Alysia Burton Steele
Alysia Burton Steele is a photojournalist and assistant professor at the Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Steele holds a degree in journalism from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and a Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University. In 2006, while working for the Dallas Morning News, she joined their photography team in winning a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
Her 2015 book, Delta Jewels, chronicles the lives of over 50 Mississippi Delta women – church elders, including civil rights activist Mrs. Myrlie Evers – who have shared poignant highlights of their lives during the Jim Crow era. To complete the book, Steele drove over 6,000 miles and collected oral histories from women in 27 Mississippi Delta towns. Ms. Steel’s photography has been featured in The New York Times, NBC.com, USA Today, Southern Living, Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Garden & Gun, The Commercial Appeal and The Clarion Ledger.
Brad “Kamikaze” Franklin is a Hip Hop artist, entrepreneur, writer and activist. Kaz’s extensive career spans several mediums, including music, TV, and radio. He is one-half of the critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Crooked Lettaz with David Banner. He’s also garnered much success as a solo artist with 5 releases though his own company, OurGlass Media Group. Those albums sold nearly 20,000 copies independently and led to extensive tours of both the Czech Republic and Ghana, West Africa. OurGlass is a full service Public Relations/Marketing/Entertainment Consulting Firm with a recording label, management company, film production company, concert promotions, and property management arms. Currently, Kaz is the marketing specialist for the City of Jackson, Department of Human & Cultural Services. He also writes columns for both the Clarion Ledger & Jackson Free Press. But his greatest achievement is being a loving husband and proud father of 3.
Erin Hayne is the president of NunoErin, LLC, which she co-founded with Nuno Goncalves Ferreira in late 2011. NunoErin is a high-growth, creative economy company based in Jackson, MS, that offers innovative and interactive customer experience solutions that enable brands to develop and enhance personal relationship with their customers through play, messaging, and storytelling.
NunoErin’s product portfolio encompasses bio-sensing LED furniture and video walls, color-changing upholstered furniture, sound sculptures, storytelling software, along with a new line of high resolution touch furniture featuring collaborative gaming and creative applications for families and children.
Gospel, blues, jazz, r&b, soul, hip-hop—language of the human experience, Ezra Brown’s music speaks this language. His horn serves as his translator, becoming a voice that speaks in tongues transcending any language barrier. Ezra’s sound — a culmination of southern comfort and urban grit, gives birth to a style that is new, yet familiar. This sound speaks from the soul. A sound Ezra calls Soul Muzik. When he picks up his horn, sound is transformed into a language that enters the soul producing an experience that is pure music. An experience that goes beyond sound becoming something that is felt. Music that translates the human experience for all to understand.
Ezra Brown uses his musical style to transform a mere story to a lyrical moment. This style makes him a much sought after force among his contemporaries.
Jim is chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corporation, a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities. He also serves as chairman of Spread Networks, a company he helped establish in 2009. Jim has more than 35 years of operational experience. He served as president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corp. from January 1995 until the company merged with America Online in March 1999. He was director of Netscape from October 1994. Upon completion of the merger with America Online, Jim joined Time Warner’s board of directors.
Prior to Netscape, Jim was CEO of AT&T Wireless Services (formerly McCaw Cellular Communications). From January 1992 to September 1994, he served as president and chief operating officer (COO) of McCaw Cellular. From April 1983 to January 1992, Jim served as executive vice president and COO at Federal Express Corporation, and prior to that, he served as the company’s chief information officer (CIO) for four years.
John Bielenberg is a designer, entrepreneur, and advocate for creating a better world through the application of creativity and ingenuity. John co-founded Future Partners, a Silicon Valley Innovation firm, in 2012 to teach Rapid Ingenuity Practices to individuals, teams, and organizations around the world. In 2001, John co-founded C2 Group, a brand strategy firm, to help leaders from technology start ups, Fortune 500 companies, and the world’s top business management consulting firms develop, build and protect their brands. In his career, John has won more than 250 design awards, including the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Gold Medal for lifetime achievement. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has acquired six of his design projects and staged a solo exhibition of his work in 2000.
Katy Simpson Smith
Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, The Story of Land and Sea, and Free Men.
Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, The Story of Land and Sea follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst times of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
Her second novel, Free Men, was published in 2016. In response to Free Men, author Joseph J. Ellis referred to her as, "The most sophisticated historical novelist of her generation."
Smith lives in New Orleans and served as an adjunct professor at Tulane University before the publication of her novel.
Latina Rivers serves as CEO Liason at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, while pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Alabama Huntsville in Material Science and Engineering. She holds a Masters of Science from Middle Tennessee State University and Bachelors of Science from the University of Alabama.
As a representative of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the official Visitor’s Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Ms. Rivers is actively involved in technology initiatives and immersive learning environments designed to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs fulfilling the Center’s mission to inspire the spirit of exploration and achievement through education.
