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Andy Masters

Andy Masters, MA, CSP is an award-winning author and international speaker who has presented hundreds of programs across North America, including as the keynote speaker for over 30+ HR, SHRM, and IPMA-HR Conferences.  He also served as keynote speaker for the National Institute for Staff & Organizational Development Conference with over 1,400+ attendees in Austin, TX.  Andy has earned the prestigious CSP award of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the highest international recognition for professional speakers, achieved by less than 10% of the 5,000+ speakers worldwide.  

Andy has written 5 books and earned 4 degrees, including an M.A.-Human Resources Development and an M.A.-Marketing from Webster University in Missouri.  He is the author of the award-winning book "Kiss Your Customer: 77 Reasons Why Sales & Service Are Just Like Dating & Relationships" and his latest book “Things LEADERS Say: A Daily Guide to Help Every Leader Empower & Inspire.”  Andy has been featured on the LifeTime Television network, Investor’s Business Daily, and Leadership Excellence magazine.  His website is www.Andy-Masters.com (Click on Business).


Dave Kaiser

Dave Kaiser, a retired Navy Commander and current CEO and founder of H2H Dynamics, an authentic leadership training and advisory company that focuses on the essential human to human dynamics that determine successful business, team and personal performance.

Dave has extensive leadership and human performance experience from both his Military and Corporate careers. He served as a Naval Officer and Aviator where he flew 46 combat sorties during Desert Storm. He was one of the officers in charge of the Navy and Marine Corps elite Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training program where he was first exposed to human dynamics under extremely stressful conditions.

In the corporate sector, Dave has worked in the manufacturing and aviation training industries with such
companies such as Corning Inc., where he was awarded two U.S. Patents and Patriot Aviation where he
was the Chief Operating Member until recalled back to Naval Service for the Global War on Terrorism.
Dave was released from active duty in 2006 and joined Crew Training International as their Chief Learning
Officer (CLO). As the CLO he was responsible for leading the global learning strategy and customized
learning solutions for the United States Air Force’s human factors training where he directly applied latest
research in the fields of learning psychology, human performance, and neuroscience.

Additionally Dave lead a three year research study for the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to
determine the most effective training interventions to improve human performance of aircrew members.
From this research Dave co‐authored two published papers at the Interservice/Industry Training,
Simulation and Education Conference in 2008 (Best Paper Nominee) and again in 2010.

Dave holds a Master’s degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University that concentrated on Human
Factors and Education technology. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in Physics
from Montclair State University.

Dave is an avid outdoorsman, Airline Transport rated Pilot, FAA designated Gold Seal Flight Instructor,
former Scoutmaster, and a Commissioned Kentucky Colonel.

Dave’s life has been blessed through his lifelong partner and wife, Janine, and his two sons, Seth and
Ethan. Dave and his family reside in the beautiful town of Rosemark, Tennessee just outside of Memphis


Janice A. Banks, Employee & Organizational Development

Education & Affiliations:

¨ MBA, Ashford University
 BS, Accounting, Howard University
 Executive Management Institute, Christian Brothers Univ.
  Board of Examiners, Greater Memphis Assoc. for Quality   (former member)


Janice has 25 years in organizational capacity building, assessment, and training. She currently leads process re-engineering, quality management, and program management efforts for Small Planet Works, Inc. Janice provides technical assistance and capacity building for Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), Workforce Investment Network (WIN), and TN Small Business Development Center (TSBDC).

Janice has conducted feasibility and marketing studies, disparity studies, and has published three studies on risk assessments and community resilience, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Energy. Some of her other projects supporting public and private-sector clients are listed below:

Gap Analyses:

q   MLGW Disparity Study

q   TN Department of Children’s Services

q   Whitehaven Economic Sustainability & Market Feasibility Study

q   Resilience Gap Analysis for MS Gulf Coast (Post-Katrina)

Training/Policy & Procedure/

Operational Reviews:

Organizational Assessments/Process Reengineering:

q   MATA Organizational Assessment

q   TN Department of Children’s Services organization assessment

q   Shelby County Efficiency Study

q   Metropolitan Nashville Airport Auth.

q   Shelby County Election Commission

Published Research & Studies:

q   BCP Gap Analysis for Small &

q   MATA Employee Development

q   TN Department of Children’s Services

q   Shelby County Efficiency Study

q   Metro Nashville Airport Authority

q   Shelby County Election Commission 

     Disadvantaged Businesses – TN

q   BCP Gap Analysis for Small & Disadvantaged Businesses – MS

q   Southbrook Mall Economic Feasibility Study

q   MLGW Disparities Study


Judy Bell

Judy Bell has served as senior executive in the Human Resources and Development field for thirty years. She formed Judy Bell Consulting in early 2013 to provide Executive Coaching and HR Consulting to local businesses. Her passion is around employee engagement, change management, emotional intelligence and career counseling. Additionally, she works with HR teams on process effectiveness, team dynamics and HR Audits. Most recently, Judy served in an appointed position as HR Administrator with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Nashville, TN.

