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Meet the 2016 Kentucky Fellows

Elliott Adler


Elliott Adler is currently employed by Louisville Metro’s Air Pollution Control District where he functions as an officer within the Community Compliance division. As a local regulatory agency, APCD sees to the strategic implementation of the Federal Clean Air Act throughout the city working in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Kentucky Division for Air quality. Together with his unit, Elliott responds to community concerns, performs inspections of various facilities, launches complex multiphase investigations, and ensures the continued monitoring of businesses and citizens to enforce compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

Elliott graduated with an English degree from the University of Louisville in 2012. He obtained a position with VRHabilis, a federal environmental contractor owned and operated by service-disabled veterans. Implementing the skills of retired military personnel, VRHabilis sought to engineer innovative solutions in the realm of environmental remediation, disaster recovery, military range management, precision blasting, and dive team services. As a member of the project management team, Elliott worked alongside veteran military personnel developing project scopes, coordinating daily site operations, and providing administrative oversight to various high-profile environmental projects.

After several years of traveling the U.S. with VRHabilis, Elliott elected to move back to Louisville to utilize his professional skill set to work improving the city he considers home. Now, as a member of local government, he aspires to further his involvement with federal, state, and community issues. Using his expertise and passion in the realm of Environmental legislation, Elliott hopes to build a cleaner, safer, and environmentally conscious community.


Kevin Burton, Campaign Manager, Strategic Advisers 


Kevin Burton is a native Kentuckian who was raised in Boone County and currently lives in Fort Wright. He received his undergrad degree from Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor's of Arts in History and Master’s degree in Political Science from University of Cincinnati. While at the University of Cincinnati he got his first taste of politics as an on campus recruiter for the 2012 Presidential race.  He is deeply active in Northern Kentucky politics.

Upon completion of his education, Kevin taught America Politics at the college level. Following that he joined the Kentucky Democratic Party and served as an assistant to Democratic Chairman Patrick Hughes during the 2015 Gubernatorial election. He currently serves as a campaign manager for Strategic Advisers, a Northern Kentucky government and public affairs firm, and is working on several local ballot races across Kentucky, including the End Grant County Prohibition campaign , which was a historic 12 point victory. 


Jonathan Fowler


Jonathan Fowler is a Lexington native and is the Keeneland Select Manager at Keeneland Association. In this position, he is responsible for the overall development and growth of Keeneland Select, Keeneland’s online wagering website. In this role, he also created and still manages the BETologist program, designed to educate novices about the horse racing industry while they are visiting during the race meets.

With his 12 years of marketing experience, he has served in various marketing positions to companies such as Tenmast Software, Bloodstock Research Information Services/Churchhill Downs and Mid-America Apartments. Jonathan earned his BS in Agricultural Communications from the University of Kentucky in 2003. He also volunteers at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm


Jamie Giles


Jamie Giles Rodgers is 10th District Legislative Aide for the 10th District of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. In this position, she serves as an adviser to the council member on matters of policy and procedures and consults with twenty six neighborhood associations to address constituent requests.   She staffs the council budget sub-committee responsible for oversight of parks, facilities, and planning divisions, conducting financial analysis and recommending strategic priorities for eight divisions and six economic partner agencies.

Prior to this role, Jamie served as a graduate fellow for the Office of Education Accountability at the Legislative Research Commission, a research assistant at the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Northern Thailand, and a McConnell Scholar at UofL. Jamie graduated with a BA from University of Louisville where she studied abroad in both China and India, and a MPA from the University of Kentucky, receiving three national awards for her master capstone research on performance based budgeting. She currently serves as the co-chair of the Southland Street Fair, the president of the UofL Central KY Alumni Chapter, an adviser for Commerce Lexington’s Young Professional Conference Emerge, and an adjunct faculty at Georgetown College. 


Mari Graham


Mari is a digital strategist at Doe-Anderson, the third oldest independent ad agency in the US. At Doe, Mari works on accounts national, regional, and local in scale—leading clients from a variety of verticals in their digital strategy, campaign management and reporting. Like the industry that surrounds her, Mari is inspired by change and innovation, which often manifests itself through her continuous research on digital and tech trends.

