2018: Transform

Lauren Gibbs

From Boardroom to Bobsled: The Courage to Become an Olympian

Olympic athlete, Lauren Gibbs, shares how giving up old dreams can allow new ones to soar. Late in life, at thirty-years-old and knowing nothing about the sport, she risked it all, by walking away from a lucrative corporate job and dedicating her life to bobsledding. With a surprise ending, Lauren encourages all of us to ponder, “What can we accomplish when we follow our hearts and commit fully to our dreams?”

Timothy Alexander

The Mental Strength of NFL Hopeful, Now Thriving as a Paraplegic

Football phenom, Timothy “TA” Alexander, had a bright future as a collegiate athlete until a car accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. Overnight, he went from being the talk of the town because he was a star athlete, to being the talk of the town because he would never walk again. Throughout his rehabilitation, however, he discovered that while physical care was important to recovery, more essential was the nurturing of his mind. By choosing to not only embrace, but to celebrate his circumstances, TA made a recovery that will leave you dumbfounded and believing, “We don’t need it to be easy, we just need it to be possible.”

Dana Budzyn

Owning Your Digital Self: Monetizing Your Personal Data

Researcher, futurist, and crypto-enthusiast, Dana Budzyn, advocates for digital autonomy. After spending 70 days in the ICU, she realized that personal health data could not only solve some of the world’s most puzzling medical mysteries, but it could also empower people with a vested interest in and ownership of the cures. This fascinating, user-friendly, content dense talk, discusses the possibility of overcoming privacy infringement, by proposing individual ownership of our personal digital currency as a way to provide innovative solutions to the larger problem. Her best idea? Monetizing your own personal data.

Peter and Adenike Harris

Surviving Trauma and Sexual Abuse

When the tragedy of sexual abuse struck Peter (“Pops”) and his daughter Adenike (“Ade”), they were faced with two life-altering paths: retaliate against Ade’s stepfather who had repeatedly sexually assaulted her from the time she was fourteen, or choose to strengthen their own relationship. Together, the two worked to create an inspiring system of support for one another that will change the way you think about love. Affectionately known as “Popsnade,” the father/daughter allies challenge, “What do you need to begin your healing foundation? Therapy? Non-abusive allies? Whatever you choose, it will require that you dig in. It hurts, it’s tough, and it is a consistent lifestyle change. But it is so worth it.”

Rene Sotelo

The Heartbreaking Truth of Penis Cancer

Caution: This talk contains graphic images. Globally respected urologist, Dr. Rene Sotelo, approaches the difficult conversation about the prominence of penile cancer with sensitivity, professionalism and humor. He says, “We have increased the survival rate for breast and prostate cancer, but the survival rate for penile cancer has decreased. Why are people coming in late for treatment? It’s not because they don’t have access to medical services. It’s because of shame, fear, and ignorance of how severe penile cancer can be.” Dr. Sotelo hopes that by shedding light on this preventable cancer, he can reduce the stigma behind the disease and help his patients advocate for their own care and the care of their friends and family.

Tracy Drain

A Childlike Sense of Wonder: The Curious World of an Aerospace Engineer

The audience gasps in delight when this quirky trailblazer, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shows a rarely seen shot of the south pole of Jupiter. Taught since childhood to cultivate her natural sense of curiosity, Tracy Drain shares beautiful photographs from her work on the Juno mission to Jupiter, and an artist’s renditions of the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche, set to launch in 2022. “Hanging onto my childlike sense of wonder has made it possible for me to grow from a curious little girl in Kentucky to a still-curious engineer working for NASA. You can visit Wonderland whenever you want to! You just need to look at the world through the eyes of your inner child.”

