Abai Schulze is the Founder and Creative Director of ZAAF. Her life journey has taken her from an orphanage in Addis Ababa to the United States, all over the world, and back to Ethiopia. She is part of a new wave of creative entrepreneurs who are redefining “brand Ethiopia” with her company, ZAAF, which produces premium leather goods and accessories all handcrafted by highly skilled artisans in Ethiopia. ZAAF was conceived with the goal of creating new economic opportunities by leveraging local resources, and its creativity has been widely recognized, ranging from appearing on runways at New York Fashion Week, to being featured in international high fashion magazines. Abai Schulze was the recipient of the 2014 UNESCO Tremplin Prize for Entrepreneurship.
Collin O’Mara serves as President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest wildlife conservation organization with 52 state and territorial affiliates and nearly six million hunters, anglers, birders, gardeners, hikers, paddlers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Under O’Mara’s leadership, the National Wildlife Federation is focused on recovering America’s wildlife, improving management of and access to public lands, restoring America’s water bodies, advancing environmental education (including publishing Ranger Rick® magazines), and connecting every American child with the great outdoors. Prior to the National Wildlife Federation, O’Mara led the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as Cabinet Secretary from 2009 through 2014.
Dan Gardner is the New York Times bestselling author of books about how we think, including The Science of Fear and Superforecasting. His books have been published in 25 countries and 19 languages.
Dr. Fallon Wilson is the Research Director of Black Tech Mecca and the Co-Founder and CEO of Black in Tech Nashville which both seeks to curate, connect, and build impactful black tech ecosystem locally and nationally. In addition to her professional work to build local and national black tech ecosystems, Dr. Wilson is the recipient of several national tech-related research fellowships including the 2018 Kapor Center for Social Impact’s Grants for Inclusive Technology Fellowship and the 2018 Kauffman Foundation's Uncommon Metics and Methods Fellowship. Because of her local and national tech work and research, Dr. Wilson received the 2017 Digital Equity Award from International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) which is given, annually, to a national leader seeking to address of issues of digital equity. In Nashville, Dr. Wilson Co-Chairs Nashville Metro Government Connected Nashville Smart City Committee. She is the recipient of numerous awards in Nashville including 2019 People to Watch in Nashville designation, 2018 Cable’s Power of Inclusion Award, 2018 Cover of Nashville’s Post Techie Edition, and 2017 ABC News Women to Watch in Nashville designation.Dr. Wilson has a BA from Spelman College and a MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. As a self-proclaimed public interest technologist, she spends her time discussing issues of race, gender, faith, HBCUs, and digital equity. She’s on twitter at @SistahWilson .
H. Beecher Hicks is the CEO of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, TN. Henry has degrees from Morehouse College and the University of North Carolina, and also served as a White House Fellow. He enjoys writing to his blog at dreambigthenexecute.com and lives in Tennessee with his wife Crystal and their two sons.
Kate Lee and Forrest O'Connor
Kate Lee and Forrest O'Connor are an Americana duo and co-lead singers and primary songwriters of the O’Connor Band, winner of a GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2016.
Dr. Kelly Goldsmith is a behavioral scientist who examines people’s responses to uncertainty and scarcity, uncovering and explaining seemingly paradoxical effects. She received her doctorate from Yale University in 2009. She then joined the marketing faculty at the Kellogg School of Management where she was consistently one of the highest rated professors, receiving multiple honors and awards for both her research and teaching. In 2014, she was named as one of the "Top 40 Most Outstanding B-School Professors in the World Under 40" (Poets & Quants) and one of "Eight Young B-School Professors on the Rise" (Fortune). In 2017, she joined the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt as an Associate Professor of Marketing with tenure. She regularly publishes in top marketing and psychology journals.
Ketch Secor is the lead singer of the Grammy award winning string band Old Crow Medicine Show. His song Wagon Wheel, co-authored with Bob Dylan, has become a world-wide favorite. In 2014 he launched Episcopal School of Nashville.
Kristian Bush is one half of the multi-platinum selling country duo Sugarland with Jennifer Nettles and has been leaving his mark on music for more than 2 decades. He is a Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, producer, playwright, podcaster, and instrumentalist who started his career with folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim. To date, Kristian has won six BMI Awards for his songwriting abilities, and in 2011 founded the music publishing company and songwriting collective Songs of the Architect. In 2015, he released his solo debut album, Southern Gravity, which featured the Top 20 single “Trailer Hitch”. Currently, Kristian sits on the board of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, is a frequent performer on the Grand Ole Opry, and continues to tour with Sugarland.
Kristine Klussman PhD is a health psychology writer, speaker, researcher and community organizer dedicated to helping individuals more effectively solve societal problems by emphasizing personal accountability and transformation. After completing her degrees and post-doc training at Palo Alto University, Medical College of Virginia and Harvard Medical School, she returned to her native Bay Area to found and direct California Pacific Medical Center’s Health Psychology Program, which provided free behavioral and motivational counseling to seriously ill patients and their families. This experience prompted her interest in developing a new connection-based theory of well-being, and she went on to found and direct Connection Lab, a psychology research center exploring tools to help the greatest number of people live more productive, fulfilling, and authentic lives. Her first book, introducing her theory of connection as the simplest path to lasting well-being, is anticipated later this year.
