2021 NEW Leadership ® Mississippi Summer
In 2021, we offered a hybrid program that blended virtual and face-to-face sessions as we navigated our first attempt at programming with COVID-19. In 2022, things are getting back to normal, so there will be a few differences between the two years. However, prospective participants will still get a good sense of the work we do by viewing the materials on this page. Follow the links below to view the full agenda for our state's hybrid program and see what students worked on for their Action Project last year (each year covers a new policy issue). Below, you'll find biographical information on state-based guest speakers and program staff. To learn more about speakers featured in the national, virtual sessions, visit the national website for NEW Leadership 2021. Profiles of all student participants and common resources are also available on the national site.
The 2021 agenda was a bit different from a typical year. Because we still weren't sure what to expect from COVID-19, we planned for a hybrid program and coordinated with the Center for American Women in Politics and our national partners to offer national, virtual sessions. The 2022 institute will be completely residential, though we may partner again to create some national, virtual content.
As part of the NEW Leadership ® program, you will complete a political “Action Project.” Each year, we focus on a different issue—typically in a policy area that topped the agenda of a recent legislative session. As part of the project, you will research the issue from the perspective of an assigned interest group or coalition of interests. The project will culminate in a mock legislative committee hearing on proposed legislation related to the chosen policy area. In 2021, the mock committee was studying House Bill 1439 (HB 1439), which would abolish the income tax in the state of Mississippi (the 2022 version of this is HB 531, the proposed "Mississippi Tax Freedom Act").
Staff and Guest Speakers
At Mississippi University for Women, the NEW Leadership ® MS program is organized by Dr. Chanley Rainey, Director of the Women's Center for Research & Public Policy, with assistance from Dr. Erin Kempker, Chair of the History, Political Science, & Geography Department and Professor of History and Women's Studies. In addition, student mentors and Faculty in Residence are hired each summer to assist with the institute.
NEW Leadership ® Mississippi Mentors are young women with a demonstrated interest in politics and public service who agree to live on campus with the students for the duration of the Summer Institute. Typically, they are also women who have participated in the summer institute as students and are thus well-prepared to help current students take full advantage of the program.The primary purpose of the position is to ensure students have an intensive learning and mentoring experience. Mentors work with Faculty in Residence (FIRs) to guide up to five students in group work on an Action Project that culminates in a mock legislative committee hearing. They also assist instructors during skill-based workshops and serve as role models, demonstrating professionalism and civic engagement through their own participation in program activities. Finally, mentors closely monitor student behavior, communicate problems to FIRs and the Program Director, and help evaluate the participation and growth of students in their assigned group.
NEW Leadership ® Mississippi Alumna, 2019
Kelsi Ford is the daughter of Stacey Ford and Anita Ford and is a native of Hattiesburg, MS. Throughout her time at Southern Miss, Kelsi has remained heavily involved on campus by serving as the Vice President of Judicial Affairs for the Student Government Association, President of the Afro-American Student Organization, Ambassador for the Honors College Leadership Council, and Mentor for the Luckyday Citizenship Program as well as a member of Eagle Connection, the Mighty Mu Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, the Black-Eyed Susan’s Leadership Honorary, and various community partners. Kelsi has also worked as a Learning Assistant for the History department, a Conversation Partner for the university’s English Language Institute, and a Tour Guide for the Office of Admissions for three years. To add, Kelsi has completed her Honors Research Thesis titled “Engaged Pedagogy and Teacher Discourse: A Critical Examination of Public Education in Mississippi” under the advisement of Dr. Julie Reid.
In August of 2021, Kelsi will study Crime and Politics in Ireland. Her awards and honors include, but are not limited to, Who’s Who Among Students at Southern Miss, Outstanding Freshman of the Year (2018), Barbara Ross Gold Leaf Scholarship Award, Dean’s list, President’s List, Bachelor of Social Work Student of the Year, and numerous honor societies. Upon graduation in December, Kelsi plans to further her education and pursue a career involving law and public service.
NEW Leadership ® Mississippi Alumna, 2019
Maria Serratos is a 2017 graduate of Clinton High School and studied engineering at Hinds Community College. There, she was a Foundation Scholar, was selected for the All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team and was selected by the Mississippi Legislature as the Hinds 2020 student HEADWAE (Higher Education Appreciation Day – Working for Academic Excellence) honoree. She also served as Vice President of the Hinds-Raymond Gamma Lambda chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and in the Psi Beta Psychology Honor Society and Hinds Connection. She was an office intern for the Hinds Honors College and participated in the 2019 NEW Leadership ® Mississippi summer institute.
