Majority Foundation. But she found her second home in Nashville in 2013, and when she’s not thinking about social justice, she’s biking around town and taking pottery classes.


Jennifer Bailey, Founder, Faith Matters Network


Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, Rev. Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founding Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a new interfaith community equipping faith leaders to challenge structural inequality in their communities. Rev. Bailey comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience combatting intergenerational poverty in her hometown of Chicago, and her adopted home, Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to launching the Faith Matters Network, Rev. Bailey served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at Community Food Advocates in Nashville, Tennessee and on the staff of Interfaith Youth Core, a national organization with the mission to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. A sought-after public speaker on the topics of interfaith cooperation and race relations, Rev. Bailey has spoken at the White House, U.S. House of Representatives, the National Action Network’s annual convention, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention. In March 2015, she delivered the benediction at The Selma March 50th Anniversary Commemorative Church Service. Rev. Bailey writes regularly for a number of publications including Sojourners and the Huffington Post. Her first book, tentatively titled Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister is currently under contract with Chalice Press. Rev. Bailey is a Forum for Theological Exploration Ministry Fellow, Harry S. Truman Scholar, and Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow. She received her Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University, where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. She received a B.A. in political science from Tufts University. Rev. Bailey sits on the boards of the World Student Christian Federation of North American and World Faith. She is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


April Caldwell, Political Operative, SBA Strategies


April Caldwell grew up in Shelbyville, Tenn. but has been a proud Nashvillian since 2009, where she works currently as an operative on local political campaigns. She has served as a field manager for the Tennessee Democratic Party and has served for state senate, state house, and municipal races. She is also a member of the Davidson County Young Democrats. She was a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and immediately began work in the political field after attending college. While working for the TNDP, her main focus was voter registration for permanent residents of the state. April is passionately motivated to turn her home state blue. She is dedicated to the improvement of Tennessee, and to inspiring a new generation of local progressive activists.



Marie Campbell, Assistant Director of Education, Scarritt Bennett Center


Marie Campbell was born and raised in Rome, Georgia. She moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University and graduated with her B.A. in Sociology in 2008. Marie earned a Master’s of Divinity in 2012 from Vanderbilt University. In 2013, she encountered one of the most powerful experiences of her life so far as a Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing fellow at Highlander Research and Education Center. At Highlander, she was exposed to the history and legacy of Southern freedom movements and the role of white, Southern anti-racist activists. Marie was catalyzed around the possibility of integrating her passion for creative placemaking and storytelling with long haul organizing for racial and economic justice. Marie has worked at Scarritt Bennett Center for nearly 5 years, currently as Assistant Director of Education. Scarritt Bennett is a nonprofit education center that creates space for people working around issues of racism and inequality, rooted in spiritual and cultural traditions. She coordinates a social justice fellowship program that supports emerging women leaders committed to both personal and social transformation. Marie serves on two local steering committees. She is co-chair of the Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville chapter. SURJ is a national network that provides space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis that moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. She also serves as an ally (non-voting participant) on the steering committee for Workers’ Dignity Dignidad Obrera, a membership-led workers’ center organizing for economic justice through base-building, popular education, direct action, and leadership development. Marie is a member of Alternate Roots and Project South.


Krystal Clark, Director of Student Leadership Development, Vanderbilt University


Krystal Clark, M.Ed. is a native of Portsmouth, VA. Clark earned her B.A. in Sociology/Psychology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA and her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park. Upon graduation she moved to Durham, NC where she served as the Program Coordinator for Fraternity & Sorority Life at Duke University and in 2011 Clark moved to Nashville to take on the role of Associate Director of Greek Life at Vanderbilt University and in 2015 she was promoted to Director of Student Leadership Development. In 2017, Krystal will serve as the first African American President of the Junior League of Nashville. She is also a volunteer for the YWCA, a member of Women in Numbers Tennessee, and serves on the Program Committee for Nashville Emerging Leaders of which is an alumna. Krystal is also involved locally and nationally with Delta Delta Delta Fraternity as a member of the Eve of Janus Planning Committee, and the Diversity & Inclusion Innovation Team. Clark was a finalist for the Nashville Emerging Leader Award in the field of Education in 2012 and was the Junior League’s 2015 YP Nominee for the Nashville ATHENA Award. When she’s not working at Vanderbilt she serves as a speaker/facilitator/trainer for college campuses, fraternal organizations, and non-profits across the country. In February, she will launch S.A.I.L (Success, Authenticity, Innovation, and Love), a series of personal development workshops for women in Nashville.