Judy is a certified behavioral analyst and Executive Coach. She received her PHR in 1995. Judy is a past  President of SHRM-Memphis. She founded the SHRM Ethics Council in 2010 and served on the Board for the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South from 2006 until 2011. Judy served as Chairman of The Workforce Employer Outreach Committee (TN Dept. of Labor) from 2004 until 2011. Judy taught HRCI classes at the University of Memphis and specialized in Employment Law, Safety and Training, and Management Practices.

Judy was awarded the “Smart Award” by Girls Inc. of Memphis in 2008 and named Woman of the Year by the  Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2003 for her fundraising efforts. She was selected by Memphis Woman Magazine as one of “50 Women Who Make a Difference” in 2002 and received the 2001 Human Resources Management Professional Excellence Award in the State of Tennessee.

Judy is a speaker on the topics of Ethics, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Employee Engagement and is writing a book on behavioral improvement.

Personal Mission:

Helping you become your Best Self!  

Core Values:



       Emotional Intelligence


Judy currently partners with Austin Baker as Senior Consultant with HRO Partners.



Morag Barrett, CEO

SkyeTeam is the brainchild of Morag Barrett (nee McLeod). Morag’s experience ranges from senior executive coaching to developing high impact teams across Europe, America and Asia. She is a highly effective speaker, trainer and executive coach.

Morag draws from a deep and unique operational skill set. Her corporate career started in retail banking with Royal Bank of Scotland Group in the UK. With 15 years’ experience in the finance industry, Morag understands the challenges of running a business as well as the complexities of leading and managing the people that are part of that business.

Prior to launching Skye in 2007, Morag was responsible for global leadership and executive development in a US Telecoms company. Since launching SkyeTeam she has had the opportunity to work with clients in a range of industries including: Healthcare, Telecoms, Mining, Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology.
Morag earned a Master of Human Resource Management and received the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation. She is also a recognized business coach for the Corporate Coach University and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK.

Morag is a contributor to Entrepreneur.com and has been featured in inc.com, business insider, TheStreet.com, American Management Association and is a regular contributor the Association for Training and Development, Society for Human Resources and HR.com among others.

Morag has established herself very happily and firmly in Broomfield, Colorado, with her husband and 3 sons. For fun, in addition to time with her family, you’ll find Morag playing in the Broomfield Symphony Orchestra where she is the principal bassoonist or ballroom dancing. (It’s also possible she may simply be relaxing in front of an episode of Law & Order). As a footnote, her name is Scottish and means “great”.


Julius E. Rhodes, SPHR

Julius E. Rhodes, SPHR, is a life-long resident of Chicago’s Southeast Side and the youngest of four children born to the 65 year marriage of Pete and Marzet Rhodes. His greatest accomplishment is his 26 year marriage to wife Linda and their two children, Jerome and Lauren.

He is the Founder and Principal of the mpr group, his full-service broad based Human Resources and Management Professional Services Firm that is celebrating 21 years in business this year.

Mr. Rhodes is the author of BRAND: YOU Personal Branding for Success in Life and Business now in its second edition and the recently published BRAND: YOU The WORKBOOK. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Human Resources from Roosevelt University and Loyola University respectively both in Chicago and he has completed his coursework towards a Ph.D. in business ethics and philosophy.

He has a lifetime Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification, the highest level of official recognition in his profession and in 1992 he completed a certified arbitrator development program through Cornell University and the New York State Employment Relations Board

Mr. Rhodes is a much sought after presenter, motivational and keynote speaker nationally and internationally on various topics and he has spoken throughout the U.S.A. in addition to, Manchester, UK, Montreal, Quebec, Lagos, Nigeria and was recently invited to speak in Mumbai, India. He recently contributed an article entitled “An Easy Approach to Innovation” to the December edition of IPMA-HR’s HR News publication and one in March entitled: Fact or Fiction: Taking A Fresh Look At Old Views. In addition, he

is a regular contributing columnist to the parking professional a national monthly trade publication of the International parking Institute and other national association publications. He also contributes regularly to several Boards and other social and philanthropic efforts.