Now, Maria is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Mississippi State University. Upon transferring to MSU, Maria was selected as a 2020 NEW Century Transfer Scholar. She interns with the city engineer’s office and is fluent in three languages: English, Mayan, and Spanish.
2021 Center for Women's Research & Public Policy Summer Intern
Keara Williams is a senior at Mississippi University for Women and a 2021 summer intern with the Center for Women’s Research & Public Policy. She is majoring in Political Science with concentrations in English, Science, and Social Studies. She is a 2020-2021 Edsel and Joyce Cooper scholar and Dave Evans Scholar. In addition, she is a member MUW’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Keara will enroll in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at The W to pursue a career in secondary education. She lives in Columbus with her daughter, Khaleesi, who is two years old.
FACULTY IN RESIDENCE (FIRs)
NEW Leadership ® Mississippi Faculty in Residence mentor students, guide students in research and rehearsals for the Action Project, provide general oversight of student behavior and assessment of student achievement in coordination with mentors, and facilitate engagement with elected officials.FIRs are women political leaders who agree to stay on campus with the students for the duration of the program. This allows for an intensive learning and mentoring experience, ensuring students receive the kind of high-quality mentoring that will prepare them, socially, for a career in politics and public service. As part of the Action Project, FIRs are each assigned to a small group of students with whom they can develop especially strong relationships, but the program also creates many opportunities for interaction with other students. In addition, the program offers a range of contexts for mentor-mentee interactions, ranging from policy research to professional dinners, from FIR-led panels to coffee breaks.
Attorney, Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services
Kristie was recently selected as an attorney for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. She will serve as the attorney for privacy and civil rights.
Kristie has extensive legal experience in Mississippi’s legislature and judiciary. After law school, Kristie began her legal career as a law clerk for Chief Justice William L. Waller, Jr. with the Mississippi Supreme Court and then for Judge Ermea (EJ) Russell with the Mississippi Court of Appeals. After her time as a law clerk, Kristie joined the Mississippi Senate as legislative counsel, where she remained for eight years.
Kristie holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from the Mississippi University for Women. She is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law, where she was Executive Board Notes and Comments Editor of the Mississippi Law Journal and a member of the Moot Court Board.
Kristie loves to Tunisian crochet in her free time. Her work in that area has earned her an exhibiting membership in the Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi. Kristie is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy novels and college football.
Mississippi Government Relations Manager, Tennessee Valley Authority
Amy Tate manages the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) relationships with Mississippi’s public officials in the utility’s 36-county footprint. She maintains bipartisan working relationships with congressional staff, the state legislature, county supervisors and mayors. She also works with energy interest organizations and economic development associations. Tate served on TVA’s Media Relations staff and also worked in TVA’s Washington, DC office prior to joining the State and Local Government Relations team in 2005. Prior to TVA, Tate served as Special Assistant to Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough, Jr.
Amy was recently named one of Y’all Politics “Top 50 Most Influential People in Government” and has also been honored by the Mississippi Business Journal as one of their “Top 40 Under 40” in 2006 and “Top 50 Leading Business Women” in 2016. She is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi and the Community Leadership Institute. She serves on the boards of the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, Association for Excellence in Education, and the CREATE Foundation’s Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi.
Tate graduated from Mississippi University for Women with a degree in Journalism/Public Relations. She was named “Outstanding Recent Graduate” by her alma mater in 2012 and is a recent Past President of the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association. She is a 2012 graduate of Vanderbilt University’s Leadership for Accelerated Management Performance through the Owen Graduate School of Management.
She resides in Tupelo with her husband, Kevin and children Avery and Walker. They are members of Tupelo First United Methodist Church and are active in the Tupelo Public Schools.
Adrienne Hooper Wooten
Circuit Cout Judge, District 1 of Mississippi
The Honorable Adrienne Wooten is a native of Meridian, Mississippi. Judge Wooten, is the first African American female to hold the position of Circuit Court Judge of District 7, Place 1 in Hinds County, Mississippi, after a historical run-off election on November 27, 2018.