Telisha Arguelles Cobb, Founder & Executive Director, Nashville Independent Business Alliance


Telisha Arguelles Cobb is the Founder and Executive Director of Nashville Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit advocate for local, independent businesses working to grow a strong, diverse and sustainable local economy. Since launching the organization, Telisha has worked to bring together Metro Nashville business owners to collaborate and grow a collective voice for Main Street. A native Tennessean and small business owner, she is committed to grassroots community organizing around initiatives which strengthen and grow the middle class, builds stronger communities and creates greater economic equity. Telisha is devoted to growing Main Street because she understands entrepreneurship can be a pathway out of systemic and generational poverty, allowing for more people to truly experience the American Dream. Telisha and her husband, Chris, opened mid-size concert venue, Marathon Music Works, in 2011. While she eventually followed her passion to work as an advocate and community organizer, Chris handles day to day operations and business growth. Including ownership of Exit/In, William Collier’s and Hurry Back. Telisha was recently appointed by Mayor Megan Barry and approved by Metro Nashville Council Members to serve on the Metropolitan Beer Permit Board. Additionally, she serves on Centennial Children’s Hospital Community Advisory Board and is an active parent in the Metro Nashville Public School system. Previous community service includes volunteer and leadership commitments with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, Belmont United Methodist Church and Organizing for Action. She is also devoted to multiple issues affecting women, children and minorities in Tennessee.


Elaine Eisinger, Administrative/Legal Assistant, Tennessee Attorney General's Office


Elaine is a resident of Nashville, TN and a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, where she studied Political Science with a concentration in Public Administration. She looks forward to furthering her education at Nashville School of Law beginning in August 2016. Elaine currently works as an administrative and legal assistant for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office in the Criminal Appeals Division. Outside of work, Elaine serves as a mentor for the tnAchieves program, helping students reach their potential by guiding them through the transition from high school to college. Elaine is passionate about helping others overcome adversity, fighting against social injustices, and bringing about positive changes in her community. During her spare time, Elaine enjoys reading, working in her garden, and volunteering with Hands On Nashville.


Jason Freeman, Campaigns & Community Coordinator, Nashville Middle Tennessee Central Labor Council


Jason Freeman is a New Hampshire native and a graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He came to Nashville in 2015 after working for American Bridge 21st Century as a tracker/researcher for two years in New Hampshire covering the 2014 US Senate race and the ongoing presidential primary. Before beginning a political career, Jason worked in the hospitality industry for over 10 years starting as a busser at age 14, and ending as a General Manager of a restaurant in the South End of Boston, MA. Jason interned for Senator John Kerry and volunteered in the early stages of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign before taking a position as a field organizer for Credo Super Pac, working on a successful campaign in Minnesota’s 8th congressional district. Jason is currently the Campaigns and Community Coordinator for the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO. There he is responsible for strengthening the council’s community partnerships and organizing political and legislative activity. Jason is also a co-chair of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope’s (NOAH) Economic Equity and Jobs Task force which focuses on making Nashville’s development benefit everyone in our communities.


Brenda Gadd, Public Policy Director, Tennessee Bar Association


Brenda is a long time political operative managing her first campaign in a hotly contest 2003 state senate special election race, winning. From Tenn. senator chief of staff, Tenn. Senate committee research analyst and serving as a legislative liaison in Governor Bredesen's administration for the dept. of Environment and Conservation, she lobbied on The Hill and served as Vice President of Government Relations at Civic-Point, LLC assisting a wide range of clients. In 2014 right wing groups and Lt. Gov. Ramsey targeted three democratic Tenn. Supreme Court Justices, Brenda successfully managed the statewide retention election becoming the first woman to successfully manage a democratic statewide campaign in the state. Actively involved in her community, Brenda has served on numerous boards including Tenn. Justice For Our Neighbors, Women's Political Collaborative of Tenn., U.S. Green Building Council of Middle Tenn., and CASA of the Tennessee Heartland. She often speaks on legislative issues, and in her current role as Public Policy Director at the Tennessee Bar Association, she works on advancing issues of justice on The Hill and truly enjoys working with Tennessee's passionate and talented legal community. In her free time she loves spending it with her family in east Tenn., hiking, listening to live music, exploring different cultures and trying to keep up with her book club's reading list over a local craft brew.


