Board Spotlight

Eric E. Hartman

Chairman

A servant, a strategist, an enterprise architect, and a dancer—Hartman appreciates complex problems that require deep thinking, organizational structure, thoughtful design, and care for the human condition. Eric Hartman has worked in higher education as a professional and consultant for over 20 years. A former Dean and chief student affairs officer for a decade, Hartman now serve as vice president for risk management and institutional effectiveness at the idyllic liberal arts college affectionately known as Sewanee, formally called The University of the South. His formal education has lead him to spend time at the University of New Mexico, Indiana University, and Harvard University, and as a consultant he has worked with independent schools and colleges, hospitals, and non-profit associations and organizations. His work is primarily in the Southeast and Eastern coast, but it has also taken him to Ireland, Germany, and Ecuador. Hartman is a nationally recognized innovative educator and collaborator. He also serves on the Advisory Board to Culture of Respect, an organization dedicated to addressing sexual assault 

on college campuses, and he assisted with their acquisition by NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators). He has been the NASPA recipient of the 2010 Bob E. Leach Award for outstanding service to students and the 2015 Robert D. Bradshaw Small Colleges Student Advocate Award. He has also served as a regional board member for NASPA twice, representing small colleges and serving as the Tennessee state director. Hartman is known for his design of risk management systems which map and evaluate institutional risk for universities, independent school, and non-profit organizations. Beyond his risk management portfolio, Hartman’s current on-campus projects include a University-wide collaboration to create a new Center for Leadership aimed at employee development and continuous improvement, in addition to a strategic partnership with LifePoint Hospitals to improve the quality of healthcare to the rural, low income areas that near the University’s borders. Currently, he serves as the chair of the Southern Tennessee Regional Hospital System board of trustees and on the Risk Management Advisory Committee for United Educators, the largest insurance provider for colleges, universities and schools. He also serves on the board of trustees for St. Andrew’s Sewanee School. In his family’s spare time, he and his wife have owned and operated the Sewanee Dance Conservatory, a rural dance studio for kids all-ages, and he continues to serve as the advisor and producer for a college student dance organization, Perpetual Motion. Their annual dance production includes nearly 100 college student dancers performing over 20 cultural forms and dance techniques to a full house of enthusiastic attendees.

Melissa Thomas

Treasurer

Put one foot in front of the other and never stop,” is Melissa’s philosophy of life. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee she began her adult life as a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter Mechanic in the United States Army. She honorably served her country from 1985 through 1990 both with the 271 st AVN Co. (ASH) in Camp Humphrey’s South Korea and with B. Co. 8/101 st AVN, 101 st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, from where she made several different deployments. While in the Army she began attending college part time, planning for her future after the Army. She sought out and obtained a job with the City of Pulaski, Tennessee Police Department, which began immediately after her discharge from the Army. While a police officer she worked as an undercover narcotics officer, patrol officer and investigator. She was the first woman ever to serve with the city’s police department. While an officer she continued her part time college studies and eventually graduated from Athens State College with a B.S. in Justice Studies. She was honored by the College by being named the most distinguished graduate in her major. Melissa began her law school studies at the Nashville School of Law in 1995, while
continuing to work as a full time police officer. In 1999 she received her Jurisprudence Doctorate and passed the State of Tennessee Bar exam immediately afterward. Upon graduation she received the Lexis Distinguished Student Award. Since that time she has worked practicing law as an Assistant General Counsel to the State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, had her own private law practice and is now currently serving as an Assistant District Attorney for the 17 th Judicial District in Tennessee. She resides in Fayetteville, Tennessee with wife (Kerri) and son (Jaxon). Melissa wants to make sure we all keep putting one foot in front of the other, so that we change the world into a better place.

Peter Thomas

Peter is a geospatial software engineer with a background in international business development, communications, and events. He is passionate about building a better, more hopeful future by fostering sustainable systems of community, justice, and ecology. Peter is currently a Senior Big Data Engineer at Bigbear.ai, where he serves on the Employee Advisory Committee and the Women of Bigbear.ai employee resource group. He has previously supported USAID and World Bank hydromet projects, conducted water infrastructure field survey work, organized risk management programs for financial executives, led a website redesign, and lived in the UAE to facilitate knowledge sharing with South Korea. He and his partner spent 2015 backpacking around the world together with their blog gathernomoss.us. Peter holds a MS in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence from George Mason University, and a BA in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and Psychology from the College of William & Mary. Peter lives with his partner and two dogs in Arlington, Virginia. He enjoys playing music, hiking, amateur astronomy, and discussing utopian speculative fiction.

Will Watson

Secretary

Will Watson notices similar patterns across the different systems he plays within. Individuals, organizations, and societal systems have insufficient awareness, structures, and processes to deal with increasing complexity and a quickening pace of change. Will sees both a desire for meaningful abundance that cuts across each of these levels, while hearing from executives and teams of an omnipresent need for greater adaptivity, responsiveness, and resilience. Will helps individuals and organizations transform to meet these changing dynamics through his solo work in individual and team development and his organizational transformation practice through The Ready. Will focuses on developmental systems using a human values framework, building participatory systems of governance, and developing organizational operating systems. To these ends, Will is also a cofounder of Compass, a tool that helps teams increase transparency and improve their ways of working, and serves as an advisor to the team at Kumu, a software platform for social impact through systems and network change. Will lives with his partner and 2 kids (+dog) in Sewanee, TN and can most likely be found climbing, biking, or chasing kiddos. 

Priscilla Yu

Being in love with nature and culture her whole life, Priscilla Yu explored as many options as she could to travel the world and listen to people’s stories. With a degree in modern foreign language and east asian studies, Priscilla left her home to teach English abroad. She taught English as a second language in a small village in Taiwan and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria, focusing on education, women’s empowerment and equity, and promoting peace. In 2015, Priscilla quit her corporate job to revitalize her connection with people, culture, and nature. She and her partner traveled the globe seeking new adventures, immersing themselves in different cultures, and learning to live in the present. As a result of their travels, Priscilla sought a career change to something that moved her deeply: conservation. In her current role at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Priscilla coordinates and works with WWF country offices and a variety of partners in support of sustainable infrastructure. Priscilla works to inspire people to consider their relationship with nature and work on environmental issues that benefit both people and nature. Priscilla lives with her partner and 2 dogs in Arlington, Virginia. In her free time, Priscilla can be found practicing jiu jitsu, traveling, or out exploring and connecting with nature.