Mark Burnette is Shareholder-in-Charge of LBMC Information Security, a national professional services and cybersecurity consulting firm. During his distinguished career, Mark has served as the President of an information security consulting company, has built and led information security functions for two major publicly-traded corporations, and worked for several years in key leadership roles with two of the Big 4 accounting firms. In 2005, Mark was named the Information Security Executive of the Year at ISE Southeast. In 2008, he was named one of Information Security Magazine’s Top Seven security leaders, and he was chosen by ComputerWorld Magazine as one of the Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2009. For his cumulative efforts as a leader serving his community and his State, on September 11, 2008 Mark was formally recognized by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen for outstanding service in the best interests and highest traditions of the State of Tennessee. In January 2011, the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) named Mark a Fellow. This prestigious honor, which has only been granted to a handful of individuals worldwide, is bestowed by the ISSA Fellow Program for distinguished accomplishments in the field of information security, leadership, and service to the association and profession.
Martesha L. Johnson is the newly elected Nashville Metropolitan Public Defender, the first African American to be elected to this position. She has devoted her entire career to public defense work and believes people are worth more that the worst thing they have ever done. During her tenure at the public defender’s office, she has served in numerous leadership capacities including the training director and member of the special litigation unit, primarily focusing on serious felony representation.
The South Carolina based, singer/songwriter built a name for himself when, at the age of 15, he began recording covers of popular songs on YouTube. He began touring at 16, performing over 200 shows by the age of 18. All the while, In 2013, Noah released his first original album, Among The Wildest Things. Noah was featured on the hit TV show GLEE for the final season as character, Roderick Meeks. While living in Los Angeles filming Glee, Noah continued to write new music.
Noah continues to tour and build his following with powerful and touching stage performances all over the world. Noah, and his band, Good Trouble, recently toured with country music icon, Dwight Yoakam and were featured performers on Rock Boat XVIII, the biggest music festival at sea, along with Sister Hazel, Barenaked Ladies, needtobreathe, Drew Holcomb and others.
Growing up near the dark sky beaches on the Alabama coast, Dr. Sabrina Savage developed a love of the night sky from a very early age and went on to pursue a career as an astrophysicist. Her undergraduate degree in physics was earned from the University of South Alabama in Mobile during which she participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. She bolted back to the mountain west after receiving her B.S. and earned her M.S. in physics and astronomy at UW by chasing after Gamma Ray Burst afterglows (the biggest explosions in the universe) with the university's two ground-based observatories, one atop a nearly 10,000 foot high mountain. In 2005, she headed further north to beautiful Bozeman, Montana where she became immersed in solar physics at Montana State University and completed her Ph.D. work in 2010 while learning to operate solar satellite instrumentation. She then continued her thesis research at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow before landing her current position as a NASA civil servant at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She now serves as the U.S. Project Scientist for the Hinode mission and develops new solar instrumentation for sounding rocket experiments and the International Space Station. Her research pursuits center around solar flares (the biggest explosions in the solar system) using high energy instrumentation to understand the mechanics behind how the magnetic field rapidly releases enormous amounts of energy into our solar system.
Scott Hamilton is a testicular cancer, and three time brain tumor survivor. He won an Olympic Gold Medal in the sport of figure skating in 1984. As a professional skater and entertainer, he founded the Stars On Ice Tour and spent 18 years touring North America. In 1999 he became an activist in cancer launching The Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative to help people better navigate the cancer journey. In 2014 CARES became a dedicated foundation raising much needed funds in support of research to advance treatment options that teach the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Tracie and their four children.
(Learn more at southernword.org. IG: @southern_word. Twitter: @southernword) These poetry performances are part of an intentional educational strategy to help young people represent themselves, build communication skills, and process the challenges in their lives. Through school and community programs in 8 Tennessee counties, Southern Word serves more than 7,500 youth a year who all have the potential to write and speak with powerful voices. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
The multi-GRAMMY nominated songwriting and production duo Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony are Weirdos…and are proud of it. Starting Weirdo Workshop in 2015, the two combined years in the music industry to explore their own acceptance, love of music and art, as well as step behind the mic as Louis York, launch a new band The Shindellas…and throw out every rule ‘the business’ told them to follow.
Yaa Kumah-Crystal, MD, MPH, MS, is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Pediatric Endocrinology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Dr. Kumah-Crystal’s research focuses on studying communication and documentation in healthcare and developing strategies to improve workflow and patient care delivery. Dr. Kumah-Crystal works in the Innovations Portfolio at Vanderbilt HealthIT on the development of Voice Assistant Technology to improve the usability of the EHR through Natural language communication. She is the project lead for the Vanderbilt EHR Voice Assistant (VEVA) initiative to incorporate voice user interfaces into the EHR workflow. Kumah-Crystal remains clinically active and supervises Pediatric Endocrine Fellows and sees her own clinic patients. Her research and affiliated publications define the use of technology to improve care and communication for providers and patients.