Adam Collier better known in the music, arts, and entertainment world as AJC is the owner and operator of Envelope Pushers Music where he hones and improves his skills and talents as a poet, singer, rapper, songwriter, actor, DJ and producer. As of 2016, AJC became known as the face of Jackson, Mississippi, as he was featured on the cover of the Visit Jackson’s visitor guide and in the award-winning music video “My City.” The video placed a positive spotlight on Jackson, showing more than 200 locations around the city. The video was named as a finalist in the 2017 City/Nation/Place awards held in London, England, and also took home the audience choice award in the 2017 Crossroads film festival. In 2016, AJC and The Envelope Pushers released a ten-song LP entitled “Fallen Star,’ which blends both hip hop and jazzy popular Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Aisha Nyandoro is the Chief Executive Officer of Springboard To Opportunities. Springboard provides strategic, direct support to residents of federally subsidized affordable housing. The organization’s service delivery model uses a “radically resident-driven” approach designed to improve quality of life and end the generational poverty trajectory. Nyandoro has more than a decade of experience developing, implementing, and evaluating programs aimed at improving the quality of life for individuals with limited resources.
She has worked in various capacities– as an academic, evaluator, philanthropist, and nonprofit executive. These varied experiences have allowed her to better understand systems and policies that impact vulnerable communities. Prior to serving with Springboard, Aisha served as a Program Officer with the Foundation for the Mid South. During her tenure, she strengthened the Foundation’s community development portfolio by executing a plan focused on five specific strategies aimed at transforming communities. Additionally, she led the Foundation’s place based initiative – Community of Opportunities. Under her leadership, community leaders were able to leverage more than $20 million in federal and private funding. In addition, she established statewide, regional, and national public-private partnerships to create resources and assist the Foundation in achieving its mission and goals.
She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Tennessee State University, a M.A. in Community Psychology and Urban Affairs and a Ph.D. in Community Psychology from Michigan State University. Aisha’s commitment to community and passion for social change is demonstrated through her varied volunteer work including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the various boards of directors and advisory councils to which she lends her expertise and service. Aisha has received multiple honors, including recognition as a fellow of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network and Ascend at the Aspen Institute. Aisha’s life mission is to holistically and compassionately lift families out of cycles of poverty.
Alexander Bostic is an illustrator and artist. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he developed a love for the arts, attending lesson at Pratt Institute on the weekends. Alex graduated with BFA in Illustration form Pratt Institute in 1979, and received his MA in Illustration Syracuse University in 1994. With more than forty years of being an illustrator, Alex decided to further develop and focus on his personal work, and he is now a traditional figurative artist. Alex paints figures in a natural, realistic style, using oil as his main medium, but he also uses a variety of techniques such as acrylic, colored pencils and watercolors.
Alex began his career as a studio artist, working in Los Angeles and New York City. He has been living and working in the state of Mississippi for the ten years and is an associate professor of art at Mississippi State University.
Ann Phelps has been working as a musician, teacher, public theologian, and arts activist since 2009 when she finished her graduate work at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, she travels to work with colleges, divinity schools, and faith communities to envision how corporate rituals and collective creativity can empower communities to strive for justice and peace. Her research examines sacred music from various faith traditions, reengaging silenced voices from history and seeking new perspectives that can influence sacred practices in an increasingly divided and globalizing world.
She serves as cantor, liturgical coordinator, and writer for the Theodicy Jazz Collective, an ensemble that has provided music leadership and theological reflection in communities such as Yale University, Cambridge University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Millsaps College, Canterbury Cathedral, Washington National Cathedral, and dioceses and churches from Los Angeles to London and Massachusetts to Mississippi. The collective explores how jazz and gospel music can help religious communities understand changing identities, expand tradition, and spread a message of justice and mercy in the twenty-first century. Ann will join the staff of Wake Forest University this summer as Director of Programming for Leadership and Character.
