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Senator Bill Frist, MD 

Founder & Board Chairman, SCORE

Senator Frist is a special partner at healthcare firm Cressey & Co. and founder/partner of Frist-Cressey Ventures. A former heart and lung transplant surgeon, he served Tennessee in the US Senate for 12 years (as US Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007), and is the voice of the podcast “A Second Opinion.” (Asecondopinionpodcast.com). Frist currently serves on the boards of Teladoc Health, Accolade, Select Medical, SmileDirect Club, and GSAH-N, as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. He cofounded Aspire Health, formerly the nation’s largest provider of nonhospice, community-based palliative care. Frist majored in health policy and international relations at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs before graduating from Harvard Medical School and completing surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital and a transplant fellowship at Stanford. He went on to found and direct the Vanderbilt Multi-Organ Transplant Center. Frist founded and now leads the global health nonprofit Hope Through Healing Hands, as well as the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), and NashvilleHealth, a collective impact organization focused on improving the health and well-being of Middle Tennesseans.  

Senator Raumesh Akbari

State Senator, Tennessee General Assembly

Minority Leader Akbari was elected to the Tennessee State Senate in the fall of 2018 after serving three terms in the State House of Representatives. She serves as vice-president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, vice-president of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, and formerly served as chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators. In the Tennessee Senate, Akbari is a member of the Commerce and Ethics committees and serves as second-vice chair of the Education Committee. She was honored to speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and again at the 2020 Democratic National Convention as a “rising star” keynote speaker. Akbari is a graduate of Washington University and the Saint Louis University School of Law. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and The Links, an international volunteer service organization of professional women of African descent.

Maya Cole

Student, Tennessee State University (TSU)

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Cole is a senior majoring in biology with a concentration in secondary education. An aspiring educator, she spent the last two summers interning with TSU’s College of Education and as a fellow in the Marjorie Lee Browne STEM Education Fellowship through the Memphis Teacher Residency. She currently serves as chaplain for the Alpha Beta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, historian of TSU’s Student Tennessee Education Association Teaching Tigers Chapter, and lead residential mentor for the university’s Office of Disability Tiger Edge program. Her ultimate goal is to earn a PhD in education policy and find more ways to connect teachers, students, and their communities. 

Daren Dickson

Chief Culture Officer, Valor Collegiate Academies

Dickson spearheaded Valor’s Compass model, a comprehensive human development framework that serves as the core of the Valor charter school model. He believes that a human development and relationship-based approach to education is crucial to regaining our collective balance and tackling inequities. Prior to joining Valor in 2013, Dickson spent 16 years developing his skills as a therapist, clinical and program director, and social justice advocate in California. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and spent much of his career working with vulnerable youth and communities. Dickson has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering (Denver University and Stanford University) and a master’s degree in integral counseling (California Institute of Integral Studies).

Dr. Marquinta Harvey 

Assistant Director, Belmont University Data Collaborative

Dr. Harvey is a leader in the fields of public health, biostatistics, and behavioral neuroscience with over 15 years of experience ranging from biological and chemical warfare agent testing for the Department of Defense to understanding the neurobiological mechanisms that control social stress. Harvey is a devoted public health advocate with a passion for understanding and applying health data and research to improve processes, systems, and policies that lead to better health outcomes for marginalized populations. She earned a doctorate in health and human performance from Middle Tennessee State University and holds master’s and undergraduate degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in behavioral neuroscience and microbiology, respectively. 

Dr. Carolyn J. Heinrich

University Distinguished Professor, Vanderbilt University

Dr. Heinrich’s research focuses on education, workforce development, health and social welfare policy, program evaluation, and public management. She works with government agencies to improve policy design and program effectiveness and collaborates with nongovernmental organizations to improve the impacts of economic and social protection investments in middle-income and developing countries. In 2004, Heinrich received the David N. Kershaw Award for distinguished contributions to the field of public policy analysis and management and was elected to the US National Academy of Public Administration in 2011. She has served as president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management and the Public Management Research Association and held the George Eastman Professorship at the University of Oxford for the 2022-23 academic year. Heinrich holds a PhD from the University of Chicago. 

