2017 LGBT+ College Conference Speaker Bios
This page contains speaker bios for the 2017 LGBT+ College Conference
The road throughout Ben's career has taken him in a variety of places. From touring
the United States with various bands while promoting concerts and music festivals,
to managing multiple offices in the Southeast in the mortgage industry, to now helping
promote financial wellness and education as a household acquisition tool. Ben has
traveled many roads into the career he has with First Tennessee Bank. Currently he
is a Vice President for First Tennessee Bank serving as the Customer Acquisition Manager
for the bank. He oversees all non-traditional acquisition programs for First Tennessee
and is charged with the development and implementation of these programs. In addition,
his passion for music has never left. Ben performs with various groups in the Nashville
area playing trumpet. He has volunteered time with Music Makes Us helping to develop
a leadership program for Metro Nashville Public School band programs.
Coming from a theater and improv background, Holly started performing stand up ten
years ago. She has appeared in numerous theater productions, commercials and independent
films as well as voice over work. She has produced and hosted several middle Tennessee
shows such as "Bohemian Circus," "Comedy at Mel's," "Outfront on Main comedy," and
"Ignite," as well as being one of the original members of Nashville based "Girl on
Orlando has been a servant to others in his daily work for many years. He is currently
helping those struggling with substance abuse disorders as an Admission Counselor
at Journey Pure Treatment Centers. Before finding himself in this role he devoted
himself to helping nonprofit Fine Arts Organizations survive and thrive. For more
than ten years he managed fundraising and marketing campaigns for organizations that
include the San Jose Repertory Theatre, The Utah Symphony and Opera, The Detroit Symphony,
The Alliance Theatre, The Atlanta Ballet, The Atlanta Opera, and The Atlanta Symphony
Orchestra. Orlando is an artist at heart, he began acting on stage at age nine, throughout
high school and into College. He added radio, television, film and dance to his repertoire
at Northwestern University. After graduation, he began his career in the Entertainment
Industry as a Talent Agent at Northshore Talent Agency in Chicago, and later he became
the Voiceover Director of Glynn Kennedy Models and Talent in Atlanta. He has continued
to perform throughout his adult life, most notably in Aida with the Atlanta Opera,
and in improv performances at Whole World Theatre in Atlanta.
Donna Baker serves as the University Archivist at Middle Tennessee State University.
She is the first person to serve in this position, and her job is to collect, preserve,
maintain, and make accessible materials relating to the history of MTSU. She works
with faculty, staff, and especially students to capture the life of the university.
She received her MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her
MA in History from Eastern Illinois University.
Keith recently joined the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) to educate the public about
the hunger crisis in our state and to protect and improve federal nutrition safety
programs. He is an AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus and has seven years of experience in food
security from the grassroots to government. Immediately, before joining TJC he directed
the state's Older Adult Nutrition Program, a $14 million program that funds meals
Terry Bird was born in East Tennessee and raised in Middle Tennessee. After graduating
from Murfreesboro Central High School, he attended MTSU, receiving his B.S. in Mathematics
in 1968. He attended law school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In 1976
Terry started with I.N.S., U.S. Department of Justice in Atlanta, Georgia as a Nationality
Attorney. For twenty-five years he was the chief counsel to the Director of Immigration
for Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Terry lives in Decatur,
Georgia with Clark Lemons, his partner of 37 years. They are active in local church,
civic affairs, and family.
Elizabeth Burns is a biochemistry undergraduate at Middle Tennessee State University.
While her interests span a variety of fields, she is focusing in on research in hopes
to make it a more open and available career path for those in the LGBTQ community.
Originally from Knoxville, TN, she has been all over the world, interacting with people
in hopes of learning new methods for inclusion of the incredibly diverse cultures
with whom she has worked.
David Butler is the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate
Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Prior to coming to Middle Tennessee
State University, Dr. Butler was a full professor and served as chair of the Department
of Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs and Director
of the International Development Doctoral program at The University of Southern Mississippi.
Dr. Butler has a doctorate in Geography from the University of Cincinnati, a Masters
of Science in Geography from Texas A&M University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Texas
A&M University. Dr. Butler has published over 20 articles and books, given over 50
presentations and has secured $2.7 million dollars of external funding on research
projects during his career. Dr. Butler has also provided congressional testimony and
expert testimony as well as being interviewed by national news outlets such as CNN,
National Public Radio, and Fox Business News. Dr. Butler is a native of Texas but
has lived in Kentucky and Mississippi and travelled and conducted research internationally.
