International Visitors

Brenda Willis

Brenda is the mother of the twelve children, who she home schooled, that made up the Willis Clan. They first came to the public’s attention on Season 9 of America’s Got Talent where they reached the quarterfinals.

Brenda describes herself as a manager, booking agent, executive director, TV personality and guitar player.

Brendan Finn

As Chief of Staff and Executive to Commissioner Dan Saltzman, I lead our staff in the oversight of the Commissioner’s bureau portfolio and legislative matters before Portland City Council. Commissioner Saltzman is currently in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Fire & Rescue. The Commissioner’s office is also responsible for overseeing the Portland Children’s Levy and the Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services. Previous to these assignments I served as Chief of Staff in Commissioner Saltzman’s administrations overseeing the Portland Housing Bureau, Portland Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Environmental Services, Office of Sustainable Development, Bureau of Development Services, Portland Police Bureau and the City of Portland’s Office for Community Technology.

Brian Golden, Director, Boston Redevelopment Authority

Brian P. Golden is Director of the BRA/EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Corporation). He oversees all aspects of the organisation and focuses on executing its core mission of responsible, community-engaged planning and economic development. An attorney since 1993, Brian is a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston. He was also the New England Regional Director at the US Department of Health and Human Services, a Commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, and a member of the Board of Directors at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. Brian has served as a US Army officer, active duty and reserve, for more than twenty years. His military experience includes duty in Bosnia, Iraq, and Israel/West Bank.

Brian is a graduate of the Boston Latin School and Harvard College. He received a Master’s degree from the US Army War College and a law degree from the College of William and Mary’s School of Law.

Cathy Nakos, Manager, The Holland Group

The Holland Group, Inc. is a full-service, artist management, brand development, consultation and label facilitation services company headquartered in Nashville, TN. With a focus on career development, it offers a wide range of hands-on services that cater specifically to each artist’s needs.

THG facilitates numerous projects in various capacities and stages, currently ranging from established, multi-platinum to new, emerging artists. THG services are primarily geared towards growth strategies that include record label management, corporate brand partnerships, booking agent representation, artist merchandising, writer relations, publishing, royalties, film & TV sync, mechanical and digital licensing revenue streams, national publicity, tour press, social media management and digital marketing, video promotion via broadcast TV (both network and internet), airplay facilitation that includes streaming, satellite and terrestrial radio. THG also facilitates global digital and physical distribution through the independent major distribution titan, The Orchard (A Division of Sony Music).

Dr Cathy Taylor, Dean of College of Health Sciences, Belmont University

Dr. Cathy Taylor began her duties as Dean of the College on February 1, 2012. Dr. Taylor holds a Doctor of Public Health degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Tennessee, Memphis, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Alabama, Huntsville and a Bachelor of Science degree from Middle Tennessee State University.

Dr. Taylor comes to Belmont after serving 5 years as Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Services Administration. In this role, Dr. Taylor directed development and implementation of successful statewide tobacco cessation and diabetes prevention programmes and increased public, private and academic partnerships aimed at improving the health of Tennesseans. As a consultant to China’s Ministry of Health, she contributed to the re-design of China’s rural health care delivery system.

Prior to joining the Department of Health, Dr. Taylor was an assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She has also served as director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Disease Management Programme, and worked in community health nursing and outreach at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. She has held administrative and clinical positions at Alvin C. York VAMC including occupational health clinical specialist and medical/surgical clinical coordinator. Dr. Taylor has also served in nursing director and supervisor positions at Fentress County Hospital, Middle Tennessee Medical Centre and Hendersonville Community Hospital, and as a public health nurse in Fentress and Rutherford Counties.

Charles McCutcheon, Co-Founder of the Folk Music Hall of Fame & Museum

Charles McCutcheon was born in Omagh, Co Tyrone. He has enjoyed a 45 year music/entertainment industry career in publicity, record, and TV production, and has represented clients such as Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Leo Sayer, ACE, Alvin Lee, Jeff Beck, Don Williams, Tammy Wynette, The Jim Halsey Company, The Marlboro Country Music Festival, Jet Records, Ensign Records, Warner Brothers Records and George Harrison’s Dark Horse Records amongst many outstanding artists and clients. Charles has produced over 100 original, group and single artist audio recordings across a broad range of musical genres and innumerable multi-artist audio and video compilations for clients around the world. He has developed over 40 music television programmes, special interest documentaries, multi artist and long form music infomercial projects that have been marketed in partnership with major broadcast and direct response television (DRTV) companies worldwide.