LaVita Tuff is a Policy Analyst with the Sunlight Foundation, where she works with their local policy team to improve online access to government information. Her work focuses on analyzing and writing about government data disclosure in addition to providing feedback on adoption and implementation of open data, open meetings and open government policies at the state and municipal levels.
Her passion for access to information comes from her community and economic development background. She previously worked as an Economic Development Specialist for the City of Baltimore. Prior to that she served as Mayoral Fellow to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and worked on Capitol Hill. She is a graduate of Tennessee State University, the University of New Orleans Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, and the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Marshall Ramsey is Mississippi-based editorial cartoonist, author and media personality. The two-time Pulitzer Finalist’s editorial cartoons are syndicated nationally by Creators Syndicate and have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and The Clarion-Ledger.
He is the author of several successful books including two cartoon collections, the short story collection, Fried Chicken and Wine and the the children’s book Banjo’s Dream. Ramsey has also illustrated seven children’s books for his cousin, financial expert Dave Ramsey, five of which appeared in Chick-fil-a kid’s meals, and has illustrated Nobody’s Poet for chef and author Robert St. John. His first book Marshall Ramsey’s Greatest Hits was a local best seller. Ramsey is also the host of the weekly statewide radio program, Now You’re Talking with Marshall Ramsey on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.
Dr. Robert Blaine is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and CyberLearning at Jackson State University. Blaine serves as Director of GEAR (Global Education through Analytical Reasoning), Artistic Director of the Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra, host of the television program, “Music Art” broadcast on the COLOURS Network in Jackson, Mississippi, and Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at Jackson State.
Active as an international conductor and soloist, Dr. Blaine has led ensembles in performances in China, Central America, the Caribbean, and throughout North America. An active soloist, Robert has premiered several works for trombone. His most recent solo performances have included appearances with the U.S. Army Orchestra “Pershing’s Own,” China National Conservatory Orchestra of Beijing, China Central Television (CCTV3), the National Symphony of the Dominican Republic and numerous recital series.
Roberto Gallardo is an Associate Extension Professor of the Mississippi State University Extension. He holds an engineering degree from the University of the Americas in Mexico, a master’s in economic development from Southern Miss University, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University. Gallardo is interested in local and regional community economic development, including use of technology. He spearheads the efforts of the Mississippi State University Extension Intelligent Community Institute that helps rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age. He lives in Starkville with his wife and two daughters.
Dr. Scott Milroy is an Assistant Chair and Associate Professor within the Department of Marine Science at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has a Ph.D. with an emphasis on Biological Oceanography from University of South Florida and a Masters of Science from Texas A&M University. Dr. Milroy completed his Bachelor’s Degree at Occidental College, majoring in Biology with a Marine emphasis.
Dr. Milroy’s current research includes a NASA-funded project to explore the possibility of fostering life on another planet by studying whether microscopic algae that thrives in Antarctica can survive in the Martian climate. His research is being conducted with marine science majors and high school students from the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama.
Seth Misenar is a Cyber Security Expert who serves as a Senior Instructor with the SANS Institute and Principal Consultant at Context Security, LLC. He is numbered among the few security experts worldwide to have achieved the GIAC GSE (#28) credential. Seth teaches a variety of cyber security courses for the SANS Institute including two very popular courses for which he is lead author: the bestselling SEC511: Continuous Monitoring and Security Operations and SEC542: Web Application Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking.
Tim Fielder is an Illustrator, concept designer, cartoonist, and animator born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He has a lifelong love of Visual Afrofutuism, Pulp entertainment, and action films. He has worked over the years in the storyboarding, film visual development, gaming, comics, and animation industries for clients as varied as Marvel Comics, The Village Voice, Tri-Star Pictures, to Ubisoft Entertainment. He also works as an educator for institutions such as New York University and the New York Film Academy. Fielder is the author and illustrator of Matty’s Rocket, a graphic novel which follows the adventures of Matty Watty, a strong female character named after his great-grandmother, from the Jim Crow-era Mississippi Delta to adventures deep into the galaxy. Fielder attended Jackson State for two years before transferring to the New York School of Arts. He has worked as cartoonist for Village Voice, Eclipse Comics and Marvel. He lives with his wife and children in Harlem.
Tom Martin is a Project Manager in Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Space & Launch Business Unit. In this role, he is responsible for the capture of AR1 business with the United States Government and commercial launch vehicle partners. AR1 is an American propulsion solution being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne to replace the Russian-made RD-180 engine on the Atlas V launch vehicle.
Mr. Martin has held numerous Program Management and technical roles of increasing importance in both large and small programs at the company. Most recently, he has worked mission capture for the Space Launch System, which is the Nation’s next generation heavy-lift launch vehicle. Mr. Martin has strong engineering and technical background related to product design, development, and production. He received a Master’s of Science in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University and an Masters of Business Administration in Strategy and Finance from the University of Southern California.