Rebekah Dawson received a BA in English from MTSU. She is currently a graduate student
in MTSU's Sociology masters program and Women's and Gender Studies certification program.
Rebekah is looking forward to studying the similarity in different minority oppressions
and solutions that can be found in this solidarity. She is also President of MT Lambda.
Bob Duffey is a Middle Tennessee State University graduate. Bob is an author, poet,
storyteller, and a long-time advocate/activist for LGBTQ rights/civil rights/equal
rights. Bob is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, and is a former musician and
entertainer. Bob is retired from a career in law enforcement.
Julia joined the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA) team in August of 2016. She wears
many hats at the NFA, including working with the CEO to create and implement strategies
for engaging and supporting members. She also heads up the NFA’s Student Alliance,
focusing on preparing students to find their place in the region’s fashion industry.
She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and began her career in Washington,
DC working with the global research firm CEB and POLITICO before moving to Nashville.
Kimmberly K. Ensley CHC, PMP is currently the Director & Market Compliance Officer
for the TAM market (TN, AR & MS) of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. with almost 15 years
of health care compliance experience. Kimmberly is certified in Health Care Compliance
(CHC) by the Health Care Compliance Association and is a certified Project Management
Professional (PMP) by The Project Management Institute. Kimmberly was recently elected
to the position of Secretary and member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee
Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) and Kimmberly also serves as a member of the
Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Council at WellCare Health Plans, Inc. Kimmberly
is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force where Kimmberly served in both
active duty and reserves as both an enlisted member and commissioned officer. Kimmberly
is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a B.S. in Mathematics
Dr. Bud Fischer is the Dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at MTSU.
Dr. Fischer’s expertise is in aquatic ecology, fisheries biology, stream ecology and
evolutionary biology. Dr. Fischer has made more than 90 professional presentations,
published over 40 peer-reviewed articles, obtained 55 grants totaling more than $2
million and has mentored 36 graduate students to completion during his academic career.
As the youngest of five in a family of musicians, Connye didn't have to look far for
encouragement when her love of singing took off. “There was just always music in the
house ...” she recalls of her childhood in North Carolina “either (my) daddy ...playing
the piano, stomping and grunting out the groove on some Ellington tune; (my) sisters
and brother rehearsing their most recent favorite, or the whole family ‘choired up’
and singing my mother's favorite hymns whenever the crowd was gathered and the spirit
struck...which was very often. We never wanted for a show.” The scope of Connye's
career has included most every facet of the industry...studio, stage, television and
film. She has sung jingles for Van Camps Food and Major League Baseball, hosted a
PBS Literacy Link educational series produced by KET; been the voice of the "WB" on
a number of Warner Brothers jingles across the country, and has even sung country...as
a background vocalist on the Elton John/Tammy Wynette duet "What a Woman Needs". Connye
has toured nationally with Columbia Artists and vocalist Jennifer Holliday, and as
featured vocalist with Modern Jazz Tuba Project; The Nashville Jazz Orchestra and
with her own award-winning trio of musicians. She has shared the stage with numerous
notables, including Steinway artist Beegie Adair, Grammy award-winner Randy Brecker
and vocalist and grammy-award winning songwriter Benita Hill. Connye is a vocal performance
instructor at Nashville Jazz Workshop and is enjoying the success of her one-woman
show, "Jazz Rhapsody"
Justin Fox is an undergraduate student at Middle Tennessee State University, double-majoring
in Psychology and Criminal Justice Administration. He is currently the Public Relations
officer of MT Lambda.
With more than 20 years’ professional experience in human resources, Dez Frazier is
a Manager of Human Resources Business Partner at Nissan North America. His team is
responsible for developing functional & engagement strategy for Nissan’s non-manufacturing
workforces which are located in Tennessee, Michigan, California, and Mexico. Dez joined
Nissan in 2003 and has held numerous roles with increasing responsibility, including
the startup of Nissan’s Battery Plant for its all electric vehicle. Dez earned a bachelor’s
degree in Political Science from Tennessee State University.
Dr. Joey Gray is an associate professor of Leisure, Sport, and Tourism Studies at
Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Gray’s current research focuses on establishing
safe zone programs for middle and high schools in Tennessee.
Alex is the Treasurer of MT Lambda and identifies as a trans woman and as a lesbian.
She is a senior, majoring in Political Science. She has been helping represent her
identities on campus and in MT Lambda, something she hopes to do with her degree when
she graduates. One of her goals has been to help spread "#IllGoWithYou
" buttons around campus. She doesn’t like to brag, but she is the reason we brought
Ryan Cassata to last year’s conference.