Brennen Hodge is the Founder and CEO of Citizen Health, an impact organization developing technology to bring optimal health and affordable care to everyone. In this role, he is focused on rebuilding healthcare on an open and transparent marketplace. In the decade prior to launching Citizen Health, he founded multiple tech startups with the latest being Pharmedio, a pharmaceutical analytics platform. Brennen attended the University of Southern Mississippi and received his Master’s in Business Administration with a B.S in Biochemistry.
Christina Dent is a life-long Mississippian and was a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs until she began to see its negative effects up close through her experiences as a foster mom. Along with her roles as a wife and homeschooling mother of three sons, she is now an advocate for ending our criminal approach to drugs as the best path to reduce harm to people and allow more people an opportunity to thrive. She leads book discussions across the state and has been a guest on various radio programs as well as a speaker at town hall meetings exploring drug policy reform. She is also the host of the new podcast End It For Good. She holds a degree in Biblical Studies from Belhaven University.
Holly Lange is a professional event planner, fundraiser, and community volunteer. She is a founder and Executive Director of the Mississippi Book Festival. Some of her past projects include the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Jubilee!JAM, Trustmark’s Red Beans and Rice Celebration, the Crossroads Film Festival, and the Mississippi Museum of Art Centennial.
Holly and her husband, Alan, were honored to receive the Lightsey Award for Community Service from Millsaps College in 2017. Holly received the Goodwill Volunteer Services Award as an Outstanding Community Volunteer and has been recognized as a “Women of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts of Mississippi. Holly received the Outstanding Achievement for Servant Leadership award by the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence. She has been named “Top 40 Under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal and is a graduate of Leadership Jackson. Holly has served on various boards, including the Millsaps College, Friends of Children’s Hospital, the Junior League of Jackson, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, and the Jackson Symphony League. A native of Austin, Texas, Holly graduated from Millsaps College with a Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science.
Dr. Reneker is an associate professor and researcher at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the author of multiple publications on sports-related concussion and rehabilitative management of symptoms after concussion. She is recognized as an expert in concussion and has spoken at multiple national level conferences to an array of healthcare providers on this topic. In addition to her faculty appointments, Jennifer holds a telework appointment at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, as a research mentor within the orthopedic and geriatric physical therapy residency programs. Employed by the VA since 2003, she has contributed on multiple national workgroups, including being a contributor to the Falls Toolkit for the National Patient Safety Center, the primary author for the Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Practice Recommendation for Mobility Dogs, and a leader within the Physical Therapy Field Advisory Council on Education Committee.
Dr. Reneker is currently occupied with efforts to expand concussion prevention and management practices in Mississippi and is engaged with a variety of stakeholders across the state. She was recently awarded an intramural grant to study a novel concussion prevention intervention in collegiate soccer players. Dr. Reneker holds a board certification in neurological physical therapy and a certificate in vestibular rehabilitation. She has a PhD in public health, specializing in epidemiology, from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
Joel Bomgar is a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, representing District 58 since 2016. He is the founder of the Ridgeland-based technology company, Bomgar, which became one of the industry’s premier secure remote and privileged access management platforms. He served in the Mississippi Air National Guard and on the Steering Council of MEC’s Blueprint Mississippi. Joel is a former board member of the Madison County Foundation and Belhaven University. He spoke at the inaugural TEDxJackson event in 2014.
Krystal Gem is a multifaceted singer, composer and pianist. The Jackson native has been singing since the age of two, received operatic training since age seven, and taught herself to play piano. As a vocalist, she not only represented the state of Mississippi in National NAACP Act-So competition, but brought home a Gold medal for Classical Voice in 2013, and a Silver medal in 2014. Before her introduction to the Act-So competition, the state had not had a Gold medalist since 2009. She’s composed for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Ensemble, performed in Carnegie Hall (January 2014; New York debut of Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living), and travelled to Florence, Italy to learn from the Italian masters of the Westminster Choir College in their Florence Voice Seminar.
Over the years, she has learned to sing in eleven languages ranging from Latin and Swahili, to German and Hindi. She speaks only English, Italian, and French.