Matt Genova, Director of Community Engagement, Tuned In Broadcasting


Matt is originally from just outside of Chicago, Illinois, but has called Nashville home for the better part of the last seven years. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in May of 2013 with a B.A. in History and Public Policy, focusing specifically on environmental policy issues. While at Vanderbilt, Matt had the opportunity to intern with the Nashville Mayor's Office on their Environment & Sustainability team, developing a deeper understanding of the ways local governments and other stakeholders can work together to achieve progress on a range of policy goals at the city level. Professionally, Matt works as the Community Engagement Director for Lightning 100, Nashville’s independent radio station. That role allows Matt to lead several of the radio station’s outreach strategies, including heading up Lightning 100’s Promotions Department, working with local non-profits to create community service events for station listeners, and deepening relationships with Nashville’s universities to provide internship and shadowing opportunities for students. Matt also holds a part-time position as a Research Fellow at the Nashville Civic Design Center, a non-profit whose mission is to elevate the quality of Nashville’s built environment. Matt’s primary role at the NCDC is as the Outreach Chair for TURBO Nashville, the Design Center’s year-old initiative focused on working with neighborhood leaders to create and install temporary built environment improvements to enhance the safety, mobility, and beauty of Nashville’s neighborhoods. The goal of this initiative is to show local residents and policymakers alike what potential solutions to neighborhood challenges can look like and create momentum around the implementation of permanent solutions to these issues. In addition to his role with TURBO Nashville, Matt’s work with the Design Center also centers around conducting research and writing on various NCDC projects, including his recent co-authorship of Nashville’s Boathouse: Connecting Community to the Cumberland, a report analyzing the prospects for the construction of a public boathouse on the Cumberland River in Downtown Nashville. Matt was recently honored as a Nashville Emerging Leader Award finalist in the industry category of Environment & Sustainability, and occasionally writes for RootsRated, an online outdoors publication, in his free time.


Demarius Love, Executive Assistant to the Honorable Judge Rachel L. Bell, Div. VIII


A native Nashvillian, Demarius K. Love is a proud product of Tennessee’s Public Education System. A Graduate of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Demarius recently earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration from Middle Tennessee State University where he was active in a number of service organizations. Aspiring to a career in public service, Demarius has interned with a number of public officials, including Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO5) through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington DC, Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn, Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN5), and The Honorable Judge Rachel L. Bell. Demarius is a member of Temple Church, under the leadership of Rev. Darrell A. Drumwright, M Div., where he actively serves on the Young Adult Ministry Council. Demarius is currently the Executive Assistant to the Presiding Judge, The Honorable Rachel L. Bell, Division VIII of Davidson County’s General Sessions Court.


Alex Ryan, Campaign Manager, Calvert Street Group

nashville-Ryan.jpgAlex Ryan is a Campaign Manager at Calvert Street Group. Alex is a seasoned campaign manager and field operative based in Nashville, TN.  He is a veteran of the Obama ’08 campaign where he was stationed in Florida, and has managed various campaigns at the state and local level across the country.  From 2014 through 2015, Alex was Campaign Manager for the Yes on 2 ballot referendum campaign in Nashville, TN. In 2015, he was awarded a "Pollie Award" from the American Association of Political Consultants for his work on the Yes on 2 Campaign.