Dr. Carrie James

Managing Director, Center for Digital Thriving, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Dr. James is a sociologist and researcher and is the current co-director of Project Zero at Harvard. Her work focuses on young people’s digital experiences, including opportunities and challenges for their well-being, social connections, and civic lives. She loves to translate research insights into practical tools and wisdom for families and educators. She is a longtime collaborator with Common Sense Education on their digital citizenship curriculum.  With Emily Weinstein, James is co-author of the book, Behind Their Screens: What Teens are Facing (And Adults are Missing). She has a PhD in sociology from New York University.

Dr. John Lane

Vice President for Academic Affairs & Equity Initiatives, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)

Dr. Lane leads SHEEO’s policy and project development in educational equity, academic programs, and student success. He also facilitates the work of SHEEO’s Equity Advisory Committee and collaborates with staff to explore and develop the equity implications of academic affairs, data, research, and finance projects by identifying and promoting best policies and practices to close equity gaps. Before joining SHEEO, Lane served as director of academic affairs for the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, as chair of music theory at Wheaton College, and associate vice president for academic affairs at Allen University. He holds a doctorate in musical arts from the University of South Carolina, a master’s of divinity from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in music education from the University of South Carolina. 

David Mansouri 

President & CEO, SCORE 

Mansouri sets the strategic vision for SCORE, guides the organization’s leadership team, and builds and strengthens its partnerships with leaders in Tennessee and across the nation. Over more than a decade of work in education, he has also served as SCORE’s director of advocacy and communications and executive vice president. In addition to his work at SCORE, Mansouri serves on the board of directors of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network and the Memphis Education Fund and is a member of the Practitioner Council of the Hoover Education Success Initiative at Stanford University. Before joining SCORE in 2010, he worked for the late US Senator Fred Thompson and Congressman Zach Wamp. Mansouri is an alumnus of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship and Leadership Tennessee. He also previously served on the founding board of Nashville Classical Charter School and on the board of directors of the Association of Rice Alumni. A Tennessee native and product of Tennessee’s public schools, he is a graduate of Rice University and received an MBA with honors from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

Dr. Candice McQueen

President, Lipscomb University

Dr. McQueen has more than 25 years of experience in education that spans classroom teaching, higher education leadership, state government and nonprofits. She began her career as a teacher in private and public elementary and middle schools in Texas and Tennessee. Prior to becoming president at Lipscomb, McQueen served as CEO of the National Institute of Excellence in Teaching and as Tennessee Commissioner of Education under Gov. Bill Haslam. Her previous roles at Lipscomb include dean of the university’s College of Education, chair of the undergraduate education department. Under McQueen’s leadership, the college garnered state and national recognition for excellence in teacher preparation and teaching outcomes. She is the founding director of Lipscomb’s Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation and serves on the boards of United Way, Goodwill, and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. McQueen earned a bachelor of science degree from Lipscomb University, a master’s of education in school administration from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Bill Milliken 

Founder & Vice Chairman of Communities In Schools

Milliken is a pioneer in the movement to assist young people in graduating from high school and going on to live rewarding lives. His activism in the 1960s eventually led him to establish the Communities In Schools network, a community-based organization that helps students achieve in school and prepare for life. Milliken has served three US presidents and received numerous honors for his work, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award for National Service and the National Jefferson Award for Public Service. He serves on the boards of Leadership Foundations and Communities In Schools of Virginia. Milliken has written four books, is an honorary member of PathNorth, and has an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College.

Laura Morton

Writer, Producer, & Co-Director, Anxious Nation

Morton has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years as a writer, producer and entrepreneur. She is the co-director, producer, and writer of the award-winning documentary, Anxious Nation, a film focused on the crisis of anxiety in America and especially its impact on our youth. She is a sought-after speaker who advocates for mental health improvements and ways to harness anxious energy and use it for good. Morton has authored more than 60 books, including 21 New York Times best-sellers, working with a wide range of celebrities and business leaders. Through that work she has interviewed and worked with some of the most recognized names in business and entertainment, gaining unique perspective from their stories on what it takes to achieve success. 