Trinette Small

Trinette Small is the Chief of Human Resources for Shelby County Schools.  Shelby County Schools is 2nd largest employer in the Memphis area, with over 14,000 employees, 8,000 retires, approximately 116,000 students and 180 schools.  Trinette is responsible for all strategic Human Capital functions in the district including, recruiting, staffing, employee performance management, non-instructional professional development, benefits, compensation, labor and employee relations.

Trinette has over 20 years of experience in the Human Resources arena, working in both the public and private sector, with healthcare and technology organizations.   Trinette is focused on Shelby County Schools becoming an employer of choice and leading the District's human capital strategy.  Trinette has a B.S. Degree in Business Management and is member of SHRM, World at Work, and Leadership Memphis alumni.  She enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family.


Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is Human Resources Administrator for Shelby County Government. In that position he is responsible for hiring, payroll processing, employee record keeping, employee relations, employee benefits and retirement administration, training and development, civil service administration, labor relations and employment related legal and/or regulatory compliance. In addition to his government service, his more than 35 years experience in human resources management has also included the banking and insurance industries. Mr. Lewis is a native Memphian and has been involved in a variety of civic endeavors involving community development, volunteerism, youth advocacy and the arts. He and his wife are parents to a son and daughter.

Brent  Nair

As a leader in Information Technology, Brent has been involved in Information Technology management for over 20 years.  For the last 6 years, he has served as the Chief Information Officer for the City of Memphis, and is a leading advocate in process improvement at the City.  Prior to the City, he has served in leadership roles in the healthcare, banking, logistics, and higher education sectors. 

Mr. Nair holds the following certifications; LSSBB, CISSP, PMP and a Master of Science from the University of Memphis.  As an active member of the local ISSA and PMI Chapters he mentors at the University and teaches project management courses for local Project Management Chapter.  He has also spoken at several national conferences on topics ranging from communication and personnel development to Enterprise Risk Management.

Brent is involved with community and service organizations, and is the President of the University of Memphis, Business and Technology Advisory Board.   


Ernie Ricketts, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Ernie Ricketts is Director of Organizational Development with the Department of Human Resources, Strategic Learning Solutions (SLS) team. Ernie comes to DOHR after holding a post as a professor of Linguistics, Greek Language and Humanities for 16 years. His research focused on the intersection of linguistic and literary criticism, primarily on the application of linguistic theory and methods (discourse theory, sociolinguistics, text analysis, historical linguistics) to the Greek language. In addition, Ernie assisted in establishing a learning institute in Italy, and taught courses there over a period of four years.

Dr. Ricketts received a B.A. in Greek from Bryan College, an M.A. in Religious Studies from Biola University, and a Ph.D. in Greek Linguistics from the University of Texas, Arlington. Ernie has earned certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the SHRM-SCP. He is also a graduate of LEAD Tennessee, Alliance 2 and the 2014 class of the Tennessee Government Executive Leadership (TGEI).

As the Director of Organizational Development, Ernie collaborates closely with the State Chief Learning Officer to lead the execution process of assisting agency leaders in implementing their identified talent management strategy that align with the Governor’s initiatives and supports the state’s workforce planning efforts. Ernie is a native Tennessean, and lives in Gallatin with his wife Breigh and six children, Landon Alexander, KaiLynn Alexandria, Kyrah Anastasia, Lawson Andreas, Lanxton Anastasios, and Laikon Athanasios. The Ricketts’ are active members of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Nashville, TN.


Lynda R. Willams

A 28-year veteran of the United States Secret Service, Lynda R. Williams is Deputy Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service.  In May 2015, she received a Senior Executive Service (SES) appointment.

Ms. Williams is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. In 1988, Ms. Williams began her career in the United States Secret Service, as a Uniformed Division Officer assigned to the White House Branch.   After serving three years as an Officer, she was selected to be a Special Agent and assigned to the Washington Field Office.  Special Agent Williams conducted counterfeit currency, treasury check, credit card and bank fraud, and other financial crimes investigations.  In 1997, Special Agent Williams was reassigned to the Vice Presidential Protective Division during the Clinton Administration, where she served four years. In 2001, Special Agent Williams was then transferred to the Richmond Field Office, where she continued to conduct criminal investigations, as well as a myriad of protective assignments.

