Past Interns and Fellows


Abby Wheeler

Abby Wheeler

Abby is originally from Charlottesville, Virginia but now calls Nashville home. Abby joined NCDC as a research fellow in August of 2014 following her graduation from Vanderbilt University in May of the same year. At Vanderbilt, she earned a bachelor of science in Human and Organizational Development with a concentration in Community Leadership and Development. 

Matt Genova

Matt Genova

Matt is originally from just outside of Chicago, Illinois, but has called Nashville home for the better part of the last six years. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in May of 2013 with a B.A. in History and Public Policy, focusing specifically on environmental policy issues. Through both his previous work with the Nashville Mayor's Office and his current role as the Events Coordinator for Lightning 100's Team Green Adventures, he has developed a strong interest in the built environment and how it can be utilized to create sustainable local communities. Matt is excited to be able to expand his knowledge of planning and design principles through his internship with the Design Center, and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning in coming years.

Kion Sawney

Kion Sawney

Kion Sawney is a 2014 graduate of Vanderbilt University with degrees in Urban Planning and Economics. At the university he served as a member of the Board of Directors for Vanderbilt Student Communication and through a Curb Center Innovation Grant, founded the Kefi Project, the university's public art organization.  His research has taken him to a wide variety of places and topics but are grounded in urban policy and its relationships between various stakeholders. At the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, he studied the 1950 expansion of the university and the impact upon the city's built environment and social identity. In 2014, he worked with Cayce United in East Nashville to crafting a writing program for young residents. With the Civic Design Center, he is undertaking a publication on housing accessibility for the city. 

Melissa Alexander - Design

Melissa joins the NCDC via Brooklyn and Detroit, where she worked at several boutique architecture firms. While studying at the University of Tennessee, Melissa was a Bicentennial Scholar, an honor bestowed by the university based on academic merit. She was also the president of Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society, and received the Alpha Rho Chi Bronze Medal for Leadership, Service, and Merit. While practicing, Melissa, along with a partner, participated in an international design competition sponsored by the World Architecture News Association and the The Royal Academy. Their entry, entitled ‘Urban Projections: A Conversational Streetscape’ won the first place award, and was published and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Currently, Melissa divides her time between HollerDesign, a local furniture design and manufacturing firm she started with her husband, and the Nashville Civic Design Center. Additionally, Melissa serves as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, College of Architecture + Design.

Kira Appelhans - Design

Kira Appelhans received her undergraduate degree in Landscape Horticulture and Design from Colorado State University in 2002, and her Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Her final master’s project, designed with a classmate, won an ASLA award and was published in A+T magazine, Spain. After graduating, Kira worked for the New York based landscape architecture firm Balmori Associates leading competitions and projects with a focus on sustainable design.  She has taught in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Texas, Austin and in the School of Design Studies at Parsons.  Kira was a team member on the Rising Currents design workshop and resulting exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  She was a fellow at the MacDowell art colony and is a managing editor of the landscape art and urbanism website Topophilia.

Amy Eskind - Research

Amy S. Eskind has been a journalist since 1986. Her work has appeared in Life, People, USA Weekly, American Profile, and LIVESTRONG. Eskind holds a degree in political science from Duke University and completed the didactic program in dietetics at Middle Tennessee State University. Amy is assisting in production of NCDC’s Shaping Healthy Communities: Nashville project. She enjoys cycling, hiking and swimming.

Betsy Mason - Design

Betsy earned her Bachelor of Architecture and Minor in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in 2010. In 2009, she received the Foreign Studies Enrichment Scholarship to attend the Finland Summer Architecture Institute in Helsinki, Finland. Hosted by Aalto University of Science and Technology, her studio's final work documented a three-piece Aalto ensemble in Inkeroinen, Finland and was accepted into the permanent collection of the Alvar Aalto Museum. While at UT, she participated in the inaugural design + build studio/seminar. It was an interdisciplinary effort and produced a comprehensive design for an Interpretive Visitor's Center for Panther Creek State Park. Designed to achieve a LEED Gold rating, the studio's work received the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Award in 2009. The project is currently on hold and seeking funding. In addition to her design work, Betsy volunteers with Hands On Nashville and  Betsy completed multiple studies

Bryan Obara - Design

Bryan Obara specializes in the design of sustainable urban communities. He has currently been working with the Nashville Civic Design Center to write Reclaiming Public Space in Downtown Nashville, serving as a resource for planning community-driven public spaces. This publication acknowledges the role of public space in shaping a healthy downtown for Nashville, studies best practices in nationally acclaimed public spaces, and provides tools for evaluating and envisioning public space. Bryan has achieved a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Landscape Architecture, recently culminating in thesis research on reconnecting the Fox Point Community of Providence, Rhode Island in wake of Interstate-195’s realignment. He has received funding to research and plan for multiple global events, focused on providing a lasting framework for local culture and environmental development. This includes research into the transformation of Beijing’s hutongs for a 2008 green Olympics, a proposal for green infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and a Second Place Award for Designing the Fair of the Future in the Ed Bacon Design Competition.