Dr. Brian Noland 

President, East Tennessee State University

Dr. Noland became president of East Tennessee State University (ETSU) after serving as chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System. Through his leadership at ETSU, changes to support student success yielded greater efficiencies and the highest graduation rate in the university’s history. Noland is a board member of the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Ballad Health, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He is also a fellow in the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. Noland holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy studies, both from West Virginia University, and earned a PhD in political science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 

Officer Faye Okert & Sergeant Bo

Metro Nashville Police Department, School Safety Division

Officer Okert has been a Metro Nashville police officer for 34 years and currently serves as a school resource officer with her beloved K-9 partner, Sergeant Bo. Bo, a 3-year-old pit bull terrier mix, was rescued from a Florida animal shelter and chosen to train as a therapy dog in the Brevard County sheriff’s department’s Paws and Stripes College. Officer Okert and Sergeant Bo visit classrooms across Davidson County bringing a sense of calm to the school environment for kids, teachers, administrators. The pair have played an especially important role in the healing of staff and students at Covenant School following a shooting tragedy there. In their first year together, Bo won a national first responder therapy dog award, beating out 50 other therapy dogs. He has also earned five titles with the American Kennel Club.

Dr. Zainab Okolo

Senior Vice President of Policy, Advocacy, & Government Relations, The Jed Foundation

An expert in higher education policy and mental health, Dr. Okolo has focused her career on breaking down barriers for students, enabling them to thrive academically, and allowing them to lead fulfilling lives. With over a decade of professional experience in higher education research and student services, she is a staunch advocate for increased and equitable access to high-quality mental health services for all college-aged students. At The Jed Foundation, Okolo advocates for increased federal, state, and local support for a comprehensive approach to mental health and suicide prevention. She holds a doctorate in education from The George Washington University, a master’s in marriage and family therapy from Syracuse University, and a bachelor’s in family science from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Oliver Orellana

Student, Lipscomb University

Orellana is a junior at Lipscomb University double majoring in international political science and urban leadership and policy. Born and raised in Honduras, he came to the United States in 2015. Orellana is passionate about social justice, social sciences, education, and scholarship. He is an Equal Chance for Education Scholar, an intern with The Education Trust-Tennessee, and a tutor at Lipscomb’s Academic Success Center. Orellana currently serves as junior class senator for Lipscomb’s Student Government Association and is the president and founder of the campus Civic Engagement and Advocacy Club, a group that engages Lipscomb students with democratic institutions. He is a member and past president of the Lipscomb University Affinity Group for Latino Students.

Lori Paisley

Assistant Commissioner, Coordinated School Health Division, Tennessee Department of Education

Paisley’s career in education spans over 30 years and starts in special education. Her experience as a special educator led her to establish a system-wide program for students with emotional disturbances, a program she led until going on to serve her school district in special education leadership. Paisley’s school district was one of 10 pilot sites in the Tennessee Coordinated School Health program. When the program expanded statewide in 2007, she led this work for her district until joining the Tennessee Department of Education in 2012. During her tenure at the department, Paisley served as the state contact for alternative education, dropout prevention, school counseling, and school safety prior to becoming executive director of Coordinated School Health and later moving into her current role as assistant commissioner. While working with students with disabilities led her to the field of education, Paisley’s passion is school health and ensuring that students are healthy and ready to learn.

Dr. Douglas Ribeiro

Associate Professor & Chair of Psychology, Counseling, & Family Science Department, Lipscomb University

Dr. Ribeiro is a core faculty member of Lipscomb’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and teaches multicultural issues in counseling. He also leads the Lipscomb Initiative for Behavioral Health Integration, a federally funded project aimed at preparing mental health professionals for team-based services in primary care settings. Ribeiro’s scholarly interests include culturally responsive interventions and resilience among minoritized groups. He is particularly interested in the role of health-care providers in ameliorating health-care disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations. Ribeiro earned his PhD in counseling psychology at Georgia State University.

Dr. Ruth S. Shim

Luke & Grace Kim Professor in Cultural Psychiatry, University of California, Davis 

Dr. Shim provides clinical psychiatric care in the UC Davis Early Diagnosis and Preventative Treatment (EDAPT) Clinic and also serves as associate dean of Diverse and Inclusive Education at the university’s School of Medicine. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Scientific Advisory Council of Bring Change to Mind, an organization co-founded by actress Glenn Close to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. Shim serves on the editorial boards of JAMA Psychiatry, Psychiatric Services, Community Mental Health Journal, and American Psychiatric Publishing. She is co-editor of the books The Social Determinants of Mental Health and Social (In)Justice and Mental Health. Shim holds a master’s in public health from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and earned her MD from Emory University School of Medicine. In 2021, she received the NAMI Exemplary Psychiatrist Award and the UC Davis Health Deans’ Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Shim was named a Top 20 Black Change Maker by The Sacramento Bee in 2023.