In 2003, Special Agent Williams was promoted as the Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office.  Her promotion served as a milestone distinguishing her as the first African American female to serve as a supervisor in this major field office.  In 2004, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge Williams was transferred to Headquarters, where she served as the National Recruiter in the Security Clearance Division.  In 2008, she was once again promoted to be the Secret Service’s Country Attaché, Pretoria Resident Office in Pretoria, South Africa.  In this capacity she was responsible for all Secret Service operations in Sub-Saharan Africa and five countries in West Africa.  Attaché Williams had jurisdiction for 21 countries, as well as oversight of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  In 2011, she returned to Washington, DC, after being promoted to be the Special Agent in Charge, Office of Congressional Affairs.  In this capacity, she served as the Secret Service’s liaison to members of Congress. In 2013, the Director of the Secret Service appointed her as the Special Agent in Charge of the Recruitment Division, where she was tasked with the responsibility to ensure that the Secret Service maintained the high standards of excellence for recruiting the next generation of Uniformed Division Officers and Special Agents.

In May 2015, Special Agent in Charge Williams was appointed to the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, as the Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Human Resources.  In this capacity, Deputy Assistant Director Williams currently serves as Chief Security Officer (CSO) for the development, implementation and management of the agency’s security vision, strategy and programs. She is responsible for the security of all personnel, information and physical premises of the Secret Service.  

Ms. Williams has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master’s Degree of Science in Management from Johns Hopkins University.

Ms. Williams is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).  She has received numerous awards and commendations throughout her distinguished career with the United States Secret Service and serves as a mentor to current agency leaders.

Kevin Sheridan

Kevin Sheridan is an Internationally-recognized Key-Note Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement.   He spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, helping some of the world’s largest corporations break down detrimental processes and rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors in the process. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement.  His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.  He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most

Prior to forming Kevin Sheridan LLC, Kevin founded HR Solutions International in 1995, a firm specializing in measuring employee engagement and teaching best practices, which he sold in 2011.  In this role, Kevin pioneered the wonderfully disruptive concept of joint ownership for employee engagement.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School, concentrating his degree in Managerial Decision-making, Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. 

In his free time, Kevin volunteers with a variety of charities.  He also enjoys golfing, fishing, and high-altitude mountaineering.  He is in the process of climbing the highest mountain on every continent, an athletic journey known as “The Seven Summits.”  As such, he has stood at the top of Africa, Europe, and South America, climbing as high as 23,000 feet.  His personal and professional travels have brought him to more than 65 different countries.  He lives with his wife and two daughters in Winnetka, Illinois. 

Mark Morgan, President, SHERRILL MORGAN

With over 20 years’ experience in the health and life insurance industry, Mark specializes in managing and establishing employee benefit plans.  He is a licensed Agent and Consultant experienced in working with private, non-profit and governmental entities throughout the country and has been involved in numerous collective bargaining negotiations.  He also works with hospital and provider organizations, and is one of the industry’s leading proponents of transparency in health care financing, particularly in the area of pharmacy benefit management.   Mark has extensive experience with consumer-driven programs, such as wellness programs, health reimbursement accounts, health savings accounts, and Section 125 programs.  He is regularly invited to speak at human resources conventions on health benefits and health care reform.   Mark is an advocate for senior citizens, and has served as President of Senior Services of Northern Kentucky. 

Health Care Reform & Employee Benefits Survey

Mark will present an update on health care reform and the effects this legislation could have on employer group health plans.  He will also present results for the 3rd Annual TPMA Benefits Survey.  


Susan Trimble-Schubert


Susan is one of the newest members of the senior management team at Memphis Area Transit Authority. Susan joined MATA in October of 2015, after serving as interim Human Resources Director for 3 months, on loan through MATA’s management contract.


Susan began her career in Human Resources with Comcast Cable in Pittsburgh, PA where she worked for

6 years in several capacities before relocating to Chicago with her husband. In Chicago Susan held a position as HR Business Partner with ADP, supporting clients who chose to outsource their HR function. After leaving ADP, Susan served as Division Human Resources Manager for national homebuilder, KB Home until they closed Division operations.


Susan was recruited by First Transit to serve as the HR Manager for First’s Glen Ellyn, IL call center and then was promoted to Director of HR for First Vehicle Services and First Transit’s Transit Management group under the First Group America umbrella in Cincinnati.  She handled the HR function for those management groups for 5 years across the U.S. as well as for locations in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA and a Master in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International

Affairs. Susan is also a certified trainer in Situational Leadership as well as a certified workplace mediator, and has earned the PHR and SRHM-CP designations.