Prior to her transition to the Judiciary, Judge Wooten was a solo practitioner whose areas of specialty included criminal law, premises liability, personal injury, drug product liability, product liability, mass tort litigation, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and family law. Judge Wooten also served for 11 years in the Mississippi State Legislature representing District 71. She served on the committees of Insurance, Judiciary B, Judiciary En Banc, Municipalities, University and Colleges, and Public Health and Human Services during the last years of her legislative tenure.
Judge Wooten began her career 21 years ago as an associate at the Law Firm of Blackmon & Blackmon, PLLC, and in 2004, she began operating the Law Office of Adrienne Hooper-Wooten, PLLC, with offices in Ridgeland and Lexington, Mississippi. For 19 years she actively litigated civil matters and served as an Assistant Public Defender for Holmes County for 15 years representing indigent defendants.
Judge Wooten is a member of the American Bar Association, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Metro Jackson Black Women Lawyers Association, Mississippi Women’s Lawyers Association, Magnolia Bar Association, the Mississippi State Bar, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. She is the daughter of the late Tommy Hooper, Sr. and Jo Ann Hooper. Judge Wooten and Dewayne have two (2) fur babies, Buster and Biff Wooten.
Attorney General of Mississippi
Lynn Fitch was sworn in as Mississippi’s 40th Attorney General and first ever woman Attorney General on August 9, 2020.
Raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Attorney General Fitch earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctorate at the University of Mississippi. At the age of 23, she began her legal career as a Special Assistant Attorney General at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. She continued her career in private practice as a bond lawyer, accumulating more than 35 years of legal experience both in private practice and public service.
Before becoming the State’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Fitch served as Mississippi’s elected State Treasurer for eight years, from January 2012 to January 2020. Prior to that, she was selected by Governor Barbour to serve as Executive Director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board (MSPB), and she served as Deputy Executive Director at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) and as Counsel for the Mississippi House of Representatives Ways and Means and Local and Private Legislation Committees.
General Fitch was active on the national level as State Treasurer, serving as Vice President for the National Association of Treasurers and as Chair of the State Financial Officers Foundation. She has already served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, and she is currently serving as Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Human Trafficking Committee.
General Fitch was selected as Outstanding Woman Lawyer of 2012, recognized as a Woman Trailblazer by the Mississippi Bar Association, honored as a Mississippi Business Journal Leader in Finance in 2016 and Leader in Law in 2010. She was also named a 2015 Honoree of the Women in Government Leadership Program by Governing Magazine. In 2017, General Fitch was named one of Mississippi’s Top 50 Most Influential, and she was honored with the prestigious Susie Blue Buchanan award by the Mississippi Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Committee.
Attorney General Fitch has also been active in her community, serving as a member of the boards of several charitable organizations including First Responders of Mississippi, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Goodwill Industries, and the American Red Cross.
The Budget & Legislative Process
Lee Anne Robinson
Deputy Director, Legislative Budget Office, State of Mississippi
Lee Anne Robinson graduated from Millsaps College in 1995 cum laude with a degree in Political Science. She then attended MS State University and received her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration in 1997. Lee Anne began working for the MS Department of Rehabilitation Services in May 1997 through November 1998. In December 1998, Lee Anne began as a Program Evaluator for the MS Legislative PEER Committee. She left the PEER Committee in 2003 to begin working at the MS Legislative Budget Office as a Budget Analyst. After 8 years, Lee Anne became the Administrative Services Director at the MS Insurance Department. In 2013, she returned to the MS Legislative Budget Office as a Budget Analyst. While a Budget Analyst, she handled many different agency budgets including the Department of Mental Health, the MS Department of Health, Community and Junior Colleges, the MS Department of Corrections, and the MS Department of Education.
Lee Anne was named the House Budget Officer on October 7, 2016. In this capacity she worked with the Chairman of Appropriations and House leadership to develop fiscal policy for the state. On April 1, 2021, Lee Anne was named Deputy Executive Director of the MS Legislative Budget Office. In this capacity, she will be coordinating with the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, and all members of the Mississippi Legislature to formulate a $22 billion state budget. As the organization's Deputy Executive Director, she manages 30 employees who perform fiscal and policy analyses and provide information technology support to 300 legislators and their staffers.
Lee Anne has been married for 22 years to Ward Robinson and has two children, Mary Everett who is 15, and James who is 10.
