Board of Advisors

Board of Advisors

Kane Ditto

Principal of StateStreet Group, L.L.C.

Former Mayor of Jackson

Kane Ditto is the principal of StateStreet Group, L.L.C., a real estate development company which he started in 1971, and several companies in the manufactured housing business. Mr. Ditto served as Mayor of the City of Jackson from July 1989 until July 1997.  He was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives from District 66, where he served from 1987 to 1989.  Before entering the political arena, Mr. Ditto practiced law for 18 years with Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis in Jackson where he was managing partner of the firm for five years.  As a practicing attorney, he developed a primary emphasis in municipal finance. Mr. Ditto presently serves as President of the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Department of Archives and History.  He also serves on the boards of Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership and the Mississippi Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Mr. Ditto is a graduate of Duke University and has a law degree from Vanderbilt University.  He and his wife, the former Betsy Martin, have four children and nine grandchildren and are members of Northminster Baptist Church.


Kenneth Townsend

Executive Director of Institute for Civic & Professional Engagement 

Special Assistant to Millsaps President Rob Pearigen

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Millsaps College


Kenneth Townsend is personally and professionally committed to making Mississippi a better place to live, work, and raise a family.  His life and work have focused, in particular, on the liberating power of education and the value of integrating traditional academic pursuits with outside-the-classroom experiences and opportunities. Raised in the outskirts of Kosciusko, Mississippi, Kenneth Townsend graduated from Millsaps College in 2004 and returned to his alma mater in 2012 to serve as Assistant Professor of Political Science and to work as Special Assistant to Millsaps President Rob Pearigen.  A member of the Millsaps senior leadership team, Kenneth was named in 2016 the Executive Director of the newly launched Institute for Civic & Professional Engagement at Millsaps.  Kenneth is a recipient of the Truman Scholarship for Public Service and the Rhodes Scholarship, and he chairs the National Fellowships Committee at Millsaps, which works closely with students who apply for these and other fellowships. A licensed attorney with graduate degrees in law and religion from Yale University and in political theory from Oxford University, Kenneth teaches courses in political theory and constitutional law at Millsaps.  Kenneth previously taught ethics, public policy, and political theory at the Barksdale Honors College and the Lott Leadership Institute at the University of Mississippi.  Kenneth’s academic research and writing concern the role of religion in a democracy and the moral foundations of law.  His most recently published article is entitled, “Education and the Constitution: Three Threats to Public Schools and the Theories that Inspire Them.” 

Kenneth also provides frequent legal and political analysis for local media outlets and serves on the board of directors for various local, national, and international nonprofit organizations, including 2C Mississippi, Leadership Greater Jackson, and Alliance Africa and is the founding curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Jackson Hub.

Melia Dicker

Melia Dicker is experienced in nonprofit administration and programming, strategy, marketing, and communications. She started her career in the nonprofit sector as a member of the Public Allies AmeriCorps program, which develops diverse young leaders, and went on to spend eleven years on the national board of directors. Melia co-founded two national nonprofit organizations: Spark, an apprenticeship program for underserved youth, and IDEA, an organization advancing democratic education. She has served on the board of each. Melia is currently the Jackson Center Director for Get2College, a nonprofit program of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation that offers free college planning and financial aid assistance. Melia has a B.S. in Psychology from Santa Clara University and a certificate from the Business Advantage Program for Professionals from the Millsaps College Else School of Management. She is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and has settled with her family in Jackson, Mississippi.

Director of Marketing and Communications

Woodward Hines Education Foundation