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TEDxEmory speakers to display 'magic' of innovation

"Do You Believe in Magic?" is the theme of TEDxEmory's 7th annual conference, slated for Saturday, April 1, in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center auditorium.

“I believe our theme, 'Do You Believe in Magic,' is a prime example of the importance of events like these on our campus, because once inspiring or innovative ideas are fostered, there is no telling where they can take us,” says Kavina Jani, a senior in Emory College and TEDExEmory’s director of marketing.

Registration opens at 9 a.m. and opening remarks are at 9:50 a.m. Talks begin at 10 a.m. and continue through 5:15 p.m.

Speakers have been organized into the following sessions:

Session 1:

  • Kate Parker on “Strong is the New Pretty”: Parker is a former collegiate soccer player, Ironman and professional photographer who founded the non-profit Her Strong.
  • Rohit Malhotra on “Something About Smart Cities”:  Malhotra, founder and executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta, has a background in social entrepreneurship, government and community organizing.
  • Ian Cohen on “Teaching in the Dark”: The educator and entrepreneur is a Teach For America and Emory alumnus.
  • Michelle C. LaPlaca on “Concussion Confusion: A Case for Personalized Medicine”:  An associate professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, LaPlaca focuses on translational research in traumatic brain injury and concussion.

Session 2:

  • Robin Renee Sanders on “Small and Medium Size Enterprises: How They Changed Sub-Saharan Africa”: Sanders served as a top U.S. government diplomat on African issues and was ambassador to Nigeria and the Congo.
  • Jon Jackson on “Agrotherapy: Conditioning Veterans to Their New Normal”: Jackson is founder and executive director of STAG VETS Inc., assisting veterans suffering from invisible wounds through the use of the nation’s first Acute Veterans Crisis Agriculture Center.
  •  Damon E. Routzhan on “I’m a Liar and So Are You”: Routzh is an undergraduate philosophy major in Emory College who has given talks on his research interests in feminist and environmental philosophy.

Session 3:

  • Laila Alawa on “The Magic Behind World Domination”: Alawa is founder and CEO of The Tempest, a global tech and media company for diverse millennial women.
  • Ernest V. Garcia on “My Ride to the Cloud”:  Garcia is Endowed Professor of Cardiac Imaging in the Department of Radiology at Emory.
  • Rais Bhuiyan on “The Magic of Humanity: Forgiveness, Mercy & Compassion”: An American Muslim from Bangladesh who was the victim of a horrific hate crime, Bhuiyan is now a human rights activist for peace, forgiveness, empathy and understanding. He founded the non-profit World Without Hate.

Session 4:

  • Tony Lowden on “No One Is Disposable & No More Victims”: Lowden is executive director of Stone Academy, an after-school enrichment program for at-risk children in the Macon-Bibb County area.
  • Karen L. Owen on “Why Women Seek Elective Office”: An assistant professor of political science and the director of the master of public administration program at Reinhardt University, Owen studies gender politics and American institutions.
  • Pari Majd on “Can You Change Your Perception in 4 Minutes?”: Majid is a psychology major and predictive health minor in Emory College. She is a research assistant for the Emory Spatial Cognition Lab and professor Stephen Nowicki.

Sessions 1 and 2 will be held in the morning, followed by lunch, then Sessions 3 and 4 in the afternoon. Check the Facebook page for updates.

Tickets to this public event are free for Emory students; $15 plus fee for non-Emory students; $20 plus fee for Emory faculty and staff; and $25 plus fee for general admission. All tickets include lunch.

“One of the really great things about the TEDxEmory conference and TED as an organization is that there are so many unique connections that can be made through the discussion and exchange of ideas, and these ideas are not just confined to one discipline or one particular topic," Jani says.

“It is powerful to see how our speakers can relay their experiences to a diverse audience, and how their ideas can become part of an open dialogue among the Emory and Atlanta community,” she notes.

TEDxEmory is an independently organized TED event at run by Emory student volunteers. For more information about this year’s conference, as well as past events, visit

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