Nashville Emerging Leader Awards 2018 Award Recipients
Architecture, Engineering and Construction
Dr. Karl Zelik
Dr. Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, is a leader in the field of human movement biomechanics, prosthetics and exoskeletons. He is known for inventing “smart underwear,” a clothing-like exoskeleton that reduces stress on the lower back, as well as for creating prosthetic braces for a disabled dog in Tennessee. Karl is the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology at Vanderbilt. He has published more than 20 scientific articles on biomechanics and assistive technology, spoken at seminars in five countries and has mentored graduate and undergraduate students who have been recipients of numerous international and national awards. Karl is also part of the national organizing committee for National Biomechanics Day, an annual STEAM outreach event. He has demonstrated a strong commitment to STEM outreach by giving lab tours to local students and through his involvement in multiple university committees focused on diversity and inclusion.
Arts, Entertainment and Music Business
Steven C. Knapp
A native Nashvillian, Steven Knapp serves as the founder and creative director of knapptimecreative, a hybrid multimedia creative agency and production company working in the entertainment, advertising and live event industries. In 2016, Steven received an Emmy Award for his short form directing work with emerging country band, McKenzies Mill. His work with Big Machine Label Group and their artists Steven Tyler, Nick Fradiani and Thomas Rhett have garnered multiple gold and silver ADDY Awards. One of his most notable works, the “What is 13?” PSA campaign, focused on anti-sex trafficking and was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding public service campaign. Since 2008, Steven has worked with the Family & Children’s Service agency to help honor their donors, which creates development funds for their services. Outside of work, he is an active member of the Society of Leaders in Development and the Nashville Film Festival, where he serves on the Featured Film Screening Committee.
With a passion for business and a financial background as a Certified Public Accountant, Rebekah Carroll serves as a director at Ankura, a business advisory and expert services firm formerly known as c/3 Consulting. In her role, she has collaborated with numerous global executive teams to create and implement strategy, optimize processes, align teams and deliver results that create significant value. Rebekah is the former president of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Nashville and the Middle Tennessee Young Professionals board, where she established an annual young professional fundraiser to support domestic violence initiatives. Rebekah also founded Circles for Change, a professional consulting and training company, to address social justice issues impacting the Middle Tennessee community. Rebekah previously served on the Advisory Council for the Nashville Chamber’s ScaleNashville initiative and was recognized as one of Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30.
Community Service and Nonprofit
Shannon Lapsley is the assistant director of community development for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she raises funds to positively impact patients and their families, as well as funding for continued medical research and education. Shannon is an advisory board member at Youth Villages and also serves as the chair of Young Professionals for Youth Villages. She is a member of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Tomorrow’s Leader Council and a founding committee member of Young Professional Friends of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She is also involved with the Junior League of Nashville and is a fitness instructor with the YMCA. Shannon has participated in both the Young Leaders Council and Nashville Emerging Leaders programs, and in 2017, she was recognized as one of Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons
Dr. Lakisha Simmons serves as associate professor of management information systems at Belmont University and is the EdTech founder of the Homework Suite App for students and The Achiever Academy, a leadership and mentoring program. Her research in data science and educational technology has resulted in more than 40 peer reviewed scholarly works. Prior to receiving her doctorate, Lakisha held several positions with Caterpillar Financial Services including Six Sigma Black Belt and IT business analyst. Lakisha is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, faculty member of the PhD Project, member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society. During her free time, she mentors, trains and speaks to young women about tech careers, life and academic success strategies.
Environment and Sustainability
As a landscape architect and associate in Kimley-Horn’s Nashville design studio, Alisha Eley crafts sustainable designs to bring her clients’ vision to life. These designs include park plans, streetscapes, greenway designs and multimodal corridor studies. She was recognized by the TNASLA with their Top Award of Excellence for her Cummins Station Community Garden project design. She regularly attends public awareness events, annual lobbies on capitol hill and organized the first Landscape Architects’ Day on the Hill in Nashville. As an advocate for environmental issues, she serves as the advocacy chair for Kimley-Horn and is a board member of Tennessee Women in Green. Additionally, she is involved with the Tennessee Chapter of APA, WalkBike Nashville, the Greenways and Trails Forum and the Mount Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
As director of the healthcare banking group at Hancock Whitney Bank, Joshua Livingston is responsible for business development efforts and improving client relationships in the healthcare industry. Currently, Joshua has leadership roles at Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee, Young Leaders Council and Leadership Health Care. He is also involved with the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Heart Association’s Heart Gala. Joshua previously served as chair for the United Way’s Young Leaders Society of Metro Nashville. In 2016, Joshua was the recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award for his professional accomplishments and community involvement. Joshua has a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s in business administration from Vanderbilt University.
