Who We Are

Former Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam co-chairs the Project along with faculty members Samar Ali-a leading voice at the intersection of civil rights, national security, and economic development-and Jon Meacham, an acclaimed scholar on leadership and the American presidency. The co-chairs provide strategic advice and engage a diverse spectrum of scholars and thought leaders to advance the conversation about unity and American democracy.

The Project is under the management of John Geer, senior advisor to Chancellor Daniel Diermeier on key strategic initiatives that promote democracy, free expression and open dialogue. He previously served as senior vice president for congressional affairs of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

A 26-member advisory board spanning multiple backgrounds and fields-from former Texas Governor Jeb Bush and biographer Walter Isaacson to Grammy-winning artists Faith Hill and Tim McGraw-is committed to the Project's mission to elevate facts and evidence-based reasoning into American political discourse.


Advisory Board

Advisory Board (Cont'd)

  • Faith Hill

    Recording artist, actor


  • Lt. General Scott Howell

    U.S. Air Force (Retired), former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command


  • Walter Isaacson

    Biographer, former editor of Time, former president of the Aspen Institute, professor of history at Tulane University


  • Callie Khouri

    Academy Award-winning film and television writer, director, producer


  • Gary Locke

    Former U.S. ambassador to China, former secretary of commerce, former governor of Washington, interim president of Bellevue College


  • Martina McBride

    Grammy-nominated and CMA Award-winning country music artist


  • Ebie McFarland

    Owner, founder of Essential Broadcast Media


  • Tim McGraw

    Grammy Award-winning music artist, actor and author


  • Susan Nadler

    Former music industry executive, award-winning creator and author


  • Jonathan Nez

    President of the Navajo Nation


  • Valerie Rockefeller

    Chair of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and former chair of Rockefeller Brothers Fund


  • Deondra Rose

    Associate professor of public policy, political science and history; director of Polis: Center for Politics, Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy


  • Darren Walker

    President of the Ford Foundation


  • Peter Wehner

    Contributing opinion writer, The New York Times, The Atlantic; fmr. White House speechwriter, President George W. Bush; senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center


University Leadership

  • John Geer

    Senior Advisor to the Chancellor; Head of The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy


Faculty Advisory Board

  • Jad Abumrad

    Jad Abumrad

    o Distinguished Research Professor of Cinema and Media Arts and of Communication of Science and Technology

  • Jeff Bennett

    Jeff Bennett

    Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, professor of communication studies

  • Brandon R. Byrd

    Brandon R. Byrd

    Associate professor of history; Chancellor Faculty Fellow

  • Celso Thomas Castilho

    Celso Thomas Castilho

    Associate professor of history; director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies

  • Kim Davenport

    Kim Davenport

    Lecturer in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations; program director, Leadership and Organizational Performance and Leading Organizations

  • Lisa Fazio

    Lisa Fazio

    Associate professor of psychology and human development

  • Nicole Hemmer

    Nicole Hemmer

    Director of the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Center for the Study of the Presidency; associate professor of history

  • Amanda Little

    Amanda Little

    Writer in residence in the English department and the Communication of Science, Environment and Technology department

  • Beth Ann Malow, M.D.

    Beth Ann Malow, M.D.

    Professor of neurology and pediatrics; director, Vanderbilt Sleep Division; Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development

  • Jacob Mchangama

    Jacob Mchangama

    CEO of Justitia and The Future of Free Speech project

  • Mark John Sanchez

    Mark John Sanchez

    Assistant professor of Asian studies

  • Stacy Clifford Simplican

    Stacy Clifford Simplican

    Senior lecturer of gender and sexuality studies

  • Sharece Thrower

    Sharece Thrower

    Associate professor of political science and of law

  • Danyelle Valentine

    Danyelle Valentine

    Ph.D. candidate in Atlantic world history

  • Michael P. Vandenbergh

    Michael P. Vandenbergh

    David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law; director, Climate Change Research Network; co-director, Energy, Environment and Land Use Program

  • Carol Ziegler, DNP

    Carol Ziegler, DNP

    Professor of nursing; co-founder, Climate, Health and Energy Equity Lab