The Folk Music Hall of Fame™ entertainment group (company) caters to a world-wide consumer market of music lovers. In an exclusive partnership with the NYC hosted destination 501c3 ‘Folk Music Hall of Fame & Museum’, the company has a developed five – seven year production and project slate presented under the brand of the FMHFM; driving worldwide content opportunity and revenues to the artist community and to the FMHFM. The company owns the trademark for the Folk Music Hall of Fame. The company has benefited from significant artist and music community support both personally and in video testimonial form.

Charles conceptualised the blending of historical events with live music performances; thus lending an air of theatrical entertainment and authenticity to what would have otherwise been simply another series of musical performances by talented groups of artists. These projects intertwine incredible periods of music and cultural history with outstanding multi-artist musical performances for unique broadcast television presentations with broad exploitation, merchandising and touring opportunities.


Christopher Marsicano, Researcher in the Department of Leadership, Policy & Organisations, Vanderbilt University

Prior to beginning his doctoral education, Chris completed a Master of Public Policy at Duke University and worked as an admission counsellor at his undergraduate institution, Davidson College. At Duke, he served as the Attorney General for the Graduate Student Body, helped adjudicate cases of student misconduct as a member of the University Judicial Board, and worked in varying roles for the Sanford School of Public Policy development office, Office of Federal Relations, and Housing, Dining, and Residence Life office. As a student at Davidson, he had the opportunity to work in community relations with ex-paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and graduated with honours in Political Science for his thesis on civil religion in American political campaigns. In his professional role at the Davidson College Office of Admission and Financial Aid, Chris recruited and read applications for students in the Southeast and New England and played a role in developing the office’s social media and data analysis processes. He has also served in various lobbying and research capacities at the New America Foundation’s Postsecondary National Policy Institute and Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC.

Chris’ research interests include higher education governance, higher education institutions and political action both in the United States and abroad, state financial aid policies, college admission policies, and the role of religion, politics, and civic engagement in college and university life. Upon completing his degree, he hopes to work as a research and teaching faculty member or in a policy advocacy role.

Deirdre Murphy, Counsel, Seyfarth Shaw

Deirdre Murphy is counsel in the Business Immigration Group of Seyfarth Shaw UK LLP’s London office. She is qualified as a lawyer in England & Wales (Solicitor), Ireland (Solicitor) and New York (Attorney).

Deirdre manages the successful delivery of UK and Irish immigration services for the firm’s corporate and private clients. She has worked for leading law firms in London for the majority of her career.

Deirdre is a native of Quincy, Massachusetts and a graduate of North Quincy High. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at Seton Hall University and a Master’s degree at NUI Galway. She received her JD from Queen’s University in Belfast.

Geraldine Hughes

Geraldine Hughes received the Los Angeles Ovation, Garland and Drama Critics Circle Awards and a Drama League Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance for her solo play Belfast Blues, which she also wrote. Stage credits include Jerusalem opposite Mark Rylance after (Broadway & West End productions.) Other theatre credits include: Particle Of Dread (opposite Stephen Rea), Cyrano De Bergerac (Broadway), Translations (Broadway), Molly Sweeney (Irish Repertory Theatre), Pumpgirl (MTC), ), Orson’s Shadow, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Weir, The Architect. Television credits include: The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, Nurse Jackie, Mercy, The Good Wife, Law and Order CI, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order, Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle, ER. She has starred in several features including Warner Bros’ Gran Torino, MGM’s Rocky Balboa, Time Out Of Mind with Richard Gere and National Geographic’s Killing Lincoln. Geraldine received an honorary doctorate from Queens University, Belfast for her contribution to the arts. She will next be seen in the film, The Book Of Henry, in June 2017.

Heather Cochran-Cunningham, Executive Director, Sister Cities of Nashville

Heather’s role as Executive Director involves Sister City programme development and administration, communications and financial governance.

Heather provides strategic direction to the Board of Directors, promotes new membership of the organisation and is liaison point for the wider Nashville community.

