Kathleen M. Airhart, Ed.D.
Dr. Kathleen Airhart was appointed as Deputy Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education in January 2012. Previously she has served in roles for the Putnam County School System including teacher, Special Education Supervisor, and for the past 6 years, Director of Schools. She holds a Doctorate from Tennessee State University in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelors, Masters, and Ed.S. from Tennessee Tech University. She has authored numerous articles and received various awards related to education. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents for 2011-2012. During the course of her career, Dr. Airhart has actively engaged and led education reform efforts to improve PK-12 educational results for all children in Tennessee.
Becca Barniskis is a poet who has published her work in many journals, and she has a chapbook of poems, Mimi and Xavier Star in a Museum That Fits Entirely in One’s Pocket. She performs regularly as part of the bands Downrange Telemetrics and Pancake7. Barniskis also teaches and works as a freelance writer and consultant in arts education for a range of schools and arts organizations across the upper Midwest and around the US. She co-wrote the Teaching Artist Handbook, vol. 1: Tools, Techniques and Ideas to Help Any Artist Teach (University of Chicago Press) and was an associate editor at the Teaching Artist Journal for many years.
Dr. Dru Davison
Dru Davison, Ph.D. is an arts administrator for Shelby County Schools and currently serves as the Fine Arts State Standards Revision Committee Project Chair for the Tennessee State Board of Education. His other positions and appointments include chair of the National Association for Music Education’s Council of Music Program Leaders and a revision team member for the National Opportunity to Learn Standards for Music Education. In addition, Dr. Davison has consulted for both the United States Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education as well as Insight Education Group. Dr. Davison has taught music to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, was an adjunct jazz instructor at Arkansas State University and served as a teaching fellow in music education for the University of North Texas. He has served on the Bill and Melinda Gates College Readiness Advisory Council and is a former national fellow for the Hope Street Group.
Nick Jaffe is a guitarist who has performed with such artists as Common, Estelle and Ice Cube, and recorded across a wide range of genres from soul and rock to free improvisational projects. As a teaching artist, his focus has been on setting up student-run recording studios in public schools. Nick is a co-author of The Teaching Artist Handbook (University of Chicago Press) and former Chief Editor of the Teaching Artist Journal.
Jeff M. Poulin joined the arts education team at Americans for the Arts in 2013. He works to empower local, state and federal supporters of arts education to become effective advocates to advance policies supportive of equitable access to arts education for all students.
In his role at Americans for the Arts, Jeff has trained over 10,000 advocates in all 50 states. He was also been instrumental in the publication of the 2014 National Core Arts Standards, a leader in the creative youth development movement and a founding board member of the Innovation Collaborative. Before arriving in D.C., Jeff worked for several nonprofit and commercial organizations in the US and abroad, focused primarily in production and programming, audience development, research and policy. Notably, he was a chief advisor on the implementation of the first national Arts in Education Charter under the directions of the Ministers of Arts and Education in the Republic of Ireland. Jeff frequently speaks at a number of nonprofit organizations and universities.
Jeff hails from Portland, Maine and holds a Master of Arts degree in Arts Management and Cultural Policy from University College Dublin and a Bachelor of Science degree in Entertainment Business from Oklahoma City University.
Kyle Southern focuses on connecting rigorous, relevant research to policies affecting education in Tennessee. Previously, Kyle held a research fellowship at the University of California-Berkeley and worked as a policy researcher for SCORE and a Washington, D.C., area nonprofit research and analysis corporation. He is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, where his research has focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Kyle holds a bachelor’s degree in American and Southern Studies and a master’s degree in education policy, both from Vanderbilt University.
Leonardo Vazquez is a national award-winning planner who is a leader in two emerging fields in urban planning: creative placemaking and cultural competency. He has two decades of experience in community development, community engagement, small group facilitation, local economic development, leadership development and strategic communications. He has worked with a wide variety of communities in New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New York and Pennsylvania. With a strong focus on implementation and sustainability, he specializes in building leadership teams to oversee plans and raising funds to support planning and implementation efforts. In addition to his affiliation with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, Vazquez is a Senior Associate at the Nishuane Group and a Lecturer at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Leading from the Middle: Strategic Thinking for Urban Planning and Community Development Professionals and co-editor of Dialogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities. He has written for several professional and general interest publications, including Planetizen, Planning, Progressive Planning and The Star-Ledger. He is the recipient of the 2012 American Planning Association National Leadership Award for Advancing Diversity and Social Justice in Honor of Paul Davidoff, the highest award given in the urban planning field on issues of social equity. Vazquez received a B.S. from Northwestern University and a M.P.A. and M.P., both from the University of Southern California.