Government and Public Affairs
Adam C. Jarvis
Adam Jarvis was hired as a senior management consultant in the Office of Customer Focused Government with the State of Tennessee in his early twenties. He is the founder, president and CEO of Young Professionals in Government, Nashville’s only nonprofit and nonpartisan organization for young professionals in local, state and federal government. Throughout his time in state government, Adam has been focused on processes and performance improvement, crafting unique solutions that enable more efficient and effective government services. Adam is dedicated to helping people and organizations grow and improve and is passionate about serving the communities in which he lives and works.
Hospitality and Tourism
Nekasha Pratt is the director of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. She has more than 15 years of experience working in marketing for both large and small businesses and nonprofits. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing from Park University in Parkville, MO and is a certified project management professional (PMP). Active in the community, Nekasha is involved with tnAchieves, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and Women of Color in Communications. Nekasha is the board chair of Marketing Technology for Nashville Cable and on the review committee of the US Civil Rights Trail. Nekasha is a recent recipient of the Susan Short Jones Emerging Leader Award, was a 2018 ATHENA Young Professional Award nominee, and she received the Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award this year.
Jade Sampson is the director of talent management for AMSURG, where her responsibilities include overseeing talent acquisition, training and development and employee engagement. Outside of work, Jade is an active member in her community. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for the Junior League of Nashville and the Young Leaders Council. With both organizations, she has assisted in the development, launching and overseeing of their now-thriving mentorship programs. In 2016, Jade founded a local nonprofit, the Tennessee Educational Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing fundamental skills essential to breaking the cycle of poverty. They recently launched their flagship program, Dressed for the Test, to provide standard school attire for economically disadvantaged students.
A partner in the Nashville office of Stites & Harbison, PLLC, David Wicker is a commercial real estate and finance attorney. In his role, he regularly provides guidance for complex real estate transactions with an emphasis on financing, leasing and development. Outside of the firm, David sits on the board of directors for both the Margaret Maddox YMCA and the Nashville Downtown Partnership and is the current vice chair for the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section. He is involved with the Rotary Club of Nashville and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, where he actively supports their ongoing fundraising efforts. Each year, David also helps coordinate the Music City Hot Chicken Festival and serves as a co-chair of the East Nashville Tomato 5K during the annual Tomato Art Fest.
Medical and Health Care Services
Dr. Gerald Onuoha
In his time at Meharry Medical College, Gerald Onuoha has held many leadership positions including Student National Medical Association regional officer, student body president, student observer and young alumni member for the board of trustees. He is currently in residency at Meharry for internal medicine. Active in the community, Gerald is a member of Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and the Nashville Faculty Breakfast Club. He is a recipient of several awards including the NASA Achievement Award, the Chi Boule Community Service Award, the Kappa Alpha Psi Scholars Award and the Nashville Black Chambers Rising Star Award. He is also the founder and CEO of the Project Dream Community Initiative, a student-led organization that motivates disadvantaged students to pursue careers in health care, and the Paragon Social Club, an organization that brings professionals together.
Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing
Lauren Reed is owner of Reed Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing agency that develops strategy to successfully reach the business goals of clients. In her role, she is responsible for media relations, cause marketing, crisis management, social media, public affairs and event management. Since its founding in 2012, Lauren has grown the firm to 10 employees and has expanded their client base to include Ford, OrangeTheory Fitness and O'Charley's. In 2011, Lauren won the Public Relations Society of America’s Mercury Award, which recognizes the market’s top young public relations professional, and just this year was a recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award. Outside of the office, she is involved with organizations like the Entrepreneurs' Organization and the Women Presidents' Organization.
Real Estate Services
As a senior director with Eakin Partners, Byran Fort works with the Eakin tenant representation team and the landlord agency assignments. He assists clients in the acquisition and disposition of commercial property in the Nashville area and has completed more than $350 million in transactions including one million square feet in lease transactions over the past four years. In 2016, Byran was nominated as NAIOP’s Developing Leader of the Year. Byran is a member of the development committee with the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, where he has helped raise more than $1 million in various capital campaigns. He is also a member of the Nashville Rotary and an ambassador for Williamson County. He is an alum of the Young Leaders Council and was named a “Power Leader in CRE” in 2016 by the Nashville Business Journal.
After spending time working in nonprofits, project management, and private sector consulting, TaNisha Smith works as an information technology transition manager for Philips North America. She is an active member of the Nashville community, serving on boards including Street Works, a local HIV/AIDS outreach organization, and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee. A member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, TaNisha has been a mentor for teenage girls, facilitated health forums on issues impacting black women and served on the executive board of her local chapter. As a volunteer for Girls on the Run of Middle Tennessee, she has been a running buddy, site coordinator and run coach. TaNisha earned both a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy from Vanderbilt University.