Politics & the Press
Editor & Founder, Mississippi Free Press; Editor, Co-Founder, & CEO, Jackson Free Press
Donna Ladd is an award-winning journalist, editor and social entrepreneur from Philadelphia, Miss. After leaving the state the day after she graduated from Mississippi State, vowing to never live here again, she returned 18 years later with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia. She co-founded the impactful Jackson Free Press in 2002 in order to bring an in-depth news source to the state that would not shy away from historic effects of structural, institutional and systemic racism—how the past connects to the present—in a way no other media outlet had done in Mississippi.
Donna, the daughter of illiterate parents, has won many awards for columns, political columns, editorials, feature writing and investigative work, and has shared in a number of public-service journalism awards for her work in Mississippi, from helping put an old Klansman, James Ford Seale, in prison for the kidnapping and murder of two black teenagers in 1964, to deep systemic work on the causes and solutions of crime and violence now in the capital city and the embedded racism in the criminal-justice system since the time of slavery.
In 2001, Donna received a Packard Future of Children fellowship to study the discriminatory application of school discipline on children of color and the cradle-to-jail pipeline. More recently, she was a three-year W.K. Kellogg Foundation leadership fellow, deep diving into systemic inequity and pathways to “truth, racial healing and transformation” in her home state. The fellowship led to her efforts to change the narrative about race with the Mississippi Youth Media Project, which she started to train young people to challenge the media narrative about them and their communities. She has trained many award-winning journalists over the years.She also had two fellowships to study racism in the criminal-justice system, through John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Penn Law School’s Quattrone Center, and two grants from the Solutions Journalism Network for the same work, which brought several of her dozens of journalism awards. In 2019, she had a Logan non-fiction fellowship at the Carey Institute for Global Good, where she did a five-week writing residency in upstate New York.
Ladd publishes in The Guardian and has been covered in Glamour and Reason magazines, Next Tribe, CNN, NPR, CBC, CBS Radio, the BBC, and al Jazeera, among other outlets. She has been honored with a Fannie Lou Hamer Humanitarian Award, a Friendship Award from Jackson 2000/Dialogue, an alumni award from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, a Dress for Success Women of Strength Award, and—for her work against domestic abuse—the Angel Award from the Center for Violence Prevention. A breast cancer survivor, she was the 2020 Survivor of the Year for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Jackson. Ladd has been named one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Businesswomen by the Mississippi Business Journal and as one of the “Innovators Changing the South” by Southern Living magazine.
Donna lives in Jackson with her long-term life partner Todd Stauffer, their orange bobtail-rumpie feline Capp Bob and a visiting nephew-shih tzu named Gizmo.
Panel: Women in the Mississippi Legislature
Nicole Akins Boyd
Senator, Mississippi Legislature (R)
District 9 - Lafayette, Panola
Nicole Akins Boyd was honored to be elected to the Mississippi Senate where she represents Lafayette and Panola County in November of 2019. Nicole is serving her first term in the Mississippi Senate where she is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee and secretary of the Senate Education Committee. Nicole is a member of the Insurance, Judiciary A, Technology, Tourism, Housing, and Finance Committees. Additionally, Nicole in her first of the legislature was appointed to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Nicole is the first freshman legislator in known history to be appointed to the committee.
Nicole has sponsored and co-sponsored legislation enacted into law ranging from workforce development, assistance to those with communication disorders, teacher pay increase, computer science education, consumer insurance legislation, dyslexia, veterans’ issues, dementia, and economic development. Nicole was honored in 2020 to receive the Legislator of the Year Award from the Small Business Federation for her work with small businesses and their employees during the pandemic.
Prior to being elected to the legislature, Nicole served as a Special Assistant Attorney General in the 1990s, she prosecuted and advocated for children and family issues with the Mississippi Attorney General’s office. While working for the Attorney General, Nicole led coalitions of private and public organizations that worked together to pass numerous state and local ordinances.
Boyd, the mother of a child with special needs, worked and advocated at almost every level of government on education and disability reform. On the federal level, Nicole testified before Congress and successfully worked to get legislation passed. She taught education law classes to our University students and has led numerous state educational, autism, and early childhood boards and task forces. Boyd volunteers her time assisting the families of children with special needs on educational, vocational and insurance issues.
In Oxford, Nicole served as chair of the Oxford Tourism Board, chaired the city’s Alcohol Safety Task Force and served on the Alcohol Sunday Sales committee. She also serves on the board of a local community bank.