Dr. Ely serves as training manager for the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS).  Established in 1949 by the Tennessee General Assembly, MTAS provides training and technical advice to cities and towns across the state.  As manager over MTAS training, Dr. Ely oversees multiple training programs including the Elected Officials Academy, Municipal Management Academy, Municipal Administration Program and the Certified Municipal Finance Officer programs. 

Before coming to MTAS to work, Dr. Ely worked as the training specialist for the UT Institute for Public Service (IPS) leadership programs. Ely’s job consisted of managing and facilitating training for Tennessee’s senior-level managers and executive leadership through programs such as the Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI) and the Tennessee Government Executive Institute (TGEI). He also served as head of the Institute’s Continuing Education Units Committee, ensuring that all training courses properly met the standards for the International Association for Continuing Education Training (IACET).

Dr. Ely also previously served as the program coordinator for the UT Center for Homeland Security. His duties included the development of statewide curriculum training for law enforcement officers and other city officials in Tennessee, as well as planning, coordinating and hosting training activities in conjunction with the governor’s own Office of Homeland Security.

Dr. Ely serves as a board of director for various charities and belongs to a variety of professional associations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lee University and Kentucky Wesleyan College along with a master’s degree in public administration and a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Tennessee. He has also earned the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification through the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and also has certificates in the areas of coaching, leadership program development and training management.  In addition to these accomplishments, Dr. Ely has been awarded several prestigious awards and honors for his contributions in the areas of training and development.

He recently authored a book entitled Ain’t No Grave which has been featured in media outlets such as CNN Headline News, National Public Radio, British Broadcasting Corporation and others. This literary work was also nominated for best historical research by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections. Dr. Ely has also worked as a school administrator in Kentucky and a news reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Jamie, currently reside in Maryville, Tennessee with their two children. 

Mike Avery

Mike Avery; a husband of 20 years, a father of 3, and soon to be grandfather.  An energetic inspirational speaker, and life junky, whose motto is "Make It Happen".

Mike Avery obtained a bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State University as well as a master’s degree from Augsburg College.  Mike has worked at some of the elite consumer package good companies in the world such as Kraft Foods, Colgate-Palmolive, Energizer Personal Care & currently Chobani.

His passions are inspiring others, his family and himself.  Mike still tries to enjoy basketball but the day after is too painful, so he’s much more into golf.  Mike also hopes to fly airplanes and race motorcycles!

Alexandria Smith


 Alexandria is a SHRM-Senior Certified Professional with a wealth of professional experience in human resources management. She most recently served as Director of Human Resources for Brightstar Device Protection, a subsidiary of Brightstar Corporation. Prior to her tenure at Brightstar, Smith served in HR management roles at industry leaders including Target Corporation and Microsoft Corporation. She earned her BA in economics from Duke University and a M.A. in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. She and her husband now reside in Memphis, TN, where she serves as Chief Human Resources Officer for the City Of Memphis.

Peter Voss 

Peter Voss has been the Human Resources Director and Risk Manager for the City of Bartlett for 9 years.  Prior to his appointment as Director he held several positions including, Assistant Human Resource Director, Benefits/Safety Officer, Construction Inspector and Water Treatment Plant Operator.  In all, Mr. Voss has 33 years of service with the City of Bartlett.

Mr. Voss graduated from the University of Memphis in 1982 with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree majoring in Personnel Administration.  He is the current President of the Tennessee Chapter of the International Public Mangers Association for Human Resources and received his Certified Professional (IPMA-CP) designation in 2009.  Mr. Voss has also served 11 years on the Executive Board as Treasurer of the Greater Memphis Employee Benefits Council.

Mr. Voss and his wife Jolynn have been married for 33 years and reside in Bartlett, TN.

Soprano, Lenora Green-Turner

 originally from Macon, Georgia is hailed by Opera News as an impressive vocalist and NYTimes as a most expressive singer is honored to be the Artist-in-Residence for LeMoyne Owen College and Stax Music Academy and Opera Memphis helping to bridge the gap in the African American community and the arts. A recipient of the Jane Willson Emerging Artist award of Albany State University and the Leo Rogers Scholarship of the Sarasota Opera Guild, Ms. Green has been making strides on the opera and concert stages. Her recent roles include 1st Lady (The Magic Flute), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), the title role of Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Berta (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), High Priestess (Aida), and Antonia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann). Ms. Green also directed and starred as Countess Susanna in the comic one-act opera Il Segreto di Susanna by Ermano Wolf-Ferrari. Ms. Green was a recipient of MONC Encouragement Award, and has taken top honors in the NATS, the William Knight Competition, and the MTNA Young Artist Program. A former student of Metropolitan Opera Soprano, Carol Vaness, and holds a MM degree from the University of Michigan and Performance Diploma from Indiana University.

