Saturday, January 28, 2023

TEDxUniversityofMississippi Hosts Eight Thought-Provoking Speakers

By Kathryn Matthews and Ibrahim Williams

Special to Hotty Toddy News

Collage of Past TEDxUniversityofMississippi Events. Carolyn Freiwald (2020), Sharde Thomas (2022), Entertainment (2019), Michael Fagans
(2022), Christopher S. Hunter (2021), Fernandez Arroyo Lopez (2020), Audience (2022), Kritika Gupta (2021). 2022 & 2021 photos by HG Biggs, except Christopher Hunter by Sam Spencer. 2020 photos by UM Communications. 2019 photos by Megan Wolfe. CC by SA-NC-ND.

With the goal of sharing Ideas Worth Spreading, TEDxUniversityofMississippi will host its eighth annual event on Feb. 23, 2023, at 7 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Attendees will enjoy an evening of music, art and thought-provoking, short talks addressing areas from Artificial Intelligence to Social Progress.

“This year’s theme is Facing Forward,” said Emma Brewer, Chief of Staff for TEDxUniversityofMississippi. “As a team, we felt this theme embodied our organization’s goal of spreading new ideas. We aim to spark conversations that will motivate and advance our communities.”

The 2023 speakers were chosen from nearly 300 nominations. They are:

  • Adam Gust is the only drummer in the world certified by the Polyvagal Institute in the clinical application of cutting-edge, nervous system science to drum performance. Adam focuses on scientifically identifying what happens when drummers find their “groove,” synchronizing brain/body and thought/feeling. Gust has hosted drum workshops at the Musicians Institute and University of Southern California. He creates unique drum video content.
  • Michael “Bret” Hood is very aware of how people fall down a slippery slope, having served 25 years as a Special Agent in the FBI. Since his retirement from the FBI, Hood has conducted several workshops for various Mississippi agencies, including the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Currently, Hood serves as an adjunct professor of corporate governance and ethics for the University of Virginia, a board member at Southern Illinois University’s Accounting School, and a faculty member for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. During his talk, Hood will show the audience how easy it is to deviate from ethical baselines but more importantly how to mitigate these unconscious processes to avoid making life-altering mistakes.
  • Vince Hafeli is an international speaker, author and advocate for mental health and suicide awareness in the workplace. Using his 37 years of industry experience, lived suicidal experience and doctoral research, Hafeli will lead the audience on his journey from adolescence to adulthood. He outlines how he has facilitated change in his organization’s culture when addressing mental health issues and raising suicide awareness, especially in the construction industry. He presents data from his Doctoral Candidacy research outlining relevant industry statistics and emphasizes: “It should be okay to say that I am not okay” in the workplace.
  • Yiwei Han & Yongjian Qiu will be sharing their collaborative efforts to better understand plant responses to climate change. Yiwei Han is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Mississippi. Yongjian Qiu is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Han and Dr. Qiu collaborate closely on designing, manufacturing and implementing miniature and micro heaters that can be placed on the surface of young seedlings’ organs or inside individual plant cells. By fluctuating temperature and observing plant responses to heat change, they hope to uncover the mechanisms by which plant organs and cells coordinate a response to changing temperature, which can then help farmers better prepare for crop production in a world challenged by climate change.
  • Arvinder Singh is a technologist, entrepreneur and researcher at the University of Mississippi. During his talk, Singh will explore how culture-specific interpretation could be a key in developing balanced and ethical artificial intelligence (AI). Singh’s work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Harvard Smart Cities Accelerator, Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference, US State Department and the World Bank. For over a decade, Arvinder has carved a unique career path in software, higher education, journalism, and advocacy. As a civil rights advocate, he convinced a US House of Representative to back a bipartisan call to the FBI to track ethnic hate crimes. Singh was also part of the delegation invited to the White House for its first-ever briefing on Sikh civil rights issues in 2012. Singh is on a sabbatical and is currently back in Oxford working on finishing his Ph.D. in Engineering.
  • Castel V. Sweet is a sociologist who explores the intricacies of community, culture and race, with a specific interest in the role of place and space. Through her work as a community engagement professional, she encourages exploring the unknown, making the unfamiliar familiar, and cultivating transformational relationships. Sweet has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice/Criminology from Hampton University, as well as a Master of Arts and Doctorate of Philosophy in Sociology from Louisiana State University.
  • Nadeejah Niranjalie Wijayatunga is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management at University of Mississippi. She is also a registered dietitian in the USA and a registered physician in Sri Lanka. She completed her PhD in nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University. Then she completed her postdoctoral training at The Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management at Texas Tech University. She started studying normal weight obesity during her postdoctoral period and joined the University of Mississippi in 2019 as a tenure track assistant professor. Studying bio-behavioral aspects of normal weight obesity is one of her main research areas. During her talk, Dr. Wijayatunga will explain the growing research around unhealthy lean, also known as “skinny fat,” and associated health risks.

TEDxUniversityofMississippi is a registered student organization dedicated to sharing the wonder of Mississippi, its innovators, creators and thought leaders. The team also finds speakers outside Mississippi to spark meaningful conversation in our community and beyond.

This year’s event organizers are Emma Brewer (Chief of Staff), Kathryn Matthews (Assistant Chief of Staff), Kate Hooper (Faculty Advisor), and a team of over 15 students and four other advisors.

“These students find speakers, market and mount a live production, pursue public relations initiatives, fundraise, and more. They are highly active, building leadership and professional skills while benefiting our community,” said Kate Hooper.

TEDxUniversityofMississippi’s partners include the College of Liberal Arts, Office of the Provost, Residential College South, and the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

For more information about TEDxUniversityofMississippi, visit tedxuniversityofmississippi.com and follow the group’s social media at @tedxunivms on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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