David Jay is the founder of Asexuality.org, the world's largest community of people
identifying as asexual. He has been working for asexual visibility for the past 15
years, leading successful campaigns to de-list asexuality as a mental disorder, integrate
asexuality into national policy dialog, and integrate asexuality into sex education
in New York City public schools. He has been featured in the New York Times, the London
Times, on 20/20, on CNN, and in the feature-length documentary "Asexual".
Dwayne Jenkins is a native New Yorker from the Bronx who has lived in Nashville since
1994. He has worked at Nashville CARES, Tennessee's premiere HIV/AIDS Service Organization
for over 20 years and serves as the Director of My House, a Gay Men’s Health & Wellness
Center and MSM Prevention Education & Services. He is the Executive Director of the
Brothers United Network, Inc., the state’s first African American Gay focused 501c3
organization, and is the Founder and President of Nashville’s annual Black Gay Pride
Celebration. He has been the Community Advisor to the Gay Straight Alliance at Tennessee
State University since its founding in 2003, and serves as the Board Chair of the
Center for Black Equity which advocates for over 30 Black Pride organizations as well
as focuses on equality and justice for Black LGBT communities through expansive platforms
on Health, Economic and Social Equity. Dwayne attended Buffalo State College for a
BA in Communications, has been a proud & financial member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
for 32 years.
Johnathan Johnson, LPC-MHSP, has been the CEO/President of New Directions Counseling
& Consulting in Nashville, TN since 2012 and continues to see clients and supervisees
as part of his efforts in the field. He has worked in community mental health for
over 15 years, primarily with Youth Villages as a Clinical Consultant. He has experience
working in school-based counseling, juvenile sexual misconduct and treatment, parenting
skills, and treatment of adult mental health. He has been a licensed professional
counselor since 2007 and provides clinical supervision for LPC licensure. He also
provides clinical trainings and seminars as part of his efforts to enhance the clinical
skills of counselors in the Nashville and Tennessee area.
Jessica M. W. Kratzer, Ph.D.
Dr. Jessica Kratzer is an assistant professor in Communication Studies at Northern
Kentucky University. She teaches communication courses in interpersonal, family, small
group, gender, and sexuality. Dr. Kratzer’s research focuses on sexual communication
in varying age groups including hooking up among college students and senior citizen
intimacy. She also studies communication about childbirth and postpartum issues. She
presents her research at the annual conventions for the National Communication Association
and the Central States Communication Association. Dr. Kratzer is a member of her university’s
SAFE (Staff, Administrators, & Faculty for Equity) organization, is on the Coordinated
Community Response Team for the Norse Violence Prevention Center, and is on the university’s
sexual misconduct board. Dr. Kratzer has three degrees in communication: Bachelor
of Arts from Northern Kentucky University, Master of Arts from the University of Cincinnati,
and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Missouri. Dr. Kratzer is the 2016
LGBT+ College Conference Civic Advocacy Award recipient.
Dr. William Langston is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Langston’s
research explores the psychology of belief. As part of his research program, Dr. Langston
is a ghost investigator and has visited some of the most haunted places in the world.
Dr. Langston is also the advisor to MT Lambda (MTSU’s all-inclusive LGBT+ student
organization) and serves on the Provost’s Access and Diversity Advisory Board.
As a youth, Kevin 's love of jazz led him to the influences of Herbie Hancock, Miles
Davis and Bill Evans. But his career experiences have led him to a work with wide
range of artists with differing styles, from Tony Bennett to Leon Russell. A working
musician since age 16, Kevin has spent his 25-year career playing, producing, arranging
and recording with many of the world's top big bands and vocalists - Tommy Dorsey,
Tony Bennett, Smokey Robinson, Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, Donna Summer, The Temptations,
The Four Tops, Bob Hope and Bernadette Peters, to name a few. He attended Ball State
University on a trombone scholarship, then spent several years on the road with various
bands before moving to Nashville in 1981. That timing, along with the keyboard revolution
of the 1980's led him to turn his attention, once again, to his original instrument
- the piano - and subsequently to become one of the most sought-after studio musicians
on the Music City scene. In 1999, his impressive talents came to the attention of
blues-rock and songwriting legend Leon Russell. Russell, so inspired by Kevin's evocative,
engaging style, finalized plans for his own album of jazz standards, with Kevin as
both arranger and player. The result was Russell's recent release, "Moonlight and
Love Songs." This relationship soon led Kevin to co-author over 100 songs with Russell,
some of which appear on Connye Florance, released on Leon Russell Records in 2000, co-produced by Madill and Leon Russell.
Dr. Patrick McCarthy, J.D.
