The Bean Path is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Jackson, Mississippi and was founded by Dr. Nashlie Sephus. Our mission is to sow technical expertise in order to grow networks and fertilize communities.
What We Do
We essentially provide technical advice and guidance to individuals and small businesses in the community. Our initiatives include tech hours at the local libraries, engineering and coding programs for youth, and scholarships/grants for students and community organizations.
Invest in Your Future by Learning Tech
Meet The Team
Dr. Nashlie H. Sephus is the Applied Science manager for Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiative, focussing on fairness and identifying biases in the technologies. She formerly led the Amazon Visual Search team in Atlanta, which launched visual search for replacement parts on the Amazon Shopping app in June 2018. This technology was a result of former startup Partpic (Atlanta) being acquired by Amazon, for which she was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Prior to working at Partpic, she received her Ph.D. from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014 and worked for a year with Exponent technical consulting firm in New York City. Her core research areas were digital signal processing, machine learning, and computer engineering. She received her B.S. in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State University (2007).
Dr. Sephus is a native of Jackson, Mississippi and a 2003 graduate of Murrah High School/Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC). She’s had several internships and research experiences worldwide with companies such as IBM, Delphi, University of California at Berkeley, GE Research Center, GE Energy, Miller Transporters, and Kwangwoon University in Seoul, South Korea. Recently, Dr. Sephus became founder and CEO of The Bean Path non-profit organization based in Jackson, MS assisting individuals with technical expertise and guidance. During her leisure time, she enjoys playing tennis, playing the piano, listening to music, bargain hunting, biking, and working on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects at home.
Robyn Breland Kennebrew is a development and public relations professional with more ten (10) years of experience in the fields of strategic communications, marketing, event planning, project management, planning and development and fundraising. Working smart, Robyn’s personal motto, has allowed her to take strategic approaches to problem solving, planning and decision making. Robyn’s ability to conceptualize has allowed her to provide thorough analysis and recommendations to her clients, which has ultimately allowed them to create and/or expand their image in their respective industries.
Robyn has had a successful career working with nonprofit organizations, helping them to leverage resources, communicate strategically and work effectively. Throughout her career, she has been responsible for coordinating special events, such as annual banquets and galas and leading the cultivation and solicitation efforts that raised more than $70,000.00 each event. In addition to fundraising, Robyn has written and prepared grant applications, proposals and reports with diverse teams.
As a strategic communications and branding professional, Robyn has been responsible for developing and implementing marketing and public relations strategies; analyzing fashion and market trends, data, and competitors; copywriting; and maintaining traditional public relations and media relations.
Robyn has a MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Mississippi College with additional coursework in Strategic Public Relations from the George Washington University. She is also a graduate of Jackson State University (JSU) where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing.
A native Jacksonian, Stephen graduated from Oak Forest Elementary, Power APAC, Peeples Middle School, and THEEEE Murrah High School (Roll Blue!) before heading to Loyola University in New Orleans to earn his bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a minor in Music Business. Stephen is the youngest of four children born to Herbert and Stephany Brown. Coming from a family of educators, Stephen’s counseling and presentation style is reminiscent of a college professor.
Stephen has been a full-time staff member with WHEF since January 2013. He is a member of National College Access Network, Mississippi Counseling Association, and most notably the Southern Association of College Admission Counselors from which he received the Rising Star Award at the regional conference in 2017. His passion for education and working face-to-face with students is immediately apparent when witnessing his interaction with families. He takes the most pride in providing free ACT Prep services, having had multiple students increase their overall scores by as many as 10 points!
M. Denise Fondren currently serves as Staff Attorney for the Earlene Gardner Victims Assistance Project at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services (NMRLS) in Oxford, MS. In this role, she provides legal assistance and support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in twenty-seven northern Mississippi counties. She works closely with other service providers and community agencies to ensure victims are heard and assisted. She served in several different capacities at NMRLS prior to going to Law School such as Executive Assistant and Foreclosure Prevention Support Staff. She has been with NMRLS since 2010.
