Asya Branch was crowned Miss Mississippi 2018 on June 23 after representing her area as Miss Tupelo 2018 in the week long pageant in Vicksburg. The 20 year old daughter of Kristal and Anthony Branch is a native of Booneville, MS and is a junior at the University of Mississippi majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications, leading toward a career in Public Relations. Passionate about relationships with people and particularly attentive to helping others overcome adversity, she has adopted the social impact statement of “Finding Your Way: Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents.” Having experienced growing up with her father in prison, she is determined that children should not have to overcome the hardships she had because of her father’s incarceration. Asya has proven her leadership abilities through her organization and implementation of the Ole Miss student organization “Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents” (SCIP) to activate students to empower school children in the university community and her initiation of “Love Letters” programs in county jails to provide stationary and stamps for inmates to write to their children. She has authored a children’s book, Finding Your Way, to use as a tool for sharing her story and encouraging young children to dream beyond their circumstances. Miss Branch’s compassionate heart, her mild manner, and her ability to engage with children and adults alike, make her a popular guest for any school, church, business, or civic organization. Asya was a Quality of Life Finalist at Miss America finishing as second runner up for her work with her platform.
Christopher Freeze became the special agent in charge of the Jackson Division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November 2016. Prior to this, Christopher served as a section chief of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters. Christopher entered duty with the FBI in 1996. He was first assigned to the Richmond Division, where he worked public corruption, computer fraud, and financial institution fraud cases. Throughout his career, Christopher has held leadership positions in the Houston Division and the Counterterrorism Division and has worked extensively with the United States Intelligence Community. He is a certified firearms instructor, and he has served as a member of the SWAT and Evidence Response Teams.
Elise Jordan is a TIME contributor and a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. She is an advisor to the Ashcroft in America research project studying voter attitudes during the 2020 elections. She was a policy advisor to Senator Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign. During the Bush administration, Elise worked in the White House Office of Presidential Speechwriting and at the State Department as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In 2007, she joined the National Security Council, where she worked on press and communication strategies for the administration’s Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan policies. She was born and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Yale University. Elise and her husband Mike Hogan live in New York City.
Jim Moore, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA is the Director of Autism Solutions of Canopy Children’s Solutions. He oversees early intervention autism clinics as well as clinical programming offered through the autism classrooms at Canopy’s CARES Schools in Jackson and Hattiesburg. Jim has spent the past two decades working with individuals on the autism spectrum. He plays an integral role on the Mississippi Autism Board-Mississippi Licensing Board for the Practice of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). He also serves as a member of the international Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Board of Directors. Jim has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) since 2002. He was also the first Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in Mississippi. Jim holds a Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and completed his pre-doctoral internship in Pediatric Psychology from the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University in Atlanta.
Randy Pierce is the director of the Mississippi Judicial College. He previously served on the Mississippi Supreme Court, as a Chancellor for the Sixteenth Chancery Court District, and as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. Randy received his Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law where he served as LSSB President. He has an undergraduate degree in accounting and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. While a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Randy served as co-chair of the supreme court’s Commission on Children’s Justice. He also served as chair of the Rules Committee on the Legal profession. He is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education seminars and has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi College School of Law. He is a member of the Mississippi Bar, American Bar Association, Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Taheti Watson has over 15 years of experience in human resources, leadership development and employee engagement. Taheti has always had a passion for people and believes that employees will perform at a higher level when they have been given the tools needed to succeed and feel that their opinion matters. Taheti holds a Bachelor in Management from Belhaven University and a Masters in Workforce Development from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources through the Human Capital Institute (SPHR) and through the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM –SCP).