Chancellor’s ‘Dores of Distinction Alumni Advisory Board Members
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Mohamed Abdel-Kader, M.Ed., Peabody College ’03, is executive director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. He previously served in the administration of President Barack Obama as deputy assistant secretary for International and Foreign Language Education at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. He speaks fluent Arabic and basic Spanish, is a Truman National Security Fellow and the author of a children’s book about stereotypes.
Samar S. Ali, B.S., Peabody College ’03, J.D., Law School, ’07. A distinguished career in law and government has taken Ali across the globe through her work at the White House, the South African Supreme Court and the State of Tennessee. Among her areas of expertise in her current position at Bass, Berry & Sims are compliance and government investigations; data security and privacy; immigration; and diplomacy. In addition to her legal practice, Ali currently serves as a managing director of the Lodestone Advisory Group, a consulting firm that specializes in internationalization, investment advisory and strategy.
Brian K. Armstrong, M.D., School of Medicine, ’02, is a staff physician in the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where he specializes in cataract surgery, corneal transplantations, ocular surface disease and refractive surgery. Armstrong is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and member of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons and International Society of Refractive Surgery, the latter of which honored him for his contributions as a young investigator to academic ophthalmology and refractive surgery.
Roslyn Clark Artis, Ed.D., Peabody College, ’10. For the second time in history, Artis has earned the distinct honor of serving as the first female president of a collegiate institution in the U.S. In 2017, she was appointed as the 14th and first female president of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Previously, she served as the 13th and first female president of Florida Memorial University in Miami. Nationally, Artis is a member of the Presidents’ Advisory Board for Title III Administrators and the Educational Testing Service Presidents’ Advisory Council, and serves as an educational advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
Stephanie Barger, M.Div., Divinity School, ’06; EMBA, Owen Graduate School, ’15, is a strategy and operations professional specializing in organizational and cultural change, technology implementation and creating inclusive organizations. She is the former chief operating officer of Monroe Harding, a Nashville nonprofit agency serving children and youth since 1983 and served for six years on Tennessee’s Suicide Prevention Advisory Council. Currently she is a consultant for several for-profit and nonprofit organizations and is in the early stages of a food startup.
Charleson Bell, B.E., Engineering, ’07; M.S., Graduate School, ’09, is a modern-day polymath, pioneering and drawing from multiple fields and bodies of knowledge to solve many of our current problems. He invented BioNanovations Corporation’s TestQuick and Crystal Innovations’ Flash Crystal in the same year, innovating the future of both medicine and media distribution simultaneously. Thereafter, he was an early innovator in consumer-based Internet of Things technology where he co-invented the bluField Network, “the Internet of Bluetooth Technology,” which forms fluid networks of low-energy Bluetooth peripherals for proximity-based, citywide applications.
Virginia Trotter Betts, MSN, Nursing, ’71. An advanced practice psychiatric nurse, attorney and former Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow, Ginna Betts has served in a variety of health, policy and leadership roles nationally and internationally in government, health and mental health organizations. As Tennessee’s Commissioner of Mental Health, she was the first nurse ever to serve as a member of the governor’s cabinet in Tennessee. Internationally, Betts has served as the United States member representative to the International Council of Nurses; official U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization and to the Fourth World Conference 2 on Women in Beijing; and as a consultant to the government of Australia for mental health and substance abuse policy and planning.
Kimberly Bryant, B.E., Engineering, ’89, enjoyed a successful career as an engineering professional before founding Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the face of technology by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science. Using her vast experience in technical leadership roles for various Fortune 100 companies such as Genentech, Merck and Pfizer, she has helped Black Girls CODE grow from a local Bay Area organization to a group with chapters across the U.S. and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Recognized as a social innovator and thought leader in tech inclusion, Bryant received an American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian, and the Inaugural Women Who Rule Award in Technology via Politico.
Fabiani A. Duarte, B.A., Arts & Science ’10. Capt. Duarte is chief of legal assistance for the 49th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he is responsible for providing legal services to all service members as well as veterans and their families. His Vanderbilt degree is in global communications and politics, a self-created interdisciplinary major combining Spanish, French, Italian, communication studies and political science. He received his juris doctor from Mercer University Law School in 2016, and also achieved a master’s of arts in Christian Ministry at Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta in 2017.