Justin Granville Merrick


In 2014, the first year the GRAMMYs added their Music Educator of the Year Award, Justin was nominated for the award and was among approximately 230 finalists from the more than 30,000 initial nominations from all 50 states.

His recent transition from Stax Music Academy, where he served as Artistic Director since January 2011 led him to be the Vocal Music Director and Choreographer for the highly anticipated Broadway Musical Heart & Soul. A story on Stax Records and its ongoing legacy, where his work with the world renown, Stax Music Academy inspired the storyline. Currently, Merrick is working independently on several cultural and historical Memphis music related projects; including developing his own nonprofit JMUSE Productionz (Jus’ Makin’ Use of Soulful Expressionz) while forming a new musical group called Merrick & The Movement. First and foremost, it is clear that Justin is an artist as he integrates disciplines and mediums to forge the future Memphis Sound. However, as much as he is an artist in his own right, Justin is also an amazingly talented music teacher. He is gifted and qualified and has been credited with many artistic successes (vocal and performance) for the Stax Music Academy. He has taken SMA students to Lincoln Center in New York City, Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.; to perform for the United States Ambassador to Germany and others in Berlin, Kent England and many other high-profile venues.

"Justin Merrick shaped the SMA vision in large part to bring it to the internationally renowned profile that it has today. He articulates the meaning of soul and how it connects to the American dream and legacy of music. He is a student of the brand and reveres the many influences in how Memphis inspires the world. He performs miracles with students (vocals, stage presence, choreography) and transforms them into stage ready performers. He energizes students and they rewarded him with respect and amazing performances. I am unable to describe here how gifted this young man is; you should meet/speak with him yourself. " Deanie Parker, Original Publicist of Stax Records.

Justin Merrick holds a Master’s Degree in Voice & Non-Profit Management from the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, (also Booker T. Jones’ alma mater), where he served as vocal coach and choreographer of the I.U. Soul Revue. He has been a finalist in several classical music competitions including (NATS, Classical Singer) and winner of the NANBWCP (Leontyne Price) Voice Competition, Debbie Allen Triple Threat FameUS Competition, and most notably the Honda All Star Music Competition, in which his ad as "World’s Next Greatest Conductor" was printed in Forbes, Black Enterprise, Essence, Ebony, and on the cover of Crisis magazine.


Kari Knight Stevens, Esq. 

Kari Knight Stevens is Managing Counsel at Cigna.  She is responsible for all legal matters relating to Cigna’s benefit and compensation programs for its employees and retirees.  She also oversees Cigna’s Health Care Reform Consulting and Communications team.  Prior to joining Cigna, Kari practiced law at Blank Rome LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms in the United States.  She earned a JD, Cum Laude, from the Temple University Beasley School of Law and a BA, Magna Cum Laude, in Political Science from Boston College.   Kari was recognized in Pennsylvania as a 2013 “Lawyer on the Fast Track” by The Legal Intelligencer Magazine and was a recipient of the 2014 Forum Award for Emerging Women Leaders in Philadelphia.


Antonio Q. Meeks, Learning and Development Director - Tennessee Deprtment of Human Resources

Antonio Q. Meeks currently serves as Director of Learning and Talent Development of the Strategic Learning Solutions division within the Department of Human Resources where he provides leadership to a team of learning consultants charged with increasing organizational effectiveness through customized learning and development.

Antonio’s work experience spans across corporate, non-profit, government and higher education sectors. Prior to his service with the State of Tennessee, Antonio worked as an independent consultant with organizations such as AmeriCorps, AT&T, Memphis City Schools, Nashville Metropolitan Schools, and United Neighborhood Health Services in the areas of leadership development and diversity. Having over 16 years’ professional learning and development experience, Antonio has established an impressive portfolio of specialized workshops in the areas of leadership development, diversity, team building, customer service, and performance management. Antonio is particularly proud of his work providing leadership to non-profit organizations geared towards eradicating adult illiteracy.

Antonio earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Fisk University and a Master of Education (M.Ed.) from Belmont University. He is also a graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute, (TGEI) and the Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI). Having the heart of a servant leader, Antonio volunteers at homeless shelters teaching life and career skills to men and women; serves on the board of the Teacher Education Council at Belmont University; and builds relationships as president of the alumni association for his alma mater. He also serves as chair of Diversity for Belmont’s Department of Education.