John T. Edge has served as director since the 1999 founding of the SFA. He holds an M.A. in Southern Studies from University of Mississippi and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. A columnist for Garden & Gun and Oxford American, Edge is a winner of the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation. He teaches in the low-residency Narrative Nonfiction MFA program at the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and serves as an editor in residence at Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Sewanee, TN. In the spring of 2017, Penguin will publish The Potlikker Papers, a food history of the modern South.

Melissa Booth Hall is the SFA’s managing director. She holds a J.D. from Northern Kentucky University and a B.A. in English from Centre College. In 2003 she volunteered at the SFA’s Fall Symposium…13 1/2 gallons of pimento cheese and 1000 deviled eggs later, she was hooked. Since joining the SFA’s staff, Melissa has led field trips and Summer Symposia, organized countless Potlikker Film Festivals across the region (and beyond), and served as operations manager for many many Fall Symposiums. These days, her focus is SFA staff oversight and development, outreach, donor relations, and long-range planning.

Mary Beth Lasseter is the SFA’s associate director. She earned an M.A. in Southern Studies and an M.B.A. from the University of Mississippi, and holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. She became involved with the SFA as a symposium volunteer in 2000, but now writes grants, oversees budgets, and assists with general planning and management. As a Georgia girl, Mary Beth developed a strong sweet tooth, but she credits time in Mississippi for her appreciation of savory fried catfish.

Ava Lowrey is the Pihakis Foodways Documentary Filmmaker. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts , and in May of 2015 she completed her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University. Ava has been featured in The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, and CNN, and her short documentaries have screened at festivals across the country. A native of Alexander City, Alabama, Ava’s films often focus on her Southern roots, sharing untold stories centered in the South.

Jenna Mason is the SFA’s web editor and office manager.  She earned her B.A. and M.A. in Spanish at the University of Georgia, where she also taught as a Spanish Instructor.  Before signing on at the SFA in 2013, her professional experience ranged from waiting tables and bartending to teaching speed-reading and English as a second language. A Navy brat raised mostly ‘in’ the South but not ‘of’ it, Jenna has nevertheless settled on the region as her home, in large part due to her passion for pulled pork and pound cake.

Sara Camp Milam is the SFA’s managing editor. She has a B.A. in Spanish from Princeton University and an M.A. in folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill. She began volunteering for the SFA in 2009 and joined the staff full time in 2012. Before finding her way to SFA World Headquarters, Sara Camp was a middle school Spanish teacher and an associate editor at The Oxford American magazine.

Afton Thomas is the SFA’s project coordinator. She earned an M.A. in Theatre from Sacramento State University and holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Missouri. She and her family moved to Oxford in 2012 and have fallen in love with the community’s charm and family-centered feel. Before joining the SFA, Afton worked in Human Resources for the past 5 years and previously worked for a local theater, non-profit in Missouri. Moving to the South, she looked forward to collard greens, great seafood and decadent desserts. Mississippi has not let her down!

Sara Wood is an oral historian with the SFA. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Wilmington, and she studied radio at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.  After meddling in modern dance, public radio, and art museums, she landed at the SFA as an oral history intern in 2012. 

Brittney Andres-Rossi is the SFA’s Event Coordinator. She earned her B.A. in Politics from Pomona College, focusing on food and agriculture policy. After a brief stint in investigative journalism, she followed her passion for hospitality and began working in restaurants full-time, finding her niche in private dining and event planning. Growing up, she spent summers on her grandparents’ farm outside Louisville, Kentucky, where she learned to love and cook Southern food. Her first Fall Symposium was in 2012, the year she officially moved to the South, and she’s been involved every year since.

Osayi Endolyn is the SFA’s associate editor. Her writing has appeared in Gravy, Atlanta magazine, Eater, and New York magazine’s The Cut. Osayi has a B.A. in French from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also minored in Afro American studies. She earned an M.F.A in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, where she was first introduced to the SFA. Osayi is an alumna of the SFA’s Rivendell Writers Colony Workshop. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Melany Mullens is the founder of Polished Pig Media. Please feel free to contact her with SFA-related press and media requests.