LinkedIn & Lunchtime Lectures

TN-ASPA Now on LinkedIn

TN-ASPA now has a LinkedIn Group so you can connect and network with fellow public administrators, have conversations on meaningful issues within public administration, and share job postings.

To join our LinkedIn Group, search for TN-ASPA from your LinkedIn page and ask to join.

Don’t forget, you can also interact with TN-ASPA on Facebook and Twitter and through our website.

September Lunchtime Lecture a Success

Thanks to everyone who attended our September Lunchtime Lecture with Herbert Brown of the TN Higher Education Commission (THEC) on Education and Closing the Gap: Social Equity in Public Administration. We had such a great discussion with everyone during the lecture that we wanted to keep the conversation going. So we started a conversation within our LinkedIn Group where you can share your thoughts on how to close the gap and reach social equity in Education.

Miss the lecture? Don’t worry, many of the programs that Herbert Brown discussed are linked to within the LinkedIn Group conversation so you can learn about THEC’s initiatives toward social equity in education.

Upcoming Events

  • October 20th | Lunchtime Lecture | Immigration and Imagination, Wade Munday, TN Justice for Our Neighbors
  • November 17th | Lunchtime Lecture | American Heart Association
  • January 19th | Lunchtime Lecture | Healthcare, Carrie Plummer, Vanderbilt

Sept. 15th – Lunchtime Lecture, TN Higher Education Commission

TN-ASPA is hosting our first Third Thursday Lunchtime Lecture of the Fall, and you’re invited! Herbert Brown with the TN Higher Education Commission will be speaking on education as it relates to our lecture series theme of “Closing the Gap: Social Equity in Public Administration” on Thursday, September 15th.herbert-brown

  • Who: TN Higher Education Commission, Herbert Brown
  • Topic: Education and Closing the Gap: Social Equity in Public Administration
  • When: Thursday, September 15th, 12 noon – 1 pm
  • Where: William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 3rd Floor Conference Room A, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Nashville, TN

Come join us for the first lecture in our series “Closing the Gap: Social Equity in Public Administration.” Herbert Brown is an Academic Affairs Analyst with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the State’s coordinating agency for higher education. His work consists of developing policy recommendations, programmatic initiatives, and partnerships that increase educational attainment in the State while improving higher education access and success for all Tennesseans.

You are welcome to bring your own lunch or stop by the TN Tower cafeteria.

Event is FREE and open to the public.


Learn more about us! Visit our website at

Thank you – Your TN-ASPA Executive Council

Meet your 2016-2017 Executive Council

TN-ASPA’s 2016-2017 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 2016 – June 2017):Leah Dupree
  • President-Elect (July 2016 – June 2017): Tyler Carpenter
  • Immediate Past President (July 2016 – June 2017): Nneka Norman-Gordon
  • Treasurer (July 2016 – June 2017): Cara Robinson
  • Secretary (July 2016 – June 2017): Paige Donaldson
  • Communications Manager (July 2016 – June 2017): Joyanna Brassfield
  • Council members (July 2015 – June 2017): Fred Cosgrove, Nathan James, and Debbie Shaw
  • Council members (July 2016 -June 2018): Shiri Anderson, Donna Duarte, and Heather Vandagriff
We recognize with deep appreciation the service of those concluding their terms on Council June 2015: Zachary Bates, Paul Jennings, and Dr. Ann-Marie Rizzo.
There are many ways to get involved with TN-ASPA in the upcoming year, so please contact us anytime at to find out more!


Shiri Anderson is the Higher Education Resource Officer for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. Shiri responds to questions and provides support and information to faculty, staff and employees of the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems. Shiri also reviews and evaluates higher education policy for the Tennessee General Assembly. Shiri has extensive legislative and policy experience in state government. She joined the Comptroller’s Office in 2011 as a Legislative Research Analyst in the Office of Research and Education Accountability. She has managed the Comptroller’s fiscal note support process and represented the Comptroller on the Board of Trustees for the Baccalaureate Education System Trust and Board of Trustees for the Chairs of Excellence. She became the Higher Education Resource Officer in 2016. Prior to joining the Comptroller’s Office, Shiri was the Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and was responsible for spearheading the state’s first 2-1-1 Advisory Council. She has also worked for the Tennessee Governor’s Office and served as an Executive Assistant in the Tennessee General Assembly. Shiri holds a Master of Science in Management and a Bachelor of Science in Public Management and Political Science from Austin Peay State University. She is an active member of the American Society for Public Administration, Conference of Minority Public Administrators, Association of Budgeting and Financial Management, and Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Shiri is on the Board of Directors for the Mayme Carmichael School Organization, Inc., and serves on the Parent Advisory Council for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Shiri enjoys spending time with her family; her husband Micheal and their three children: Jalyn, Micheal and McKenzie.

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 French abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. While pursuing her master’s degree, she worked with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) 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 (TIRRC) as the East TN Organizing Assistant and the University of Tennessee’s Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library as a Student Assistant.

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.

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.