Nicole grew up in the district she now represents. She is a graduate of Oxford High School, Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi Law School. She is married to Dr. Daniel Boyd, a physician and small business owner. They have two children Izzy and Speight.
Representative, Mississippi Legislature (R)
District 39 – Lowndes, Monroe
Dana McLean was born in Russellville, Alabama but spent part of her childhood in Columbus, Mississippi. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and French at the University of Alabama and received her JD and LLM from Stetson University College of Law.
After living and working as an attorney in Florida, she and her daughter relocated to Columbus, Mississippi in 2013. Rather than take the Mississippi Bar Exam, McLean jumped into real estate, working with Century 21 Doris Hardy and Associates in Columbus. She also joined the Exchange Club, served as President of the Columbus Arts Council, and sat on the Lowndes County Crime Task Force’s Education Committee.
Then, in the spring of 2019, she decided to challenge Jeff Smith, a powerful incumbent of 28 years, for the Republican nomination in the primary election for Mississippi House District 39. Dismayed at the state of education policy and concerned that it did not seem to be a priority for elected leaders, McLean was already going to public forums and paying close attention to politics. When former Representative Smith voted down a local 2% restaurant sales tax that was essential to the operation of Columbus’ local development association, McLean was convinced new leadership was needed. The day before the filing deadline, when it was clear no one else was going to challenge Smith, she threw her name into the hat. Traveling Lowndes and Monroe counties in her 1988 Airstream Excella camper, McLean led an insurgent, grassroots campaign. Despite being at a severe financial disadvantage (Smith raised $74,000 to McLean’s $14,550), McLean prevailed. She won by 162 votes.
Mclean took office in January 2020 and serves on the Agriculture, Constitution, Judiciary B, Judiciary En Banc, Public Health and Human Services, Universities and Colleges, and Workforce Development Committees in the House.
Dana is a member of the National Association of Realtors, Greater Golden Triangle Realtor Association, Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, Exchange Club, and Columbus Arts Council.
Representative, Mississippi Legislature (D)
District 80 – Clarke, Jasper, Jones
Omeria Scott was born in Laurel, Mississippi and has six brothers and sisters. She earned her backelor’s degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. In addition to her public service, Scott works as a nursing home administrator and a restauranteur: she owns Aunt Ann’s Front Porch restaurant in Laurel.
Scott has served in the Mississippi House of Representatives since 1993. Currently, she serves on the Insurance, Interstate Cooperation, Medicaid, Public Health and Human Services, Tourism, and Ways and Means Committees.
In 2018, she entered the competitive Democratic primary election for the US Senate despite having just won a battle with breast cancer. A memorable campaign flyer read, “They used to say women were not qualified but they can’t say that about me.” Though she lost the primary, she gained experience, enriched the debate, and returned to her work in the Mississippi legislature. When asked by a reporter with the Clarion Ledger why she ran, she answered, “because I want every person, particularly women, to know that you don’t let anything stop you from truing to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve.”
In addition to running her Senate campaign and undergoing cancer treatment, Scott managed to introduce dozens of bills during the 2018 legislative session. As usual, they represented Scott’s ongoing efforts to increase healthcare quality and access, improve public education and youth services, reduce income inequality, and provide assistance to the poorest Mississippians.
Scott is affiliated with the Order of the Eastern Star, National Council of Negro Women, Federated Women of America, Association for Excellence in Education and Beacon of Hope Mississippi Scholarship Foundation.
Panel: Lobbying & Nonprofit Advocacy
Public Policy Chair, AAUW-MS
For Corrine Williams-Anderson, education is everything. The Yazoo City native has spent most of her life educating Mississippians on public policy and the Legislature, as well as teaching students from kindergarten to graduate school. She is the former president and current public policy chair for the Mississippi chapter of the American Association of University Women.
Williams-Anderson was the oldest of 14 children. When she was 15, her family relocated to Chicago. She has five children of her own and served as the Parent Teachers Association president for 26 years at DuBois Elementary School in Chicago. “I wanted to connect better with the teachers,” she says. “I wanted to be a voice for the mothers.”
In 1982, she became the first person at Jackson State University to receive her doctorate, which was in early childhood education, and the first in her family to earn a college degree.