A native of Kauai, Hawaii, Mari moved to Louisville in 2007 to pursue a duel degree in Political Science and Psychology at Bellarmine University, which she received in 2012. Beyond her interest in the tech sector, Mari is deeply passionate about social justice issues, particularly as they relate to people of color and underserved populations.  She pursues this passion through volunteering in the playroom at the Family Emergency Shelter (operated by Volunteers for America) so that parents can attend evening support group classes. Mari also volunteers with the Kentucky Refugees Ministries’ New Beginning as a mentor. Outside of work and volunteering, Mari is an avid reader and sometimes food blogger


Ben Haydon


Ben Haydon is the Director of Business and Membership Development for the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM). Prior to joining KAM, Ben has spent the past six years in various capacities related to workforce developement. Most recently he served as the Business Services Coordinator with the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet helping coordinate the collaborative business services initiatives between private and public entities.Outside of work, Ben spends his time volunteering for numerous efforts and is involved with the Fayette County Young Democrats and Kentucky Democratic Party. In 2015 he became a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer in order to help children that have been victims of abuse and neglect. Originally from Springfield, KY, Ben is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in Community and Leadership Development and currently resides in Lexington.


Alexis Hebert


A native of Chapel Hill, NC, Alexis obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Government and French from Centre College in Danville, KY in 2014. At Centre, she was a captain of the varsity field hockey team and a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta, Epsilon Eta. She also had the opportunity to study abroad in Strasbourg, France and then briefly lived abroad post-graduation in Perpignan, France.

Alexis worked on Jack Conway’s recent gubernatorial campaign on the finance staff. She managed the campaign’s finance in Greater Louisville and Western Kentucky. She is currently a part of the Investor Development team at Greater Louisville Inc., the Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Alexis resides in Louisville and looks forward to learning more about the city and engaging in her new community.


Brandon Kenney


Brandon is currently a judicial clerk for the Honorable Senior Judge Charles R. Simpson, III of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. After his clerkship, Brandon will join the New York City office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as a litigator.

Brandon graduated with honors in 2015 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was an articles editor for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law and managing editor for Brandon has published and presented articles on topics ranging from the federal Black Lung Benefits Program to plea-bargaining in the criminal justice system.

During and prior to law school, Brandon interned in various government offices, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, and with the office of Congressman John Yarmuth. He was also a member of the University of Pennsylvania U.S. Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, where he assisted in writing certiorari and merits briefs, as well as formulating oral argument strategies.
Brandon also holds a master’s degree with highest honors from the London School of Economics, where he focused his studies on the intersection of public policy, philosophy, and economics. His thesis focused on immigration and language policy in the United States and Europe. While in Europe, he also worked as a research analyst for an immigration policy consulting firm.

Brandon received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Bellarmine University in philosophy and English literature. He received the Phi Beta Kappa of Kentuckiana Award and an English-Speaking Union scholarship to study at Exeter College, Oxford University, as well as a senior thesis award for his paper focusing on phenomenology and narrative identity. While at Bellarmine, he was also the editor-in-chief of the Ariel literary magazine and served as the Norton artist-in-residence for poetry.


Sharon Murphy


Sharon Murphy is a Lexington, KY native. She is returning to the Bluegrass State from Georgia and Ohio, where she received her Master of Public Policy, concentration in Social Policy from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. While in graduated school, she volunteered on President Obama’s 2012 campaign. Sharon moved to Ohio, where she became a Spring 2014 Fellow for Organizing for Action campaign on educating and enrolling people for the Affordable Care Act.

After returning to Lexington, she became a Voter Empowerment Organizer for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, where she is a very active member and serves as the Steering Committee alternate. Sharon recently just completed Emerge Kentucky. She also is a tutor at Nerd Squad,a STEM outreach organization dedicated to inspiring the next great minds by bringing to life STEM activities. She received a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy from University of Kentucky.


