Your 2015-2016 TN-ASPA Executive Council

TN-ASPA’s 2015-2016 Executive Council is hard at work to make this year great with lectures and events for you! We invite you to get to know us better. Our bios are provided below. We look forward to serving you over the next year!
  • President (July 2015 – June 2016): Nneka Norman-Gordon
  • President-Elect (July 2015 – June 2016): Leah Dupree
  • Immediate Past President (July 2015 – June 2016): Ann-Marie Rizzo
  • Treasurer (July 2015 – June 2016): Cara Robinson
  • Secretary (July 2015 – June 2016): Joyanna Brassfield
  • Council members (July 2015 – June 2017): Zachary Bates, Fred Cosgrove, Nathan James, Paul Jennings, Debbie Shaw
  • Council members (July 2014 -June 2016): Tyler Carpenter, Eric Murry
2015-2016 Executive Council members at August 2015 council social.

2015-2016 Executive Council members at August 2015 council social.

We recognize with deep appreciation the service of those concluding their terms on Council June 2015: Connie Calloway, Alex Frederick, Darrell Moore, and Bobbie Porter.
There are many ways to get involved with TN-ASPA in the upcoming year, so please contact us anytime at to find out more!


Nneka Norman-Gordon is the Director of Operations for the Public Information and Legislative Office in the Department of Human Services. She is responsible for overseeing the Department’s Customer Service Unit responsible for assisting customers, legislators and the general public with concerns relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Child Care, Child Support and Adult Protective Services and assisting with lobbying the Department’s legislation. In 2013, she became Tennessee’s first Higher Education Resource Officer and was responsible for answering questions and providing support and information to faculty, staff and employees of the University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Nneka also reviewed higher education policy for the Tennessee General Assembly.  Nneka joined the Comptroller’s Office in 2005 as a Legislative Research Analyst for the Offices of Research and Education Accountability and served on the Comptroller’s legislative team for four years. She previously served in the former Tennessee Department of Personnel as an examinations analyst. Nneka is a former United States Navy officer. She holds a M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Austin Peay State University, and a B.A. in Psychology from Hampton University in Virginia. Nneka enjoys spending time with her son, and stays involved in the Tennessee Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration, Middle Tennessee Boy Scout Council – Cogioba district and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Leah Dupree is a native of Jackson, TN and has lived in Nashville since 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University, a Master’s in Business Administration from Valparaiso University, and a juris doctor degree from Indiana University. Before relocating to Nashville, Leah lived in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she worked for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Since 2013, Leah has been the Legislative Liaison for the Department of General Services and has been responsible for legislation and constituent services for the Department. Prior to moving to the Executive Branch, Leah served in the Legislative Branch as a Legislative Aide to Senator Doug Overbey. Leah enjoys speaking to youth about career paths and personal development.

Dr. Ann-Marie Rizzo teaches organization theory, administrative ethics, and public policy at Tennessee State University. Her research interests include moral reasoning of public administrators and public administration education. Ann-Marie has co-authored two books and published articles in refereed journals on public sector ethics, women in management, public administration education, and management development.   She has also consulted on public service ethics for varying public, business and not for profit organizations such as Florida Power and Light, American Bankers Insurance Group, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Tennessee Community Corrections Association, and the Lupus Foundation of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. Currently a professor of public administration at Tennessee State University, Ann-Marie  also serves as program advisor for the PhD program in public administration. Until 1988 she directed the Institute of Government and Institute for Public Management at Florida International University in Miami. She was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Social Science from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.

Cara Robinson is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Tennessee State University. In this capacity, Cara teaches courses in urban studies and nonprofit management. Cara earned her Ph.D. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware in 2011. Cara has presented and published in a variety of areas including media and democracy, community planning, the impact of charter schools, and homelessness. Cara is the former Executive Director of the Homeless Planning Council of Delaware. In her role as ED, she co-authored “Delaware’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic and Reduce Long-Term Homelessness.”

Joyanna Brassfield is a Category Specialist with the State of Tennessee’s Central Procurement Office and manages statewide services contracts. Joy is originally from Clinton, Tennessee. She holds a Masters of Public Policy and Administration from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College with a major in international studies and minors in political science and French. During undergrad, Joy studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland studying French. While pursuing her master’s degree, she worked with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service on the Tennessee Municipal Benchmarking Project, evaluating statewide benchmarks for Tennessee cities to improve municipal government performance. Joy previously worked with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Tyler Carpenter works as a research associate for the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), where he works with several government leaders at the state and local level to inform decision making with thorough policy research.  He is originally from Franklin, Ohio and has lived in Nashville for 10 years.  He recently graduated from Tennessee State University with his master’s degree in public administration and previously received his bachelor’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2010, majoring in business management and minoring in accounting.  While at Trevecca, Mr. Carpenter interned at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio and was active in political organizations and social causes.