Since then, Williams-Anderson taught at Boyd Elementary School and Copiah Lincoln Community College. She began a reading lab at Piney Woods Country Life School and was an adjunct English instructor at JSU. In 1990, she became an assistant professor at Tougaloo College. Two years later, she became dean of the education department, and in 2004, she became provost and vice president of student affairs.
In 2007, the Liberia Teacher Training Program chose Williams-Anderson in an effort to train the country’s rural teachers. Williams-Anderson was a senior technical adviser and ran many teacher training programs. She advised educators in Namibia and Ghana. She moved to Liberia in 2010 and then back to Mississippi in 2012. “I learned a lot about African American people by having lived there,” she says.
In addition to her work with AAUW-MS, Williams-Anderson is a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Federation of Democratic Women, Women for Progress, and Sisters Taking Action and Nurturing Decision Makers.
“The key is to be open-minded and learn all you can. It’s a sad state of affairs when you are surrounded by people who don’t know more than you do,” she says. — Maya Miller
Executive Director, The Parent’s Campaign
Nancy Loome serves as president of The Parents’ Campaign Research and Education Fund and as co-founder and executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, a Jackson, Mississippi-based network of more than 64,000 Mississippians committed to improving and supporting public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a Master of Education degree in Counseling.
For twelve years, she directed university career centers, first in Mississippi and later at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. While in Missouri she served on the Board of Directors of the Joplin (MO) Metro-Area Chamber of Commerce and consulted businesses in the area of employee development.
In 2004, while a stay-at-home mom in a Mississippi community celebrated for its strong public schools, Nancy became frustrated with her local legislators’ surprisingly unfavorable votes on public education issues. Volunteering with the Coalition for Children and Public Education, she developed a state-wide email network of concerned citizens with whom she communicated about legislation affecting public schools. This set the stage for the 2006 incorporation of The Parents’ Campaign, a nonpartisan, grassroots, public education advocacy group. In its first year, it won the Mississippi Legislature’s support for full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Since then, the organization has increased state appropriations to public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars. The Parents’ Campaign promotes high standards and fair accountability for public schools and has helped to win passage of school improvement legislation as well as legislation to improve early childhood education.
Nancy’s civic involvement has included service on the boards of the Joplin (Missouri) Metro-Area Chamber of Commerce, Mississippi Building Blocks, the Roger F. Wicker Center for Creative Learning, and the Mississippi PTA. She has also served on the Mississippi Economic Council’s Blueprint Mississippi advisory committee, the Clinton Public School District strategic planning team, the Mississippi Teacher Evaluation Council, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Early Childhood Learning Labs team, the Mississippi Department of Education’s Federal Programs Committee of Practitioners, and the PTO and booster club boards of Clinton’s public schools.
Loome is a recipient of Delta State University’s Outstanding Alumnus Award—and a member of their Alumni Hall of Fame—the Rep. Leonard Morris Award for Public Service and Integrity, the Mississippi College Department of Education and Leadership’s Education Advocacy Award, the Delta Kappa Gamma Red Rose Award, the Mississippi School Board Association’s Friend of MSBA Award, the Mississippi Association of Educators’ A+ and Friend of Education Awards, the Mississippi PTA’s Legislative Advocate of the Year Award, the Clinton Public School District’s Friend of Education and Parent of the Year Awards, the Mississippi Department of Education’s State Parent of the Year Award, and the Mississippi Association of School Administrators’ Spirit of Education Award. She was named one of the most influential citizens by “Mississippi Top 50.”
Nancy lives with her husband, Jim, in Clinton, Mississippi. They are proud parents of two daughters and a son, all graduates of the Clinton public schools.
Partner, Simmons Consulting
Lindsey Simmons has a bachelor's degree in political science and master's in business administration, both from Mississippi State University. She obtained a juris doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. After law school, Lindsey was in private practice for several years, and then worked at the Mississippi Supreme Court for four years. Lindsey was also an adjunct professor of Legal Writing at Mississippi College School of Law for six years.
Lindsey's legal background brings a new area of expertise to Simmons Consulting. In addition to legislative services, Lindsey offers grant writing and monitors legal opinions for our clients.