Colston Reid


Originally from Virginia, Colston moved to Kentucky in the fall of 2014 to serve as Deputy Finance Director for Conway Overly for Kentucky; responsible for in-state fundraising in Central and Eastern Kentucky. Prior to that, she spent the 2014 election cycle in Central Arkansas managing state house races on behalf of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Colston has taught political rhetoric and public speaking at the undergraduate level as well as English/Language Arts in the Memphis/Shelby County public school system. She served as Curriculum Director for the George Mason Institute of Forensics, a nationally recognized public speaking and debate institute for high school students and has consulted on behalf of DC area nonprofits focused on youth activism and community engagement; designing activist trainings focusing on community organizing and public presentation.

Colston holds a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University. Her graduate work focused on state stability indicators and the efficacy of social movements. In her free time she is a yoga instructor in the Lexington area.


Chase Sanders


Chase is currently working in the office of Congressman John Yarmuth as the liaison for veteran and military affairs, local law enforcement, healthcare outreach and grants. In his role he regularly communicates with constituents in order to help identify and solve problems through the proper government agency, as well as developing and executing crisis communications strategies.

Prior to joining Congressman Yarmuth’s staff, Chase worked as an aide to Louisville Metro Government Councilwoman Cheri Hamilton and for the Kentucky Democratic Party as a field organizer. 

While in college, Chase held an internship the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. He also worked for the Kentucky Kernel – the University of Kentucky student newspaper – in a variety of roles.
Chase enjoys spending time with his friends and family, cycling and cheering for the Kentucky Wildcats. He is passionate about helping those in need and bettering his community. One way he does this is by volunteering with the Volunteers of America. 


Meredith Scalos


Meredith is a recent graduate of Georgetown College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as well as coursework completed in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford. She currently works for the Kentucky Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gregory D. Stumbo.  She has been involved with a number of extracurricular and nonprofit groups, including Kentucky Young Democrats, Sigma Kappa Sorority, Student Women and Gender Society of Georgetown College, and Student Government Association. As a result, she is deeply passionate about international affairs, development studies, and gender equality and has done volunteer work as well as research in all three areas.  In the future she hopes to continue her work in these areas with the goal of affecting long term, positive change.



Darrin Wilson


Dr. Darrin Wilson currently serves as a professor at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in community development and public budgeting/finance. His areas of research are economic development, public budgeting, and public procurement. Dr. Wilson attended University of Tennessee–Chattanooga where he earned his BS in Economics, Suffolk University for his MBA and he completed his Doctorate in Public Administration at Florida Atlantic University. He is originally from Laurel County.

Professor Wilson’s primary research is on the behavior of local governments in financial crisis.  He studies how local governments respond to falling tax revenues and economic dislocations. However, his interests in economic development are wider than one project.  He also looks at how universities and other educational institutions contribute to the development–civic and economic–of their host communities, and how rural areas, such as Eastern Kentucky, can develop their communities to survive in the 21st century.

Dr. Wilson is also a big fan of the Norwich City Football Club (F.C. –an English Premier League soccer team).


Nada Zakaria


Nada Zakaria holds an MBA from Bellarmine University and master's degree in Pan-African Studies from the University of Louisville. Nada is a Sudanese-American who was born in Saudi Arabia and spent her childhood in Sweden.

Nada earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in Political Science. At U of L, she worked as Public Relations Officer, Secretary of the Pan-African Studies Department and Graduate Assistant for the Center on Race and Inequality. The mission of CRI is to promote research and teaching to University of Louisville faculty, staff, and students as well as community members and officials who construct and pass public policy on critical issues impacting black populations.

After graduating from U of L, Nada worked at the Center For Neighborhoods, a 501(c)3 Civic Engagement Organization. She helped facilitate a 12-week leadership education program called “The Neighborhood Institute,” which connected Louisville citizens to resources to improve their neighborhoods. One of her favorite projects at CFN was managing the Louisville “P.A.I.N.T. Project.” PAINT’s purpose was to bring neighborhoods, residents, and contemporary visual artists together to create a new site-specific, neighborhood-based public art project in West Louisville.

Nada obtained a Diversity Certification from the Society for Diversity. While studying business in Bellarmine's MBA program, she became increasingly interested in marketing and the ways it is shaped by human behavior and public opinion. She currently works at The Learning House, Inc., as a Content Strategist. Learning House is an online education solutions partner that helps colleges and universities develop and grow high-quality online degree programs. Nada is part of an awesome team that develops and optimizes content to help colleges and universities reach their goals.


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