Paige Donaldson researches public policy for the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability as a Legislative Research Analyst. Researching and writing on a range of topics, she has produced several publications analyzing primary and secondary education in Tennessee. Prior to joining the Comptroller’s Office, Paige was a legislative and community advocate for a non-profit organization dedicated to state education policy. Originally from Johnson City, TN, Paige earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her Master of Public Administration from East Tennessee State University. As a graduate student, she served as Vice President for the Public/City Management Association of Graduate Students, which explores current public administration practices. When she isn’t working to improve Tennessee government, she volunteers her time with the Davidson County Election Commission. Outside of work you can find her playing kickball or leading her team to victory on trivia night.

Donna Duarte is the Director of Civil Rights Compliance and Senior Multifamily Advisor with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA). In this role, she serves as THDA’s Title VI and Section 504 Housing Coordinator, ensuring equal access to housing programs throughout Tennessee. A graduate of Tennessee government leadership programs: Tennessee Government Management Institute, Tennessee Government Executive Institute and LEAD Tennessee, she is in the first cohort of the TGL Executive Leadership Certificate program. Prior to joining THDA in 1995, Donna oversaw the collection and review of monetary aggregates for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Donna completed her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from High Point University and is a candidate for the Masters of Public Administration from Tennessee State University. Donna and her husband Bob have one son, Eric, who attends the University of Tennessee.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Heather Vandagriff has served the public sector at the local, state, and federal levels. Heather worked for twenty years in OSHA/TOSHA compliance for Metropolitan Nashville. Among her achievements in that position, she was the first ATTSSA certified worksite safety supervisor for the city. Heather wrote the employee safety manual for her department and set up the information systems to statistically track employee incidents. At the state level, Heather was with Children’s Services and inspected facilities across the state for OSHA and Life Safety standards. Heather graduated in the top 10 percent of her exiting class at Middle Tennessee State University and was a National Merit Semi-Finalist. Heather has post graduate work toward her MPA at Tennessee State University. Heather is a native Nashvillian and avidly pursues her interests in ethics, efficiency, and safety in government.

Jan. 21st – TN-ASPA Meet & Greet Lunch

TN-ASPA is kicking off 2016 with a Meet & Greet lunch event.tntower

  •  Who: TN-ASPA Executive Council
  • Topic: TN-ASPA Meet & Greet Lunch
  • When: Thursday, January 21st, 12 noon – 1 pm
  • Where: William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower
    3rd Floor Conference Room A
    312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Nashville, TN

Come learn about who TN-ASPA is and what we do. Want to get involved or share your ideas? Stop by for the opportunity to speak with TN-ASPA members and other Public Administration professionals in Nashville. We will be providing salad; you are welcome to bring your own lunch or stop by the TN Tower cafeteria.

Event is FREE and open to the public.

Coming Soon –

February 18: Troy Haley and Robert Marioni with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will speak on the recent changes to workers’ compensation laws | Thursday, February 18, 2016 12 noon – 1pm | TN Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Ave, Nashville, TN, 3rd Floor Conference Room N


Nov. 19th – Lunchtime Lecture – Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s K-12 Education Initiatives


TN-ASPA hosts the third lunchtime lecture in our Fall series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville. Rita McDonald will speak on the Nashville Chamber’s K-12 education initiatives.

  • Who: Rita McDonald, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 
  • Topic: Nashville Chamber of Commerce K-12 Education Initiatives
  • When: Thursday, November 19, 2015, 12 noon – 1 pm
  • Where: UT Center for Industrial Services 2nd Floor Training Room 193 Polk Avenue, Nashville, TN (Parking available on-site, please park in the front of building and enter through the middle entrance under the “T”)


The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has set improvement of public education as its number one priority. The Chamber focuses on helping metro public school students succeed and on getting the community and business leaders involved in public education. The Chamber has several K-12 education programs and initiatives, including the Education Report Card, Freshman Career Exploration Fairs, speaker series, and awards.

Rita McDonald, the Director of Community and Business Engagement in Education with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, will speak on:

  • Why public education is the Chamber’s #1 priority
  • the Chamber’s major initiatives to improve public education
  • the major challenges and opportunities in public education in Nashville
  • the Chamber’s positions on key local and state public policy issues related to education

Lecture is FREE and open to the public.

Oct. 15th Lunchtime Lecture – Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise & tnAchieves

Update: Emily House, the Policy and Research Director with Tennessee Higher Education Commission will be speaking in place of Mike Krause.

TN-ASPA hosts the second lunch time lecture in our Fall series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville. Emily House and Graham Thomas will speak on Tennessee’s higher education initiatives including Tennessee Promise and tnAchieves.

  • Who: Graham Thomas, tnAchieves & Emily House, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Topic: TN Higher Education Initiatives
  • When: Thursday, October 15, 2015, 12 noon – 1 pm
  • Where: James K. Polk State Office Building
    16th Floor Video Conferencing Room
    505 Deaderick Street, Nashville, TN
    (Polk State Offices are in shared building with TPAC-TN Performing Arts Center)


With Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative – the drive to get 55% of Tennesseans equipped with a degree or certificate by 2025 – there are several initiatives that assist Tennesseans with the financial costs of higher education attainment. Under the Drive to 55 initiative, the Tennessee Promise program offers two years of community college or technical school tuition-free through last-dollar scholarships and a mentorship program. As the program begins its second year, Emily House will discuss the program’s impact. tnAchieves is a partnering organization for Tennessee Promise. Graham Thomas will share tnAchieves’ role in Tennessee Promise and the program’s success in supporting more than 10,000 students in a community or technical college since its start in 2008.