Chelsea Velaga

Chelsea Velaga

Chelsea Velaga is an artist and designer working in Nashville. She currently attends Vanderbilt University, and is majoring in English Lit and Fine Art. This is her second summer with the Civic Design Center, where she is a Research and Design Fellow. Besides her passion for graphic design, she loves illustrating, printmaking, and video-making. Her work can be found at 

Emma Grager

Emma Grager

Emma is a California native who found her way to Nashville to attend college and pursue music. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2015 with degrees in English Creative Writing and Spatial Design. She is a songwriter, designer, and word-nerd. Her journey in civic design started with Pulama Lana`i in 2013 where she worked on the zero phase of Larry Ellison's sustainable island project. Emma aspires to design and implement creatives spaces in the urban landscape, inviting people from all walks of life to shift their perspective, increase their empathy, and express their views. She plans to attend graduate school in the UK in 2017 for Advanced Sustainable Design to further her education and learn how to make meaningful places.  


Shanese Brown

Shanese Brown

Shanese Brown, a rising second year architecture major enrolled in the University of Tennessee, discovered her creative voice for design with the Nashville Civic Design Center in 2011. While participating in their Design Your Neighborhood Program, she was exposed to architecture, urban design and planning, graphic design, and filmmaking, which intrigued her desire to explore the profession. Currently, expanding her design skills and developing her creative energy, she is working on a publication titled, Reclaiming Public Space: Accessing Our Roads, which highlights the public’s nonexistent or limited road usage and space throughout the downtown Nashville area.

Callie Rushton

Callie Rushton

Originally hailing from the Washington, DC area, Callie is currently in her final year at Vanderbilt University where she is pursing degrees in Public Policy Studies and Human and Organizational Development. With a strong passion for sustainability, she is particularly interested in exploring the intersection of issues related to the environment, health, transportation, and quality of life. At NCDC, Callie has applied these interests as a framework for researching civic placemaking in order to conceptualize how thoughtful urban design can serve as a solution to the most pressing issues in Nashville. She hopes to pursue a career in sustainable community development, which she imagines will take on many forms over time.

Joshua Alexander

Joshua Alexander

Josh grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he plans to graduate in 2017. He believes that good design can affect quality of life, and sees architects as having a responsibility not just to the client, but to people and natural resources that form the context of a project. He was introduced to the Nashville Civic Design Center during a 12-week, urban design studio with Professor TK Davis. Having been motivated by the efforts of Nashville’s design community and the enormous potential of the city, Josh began an internship at the NCDC soon after. When he graduates, he hopes to pursue a career in architecture in his hometown.

Lindsey Bradley

Lindsey Bradley

Lindsey is a graduate student in landscape architecture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She was born in Memphis, moved to Nashville ten years later and has been in Knoxville at UT since 2011. Lindsey received her bachelor’s degree in plant sciences with a concentration in landscape design in 2015 before pursuing a masters degree. Design has always been of interest, specifically designing to better a city or community for livability, so Lindsey has tried to focus her studio projects and assistantships on transportation, water quality, and public spaces. She has been involved in the Smart Communities Initiative at UT with their partnership with Cleveland, TN in 2015 and with the Southeast Tennessee Development District in 2015-2016. She has also been involved in designing rain gardens on UT’s campus. Lindsey plans to continue research and design by focusing on urban communities.

Vivek Prasad

Vivek Prasad

Vivek is a architectural undergraduate student University of Tennessee Knoxville. His main objective to master the design of highly functional, energy efficient and earthquake resistant buildings. His other objective is to become an expert in the utilization of architectural software tools and 3D Printers, in the visualization and modeling of structures.