Executive Director, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable
Cassandra Overton Welchlin is co-convener and state lead of MS Black Women’s Roundtable (MS-BWR) an intergenerational civic engagement statewide network of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) at the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women and girls. She holds an undergraduate degree from Jackson State University and is a licensed social worker. In 2005, she received a Master’s from Brandies University at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Prior to joining MS BWR, she co-founded an ambitious and progressive project of MS Low-Income Child Care Initiative: MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI). MWESI is rooted at the intersections of race, gender and poverty, prioritizing women’s rights, equity, economic security. Cassandra will continue the work of MWESI as leader of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable. As Director, she has expanded the statewide network of women through local town halls and major summits, focusing on expanding childcare subsidies, affordable and comprehensive health care, jobs that pay living wages, paid family leave, and protection from domestic violence. She has successfully built a bi-partisan coalition working to close the gender pay gap in MS. Her work has led to legislative & policy wins in childcare, juvenile justice reform, health care for women and the most vulnerable, and domestic violence; it has also helped prevent harmful legislation in childcare, education, women’s healthcare and safety net programs from going into effect.
Cassandra has been featured in publications such as Truthout, NBC-BLK, Ms. Magazine, The Hill, Meet the Press, Clarion-ledger, Jackson Free Press, The Jackson Advocate, The Link and other state media outlets. Cassandra is a Kellogg Fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a Ms. Foundation Public Voices Fellow a project of the OpEd Project, and a fellow of Congressman Bennie Thompson’s MS Black Leadership Institute.
She’s been the recipient of prestigious awards, including the first-ever 2014 Gwendolyn Nero Loper Social Worker Field Award, the first-ever 2017 Dr. Ollye Brown Shirley Placemaker Award, a Women For Progress 2017 Salute to Women Award, 2018 Spirit of AAUW Award American Association for University Women, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable 2018 SisStars Leadership Award, and the 2017 Jackson MS Black Girls Rock Award. In December 2017, she was awarded the “Movement Maker” national fellowship through the NOVO Foundation’s Move to End Violence cohort.
Cassandra is a daughter of the South, raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a wife and mother of three beautiful and amazing children. Cassandra is PTA president at her daughter’s school, an active member of MS State Conference NAACP and chair of Women in NAACP (WIN) Jackson Branch, City of Jackson Planning Board Commissioner, member of the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee, and president of her neighborhood association. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and 100 Black Women.
Panel: Women in Public Service
Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Katie Blount grew up in Washington, D.C. but moved to Mississippi to pursue her master’s degree in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi’s Center for The Study of Southern Culture. Since 2015, she has served as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).
Blount has worked at MDAH in various positions since 1994. In the ten-years immediately prior to her appointment as Executive Director, she was Deputy Director for Communications.
Superintendent of Education, State of Mississippi
Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., became the State Superintendent of Education for Mississippi in 2013. Under her leadership, Mississippi has initiated aggressive education reforms that have resulted in unprecedented academic success and rising student achievement. Because of the state’s gains in student performance, Quality Counts in 2020 ranked Mississippi No. 2 in the nation for improvement in education.
Dr. Wright spearheaded initiatives that have increased literacy skills in pre-K through the 3rd grade, pushed student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to improve at a faster rate than most other states, and nearly doubled the Advancement Placement participation and success rate. During her tenure, Mississippi students have achieved significant annual gains in English Language Arts and Mathematics proficiency, and the state’s graduation rate has climbed to an all-time high of 87.7 percent.
A passionate advocate for early childhood education, Dr. Wright implemented Mississippi’s first publicly funded Early Learning Collaborative program, which earned the state annual recognition from the National Institute for Early Education Research as one of only six states in the nation that meet all standards for early childhood education.
Prior to her appointment as State Superintendent for Mississippi, Dr. Wright served as Chief Academic Officer and the Deputy Chief for the Office of Teaching and Learning for the District of Columbia Public Schools and as a consultant to the Harvard Business School Public Education Leadership Project. Dr. Wright previously served as Associate Superintendent for the Office of Special Education and Student Services for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and spent the earlier part of her career in Howard County Public Schools as a teacher, a principal, and the Director of Special Education and Student Services. She began her career as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland.
Dr. Wright has been recognized as an outstanding educator by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Systems, nominated twice for The Washington Post Outstanding Principal Award, and awarded the Howard County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator of the Year.
Dr. Wright was appointed in 2019 by the U.S. Secretary of Education to the National Assessment Governing Board. She is a board member and is past president of the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Chiefs for Change board member and an alumnus of the Broad Academy. Dr. Wright also serves on the Reagan Institute Summit on Education steering committee and Stanford University’s Hoover Educational Success Initiative Practitioners Council.