Jeffery Bucholtz

Endorsing Justice: Normalizing Respect, Safety and Inclusion

Jeffrey Bucholtz argues that if we don’t take action in the face of injustice, we normalize disrespect, violence, and discrimination. Through this dynamic, funny and poignant talk, Jeff enlightens with insight and an action plan, in a time when dialogue around civil rights, sexual violence and consent are more important than ever. The concept is simple, he says, “Our action or inaction is the difference between inclusion and discrimination; between safety and violence. Because when we dehumanize and disrespect other people – hurting them gets easier.”

Tim Hartley

Opposing Political Viewpoints: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Tim Hartley became disheartened with the contentious temperament he saw growing in America. But he realized that it was futile to express his political opinions on social media. With the polarizing climate, friends were unfriending friends, and he was essentially operating in a vacuum. In response, he made a heartfelt Facebook post, but instead of venting his frustrations (again), he tried something new. What resulted was a social experiment with an outcome that will completely surprise you. After all, “it might be easy to love someone because of your similarities, but try loving them because of your differences.”

Ashlee Marie Preston

Effective Allyship: A Transgender Woman’s Take on Intersectionality

Host, commentator, and activist, Ashlee Marie Preston teaches that when we talk over people, ignore them or shut them down, what we’re really saying is, “I’m more important than you are … I don’t really care what you think, I don’t have time for your opinion, or, this isn’t a conversation. It’s a contest and I’m gonna win.” In this passionate and deeply heartfelt talk, Ashlee seeks to help promote understanding about intersectionality, allyship and an urgency for compassion.

Bryan Kett

What it’s really like to be colorblind

Who’s to say an apple is red or that grass is green? Humorist and former science teacher Bryan Kett describes life with colorblindness, explaining that it’s not just him — everyone’s experience of color is subjective. Follow Kett as he explores the scientific, philosophical and social dimensions of living life on a certain color scale.

Nancy Baker Cahill

Augmented Reality (AR) as an Artist’s Tool for Equity and Access

Multidisciplinary artist, Nancy Baker Cahill, believes in increasing dialogue through drawing, and uses innovative mediums such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to defy boundaries and space. Through the use of exquisite photographs and videos of her creations, she demonstrates for the audience that she is fierce with talent and conviction. Growing up, Nancy was “under the impression that true artists had to be tormented and die in obscurity, but as it turns out, you don’t have to be solitary or tortured to make art.” Her passion for promoting equity and access will challenge everything you’ve ever thought about art as a medium for self-expression.

Steven Butler

The Process of a Choreographer: A New Way to View Dance

Visual storyteller, Steven Butler, makes his living as a dancer, producer, and an artist, but what encompasses all of these passions is choreography. “I hate to break it to you, but you’re kinda watching dance all wrong. I know that you would look at me and tell me how much you love dance and love watching dancers, but what you really mean is ‘I love watching people be a spectacle for my enjoyment.’ I call this: Audience Entitlement…and I would like to suggest a new way to view dance.” Watch as Steven walks the audience through the creative process he uses to choreograph, delving into tone, style, and “synesthesia;” all to encourage a deeper look at the intent behind each piece of choreography we see.

Erika Jayne Girardi

My Unapologetic Alter Ego: Living Life as an Exaggerated Figment of People’s Imaginations

If it is easy to sit in front of the television or anonymously behind a computer screen, and pass judgement on a celebrity, presuming that every ounce of what is presented over the airwaves is indeed true, then it might be difficult to reconcile the fact that what we see on TV, and what exists in real life, might not actually be the same things. Could it be that “reality,” as it is billed to the consumer, is instead an intentional manipulation of the viewer? In this heartfelt discussion about the tangled web of identity, reality star Erika Girardi, discusses how, by her nature, she is soft spoken, sweet and shy. She admits to hiding behind her wealthy husband and prefers to curl up on the couch in her sweatpants above all else. But, as Erika Jayne, the playful over-the-top fantasy character she “created as an art project,” she becomes a blond bombshell for her fans; with major sex appeal and some fiercely outspoken wit. In this sincere and genuine talk, delivered straight from her heart, Erika wrestles with the juxtaposition of her warring identities…and seeks to find peace with who she really is.