Dr. Patrick McCarthy, J.D., received his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
from George Mason University and his J.D. from the Nashville School of Law. He is
a licensed attorney and a member of the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment
Law Division. Dr. McCarthy has previously served as Director of MTSU’s Center for
Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness (COHRE). Besides his consulting experience,
Dr. McCarthy has also served on the Leadership Development Executive Board for the
Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
Michael McDaniel joined the staff of the Community Foundation in March 2000. Currently
serving as Nonprofit Liaison, he represents The Foundation in the 43 counties of Middle
Tennessee it serves. He assists nonprofit organizations in their philanthropic and
charitable goals as well as assists in their infrastructure and endowment building.
Dr. Renee Mclaughlin is a senior medical executive with Cigna Health and is responsible
for building collaborative partnerships with health care delivery systems to improve
health outcomes. She has extensive experience in the development, implementation,
and operation of successful population health management partnerships and speaks regularly
in both regional and national forums on value based health care delivery. Dr. McLaughlin
has a strong interest in LGBT health and workforce issues, and specifically those
affecting gender-diverse people. Prior to joining Cigna in 2005, Dr. McLaughlin was
a practicing general and vascular surgeon in a single-specialty practice. She earned
a BS at Adrian College, MS at Wayne State University, and completed her graduate and
post-graduate medical and surgical training at the University of Pittsburgh. She served
in the United States Army during the first Gulf war.
Conita Neal is a Human Resource Professional with over 10 years of combined experience.
She began her career at Nationwide in 2005 recruiting for the newly structured finance
organization after a large transformation. She then served as a Career Consultant
for 5 years supporting Nationwide associates through a turbulent economy and job market.
Conita transitioned back into recruiting supporting the Nationwide Financial Services
sales group for 3 years. Conita currently serves as a University Relations Recruiter
at Nationwide supporting the information technology organization.
Bea Perdue is the Director of Development for the College of Behavioral and Health
Sciences at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). She is responsible for building
financial and public support for the six academic disciplines that reside in the College.
Her unique professional career with success in marketing, information technology,
higher education, and non-profit leadership enables her to develop, assess, and align
strategic priorities for maximum return on organizational investment. Her areas of
expertise include marketing, human capital, diversity and inclusion, community engagement,
and specialized non-profit initiatives.
Richard N. Pitt
Dr. Pitt received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and has focused his research
on religion, education, and social psychology. He is determined to answer the question,
“what happens when an actor’s performance of an identity does not match our expectations?” His
research and writings look at identities that seem at odds with conventional understandings
of those identities, identities that often have to be defended because they do not
match the social norms associated with them.
Bobbie R. Porter
Bobbie R. Porter is Director of Diversity and Equity Initiatives, Tennessee Board
of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the country. In her role
at the Board, she is responsible for developing and leading system-wide diversity
and inclusion initiatives for the institutions within the system. Bobbie holds a Masters
of Public Administration from Tennessee State University and a BA in Communications
from the University of Memphis.
Tara Prairie is currently a Ph.D. student with a Health concentration through the
Health and Human Performance Department at Middle Tennessee State University. She
obtained her Masters in Bioethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Her research
interests involve justice issues related to health care which include reproductive
rights, preventive medicine using holistic approaches, and health personnel enacted
stigma when treating sexual and gender minority (SGM) patients.
John Rainwater has been an employee of First Tennessee Bank for over 10 years, where
he serves on the Consumer Credit Risk Management team as VP of Consumer Credit Policy.
His role includes collaborating on development of consumer policy as well as communication,
interpretation, training and publishing consumer policy for the bank. John is a member
of First Tennessee’s Firstpower Council, which focuses on the company’s corporate
culture, seeks methods of communicating and reinforcing the culture, and provides
valuable feedback to executive management from employees across the organization.
John has a BFA and MA in theatre arts from Arkansas State University, and in May of
this year, will be receiving an MBA from Christian Brothers University in Memphis,
TN, where he has been a resident for almost 20 years.
Prior to professionally freelancing and later opening his own marketing firm, owner,
Ray Rico, worked for over fifteen years in print-publications. He is an expert in
print production with a specialized background in prepress and digital media. Rico
has owned and operated Ray Rico Freelance in Memphis, TN since 2007, growing the company
into a full-service marketing agency.
