Fellows elect officers from among themselves to act as liaisons to the Blackburn Institute staff and the Advisory Board. These officers serve two-year terms, based on the academic calendar (August to July of even years). Officers are expected to participate actively in Institute events and attend Advisory Board meetings, as well as build programs and opportunities to support the mission of the Blackburn Institute.


  • Acts as the official spokesperson for the Fellows.
  • Provides general leadership and presides over all meetings of Fellows.
  • Responsible for overall coordination of the network’s activities, goal-setting, fundraising plan, and reporting.
  • Serves as the liaison between Fellows and communicates regularly with the institute staff and Chairperson of the Advisory Board.
  • Provides updates to the Advisory Board at its semi-annual meetings.
  • Solicit volunteers for and create positions (e.g. Regional Coordinators and/or Class Coordinators) as necessary to extend the reach and impact of the Fellows Involvement Network.
  • Assumes responsibility for the Fellows’ continued development through participation in Institute activities.

Amber Scales
Amber Scales

Amber Scales, she/her, (amberscales15@gmail.com) is an impactful storyteller working to build community, inspire resistance, and foster restorative justice. A daughter of the deep south, Amber’s work as a storyteller is anchored in intersectional advocacy that uplifts the voices of marginalized people through the creation, curation, and celebration of everything that makes them unique. As a social impact strategist, Amber examines systems of inequity and then offers innovative solutions through strategic programs, initiatives, campaigns, and art. In these efforts has worked as a professional actor and teaching artist, Social Impact Assistant at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Partnerships and Engagement Coordinator at WP Theatre. Amber believes wholeheartedly in the power of thoughtful storytelling and performance to create a better, more just society and spends most of her time working creatively to do just that. She is currently the Creative Project Manager at Fair Fight Action where she continues to use both her professional and personal work as avenues to support the acts of creation needed to foster positive change in vulnerable populations. Amber holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Alabama and has returned to the Capstone to pursue a Master’s in Communication Studies. Her research investigates the performing arts as a form of autoethnographic narrative inquiry that can serve as a vehicle for reconciliation in landscapes of contested public memory, as well as the role of marginalized people in the production of cultural and political rhetoric. Amber is involved in her community in numerous ways including as a grants panelist at the Lewis Prize for Music and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc.

Internal Vice-Chairperson

  • Manages activities that are related to events intended solely for Fellows.
  • Coordinates with institute staff on the assessment of the network and Fellows’ activities.
  • Coordinates the gathering of information for use by institute staff on the website and in publications.
  • Internally publicizes all Institute activities and personal achievements of Blackburn Fellows through social media and, with the support of the Chairperson, e-mail.
  • Works closely with the Chairperson of the Student Selection Committee of the Advisory Board to encourage the involvement of Fellows in the selection of new students and scholarship and award recipients.

Kyle Van Frank

Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Kyle Van Frank (kylevanfrank901@gmail.com) is a nonprofit leader and creative storyteller committed to leaving the world better than he found it. A product of Catholic K-12 education, Kyle attended The University of Alabama and received a BA in Theatre with a Concentration in Musical Theatre, as well as double minors in Spanish and Political Science. After graduation, Kyle’s work as a professional actor, director, and teaching artist took him around the country to venues in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee. For two years, his work with Florida Studio Theatre’s WRITE A PLAY program provided opportunities to teach playwriting to students in grades K-12 across the country, as well as a virtual residency to students in Israel. Following his time in Florida, Kyle spent two years working as the Director of Alumni for his alma mater, St. Benedict at Auburndale High School. There, Kyle increased alumni giving by 300% and served as the Assistant Director for the school’s development, admissions, communications, and special events efforts. Kyle is a Sullivan Scholar, a Blackburn Fellow, and a recent graduate of University of Denver’s Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership program where he studied Mission-Driven Operations & Management and Philanthropy & Resource Development. Kyle recently relocated to Denver, CO where he serves as Executive Director of FIRE Foundation of Denver, providing grants to Catholic schools to support the education of children with disabilities.

External Vice-Chairperson

  • Manages activities that are related to events involving students and other non-Fellows. (This would include, for example, opportunities for involvement at the summer networking event. Additionally, this individual would be responsible for promoting campus-based institute events open to Fellows.)
  • Provides appropriate external individuals, departments, and media with relevant information (e.g. press releases, event descriptions, and post-event summaries) regarding Fellows’ activities and events.
  • Works closely with the Chairperson of the Policy and Finance Committee of the Advisory Board to encourage the involvement of Fellows in identifying external sources of financial support for the institute.

Whitney Miller Nichols

Whitney Miller-Nichols (wdmnichols@gmail.com) serves as Director of Governmental Relations for the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, where she advocates on behalf of Alabama school system leaders. A native of Chelsea, AL, Whitney received her BA in Advertising in 2006 and MA in Secondary Education in 2011, both from the University of Alabama. She has wide-ranging professional experience, including commercial real estate management, secondary classroom instruction, and development of continuing education for school board members.