Heather has served as Executive Director of Sister Cities of Nashville for ten years and worked in the non-profit sector for 18 years.  She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing communications, having worked in advertising and public relations agencies in New York City and Nashville.

James P. Catalano, Attorney, Frost Brown Todd Attorneys

Jim is a member in the firm’s Business Litigation Practice Group in the Nashville office. He handles a variety of business disputes and complex commercial litigation ranging from contract and non-compete issues to discrimination and shareholder derivative litigation. Jim also has significant product liability experience. Having handled a wide variety of matters, he has significant jury experience involving construction litigation, healthcare, premises liability, professional liability, and transportation litigation across the state.


Councilman Jim Shulman, At Large County Member Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

By profession Council Member Shulman is Executive Director, Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.

He served as Council member for District 25 from 1999-2007 and between 2001 and 2002, he was Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Councilman Shulman is a member of the following Committees:
Rules, Confirmations, and Public Elections Committee – which he Chairs
Public Works Committee
Codes, Fair and Farmer’s Market Committee

Outside interests and memberships include:
Safe Haven Family Shelter
Renewal House (Programmes and support to assist mothers with substance abuse/co-curring issues)
Adventure Science Center (hybrid between Planetarium and W5)
Dismas House (Supporting offenders reintegration into community)
University School of Nashville (independent, co-ed high school located in university area with over 1 000 students)
Green Hills Rotary
Leadership Nashville (an independent, executive leadership program to give community leaders a three-dimensional view of the city. Since Metropolitan Nashville is a union of satellite cities and neighborhoods, participants live and work in communities that are near and yet worlds apart. Leadership Nashville plays a vital role in bringing these leaders together).
Green Hills Retired Teacher Apartments

 John Donovan, Lawyer, Chairman of Boston Belfast-Boston Board

After finishing law school John was appointed an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Boston, Massachusetts where he prosecuted mostly drug and gang related matters.

Following that he entered private practice where he’s been representing individuals and businesses in and around Boston for over 20 years.

A native of Chelsea, MA he is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and Suffolk University Law School.

John Philip Foley

Searching for a lawyer for immigration in Boston? Our principal attorney, John Philip Foley, is the grandson of an Irish immigrant who arrived on American shores in 1903 with 25 cents in her pocket. Like all immigrants, she overcame enormous challenges so her children and grandchildren could have a brighter future. At Foley Law Offices, we help people attain legal resident status or become citizens through the naturalization process.

John has been a lawyer since 1990 when he graduated from New England Law in Boston, MA. His area of focus is immigration law. John is an active member of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association.

Marie Macklin CBE

Marie Macklin CBE is Executive Chair of Macklin Enterprise Partnerships, a holding company building a diverse portfolio of entrepreneurial businesses and investment funds.

Macklin Enterprise Partnerships seeks to invest in entrepreneurs and their businesses, through its own resources and Investment Funds. We work in partnership with organisations such as E-Spark, Linc Scotland, private / public investors, Entrepreneurial Scotland and business angel organisations.

Macklin Enterprise Partnerships takes direct stakes in selected businesses or invests through special-purpose funds created and managed with like-minded third parties. Marie takes the lead in identifying potential partners and providing start-up and management advice to selected entrepreneurs. Wherever practical, she seeks to take a position of Chair of invested companies to ensure close engagement and scrutiny of business performance.

Before establishing Macklin Enterprise Partnerships in 2015, Marie had transformed a construction business, founded by her father, into an entrepreneurial company engaged in economic and social transformation in Scotland, after acquiring it in 2003. The Klin Group, was distinguished by her inspired and creative approach to investment and economic regeneration. The company’s foundations had been set in revitalising land and property and investing in challenging and demanding initiatives which helped to transform communities. She was the first developer to locate a Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC in Scotland in a £85M regeneration development.

Marie’s business career started in development, financial services and banking. She trained as an accountant with Morrison Construction plc, responsible for costing and sub-contractor management. She joined MJ Marketing and Management Consultants, with offices in Glasgow and New York, with responsibility for a portfolio of clients in various sectors, assisting with business plans, marketing and branding.

In 1992, Royal Bank Invoice Finance head-hunted Marie to help establish a new operation in Glasgow, involving the transfer of more than 500 Scottish and Northern UK customers within a year. She was responsible for security, service and profitability, ultimately becoming Head of Security and Services in a period marked by Black Wednesday. She was a member of the Project Columbus team which led a fundamental restructuring of RBS’s UK operations, including the tightening of credit controls.