Joshua Rigsby graduated MTSU in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational
Communication. While attending MTSU he served as the MTSU Lambda Association President
from 2012 to 2014 and established the LGBT+ College Conference with the goal of creating
a statewide network of LGBT+ collegiate students across the state of Tennessee. Since
graduation, he has served as the Alumni Advisor for the MTSU Lambda Association from
2014-2017, and has served as a member of the LGBT+ College Conference Advisory Board
from 2013-2017. Beginning in 2013, Joshua served three consecutive years as a member
of the Board of Directors for OutCentral, Greater Nashville’s LGBT+ Community Center.
While a member of the board, he oversaw student engagement and outreach, served as
a member of the Executive Board as Vice President, and was responsible for volunteer
outreach, recruitment, and training. Currently, Joshua is an independent LGBT+ Diversity
and Inclusion trainer and consultant based in Nashville, TN.
Over the course of his career in Human Resources, Troy has held positions with exposure
to strategy development and execution for talent management and employee engagement
initiatives within the retail and healthcare industries. Roles held in training and
organizational development, employee relations, and metrics analysis were a critical
framework for development as a leader of human resources teams. As the Sr. Director,
Supply Chain Human Resources for Dollar General Corporation, Troy’s current role is
focused on the expansion of distribution center operations through development of
a robust talent pipeline and support to human resources teams in distribution facilities
located throughout the United States.
Jen Sturgeon, a Director of Consulting at HealthTrust, has more than 12 years of supply
chain and healthcare experience. She is a practiced Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with
documented savings and success across many areas of supply chain. Previously, Jen
served as the Director of Supply Chain Innovation at Cardinal Health, working with
hospital customers to optimize their supply chain activity. In addition to extensive
medical and pharmaceutical supply chain experience, she also brings an organizational
development background and has taught organizational psychology as an adjunct faculty
member at Middle Tennessee State University. Jen holds a B.S. in Psychology from Francis
Marion University and an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Middle
Tennessee State University.
Allie Sultan has her degree from San Francisco State University. She is a filmmaker
and video/sound editor with over 12 years of experience in visual storytelling. She
teaches filmmaking to people of all ages and believes in the power of creating over
consuming. She has expertise in video editing, sound editing, cinematography, screenwriting,
directing, and timelapse photography.
Eric Watson is President and CEO of the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development
Council (CVMSDC), a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, with more than 175
corporate members and 430 certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) members. Watson
is responsible for the development and execution of strategy to achieve CVMSDC’s vision
and goals of advancing business opportunities between major corporations and minority
business enterprises in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Central Virginia.
Watson has 33 years of experience in operations management, including more than 18
years in the field of diversity and inclusion. From 2003 to 2013, Watson held leadership
roles at Delhaize America, beginning as Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
of Food Lion in 2003. From 2007 through 2009, he also served on Food Lion’s Executive
Committee and led the Talent Acquisition department. In February 2010, he became Vice
President of Diversity & Inclusion for all of Delhaize America.
Among others, Watson has received the following recognitions for his community and
diversity and inclusion work: Thurgood Marshall College Fund-Award of Excellence,
Urban League of Central Carolinas Whitney M. Young Award, Multicultural Forum on Workplace
Diversity Trailblazer Award, North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development-Corporate
Partner Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Middle Eastern Province Man of the Year
Watson currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Executive Leadership Council
(ELC), Calibr Global Leadership Network, and the University of North Carolina-Center
for International Understanding. Watson holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature
from Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.
Harold "Terry" Whiteside
Recognized as a Campus Icon, Dean Harold “Terry” Whiteside has served MTSU for more
than four decades in faculty, administrative, and athletics roles, giving him a connection
to so many of our students and Alumni. In 2010 when Dr. McPhee reorganized MTSU’s
academic units, he chose Dr. Whiteside to lead the College of Behavioral and Health
Sciences, which would become the University’s newest and largest College. Dean Whiteside
is known for his inclusive management style and commitment to student success, with
a focus on preparing students to be successful in their future endeavors through classroom
instruction, experiential learning, and professional development.
Dr. Ken Wright is a professor in the Graduate Program in Sports Business Management
at The University of Alabama. With over 42 years of professional experience in various
sport industry settings (16 years in college athletics, 30+ years in academic, and
25 years in the Olympic Movement), Dr. Wright serves as Director of the College of
Human Environmental Sciences (CHES) Sports Business Management Graduate Program.
Holly graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in 2009 with
her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education-Natural Sciences with a concentration
in Biology. After graduating from UTC, she began working her way up the ranks at the
Disability Resource Center and continues to strive to develop and improve delivery
of services with regards to the deaf and hard of hearing, and also for exam accommodations
working with students and faculty. Holly has also found a passion for providing educational
opportunities about disability issues and disability services to the campus community
and general public. (source