Vanessa Asaro, Vanderbilt University

J. Blythe H. Bailey, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Chris Barbour, Vanderbilt University

Samuel Barringer, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Brian Bobel, University of Tennessee

Ted Booth, University of Virginia

Michelle Bowen, Vanderbilt University

Laura Brown, Colorado College

Keaton Browder, Tennessee State University

Isabel Call, Oberlin College

Benjamin Campbell, Vanderbilt University

Whitney Chase, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Hana Chmielewski, Vanderbilt University

Brian Christens, Vanderbilt University; Phd Student in Community Research and Action

Mary Clark, Vanderbilt University

Daniel Cooper, Vanderbilt University
Annalisa Daddi, University of Pisa, Italy

Briana Davis, Tennessee State University

Emily Daniel, LEED AP, ASLA, University of Georgia, College of Environment and Design

Ellen Dill, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Marne Duke, Lipscomb University, Masters of Science in Sustainable Practice

Heydn Ericson, Guilford College

Laura Felker, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Brent Fitzgerald, Vanderbilt University

Sarah Floyd, Vanderbilt University

Dane Forlines, Alumnus of Vanderbilt University

Carrie Fry, Vanderbilt University
Meghan Fullham, Philadelphia University

Andrea Gaffney, Master of Architecture, UC Berkeley; Bachelor of Architecture, Cornell University

Charles Gardner, candidate for J.D., Law School, Vanderbilt University; B.A. History, Dartmouth College

Chelsea Gifford, The University School of Nashville

Sarah Goodrich, Vanderbilt University

Matthew Gonser, Masters of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, Cornell University

Matt Gregg, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Virginia (Ginny) Harr, Virginia Tech

Raven Hardison, Barnard College

Robbie Hayes, Master of Community Planning; Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction

David Heyburn, University of Cincinnati

Ryanne Hilbert, Vanderbilt University

Jason Hill, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Jason Hitchcock, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Brent Hunter, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Lubomir Ivanov, Hume Fogg Magnet High School

Benjamin Jelsma, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Dana Kitzes, Master of Education Development Action, Vanderbilt University; B.S. Human and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University

Kelsey Kaline, Vanderbilt University

Nora Kern, Williams College

Emily Kleinfelter, Hendrix College

Amie Kromis, Hume Fogg Magnet High School

Michelle LaBanca, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

Chris Laidlaw, Hume Fogg Magnet High School

Chris Layda, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Jacqueline Lincoln, Washington University in St. Louis

Marielle Lovecchio, Masters in Community Development & Action, Vanderbilt University

Alison Macbeth, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Joseph Mayes, York College of Pennsylvania

Caroline McDonald, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Abbie Lee Majors, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Margaret Martin, Tulane School of Law

Kristen McDaniel, Vanderbilt University
Tyler McSwain, Tennessee State University

Kiera Mitchell, Tennessee State University

James Moore, Master of Urban Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design; B.A. Policy (Urban Studies), University of Chicago

Lauren Michele Murray, Vanderbilt University

Charlotte Myerberg, Human and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University

Parvathi Nampoothiri, Master of Urban Planning (MUP), McGill University, Montreal; Bachelor of Architecture, University of Kerala, India

Justin Ostrander, Syracuse University

Andrew Park, Vanderbilt University

Ben Palmquist, Stanford University
Kyle Pritchard, Dickson County High School

Amanda Posch, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design
Wesley Rhodes, Tennessee State University

Kathleen Russell, Vanderbilt University

Benjamin Sachs, Yale University
Lauren Vela Sage, University Notre Dame

Anne Sanders, Sewanee, University of the South
Kion Sawney, Vanderbilt University
Samantha Schneider, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design
Sonica Sundri, Vanderbilt University

Meghan Scholl, Westfield State University
Astrid Schoonhovern, Leiden University (Netherlands)

Laura Schwinder, Human and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University

Julia Sell, Julius-Maximilians University, Wuerzburg, Germany

Paris Sethi

Ana Shaikh, Hume Fogg Magnet High School

Anna Shell, Masters of Science in Planning, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Mary Ellen Smith, Lund University, Sweden
Alicia Meriwether Smith, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Ashton Smith, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Catherine Soudoplantoff, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

Susan Steffenhagen, Georgia Tech

Catherine Tracy, University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Jason Walker, The University of Miami, School of Architecture
Chelsea Velaga, Vanderbilt University

John Vick, Vanderbilt University; Phd Student in Community Research and Action

Stefanie Wessner, Wheaton College

Gabrielle Westbrook, Vanderbilt University
Mustapha Williams, Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School

Ron Yearwood, Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland; University of Tennessee, College of Architecture & Design

Nekya Young, Tennessee State University

Whitney Youngblood, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film