Brian Sexton, Affordable Housing Development Specialist,
New Level Community Development Corporation

nashville-Sexton.jpgWhile working as an Urban Planner in Nashville’s Metro Planning Department, Brian E. Sexton assisted multiple property owners and real estate developers in the area of Sustainable Real Estate Development. His passion and love for creating sustainable neighborhoods led him to join Village Real Estate's Go Green Home Services team in April 2014. As Client Development Manager, Brian was driven to foster relationships with new and existing home owners in an effort to make their homes and communities comfortable, safe, and energy efficient via Energy Audits and Energy Retrofits. In 2015, Brian transitioned over to New Level Community Development Corporation where he was able to combine his two previous career experiences into his current role of Affordable Housing Development Specialist and Asset Management. Brian's goal is to create more affordable housing units in Nashville, TN that are not only sustainable, but energy efficient. 


Melody Shekari, Policy Fellow, City of Chattanooga


Melody is currently a Policy Fellow in Mayor Andy Berke’s office in her hometown of Chattanooga, TN. She works in diverse policy areas, most recently including city-wide budgeting for outcomes, bond issuance, and healthcare enrollment. In Chattanooga, she is a member of the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute and volunteers for the YMCA Southeastern High School Model United Nations, which she was also involved with in high school. Melody graduated with a J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law in 2014. She also holds a Master in Public Administration from the University of Washington and a B.S. in managerial economics and international business from Bentley University. While at USC, Melody served in both the law school and university-wide student governments and taught legal writing. In her final year, she was President of USC’s Graduate Student Government, representing over 20,000 students at the university. During that year, she created a national advocacy program, implemented budget policies, served on committees for the USC Board of Trustees, and established a new grant program for student-driven, innovative projects on campus. Under her leadership, the organization was recognized as the NAGPS Western Member of the Year and National Member of the Year. She was awarded the Edward S. and Eleanor J. Shattuck Award, Order of Areté, and GSG Board Member of the Year. She also served on the executive board for the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students (NAGPS), a national graduate student advocacy group, and has worked in the private and non-profit sectors. When she is not attending local community events, Melody enjoys scuba diving and exploring new places.


Dimeta Smith, CEO/President, Dimeta Smith, CPA, LLC


Dimeta has over 15 years of financial accounting, auditing, tax preparation and consulting experience. Previous roles include Internal Auditor, Financial Systems Implementation Consultant and Chief Financial Officer. She has consulted with small to large size corporations, sole proprietors and partnerships from various industries within for profit and nonprofit sectors. Her extensive knowledge of small business operations and financial performance creates great demand for financial seminars and workshops throughout the Nashville business community. In addition, she serves as an Adjunct Accounting Professor, lecturing on all disciplines of accounting. Dimeta received her Bachelor of Business Administration Degree with a major in Accounting from Tennessee State University and Master of Accountancy Degree from Belmont University. She is a Tennessee licensed life, health & accident insurance producer and Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor®. Previous civic involvement includes serving on the Board of Directors for the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee, Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) and the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. Among her numerous professional endeavors, she currently serves as Chairman of the Tennessee State University Accounting Advisory Board, member of the Tennessee Society and CPAs and American Institute of CPA (AICPA) A native of Nashville, Dimeta enjoys volunteering in the community; mentoring young people; and spending time with her family.


Sarah Staples, Campaign Associate, Calvert Street Group

nashville-Staples.jpgSarah is the second of three children born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut to parents who immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean island of Jamaica. After being homeschooled through the seventh grade she attended Classical Magnet in Hartford and finally The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. It was at Hotchkiss that Sarah made friends from all over the country and the world, and learned the importance of bridging the gaps between differences of opinion, culture, and knowledge. After graduation Sarah went on to attend Vanderbilt University, pursuing a major in Political Science, with a concentration in International Relations, along with a double minor in English Literature and Spanish. During her time at Vanderbilt she worked in a variety of on campus positions, including Chabad at Vanderbilt and the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Disability Services office. She also spent a semester working with international students in the International Student and Scholar Services office. Her time abroad in the Dominican Republic and her own Jamaican heritage have ignited and fueled her passion for minority communities and the unique challenges faced by immigrants and their families. Sarah currently utilizes crucial community organizing skills gained through a summer internship at the Connecticut Center for a New Economy as a Campaign Associate with the Calvert Street Group, a boutique lobbying and public relations firm in Nashville. At this moment Sarah is preparing to attend law school in the fall of 2016.