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Meet Cohort 2 (2024)


Elon Justice

Elon Justice is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and media scholar from Pikeville, KY. Raised in the heart of Central Appalachia, Elon recognized from a young age that media representations of her place were often stereotypical, lacking in nuance and deep knowledge, and altogether harmful to the people she loved. To that end, she founded The Appalachian Retelling Project, an online documentary platform that utilizes co-creative and collaborative methodologies to share stories about the Appalachian experience in residents' own words. Elon holds a B.A. in TV & Film Production from Western Kentucky University and a M.S. in Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she wrote her Master's thesis, "Hillbilly Talkback: Co-Creation and Counter-Narrative in Appalachia." She is currently a Producer at Kentucky Educational Television in Louisville, KY. Her first feature film, "Becoming bell hooks," premiered in February 2024.


Payton May

Payton May is a Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Bit Source LLC, a software development and digital solutions company. Additionally, Payton co-owns Lincoln Road Coffee, a roastery and coffee lounge in Norton, Virginia, and has co-founded several other small businesses. Payton earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Kentucky and a master's degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. As an avid business pitcher, Payton has competed in numerous pitch competitions, winning multiple prizes. Active in the community, Payton has served on various boards and committees for arts, tech, and business organizations, and has volunteered with children’s organizations to support STEAM educational opportunities. As a mixed media artist and designer, Payton works across mediums to produce diverse art forms.


Lamont Jack Pearley

Lamont Jack Pearley is the Executive Director/ Founder of Jack Dappa Blues Heritage Preservation Foundation and the African American Folklorist magazine. He's an applied folklorist, African American traditional music historian, Western Kentucky University Folk Studies Master's course Graduate and traditional country blues practitioner inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as a Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer, and Great Blues Artist. Pearley works to conserve and sustain blues and black traditions through performance, documentation, and a repository of ethnographic interviews. He also works with communities to create sustainable cultural experiences and programming.  

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Shawn Quinn 

Shawn Quinn was born and raised in Southern Indiana. He has called Bowling Green home since 2011 and has worked in several local school districts. His day job is engaging students in thinking and processing historical information. He also spends time helping students learn about crafting productions and plays and assisting with several district technological programs. In his free time, he explores using creative technology to create and make. He also dabbles in game development and design  His educational philosophy is "Wouldn't it be cool if we..." He is a maker, an explorer, and a fun seeker who believes creativity is the key to a good education.

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Nesma Soliman

Nesma Soliman, an MA student in English Language and Literature,  Nesma wears multiple hats as an Arabic teacher at Western Kentucky University, a Fulbright awardee for the 2022/2023 academic year, and a proud native of Alexandria, Egypt. Nesma's academic journey led her to Bowling Green, Kentucky where she initially relocated to fulfill the requirements of her Fulbright award and subsequently pursue her master's degree. Beyond her academic pursuits, Nesma is also the host of the podcast "International Voices," where she passionately explores and shares diverse perspectives on language, culture, and global experiences of international students. Finally, Nesma Volunteers as an ESL teacher at Refuge Bowling Green as a way to give back to the community and to empower women refugees. 


Nessa Unseld

Nessa Unseld is a recent WKU graduate with a degree in Behavioral Digital Experience. She is passionate about education, and in 2022 she founded Coleus Academy—an eLearning nonprofit to teach life skills to young adults and New Americans. Through the Civic Imagination Incubator, she plans to develop and a populate a curricula delivery mechanism within the website.

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