Denise earned her Juris Doctorate from The University of Mississippi School of Law in May 2017 and was admitted to The Mississippi Bar September 2017. She also holds two Bachelors of Business Administration degrees from The University of Mississippi in Managerial Finance and Banking & Finance.
She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority where she serves as Assistant Treasurer and Undergraduate Advisor in the Oxford Chapter. She serves on the Board of Directors for The Bean Path, a non-profit technology consulting and networking corporation. She attends and serves on the finance committee at South Hopewell M.B. Church in Oxford. Most notable, she is the mother of a beautiful daughter, Jamari Fondren. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and watching college football.
Dr. Roderick Jackson is the laboratory program manager for buildings-related research at NREL. He works closely with senior laboratory management to set the strategic agenda for NREL’s buildings portfolio, including all research, development, and market implementation activities, which aim to improve the energy efficiency of building materials and practices. He also guides discussions with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office to expand research related to buildings-to-grid, as well as mechanical and thermal properties of building materials to enhance heat transfer. He also helps identify industry partnership opportunities to develop building envelope and equipment technologies.
Jackson comes to NREL from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where he was the group manager for Building Envelope Systems Research.
One of Jackson’s most notable industry accomplishments is a result of his role as the technical lead for the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) demonstration project at ORNL. With Jackson’s leadership, AMIE brought together experts from multiple research teams across the lab, 20 partners from industry, and DOE scientists to design, develop, and demonstrate a 3D-printed house that shares power wirelessly with a 3D-printed electric vehicle. The first-of-its-kind project was completed in just nine months.
Jackson has been cited in more than 560 publications; is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; and has received several awards in his career, including the National GEM Consortium Alumni of the Year and Greater Knoxville Business Journal’s 40 under 40.
- Xavius Levy is a lifelong resident of Jackson and a product of Jackson Public Schools. He graduated Valedictorian of the Class of 2002 from Lanier High School where he also served as Mr. Lanier.Upon graduation, Xavius was named a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, receiving a “full ride” scholarship to the 4 year college of his choice. He was also awarded the Jackson Rotary Club Scholarship. After high school, Xavius pursued a degree in a STEM field from Mississippi College and later transferred to THEE Jackson State University.
Despite the socioeconomic challenges faced as kid in Jackson with limited resources, Xavius found a way to excel academically and developed a keen interest in technology. He realized early on that regardless of the academic gifts one may possess, having access to resources and positive advocates played a vital role in an individual’s future success.After losing his mother to cancer as a teenager, Xavius devoted much of his time to volunteering with youth development programs such as Young Life and Big Brother Big Sister. Despite not yet having completed his degree, he still honors his mother’s legacy of helping others by serving as the Jackson area volunteer coordinator for his company’s (CarMax) foundation.
Dr. Donna Reese received her BS degree in Computer Science from Louisiana Tech University. She received her MS and PhD degrees, also in Computer Science from Texas A&M University. Dr. Reese joined the faculty in Computer Science at Mississippi State University (MSU) in 1989 an served MSU until her retirement in December, 2017. During her tenure at MSU she served as the Associate Dean for Academics and Administration for the Bagley College of Engineering from 2005‐2010. In 2010, Dr. Reese moved back to the Computer Science and Engineering Department to serve as Interim Department Head before receiving the permanent position in 2011. She held this position until July 2017 when she stepped down to return to faculty. Dr. Reese has been active in activities promoting diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. As Associate Dean, she led the diversity efforts for the college. Dr. Reese has also been active professionally in ABET, the accrediting body for computing and engineering degrees. She served as chair of the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET in 2017‐18.