Eric D. Murry is currently a staff member of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council in Nashville, TN. Eric coordinates the TennCare Shelter Enrollment Project for the State of Tennessee, which assists homeless and impoverished families in eliminating barriers with health insurance, housing and other social benefits in order to help these families re-stabilize their lives. Previously, Eric was a community leader in Chicago, supervising after-school and mentoring programs for middle school students. Eric’s educational background in Psychology, Philosophy and Human Service Administration has guided his history of employment mostly in community-based organizations. This has given him the opportunity to collaborate and pool resources in order to improve outcomes for the communities at large. As he moves forward in his career, he continues to familiarize himself with health care, social homelessness, and housing policy reforms in order to continue to build stronger collaborations between those residents in need and the communities they live in.

Zachary Bates joined Farris Bobango in 2011 after spending four years at the Tennessee General Assembly. Mr. Bates served as a staff member for the Senate State and Local Government Committee where he established firsthand understanding of the roles and relationships between local governments and state government in Tennessee. Since joining Farris Bobango, Mr. Bates has assisted in the passage and defeat of various pieces of legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly on behalf of his clients as well as in the successful passage of multiple budget appropriation amendments. Mr. Bates obtained his BA from the University of Tennessee as a HOPE Scholar in 2007 and his MPA from Tennessee State University’s Institute of Government in 2010. Originally from Pegram, Tennessee, he now resides in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville.  Mr. Bates is a member of the Nashville Emerging Leaders, Class of 2015, Tennessee State Museum Young Professional Council, STARS Nashville Junior Board Committee, Tennessee Lobbyist Association, University of Tennessee Young Alumni Association, Nashville Humane Society, Friends of Shelby Bottoms, and Nashville Public Radio.

Fred Cosgrove is beginning the dissertation portion of his doctorate in public administration, from Tennessee State University. He is researching the organizational structures and behaviors affecting college retention and exploring professional opportunities for applying his interest in public administration in higher education, government service, or non-profit administration. Mr. Cosgrove completed his undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of Colorado and a Masters of Higher Education at Middle Tennessee State University and served as an artillery officer in the US Army. Mr. Cosgrove is a real estate agent and property manager: his professional background includes mortgage lending as licensed broker and brokerage owner, manager, originator and wholesale manager and representative. He is married to Teresa Cosgrove with a daughter and a son, both attending high school. Outside of work, Mr. Cosgrove is an avid reader and enjoys time with his family, college football, relaxing at the beach or in the mountains, hiking, and community service through the Brentwood Rotary.

Nathan James lives in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee with his wife of 13 years, Carla, and their two children, George and Thomas James. He works as the director of Legislative Affairs with the Tennessee State Board of Education, having come to the position from Louisiana where he served as The Policy Advisor to Governor Bobby Jindal for Education and the Workforce. While in that capacity he served on 6 boards and commissions as the Governor’s representative and was responsible to the governor for the coordination of K-12, higher education, and labor and workforce policy. Mr. James served the Tennessee  Senate as a clerk and legislative assistant from 1998-2002 and as research analyst to the Senate Education Committee from 2008 until 2013. During the intervening years he worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, owned his own ice cream shop, and served as the advocacy director for the American Heart Association. While Mr. James was serving as president of CHART (the Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee) in 2007, this organization led a long media and lobbying campaign culminating in Tennessee became the first tobacco state to go smoke free. Mr. James is a Freemason, a Paul Harris Fellow, and has served as a Republican State Executive Committeeman. He is a retired Colonel in the Tennessee State Guard, and a member of the Interstate compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children by Governor Haslam’s appointment. He holds a BS in History and Political Science from Lambuth University and an MPA from Tennessee State University.

Paul Jennings has served as Executive Director for the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services since 2009.   The public service agency provides consulting and training services to business and industry across the state.   Previous positions include Vice-President for Planning and Development for Columbia State Community College, Director of the Tennessee Energy Institute at the University of Memphis, and Program Manager with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.  Mr. Jennings is active in the University Economic Development Association and has been an Examiner with the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence for the past two years.  He has a PhD in Public Administration from Tennessee State University, MPA from Indiana University and BS in Public Administration from University of Evansville.

Debbie Shaw is the Executive Director of the Historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation in Smyrna, TN.  The museum and historic home sit on 168 acres, including 15 historic structures and 100 acres of cotton fields.  Ms. Shaw is also the State Coordinator for the Tennessee Association of Museums.  In this role, she helps coordinate communication and cooperation between museums across the state.  Prior to her position at the Sam Davis Home, she worked at the Tennessee State Museum for 5 years in the education department.  She has also worked as an archaeologist.  Ms. Shaw has a BA and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Memphis.  She has a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Tennessee State University and is currently working on her PhD in Public Administration from Tennessee State University.  She has been involved in the nonprofit community in the Middle Tennessee area over the last 10 years.