Marie is non-executive Chair of Diligent World, a new-start risk management and cyber consultancy, a Non-Executive Director of new-start Appointedd an online booking soft wear company.

She is a Director of The HALO Kilmarnock Ltd, and leads this company’s regeneration of the former Diageo bottling plant in the town. Marie is Business Patron to  Centre Stage Communities, a social enterprise arts organisation. 

She is a Board Member the Scottish Property Federation and until December 2015 Marie was also on the Board of Management at Ayrshire College. In October 2016, she was appointed to the Economic Leaders Board ( ELB)  by Lord Haughey to oversee the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal, a £1.1 billion infrastructure initiative, funded by UK Government and Scottish Government.

Marie has a long-established commitment to the development, excellence and philanthropy of young people. She actively encourages entrepreneurs by advising, investing, sponsoring and supporting schools, colleges, arts and community organisations to engage young people in business.

She is a mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark Enterprise and assists female entrepreneurs to build business networks through her initiative, Women in Enterprise, in partnership with the Association of Scottish Business Women, whose Award for Outstanding Contribution to Business she received in 2013. In 2015, Marie the Association named her as Woman of Inspiration to business in Scotland. During November 2016, Marie was recognised by the Scottish Business Awards as Female Business Leader of the year.

In March 2017, she was named Non-Executive Director of the year by the Institute of Directors Scotland (IoD), for her engagement with Appointedd. Also, in March, 2017 Glasgow Caledonian University made Marie an Alumna for Lifetime Achievement in business.

She was awarded a C.B.E in the Queens 2014 New Year’s Honours List for Services to Economic Regeneration and Entrepreneurship in Scotland.

Dr. Marieta Velikova, Professor, Economics and International Business, Belmont University

Sister Cities of Nashville, Inc. Board Chair

 Dr. Marieta V. Velikova received her undergraduate degree from the People’s Friendship University of Russia. Her M.A. in Financial Economics and Ph.D. in Applied Economics were both earned at Mississippi State University, where she worked as a research assistant, academic tutor, and instructor of economics.

She teaches economics and international business courses in Belmont University’s College of Business Administration, where she also advised members of Entrepreneurial Action for Others Creates a Better World for Us All (ENACTUS) and has been involved in the creation of the IB Society an organisation for students interested in international studies.  Dr. Velikova has led numerous travel-study trips to Turkey, Japan, Guatemala, Cuba and Brazil which gives her an opportunity to get to know students on a more personal level as well as share life changing experiences.

She is also involved in various Nashville organisations such as Sister Cities Nashville, Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Society of Universal Dialogue, Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Young Leaders Council to give back to Nashville community which has become her new home.

 Mark McGovern

Mark McGovern is Professor in Sociology at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk (near Liverpool). His focuses on the study of political violence, conflict and post-conflict transition, particularly in Northern Ireland, and he has been involved for many years in research with community groups and local and international NGOs dealing with post-conflict human rights, truth and justice issues. His current research investigates the nature and extent of British state collusion with loyalists during the conflict in Northern Ireland and a book on this subject (State of Collusion) is forthcoming. He is the co-author of Ardoyne: The Untold Truth (Beyond the Pale: 2002) and has published in a wide range of international journals including Sociology, Law and Society, Critical Studies on Terrorism, Race and Class, Terrorism and Political Violence and State Crime.

Matthew Pierce, General Counsel, Platinum Companies

Matthew currently serves as General Counsel for Platinum Companies; a real estate development firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is responsible for all legal, governmental, and employment activities. His duties include managing outside counsel in litigation matters, advising human resources on employment issues and the ever-changing regulatory environment, drafting and reviewing contracts in real estate acquisitions, and analysing terms in financing negotiations.

Matthew also helps early stage and growing companies achieve sustainable operations by providing legal and business counsel in financial and real estate transactions, government affairs, and employee management.

Mike Rich

Mike has more than 20 years in digital as a Brand Builder at the Intersection of Media and Technology with proven business results leading organizations to the #1 positions in their categories. Mike has led global business, editorial, product and audience development teams.

Mike Rich currently serves as the CEO of Irish Central and is the Entrepreneur in Residence at Studio.VC who is the owner of Irish Central.