Kristen Eckstrand, Ph.D., Graduate School ’13, M.D., Medicine ’15, is internationally recognized for her leadership supporting the health of LGBT communities. She is the founding chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Advisory Committee on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex Development, and founder and former director of the Vanderbilt Program for LGBT Health. As a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Eckstrand explores the neuropsychiatric underpinnings of trauma and resilience in children and adolescents, with an emphasis on minority communities, vulnerable populations and incarcerated youth.
Kristina Chisholm Ellis, B.S., Peabody College ’09. A best-selling author and sought-after public speaker who overcame enormous obstacles to win more than $500,000 in scholarships, Ellis now teaches students how to have similar or even greater success. Her newest release, How to Graduate Debt-Free: The Best Strategies to Pay for College #NotGoingBroke, has reached No. 1 in Hot New Releases on Amazon. Passionately committed to making a positive impact, Ellis tours the country speaking and conducting workshops at dozens of high schools, colleges, and conferences, and is a regular contributor to national media outlets including ABC Family, USA Today, Money, Seventeen and many others.
DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren, B.Mus., Blair ’14, is a queer artist, performer, researcher and community worker from Catawba Indian Nation. His current projects include the Catawba Language Project, which leverages technology and community practice to revitalize the Catawba language; tours of the Smithsonian’s Presidential Portrait Gallery and the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s Go West! Exhibition that retells U.S. history from an indigenous perspective; and sound design for The Earth, That is Sufficient, a play about catastrophic climate change to be premiered in Washington, D.C., in the 2019-20 season. As collaborator on the play, Roo will embark on a residency and collaboration with the Sámi Center for Contemporary Art in northern Norway to speak with local indigenous communities experiencing the immediate direct effects of climate change.
Belinda Grant-Anderson, B.S., Engineering ’83; MBA, Owen ’90. Since joining the former BellSouth Corporation in 1998, Grant-Anderson has steadily grown a strong career through a variety of leadership positions. She recently transitioned from her role as vice president, diversity and inclusion, to lead the corporation’s talent development initiatives. During her tenure, AT&T has received numerous awards including a Top Company for Diversity by DiversityInc; the No. 1 company for diversity by Hispanic Business Magazine; a Top 40 Company by Black Enterprise; a Top Company for Executive Women by the National Association of Female Executives; and maintaining a perfect 100 percent score on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
Joseph D. Greenwell, B.Mus., Blair ’94, M.Ed., Peabody ’97, Ed.D., Peabody ’18, is associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students at the University of California-Berkley. Reporting to the vice chancellor of student affairs, Greenwell oversees eight key areas including the Dean of Students Office, which includes student affairs case management; students of concern; violence prevention; orientation and first year experience; sexual assault prevention and student advocacy; Office of New Student Services; student legal services; and assessment initiatives.
Kito K Huggins, B.S., Peabody ’96; J.D., Law ’99, has over 10 years of experience as a litigation attorney, securities industry compliance officer and diversity champion within Fortune 50 large financial services institutions. As director of executive administration for Weil Gotshal and Manges, he spearheads the firm’s global alumni program, career exploration and transition assistance for associates and alumni, and manages various special projects and education initiatives focused on cultivating client relationships and business development. His career also includes serving as vice president of compliance for the private investment management division of Lehman Brothers Inc. and managing sales practices litigation matters and regulatory investigations as counsel in MetLife’s law department.
Nathaniel Marshall, B.A., Arts and Science ’12. A prolific writer, rapper, breakbeat artist, educator and dedicated community advocate, Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He is the author of Wild Hundreds, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. and has also been honored with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s award for Poetry Book of the Year. He is an editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. His last rap album, Grown, was released in 2015 with his group Daily Lyrical Product. He is also a member of The Dark Noise Collective, a multiracial, multigenre collective featuring some of the most exciting, insightful and powerful spoken-word artists performing today.
Constance Mobley, Ph.D., Medicine ’98, M.D., Medicine ’03. Following a distinguished academic career at Vanderbilt, Mobley has established herself as a critical and acute care surgeon and organ transplant specialist at Houston Methodist Hospital. Her areas of special interests include management of the critically ill liver failure patient, methodology to improve liver transplant success in high MELD patients, and management of cirrhotic cardiomyopathy and post-transplant cardiomyopathy. Mobley is currently a member of the search committee for Vanderbilt’s next vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.
Mary Njeri Muchendu, MSN, Nursing ’13, D.N.P., Nursing ’15, recently completed her term as executive director at Kijabe Hospital, a faith-based facility located in rural Kenya and sponsored by the Africa Inland Church Kenya. A registered nurse with 35 years of experience in hospital contexts, Muchendu has long been at the forefront of nursing education and training of nurses in Kenya and development of nursing curriculum, including Kenya-registered community health nursing and Kenya-registered nurse anesthesia. Currently she is working on the bachelor of science in nursing curriculum for St. Paul’s University, Kenya.