Though singing may be her strong suit, Krystal also composes music. Her first compositions, created during her middle school years, were strictly for violin and piano. Her skills as a composer have grown tremendously allowing her 2016 work The Score: A Series of Lullabies, to be performed by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet. In 2018, her composition BGM served as the theme song for the eclectic lifestyle brand, Adorned by Chi’s, multimedia graphic novel. She also composed the score for Camping Sucks, an independent film directed by USC student Khari Johnson.
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, The Clarion-Ledger and Mississippi Today.
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.
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Ramsey is a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is a melanoma survivor and has been honored by the Melanoma Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society for his work with promoting skin cancer screening.
Marshall served as emcee for the inaugural TEDxJackson event in 2014 and returned to give a talk in 2015.
Dr. Nashlie H. Sephus leads the Amazon/A9 visual search tech team, which recently launched visual search for replacement parts on the Amazon Shopping app. This technology was a result of former startup Partpic (Atlanta) being acquired by Amazon, for which she was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Prior to working at Partpic, She received her PhD from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014 and worked for a year with Exponent technical consulting firm in New York City. Her core research areas were digital signal processing, machine learning, and computer engineering. She received her B.S. in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State University (2007).
Dr. Sephus is a native of Jackson, Mississippi and a 2003 graduate of Murrah High School/Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC). She’s had several internships and research experiences worldwide with companies such as IBM, Delphi, University of California at Berkeley, GE Research Center, GE Energy, Miller Transporters, and Kwangwoon University in Seoul, South Korea. Recently, Dr. Sephus became founder and CEO of The Bean Path non-profit organization based in Jackson, MS assisting individuals with technical expertise and guidance. During her leisure time, she enjoys playing tennis, playing the piano, listening to music, bargain hunting, biking, and working on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects at home.
Ralph Eubanks is the author of The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South (HarperCollins, 2009) and Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past (Basic Books, 2003), which The Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley named as one of the best nonfiction books of the year. He has contributed articles to The Washington Post Outlook and Style sections, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio.
Mr. Eubanks has served as a visiting professor at The University of Mississippi and Millsaps College and has also contributed articles to the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, the New Yorker, and National Public Radio. He is a recipient of a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and has been a fellow at the New America Foundation and director of publishing at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. from 1995 to 2013.
Dr. Robert Blaine is the City of Jackson’s Chief Administrative Officer and the former 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.
Robert has held orchestral positions with the National Symphony of the Dominican Republic, Bastille Opera Inaugural Orchestra, Charleston (SC) Symphony and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and has served on the faculties of the National Conservatory of the Dominican Republic, Nazareth College, SUNY Geneseo, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and the Eastman School of Music. Holding degrees from Indiana University, the Catholic University of America, and the Eastman School of Music, Robert is an Apple Distinguished Educator and an endorsing artist of the C. G. Conn Company.
Dr. Robert Hester is a native of Starkville, MS, and a biological engineering graduate of Mississippi State University. He did a year of graduate work in mechanical engineering at MSU, then completed a PhD in biomedical engineering jointly from Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He joined the faculty at UMMC in 1985 and rose from assistant professor to his current rank of professor where he is also the director of the Center for Computational Medicine and a Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor. Dr. Hester’s graduate research, under the tutelage of Dr. Arthur Guyton, focused on mechanisms responsible for skeletal muscle blood flow control. Dr. Hester was a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Duling at the University of Virginia where his research used microcirculatory techniques to demonstrate that both arteriolar oxygen levels and wall shear rate are not regulators of arteriolar diameter during exercise.
Dr. Hester’s current research focus is continuing the computational simulation of human physiology started by Drs. Guyton and Coleman in the 1970s. For the last 15 years, he has been leading the development of HumMod and other integrative physiological models. Dr. Hester is also president and CEO of HC Simulation, LLC, a software company developing HumMod for commercial purposes. His research has been funded by NIH, NSF, and American Heart Association. Dr. Hester has over 40 years of experience in research in integrative physiology. He has also held numerous national leadership positions, including president of the Microcirculatory Society and program chair of the American Physiological Society.