Prior to Irish Central Mike was the General Manager and Group Vice President of Digital at Time Inc Lifestyle division. Overseeing brands such as, Food&Wine, Real Simple, Health and Cooking Light.

Prior to Time Inc, Mike was the Chief Product and Operating Officer of Interactive One, a division of Radio One Inc. the #1 Digital Media company serving the African American audience.

Prior to Interactive One, Mike spent almost a decade AOL, serving at the SVP and General Manager of AOL Entertainment and Video Studios. Overseeing and building brands such as Moviefone, AOL Music, Spinner, AOL Video, Black Voices, AOL Latino.

Mike has spoken at industry events such as CES, Digital Music West/East, and Digital Hollywood and was recognized by the Hollywood Reporter as part of their Digital Power 50, a list of Digital Executives leading the digital media industry.

Monica Mackie, Executive Director, Nashville Bar Association

Monica Mackie has twenty-five years’ experience in the legal industry and has a demonstrated ability to lead professionals to new levels of success. Along with strong management qualifications, she has an impressive track record of more than 15 years of hands-on experience in strategic planning, business development, programme management and leadership strategies.

Monica is also the Chief Operating Officer and active managing executive of the NBA and the Nashville Bar Foundation (NBF) under the supervision of the NBA board of directors and the NBF board of trustees.


Patricia Cottrell,  Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge

Patsy Cottrell is currently Of Counsel with the firm Bone McAllester & Norton, having retired from the bench in 2014.  She was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in November of 1998 and re-elected in 2000 and 2008.  She also served on the Court of the Judiciary and the Judicial Council.

She was born in Memphis and received a B.S. from the University of Tennessee, with Honours, in 1969.  Judge Cottrell received her law degree from the University Of Tennessee College Of Law in 1976.  Upon graduation, she moved to Nashville where she became an Assistant Attorney General and was later appointed Deputy Attorney General.

Judge Cottrell was the first director of the Public Law Institute at UT College of Law, 1978-79.  In 1991, she was named Director of Law for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and in 1993 returned to the Office of Attorney General as Chief Deputy.  She entered the private practice of law in Nashville in 1997.

Judge Cottrell is an alumna of Leadership Nashville, a founding member of the Lawyers Association for Women, and served on Nashville’s Charter Revision Commission.  She is an emeritus member of American Inns of Court, member of the Tennessee and Nashville Bar Foundations and Nashville Bar Association.

Rob McCarron, Senior Vice President, AICUM

Rob McCarron serves as Senior Vice President for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), an organization that represents and advocates for the interests of 59 independent colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts and the students who attend them.

Mr. McCarron joined AICUM in July 2006, having previously served as Director of Legal Affairs for the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means (2003-2006) and as Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts House Joint Committee on the Judiciary. From 1999-2001, Mr. McCarron was counsel for MetLife Auto & Home Insurance Co., and from 1994-1999, he was an associate at Finneran, Byrne & Drechsler, L.L.P.

 Mr. McCarron received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business/management from Clark University (1988) and his Juris Doctor cum laude from Suffolk University Law School (1993).

Councilman Robert Swope

District 4, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

CEO, President & Executive Producer, Sunrise Entertainment

Robert Swope is a CEO, President, Executive Producer, Producer, Director, Editor, Writer and Performer who, since a very early age, has been exposed to an extensive array of entertainment management and production. Born in Pittsburgh, he started his career as a performer in the seventies which led to producing live event entertainment during the eighties for clients such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Georgia Pacific and AT&T. Since founding Sunrise Entertainment in 1993, Swope has garnered an EMMY® Award (Best Live Broadcast), 8 Stellar Awards, and has been nominated for a total of eight EMMYs®, three GRAMMYs®, and over a dozen STELLAR awards.

A classical and jazz trained trumpet player, he has performed with such elite groups as The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and The Buddy Rich Orchestra. He has had the honour to play banjo with such greats as Roy Acuff and the Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe.

Swope is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (NATAS), the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD), and is a founding board member of Film Nashville and Film-Com. He produces multiple charity events each year for the City of Nashville including the Arts & Business Councils Bowtie Awards, The Annual Music City Corporate Band Challenge, Film-Com, Kars4Kids and other city-wide events.

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