2018 Class of Fellows

Amber Finlay

Amber FinlayAmber Nicole Finlay serves as a Governor’s Management Fellow where she supports special projects for the Office of Customer Focused Government and the Tennessee Department of Correction.

In the Office of Customer Focused Government, Amber contributed to the MyTN and Transparent Tennessee projects. With the Department of Correction, Amber has produced a report on restrictive housing policies and reform, written a federal grant designed to reduce recidivism among offenders on community supervision, spearheaded a project targeted at increasing diversity in business in Tennessee, and designed a program that utilizes entrepreneurial principles to improve offender outcomes.

Amber’s previous professional experiences include interning for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, interning at the Washington legislative office of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and interning for the University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE).

Amber graduated from the University of Virginia in May 2016, where she double-majored in Political and Social Thought – a Distinguished Honors major – and African-American and African Studies.  She was also a Public Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.  In her free time, Amber enjoys running, singing, testing new recipes, and is passionate about economic development, entrepreneurship, and empowering underrepresented communities. She is a Tennessee Promise mentor.


Benjamin Burkeen

Benjamin Burkeen

Ben Burkeen began with the State of Tennessee in August 2016 as a Governor’s Management Fellow after graduating Summa Cum Laude from The University of Alabama majoring in Business Management with a specialization in Management Communications, minoring in Civic Engagement and Leadership, and participating in the University Fellows Experience. Ben’s professional background includes time with Southwest Airlines working on corporate social responsibility strategy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an honors intern, and community organizations throughout Alabama where he built coalitions of stakeholders around community development goals.

In the Office of Customer Focused Government, Ben has participated in a range of projects, to include: the development of an executive transition plan for all cabinet-level departments, leading the implementation of Alternative Workplace Solutions in two cabinet-level departments, researching and understanding the implications of regulations of digital currency on the state’s financial institutions, and supporting the MyTN project which will improve customer service and create operational efficiencies.

Outside of work, Ben’s interests include researching blockchain technology applications, identifying entrepreneurial solutions to systemic poverty, and being a tnAchieves mentor.


Evan Smith

Evan SmithEvan Smith joined the Office of Customer Focused Government in August of 2016 as a Governor’s Management Fellow. Evan’s primary role in CFG is supporting the Director of Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS), assisting in enterprise strategy and implementation of AWS, as well as leading the implementation of the program in seven different state departments. Evan also plays a supporting role in an initiative to ensure a smooth transition from the current administration to the next.

Before coming to the state, Evan was employed by The Boeing Company working in the division of Defense, Space and Security. During his time at Boeing, Evan held positions in Finance and Strategy. Evan is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and holds a degree in Supply Chain Management and Marketing.

During his free time, Evan enjoys cheering on the Vols, playing golf, and exploring the many beautiful lakes and rivers Tennessee has to offer.


Laura Vaught

Laura VaughtLaura is a Governor’s Management Fellow serving in the Departments of Environment and Conservation and Agriculture.

In the Department of Environment and Conservation, Laura assists the commissioner on special projects and supports the Office of General Counsel on a variety of legal matters. She works on agribusiness and rural development projects for the Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Rural Task Force.

She holds a law degree with a business transactions concentration from the University Of Tennessee College Of Law and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.  Laura earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Communications from Texas Tech University and her bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from Tennessee Tech University.

Laura interned for former Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Sen. Lamar Alexander on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee Suzanne Bauknight, and the UT-Battelle Office of General Counsel at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During her senior year at Tennessee Tech, she was also a member of AmeriCorps.