Dr. Byron J. Williams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering at the University of Florida and an affiliate faculty of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research (FICS). Dr. Williams was the former Jack Hatcher Endowed Chair for Engineering Entrepreneurship and an Associate Professor at Mississippi State University. He was a 2017 inductee in the Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Teachers and chaired the Empirical Software Engineering Research Group. Dr. Williams has created courses on Software & Application Security, Software Development Operations (DevOps), and iOS Application Development. His research interests include software analytics, secure software development, application security, and software engineering education.
The Moss Point native attributes her success to her parents. Her mother – a teacher – taught her to work selflessly. Her father instilled in her a diligent attitude, sociable nature and an unwillingness to accept mediocrity. She is a graduate of Moss Point High School and a proud alumna of the Alcorn State University, where she was apart of the 2001 SWAC Women’s Tennis Champion team and initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Upon earning a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Agricultural Economics from Alcorn State University, Theresa has worked in the area of agriculture, entrepreneurship, banking, political campaigns, small business consulting, city government, community outreach and marketing.
She served as the Director of the Women Business Center of Mississippi, an organization that assists women entrepreneurs and small business owners with starting and/or growing their businesses. She was honored to impact the lives of women across the state.
With much dedication, Theresa has moved full-steam ahead with her public relations, marketing and brand/business development agency, fifty-five │twenty, LLC, which was founded in 2012. Her clients include: entrepreneurs to small businesses to non profits. She is continuing to let her light shine and helping others do so as she serves as Senior Advisor and making a difference in the bottom line of her clients.
Mariah Morris is a recent graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi is where she accredits her interest in a career in business. She is passionate about all things marketing with an emphasis on digital marketing. She is an entry level professional with over three years of experience working in various marketing settings. She has worked top retailers such as ASICS, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Foot Locker. She is driven, passionate and determined to succeed in every aspect in life.
Tonie has 30 years of Postal Service commitment, with over ten years of which she served in financial accounting and payroll. She has also exercised two years prior to the Postal Service, as a secretary/bookkeeper in a non-governmental business capacity. Her expertise has shown her to be competent and diligent with an integrity for accuracy.
Tonie is a mother of two successful adults and holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Accounting from Jackson State University. She utilized her degree to excel into self-proclaimed proprietorship as a seamstress specializing in wedding attire.
As a Christian, she believes that she can do all things through Christ, who is the head of all things. As a person, she believes that we all are created equal and as a woman, she believes that multitasking is a must. Her motto is “You can do nothing wrong, when all you’re trying to do is right. Because anything that’s broken can be mended and anything that’s missing can be fulfilled.”
Tonie is proud to be a part of The Bean Path team, knowing that she can contribute greatly to its future success.
Ivan Walker is a software development engineer (SDE) with the Amazon/A9 visual search team based in Atlanta, GA. He put his PhD studies on hold to assist startup company Partpic build out their platform for visual search for replacement parts. Partpic’s success in this space led to their acquisition by Amazon. He recently lead the infrastructure effort for his team to launch their fastener recognition service within the Amazon mobile app.
As a doctoral student at Georgia Tech, Ivan split his time between researcher and instructor. As an instructor, Ivan was consistently highly rated by his students. Ivan’s research topic was developing paradigms to utilize neural interfaces (non-invasive EEG) to assist athletes in achieving optimal performance.
Ivan holds a B.S./M.S. in Computer Engineering from Jackson State University. His previous work and research experiences includes Intel (GEM Sponsor), IBM, Raytheon, Army Research Laboratory, and Air Force Research Laboratory. His research interests are in cognitive science, machine learning, software engineering, and education. Ivan played collegiate tennis while at JSU and is still very active in the sport. His doubles team was recently runner-up for City (Atlanta) Champs in their division. He also enjoys bowling, ping pong, water activities that don’t require swimming and inspiring his 20+ nieces and nephews.
A Jackson, Mississippi native, Whitney has a love for community and takes pride in her culture and hometown. She’s a graphic designer, biologist, activities coordinator, and a treasure chest of brainstorming ideas.