Coming Soon – Third Thursday Lecture Series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville:

November 19: Rita McDonald with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce will speak on the Nashville Chamber’s education initiatives for K-12 education | Thursday, November 19, 12noon-1pm | UT Center for Industrial Services,193 Polk Ave, Nashville, TN, Training Room.

TSU’s Public Policy Research Seminar Series

TSU College of Public Service

You are all invited to Tennessee State University’s (TSU) Public Service Research Brown Bag Series this year – the full schedule is below and the updated list is always available online.  TSU’s Public Service Research Brown Bag Friday series includes informal research presentations by faculty and students. All talks will be held at TSU’s Avon Williams Campus (AWC) at 10th Ave. N and Charlotte Ave downtown Nashville.

SEPTEMBER  |  Friday 9/25/2015 12-1pm | AWC Room 203 Marie Martin, Doctoral student, Public Administration “The evolving market for external funding for global health: organizational field composition and funding dominance”

Our first talk this semester is by Marie Martin.  Marie is working on her dissertation research, having defended her proposal in May.  She will be presenting this talk the following week at the Southeastern Conference of Public Administration in Charleston.

OCTOBER  |  Friday 10/23/2015 12-1pm | AWC Training Room 1 Kyujin Jung, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Public Administration “Isolated and Broken Bridges from a Disaster: a longitudinal study of inter-organizational networks”

NOVEMBER | Friday 11/13/2015 12-1pm | AWC Room 203 Ken Chilton, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Public Administration & Cara Robinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Urban Studies

DECEMBER | No brown bag seminar

JANUARY | Friday 1/29/2016 12-1pm  | TBA

FEBRUARY | Friday 2/12/2016 12-1pm  | TBA

MARCH | Friday 3/25/2016 12-1pm  | AWC Room TBD Wanda Davidson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Social Work

APRIL | Friday 4/22/2016 12-1pm | AWC Room TBD Ali Winters, DSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work

September 17th Lunchtime Lecture – TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition – Tuition Equality


TN-ASPA is kicking off the new academic year with a lunch time lecture series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville. Starting of the Education Series is Eben Cathey of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

  • Who: TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
    Eben Cathey, Communications Coordinator
  • Topic: Tuition Equality
  • When: Thursday, September 17, 2015
    12 noon – 1 pm
  • Where: James K. Polk State Office Building
    16th Floor Video Conferencing Room
    505 Deaderick Street, Nashville, TN
    (Polk State Offices are in shared building with TPAC–TN Performing Arts Center Building)

TIRRC Tuition Equality

Eben will speak on the Tuition Equality Campaign to allow Tennessee’s undocumented immigrant students to receive in-state tuition. Presently, undocumented students who graduate from TN high schools must pay out-of-state tuition at Tennessee higher education institutions, which can be three times more expensive. Eben will discuss the Tuition Equality Now! Campaign efforts led by undocumented students and the pending legislation (SB612/HB675) addressing in-state tuition.  

Coming Soon – Third Thursday Lecture Series on Education in Tennessee and Nashville:

October 15: Graham Thomas with TN Achieves and Mike Krause with Drive to 55/Tennessee Promise will speak on Tennessee’s higher education scholarship initiatives. | Thursday, October 15, 12noon-1pm | Polk State Office Building, 505 Deaderick Street, Nashville, TN, 16th Floor Video Conference  Room.

November 19: Rita McDonald with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce will speak on the Nashville Chamber’s education initiatives for K-12 education | Thursday, November 19, 12noon-1pm | UT Center for Industrial Services,193 Polk Ave, Nashville, TN, Training Room.

Presentation from Symposium – Commissioner Rebecca Hunter

Photo of Commissioner Rebecca Hunter at TN-ASPA Symposium 12/12/2013

Commissioner Hunter of the Tennessee Department of Human Resources has kindly shared a PDF of her keynote presentation on “The T.E.A.M. Act and Beyond” from our December Symposium with us.  She discussed the nature of the Act and its innovations for Tennessee state government, as well as characteristics of the changing public workforce.

Everyone’s talking about our Symposium topic! Join us this Thursday

Brookings just featured a dialogue by workforce development experts on the national workforce of the future last week, touching on issues such as the mismatch between institutions focused on credits and employers on focused skills, and the need for cultural competency in the new workforce. Don’t miss your chance to learn and network at our Symposium on Thursday December 12th 8am – 5pm, where we take our own regional look at the “Workforce of the Future” with keynotes like Commissioner Rebecca Hunter, speaking on the TEAM Act and Beyond; Vice President Kim Carpenter Drake of the Center for Nonprofit Management; and panelists from the public, nonprofit and private sectors! Register and pay in advance with Paypal online or just come join us at One Century Place Conference Center and pay at the door with check or exact change. We hope to see you there!