Selina T. Sparkman

Director of Schools, Bledsoe County Schools

A Memphis native with 34 years of experience in education, Sparkman began her career as a teacher in Memphis City Schools, where she was trained as a turnaround principal through New Leaders for New Schools. She has successfully turned around two schools and played a pivotal role in the establishment of Millington Municipal Schools, where she was principal of Millington Middle School. As director of schools for Bledsoe County, she has seen her district named one of 12 exemplary districts and earned a level five district designation. Sparkman was selected as a TEAM state administrator and standards coach for the Tennessee Department of Education and also served as an adjunct leadership coach at Austin Peay State University. She has served on the boards of the Millington Chamber of Commerce, the Millington YMCA, and the Tennessee Principals’ Association. She is a past chair of the Southwest Principals’ Study Council.

Mandy Spears

Deputy Director, The Sycamore Institute  

A seasoned policy expert and strategic thinker, Spears is a trusted guide to elected officials, journalists, and citizens who seek to better understand and shape our society. A native Tennessean, she started her public policy career in the state Comptroller’s Office of Research and the Tennessee General Assembly. As a founding member of The Sycamore Institute’s leadership team, she helped establish the organization’s accessible, objective, and evidence-based approach to explaining complex issues. Spears has over 15 years of experience supporting federal and state policymakers, including as a presidential management fellow and adviser to senior leaders at the US Department of Health and Human Services under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She is an adjunct professor of public policy at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership and Public Service. Spears holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lipscomb University.

Marie Williams

Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services

Williams oversees and leads the state department of health in its role as the state’s public mental health and substance abuse authority. She provides leadership and oversight aimed at helping individuals secure treatment and recovery services for serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbances, and substance abuse disorders. Williams’ work includes collaborating with state and community agencies to educate the community about mental health and substance abuse services. She oversees community mental health and substance abuse programs, the operation of four regional mental health institutes, and contracts with three private psychiatric hospitals. In all, the department annually serves about 350,000 Tennesseans who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. In her time as commissioner, Williams has led efforts to address issues such as the state’s opioid crisis, emergency psychiatric services, and criminal justice reform. 

Dana Wilson

President & CEO, BRIDGES USA 

A Memphis native, Wilson joined Bridges USA in 2008. Prior to her current role of president and CEO, she served in several positions for the organizations Bridge Builders programs, including vice president, senior director of strategic initiatives, and director of curriculum development and. She is also the founding coordinator of Bridge Builders CHANGE. In 2020, she co-founded the Coalition for Youth Mental Health to connect youth advocates, nonprofit leaders, school administrators, mental health professionals and hospital staff to understand and address the mental health needs of young people in Greater Memphis. Prior to joining BRIDGES, Wilson worked as a middle and high school teacher and school administrator in Mexico City. She holds an MA in educational leadership and administration from George Washington University. 

Marykay Wishneski

Senior Manager, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), Northeast Projects

Wishneski works with state partners and district/school leads to bring Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs programming to school communities. Over the last five years, she has managed training across multiyear, statewide, federally funded grants in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Wishneski serves on Sandy Hook Promise’s REDI Committee, work that helps inform her support of school communities across the Northeast. She lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and holds a bachelor’s in business from Sacred Heart University. 

Mark Yancy

President & CEO, NashvilleHealth

A lifelong Tennessean, Yancy has intentionally devoted his career to the underserved and those most impacted by a lack of access to care and resources. An accomplished health-care administrator, business planner, public speaker, and fundraiser, he has an extensive track record of engaging public and private sector businesses to partner with health-care institutions. At NashvilleHealth, Yancy has built an equity coalition of over 20 public and private organizations across data, academic, health services, food and nutrition, housing, and transit sectors (among others) focused on identifying health disparities in Middle Tennessee and designing solutions to reduce them. Prior to joining NashvilleHealth, he served in a variety of roles at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Anthem (now Elevance) via its subsidiary CareMore, and DaVita Kidney Care. Yancy holds a master’s in public health from the University of Memphis.