Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Nashville Emerging Leaders Awards

On July 26, the 12th annual Nashville Emerging Leader Awards honored 15 of our region’s most outstanding young professionals. These emerging leaders are making the Nashville area a better place to work, live and play. Help us celebrate our newest NELAs winners by sharing your congratulations on social media.

Here are the winners in each category:

Architecture, Engineering and Construction

Dr. Karl Zelik
Dr. Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, is a leader in the field of human movement biomechanics, prosthetics and exoskeletons. Karl is the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology at Vanderbilt.

Arts, Entertainment and Music Business

Steven C. Knapp
A native Nashvillian, Steven Knapp serves as the founder and creative director of knapptimecreative, a hybrid multimedia creative agency and production company working in the entertainment, advertising and live event industries. In 2016, Steven received an Emmy Award for his short form directing work with emerging country band, McKenzies Mill.

Business Services

Rebekah Carroll
With a passion for business and a financial background as a Certified Public Accountant, Rebekah Carroll serves as a director at Ankura, a business advisory and expert services firm formerly known as c/3 Consulting. Rebekah is the former president of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Nashville and the Middle Tennessee Young Professionals board, where she established an annual young professional fundraiser to support domestic violence initiatives.

Community Service and Nonprofit

Shannon Lapsley
Shannon Lapsley is the assistant director of community development for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she raises funds to positively impact patients and their families, as well as funding for continued medical research and education. She is a member of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Tomorrow’s Leader Council and a founding committee member of Young Professional Friends of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.


Dr. Lakisha Simmons
Dr. Lakisha Simmons serves as associate professor of management information systems at Belmont University and is the EdTech founder of the Homework Suite App for students and The Achiever Academy, a leadership and mentoring program. Her research in data science and educational technology has resulted in more than 40 peer reviewed scholarly works. Prior to receiving her doctorate, Lakisha held several positions with Caterpillar Financial Services including Six Sigma Black Belt and IT business analyst.

Environment and Sustainability

Alisha Eley
As a landscape architect and associate in Kimley-Horn’s Nashville design studio, Alisha Eley crafts sustainable designs to bring her clients’ vision to life. These designs include park plans, streetscapes, greenway designs and multimodal corridor studies. She was recognized by the TNASLA with their Top Award of Excellence for her Cummins Station Community Garden project design.

Financial Services

Joshua Livingston
As director of the healthcare banking group at Hancock Whitney Bank, Joshua Livingston is responsible for business development efforts and improving client relationships in the healthcare industry. Currently, Joshua has leadership roles at Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee, Young Leaders Council and Leadership Health Care.

Government and Public Affairs

Adam C. Jarvis
Adam Jarvis was hired as a senior management consultant in the Office of Customer Focused Government with the State of Tennessee in his early twenties. Throughout his time in state government, Adam has been focused on processes and performance improvement, crafting unique solutions that enable more efficient and effective government services.

Hospitality and Tourism

Nekasha Pratt
Nekasha Pratt is the director of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. She has more than 15 years of experience working in marketing for both large and small businesses and nonprofits. Active in the community, Nekasha is involved with tnAchieves, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and Women of Color in Communications.

Human Resources

Jade Sampson
Jade Sampson is the director of talent management for AMSURG, where her responsibilities include overseeing talent acquisition, training and development and employee engagement. Outside of work, Jade is an active member in her community. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for the Junior League of Nashville and the Young Leaders Council.

Legal Services

David Wicker
A partner in the Nashville office of Stites & Harbison, PLLC, David Wicker is a commercial real estate and finance attorney. Outside of the firm, David sits on the board of directors for both the Margaret Maddox YMCA and the Nashville Downtown Partnership and is the current vice chair for the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section.

Medical and Health Care Services

Dr. Gerald Onuoha
In his time at Meharry Medical College, Gerald Onuoha has held many leadership positions including Student National Medical Association regional officer, student body president, student observer and young alumni member for the board of trustees. Active in the community, Gerald is a member of Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and the Nashville Faculty Breakfast Club.

Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing

Lauren Reed
Lauren Reed is owner of Reed Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing agency that develops strategy to successfully reach the business goals of clients. Since its founding in 2012, Lauren has grown the firm to 10 employees and has expanded their client base to include Ford, OrangeTheory Fitness and O'Charley's.

Real Estate Services

Bryan Fort
As a senior director with Eakin Partners, Bryan Fort works with the Eakin tenant representation team and the landlord agency assignments. He assists clients in the acquisition and disposition of commercial property in the Nashville area and has completed more than $350 million in transactions including one million square feet in lease transactions over the past four years.


TaNisha Smith
After spending time working in nonprofits, project management, and private sector consulting, TaNisha Smith works as an information technology transition manager for Philips North America. She is an active member of the Nashville community, serving on boards including Street Works, a local HIV/AIDS outreach organization, and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

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