Board and Staff News

Conexión Américas has named three new members to its Board of Directors, Mayor Karl Dean, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and Sherri Neal, Vice President of Cultural Development and Inclusion at HCA.

“We are excited to welcome Mayor Karl Dean, Chancellor Zeppos, and Sherri Neal. That people of their stature are willing to join our board is an important milestone in cementing Conexión Américas’ standing as a Nashville institution as well as in recognizing the contributions of Latino families as key pillars to the future of our city” Conexión Américas’ co-founder and Executive Director Renata Soto said.

Mayor Karl Dean has been a long-time champion of making Nashville a welcoming and inclusive city.  He created the Mayor’s Office of New Americans and other opportunities to help New Nashvillians navigate and participate fully in city life.

“Under Mayor Dean’s leadership, Nashville has raised as a bright spot and model for immigrant integration in the country. We are honored that he will continue to build on that legacy through his service on our board,” Soto said.

“I’m honored to join the excellent group of leaders on the board of Conexion Americas,” Mayor Karl Dean said. “Renata Soto and her team are a shining example of Nashville’s welcoming, helpful attitude toward the city’s many immigrants and refugees, who have made this a more diverse, more vibrant and better city. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos has served Vanderbilt University for over 25 years in roles from professor to provost and vice chancellor. He leads the university’s academic strategic planning and has been instrumental in several initiatives to expand and deepen Vanderbilt’s academic offerings.

“Vanderbilt University has supported Conexión Américas for many years in many ways. Having Chancellor Zeppos join our board represents an unprecedented opportunity to take our partnership —and impact— to new heights, especially in our shared goals of helping Latino and other immigrant students graduate from high school and pursue higher education,” Soto said.

“Conexión Américas is an incredibly important conduit and connecting force for empowering Latino families and individuals as they build new lives and strengthen our vibrant Middle Tennessee community,” Zeppos said. “I am honored to be asked to serve in this capacity and for the opportunity to work in partnership with visionaries like Renata Soto and José González, who co-founded this amazing resource organization, and the community leaders who are volunteering their time to advance Conexión Américas’ mission of promoting inclusivity and integration within our increasingly diverse society and world.”

Sherri Neal, as Vice President of Cultural Development and Inclusion for Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), leads the company’s inclusion and cultural competence initiative and has been involved in leading diversity initiatives for over 25 years. HCA has been a supporter of Conexión Américas since its inception in 2002. The HCA Foundation and The Frist Foundation provided seed money for the start-up nonprofit 13 years ago.

“We consider Dr. Tommy Frist the godfather of Conexión Américas,” Renata Soto said. “Having Sherri Neal on our board solidifies a long-time partnership. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of HCA and its leaders.”

New Board Officers

During its recent meeting, Conexión Américas’ board also elected Scott Tift, attorney at Barrett Johnson, as new Board President; Terry Maroney, professor at Vanderbilt Law School, as Vice President; Rob Jack, senior consultant at c3/consulting, as Secretary; Mark G Tobin, treasurer at Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, as Treasurer; and Mario Avila, CEO of Emerge Financial Wellness, as officer at-large.

Staff News

New Senior Directors

2015 Gini and Tara

Gini Pupo-Walker, who has been a star board member and a long-time educator with Metro Nashville Public Schools, is joining our staff team as the new Senior Director of Education Policy and Strategic Growth. Tara Lentz, who has been with us for eight years and has been a key pillar in our growth trajectory, is now Senior Director of Programs.