Dr. Wright obtained her bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Panel: What's Next? Opportunities After NEW Leadership
Foreign Policy Fellow, The Wilson Center
Caroline Barbee worked as a Congressional staffer for Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) for four years. As a Legislative Assistant, she specialized in foreign policy, international development, and human rights. She is a Foreign Policy Fellow at The Wilson Center and served on three Congressional Delegations to Taiwan, Colombia, and Burundi. She graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a B.A. in Economics and a double minor in Political Science and Spanish-American Area Studies.
Executive Director, Mississippi Votes
Arekia is the Executive Director of MS Votes, an organization committed to civic engagement of Mississippians across generations, cultures, identities, inequities and struggles, with particular focus on young people. Through this organization, Arekia has been working on addressing voter disenfranchisement, voter ID laws, rural voter turn-out, and increasing voter participation in all elections. She also advises political aspirants and candidates seeking office on civic engagement strategy.
Arekia is a graduate of Jackson State University, where she co-founded GIRL, a black feminist collective on campus. She pursued her advocacy of comprehensive sex education, reproductive rights, and youth political education as a Youth Champion with Rise Up in 2017 and has also served as a Community/Youth Organizer for the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, a member of the Coalition for Economic Justice, and a volunteer lobbyist with Planned Parenthood Southeast. She remains active in developing and nurturing a black feminist political space and policy agenda with GIRL through MS Votes’ new initiative, “One Girl, One Vote.”
Kay Brocato, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Education Foundations with tenure. Education Foundations professors aim to reconcile the history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, legal and policy aspects of education with practice using qualitative and quantitative research, learning, and service. To these ends, Dr. Brocato has spent her career folding classes of preservice teachers from university settings back into learning settings within real, functioning schools of any and all kinds. Her aims have been to identify the academically and intellectually disengaged, school aged-learner for the purposes of allowing pre-service teachers a time of practice at getting students re-engaged.
Currently, she is the President of the American Association of University Women-Mississippi. At the national level, Dr. Brocato helped move the AAUW Diversity and Inclusion committee from taskforce to standing committee and she served as a contributing author to many pieces of the AAUW Diversity and Inclusion Tool Kit. She also has served as a policy council member, confidant, and advisor to the Head Start and Early Head Start leadership in Mississippi for more than a decade. Vygotsky’s concept of the “more knowledgeable other” found embedded in Head Start and Early Head Start curriculum has been foundational to Brocato’s inquiry into human development and learning.
Legal Intern, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice
Bailey McDaniel was born and raised in Corinth, MS. Bailey graduated from Mississippi State University in 2018 with a degree in Criminology and certificate in Gender Studies. In the fall, Bailey will begin her final year of law school at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Bailey and her partner Emily founded Starkville Pride, a community group for LGBTQ+ people in Starkville, MS, and they successfully planned the inaugural pride parade in the City of Starkville in 2018. Before law school, Bailey worked in Washington, D.C. for Congresswoman Bonamici (OR-1). Currently, Bailey is working for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division as a legal intern.
After graduation and taking the bar, Bailey plans on going back to D.C. to work on the Hill. In her free time, Bailey loves being outdoors with her dog Delilah and visiting National Parks with her partner.
Panels: How to Get Involved
Co-Founder, Starkville Pride
Emily Turner was born in Starkville, Mississippi. She attended Starkville High School, and then Mississippi State University, where she majored in architecture and minored in English. During college, she co-founded Starkville Pride, an LGBTQ+ community organization. She, along with her wife, spearheaded the effort to have the first Pride in Starkville, which occurred in 2018. After graduation, she commissioned as a second lieutenant into the United States Marine Corps. She is currently stationed in Twentynine Palms, California for Communications officers course. She and her wife have a dog, Delilah, and enjoy visiting National Parks in their free time.
Deputy Attorney General, Mississippi Attorney General's Office
Whitney is one of the Deputy Attorney Generals for the State of Mississippi. She oversees the Civil, Solicitor General, Legislative, Opinions and Policy Divisions. Prior to this, she served as the as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel for Governor Phil Bryant. In this role she provided strategic counsel to the Governor on a wide range of policy and legal matters. Whitney previously practiced law in Gulfport where she did civil defense work and regularly represented state entities.