Kimberly Mulligan, Ph.D., Graduate School ’12. As director of diversity and cultural affairs for the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University, Mulligan works to develop and implement initiatives that create an inclusive environment to recruit and retain a diverse student body, faculty and staff. While at Vanderbilt to receive her Ph.D. in molecular physiology and biophysics, she was a founding member of the Alliance for Cultural Diversity in Research, where she initiated several key community outreach activities. Her career path has allowed her to continue to explore new avenues to promote inclusion in higher education and help shape a STEM workforce that reflects our diverse population.
Wade Munday, M.Div., Divinity ’08, has been a nonprofit executive in Nashville since 2009 and is currently executive director of Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors. The humanitarian immigration legal services provided by TJFON includes asylum seekers, unaccompanied children displaced by Central American gang violence, and undocumented immigrants seeking temporary work authorization or eligible visa services. Munday is also a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus and serves as treasurer of the Tennessee Democratic Party. He is currently a candidate for Tennessee Senate District 25 in Middle Tennessee.
Klarissa Ling Oh, M.T.S., Divinity ’08. As co-founder and education director of Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service, Ling collaborates with individuals and organizations dedicated to increasing public awareness of the realities of childhood sexual abuse, to supporting and empowering survivors of such abuse, and to advocating for strong public policies and laws aimed at preventing it. In 2012, Oh received a Gloria Award from Gloria Steinem for her leadership in the movement to end child sex abuse. She is also a recipient of the Women of Vision Award by the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Cynthia Per-Lee, B.S., Peabody ’88, is a strategic business executive in human resources, recognized as an organizational culture thought leader, energetic change catalyst and courageous inclusion champion. She is an evangelist for cultures that inspire growth, innovation, engagement and superior performance. Her Fortune 100 experience includes technology, consumer products, aviation and manufacturing. Since 2009, Per-Lee has been a human resources executive for Microsoft leading global HR teams for the Microsoft Office and Dynamics businesses, and now Microsoft’s $30B Cloud + Enterprise group.
Zakiya Wells Smith, B.S., Peabody ’09. Throughout her distinguished career in higher education policy, Smith has focused strongly on issues of affordability. Prior to her role as strategic director for finance and federal policy at the Lumina Foundation, she served at the U.S. Department of Education, where she developed programmatic, policy and budget solutions to respond to pressing challenges in college access, affordability, and completion. As senior advisor for education to the White House Domestic Policy Council, she was tasked with developing President Barack Obama’s higher education policy. In March 2018, Smith was appointed secretary of higher education by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
Moses Taylor, Jr., B.S. Engineering ’69, began his career as a nuclear engineer at the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program headquarters in Washington, D.C. He then spent 30 years as a successful research and project manager both nationally and internationally. His undergraduate career at Vanderbilt included service in the Naval ROTC program, which led to a commission in the U.S. Navy. Taylor currently serves as senior advisor and client manager at Structural Integrity Associates Inc., an engineering consulting firm consisting of experts in the prevention and control of structural and mechanical failures.
Tiffany Tieu, B. Mus., Blair ’12. Violinist Tiffany Tieu is a versatile performer, educator and teaching artist who is dedicated to using music and arts for social change in youth and communities around the world. Tieu is equally at home on stage and in the classroom. Her teaching and performing as a soloist, orchestral musician, and chamber musician has brought her to over a dozen countries across the Americas. She has been a guest teaching artist with youth orchestras, music schools and conservatories in Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and throughout the United States. Currently, Tieu serves as assistant concertmaster, Orquesta Filarmonica de Chile, National Opera of Chile. She plays a 1769 Joseph Gagliano violin kindly on loan from the Ryuji Ueno Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Demetrius Walker, B.A., Arts and Science ’04, is a serial entrepreneur, author, public speaker and DJ who has used his dN/Be Apparel to promote messages of black empowerment through urban wear since 2005. As a managing partner of dN|Be Entertainment, he was instrumental in bringing Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winner, Che “Rhymefest” Smith’s sophomore album, El Che, to market, serving as an executive producer on the project. Walker has traveled the world as a public speaker, previously being featured on the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, and has spoken at dozens of universities through the organization Great Black Speakers. His first book, I Am A Black Man, was released in June 2017.