2017: Rise

Valerie Alexander

How to Outsmart Your Own Unconscious Bias

The human brain is a remarkable achievement in evolution. Unfortunately, the brain activity that kept the human species alive for millions of years is the same brain activity that keeps us from achieving equality today. Author, speaker and CEO, Valerie Alexander, explains how the human brain instinctively reacts when encountering the unexpected, like saber-toothed tigers or female tech execs, and proposes that if we have the courage to examine our own behavior when faced with the unfamiliar, we can take control of our expectations, and by doing so, change the world.

Amara Barroeta

A Venezuelan immigrant, strong and resilient

As an immigrant forced to leave a country she loves, entrepreneur Amara Barroeta brings the strength, courage, and resilience of Venezuelan women to her adopted nation, the United States. She has learned that with the support of their communities, immigrants can and will contribute to the rich culture, and prosperity, of their new homes. Originally from Venezuela, Amara emigrated to the United States in 2010. The increasing political unrest and corruption in her home country led Amara to make the difficult, but heartfelt, decision to stay permanently in the United States.

Steve Elkins

Chasing the Lost City

Through snippets from his expedition to discover a lost city in Honduras, explorer Steve Elkins takes his audience on a fascinating ride. He shares how when faced with a crazy idea, he stuck with it long enough to take advantage of each and every opportunity until he saw his dream through. His tenacity pays off – and big – when he winds up doing something that effected real change for an entire country, and unexpectedly became part of a global consciousness in the process.

Mei Fong

Object Lessons from the One-Child Policy

After writing about the world’s biggest family planning experiment, Wall Street Journal reporter, Mei Fong, learns why parenthood should be less about math, and more about irrationality.

Lila Higgins

Learning to Love Nature in a Big City

Most people think that there’s little to no nature in major cities such as Los Angeles. Or that the nature there, is not much worth learning about. But Lila Higgins, an urban entomologist and citizen scientist, is here to prove them wrong. She contends that nature in large urban environments is actually surprising, beautiful, and definitely worth studying…and that knowing about it helps us to live better lives. She hopes to inspire us all to learn how to love it just a little bit more.

Grace Killelea

Making the Jump: A Year of No Fear

Research shows how many of us regret what we don’t ultimately accomplish in our lives. Fear often keeps us from living the life we want as well as attaining the careers we should thrive in. Making the leap to create change, however, is about being afraid, but doing it anyway. During a “year of no fear,” author Grace Killelea discovered just how true that was. She made the leap by literally jumping and found out in the process that letting go of perfection was as liberating as the jump itself.

Ryan Pfluger

Photography as a salve for loneliness

Photographer Ryan Pfluger shares how he came to use the medium of photography as a means for therapy and connection. Ryan Pfluger is a New York-based photographer. His photographs often deal with the subtly of body posture, the gaze, and the role of self-portraiture, as an exploration of what portraiture means in our presently-saturated culture of images. For the past year, Ryan has been driving cross-country every few months making portraits based off of geo-location apps. Some of his clients include New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and TIME. Born and raised in New York, Ryan received his MFA in Photo, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in 2007.

Joyce Ruygrok

Learning to Rise From Your Falls

Octogenarian Joyce Ruygrok shares that while living almost 90 years did not always come easily, she continues to find life exciting and rewarding despite her age. Learning to embrace setbacks and – literal – falls as opportunities to grow, Joyce enters her 90th year with open arms.

Hui-wen Sato

How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure

Numerous external factors contribute to nursing burnout. Pediatric intensive care nurse, Alina Sato, discusses her personal struggle with burnout and how an internal experience with grief was the biggest culprit. But rather than giving in, she learned to reframe her natural response to pain and suffering, and instead of resisting it as a “thief of life,” came to embrace it as life-giving. Alina is a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse. Prior to becoming a nurse, she conducted research amongst the frail elderly in nursing homes, which included toileting, feeding, and exercise interventions to demonstrate the need for greater staffing levels. The research work motivated her to become a bedside nurse, as she found herself drawn to both the science and the art of skillful, wholehearted nursing. Alina is now passionate about giving voice to the oft-hidden heart experience of nurses as they work in vulnerable closeness to the sick, suffering, and dying. As such, her writing has been featured in Off the Charts, the blog for the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), and the Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work. Her essay titled “Intimate Strangers” will be published in the August 2017 edition of AJN.

Amanda Southworth

Tales from a Teenage Mental Health Advocate

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Southworth, discusses how her struggle with mental illness and suicidal thoughts inspired her start coding. She used this outlet as a tool to develop apps designed to help others stop suffering in silence and find the courage to reach out and change their life. To her surprise, however, her apps not only helped others, but gave her a purpose…and a reason to stick around.

Lisa Strohman

Empowering kids to rise above technology addiction

After overcoming a family background rife with addiction, psychologist, attorney and concerned mom Dr. Lisa Strohman examines the science emerging from society’s newest vice: technology. In her passionate and inspiring talk, Dr. Strohman explains how technology overuse impacts developing brains and shares hope in a successful approach that demonstrates how the power of awareness and education can help prevent it. Dr. Lisa Strohman is the founder and director of the Technology Wellness Center and the Digital Citizen Academy. She is one of the foremost experts in the field to address the global issue of technology addiction and overuse through parent and educator resources, trainings, and education; as well as prevention and diversion programs for kids. She has worked in addiction and brain research for Congress, the FBI, and most recently as an attorney and clinical psychologist.

Carri Twigg

What is Our Role in Creating the American Identity?

Political and media consultant, Carri Twigg discusses how the choices we make construct our identity. Referencing her experience growing up biracial in America, Carri challenges her audience to ponder what each person’s unique role in creating the American identity actually is.

Jenny Watts

WASP: Finding My Family’s Truths

An East Coast transplant to Southern California, Jenny Watts stumbled on a dark family secret that had been hiding in plain sight. This revelation launched her on a journey in which she grapples with the intersections of generational privilege and the harsh truths of the American past.