TEDx Occidental College is proud to announce its speaker lineup for April 2nd. 

Ani Zonneveld_press
external speaker

Ani Zonneveld is founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a grass-roots faith-based human rights organization. Since its inception in 2007, Ani has presided over MPV’s expansion to include chapters and affiliates in 12 countries and 19 cities, and to securing consultative status at the United Nations. At the grass-roots level she is an educator and a community organizer while at the international level she is a strategist and an unapologetic human rights defender. She is a strong supporter of women and LGBTQ rights, for freedom of expression and for freedom of and from belief. Ani is the brainchild of Literary Zikr – a project that counters radical Islam on-line. In 2011 she co-edited an anthology “Progressive Muslim Identities – Personal Stories from the U.S. and Canada”; she has contributed to many forewords and numerous anthologies too many to list; is a contributor for HuffingtonPost, OpenDemocracy and al-Jazeera, and is the executive producer of the lecture series “LGBTQ Rights in Islam”.  Ani performs Islamic wedding services for mixed faith and gay couples and as a singer/songwriter, utilizes the power of music and the arts in countering radicalism.

 Islam: As American As Apple Pie

 For some Muslims the idea of Islam as being as American as apple pie is blasphemous, and for the anti-Islam/Muslim camp, who want to see Muslims deported, they too will vehemently take issue with such an idea. I will go through a laundry list, intertwining American and Islamic values, illustrating how Muslims for Progressive Values advocate and live out both those values, in stark contrast to traditional practices, starting with a song.

external speaker

Jedidiah Jenkins splits his time between Nashville, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California and is at work on his first book about his bicycle trip from Oregon to Patagonia. He is Executive Editor of Wilderness Magazine and a contributor to the Paris Review. His parents wrote A Walk Across America and The Walk West about their five year walk across the United States in the 70s. His hope is to continue their legacy as lovers of the earth and all the people in it.

How to Slow Down the Passing of Time:

Why does time speed up as we get older? And how do we slow it back down? We all remember time crawling by as a kid. Summer break felt like an eternity. As we get older, time is somehow exponentially quicker. How common is it to hear an elderly person say ‘it felt like only yesterday that….’or ‘it all goes by so fast.’ There are scientific reasons for this, and there are ways to slow it down and regain your sense of childlike wonder.

1-Carlos by Jorge Novoa Nov 2013 La Selva
external speaker

As Director of the largest, most productive research station in the tropics, Carlos lives the dream of a field biologist, surrounded by researchers, educators and naturalists that produce an enormous amount of data on how tropical ecosystems work. Having lived in field stations for most of his professional life has provided an in-depth view and philosophy of the role of nature and biology in every person’s life. A published author and scientist, he uses his photography and writing skills to build bridges between the scientist community and the rest of society. He has written several books and over 50 articles, papers and field guides in various aspects of science and conservation, as well as over a hundred presentations in national and international conferences and meetings. He specialized in aquatic insect ecology and taxonomy, as well as in river and forest conservation and education.

Bioliteracy and Sustainability: Can’t have one without the other

Can society be sustainable if its citizens don’t understand where their resources come from? Understanding through real experiences the value of biodiversity in our lives would allow the development of an environmental ethics over time, which leads to assuming personal responsibility for its use and conservation. Achieving bioliteracy takes time, but it is an essential investment in a society that seeks to live in harmony with the planet.



Carlos de la Rosa is the current Director of the La Selva Biological Station for the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica.

Previously he served as Chief Conservation and Science Officer and Chief Conservation and Education Officer for the Catalina Island Conservancy, in Los Angeles County, California.  He has been Program Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve in Florida, Education Coordinator for the Environmental Lands Division of Pinellas County, Florida and Director of the Riverwoods Field Laboratory for the South Florida Water Management District, where he worked as a researcher in the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.  He has been a scientist for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, biodiversity advisor to the Organization of American States, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and organizations in Central and South America as well as in Florida.  He is an Aquatic Ecologist by training and a Conservation Biologist by experience.  He has worked extensively in environmental education programs, sustainability issues, and conservation of wildlands.

In his current position, Dr. de la Rosa and his team run one of the most successful research and education field stations in the world.  Each year between 250 and 340 researchers from over 100 institutions visit La Selva, publishing over 200 scientific papers a year.  In addition to scientific studies and courses, the La Selva Biological Station and its parent organization, the Organization for Tropical Studies, host a number of visitors and users including decision makers, students and tourists.  They manage a 1,600-hectare preserve that connects to large conservation areas in Costa Rica. The lessons learned through this work are applicable to a broad spectrum of places and situations, including tropical areas around the world, the effects of climate change in the world’s ecosystems, gateway communities and preserved areas in developing countries, and more.

He has written several books and over 50 articles, papers and field guides in various aspects of science and conservation, as well as over a hundred presentations in national and international conferences and meetings. He specialized in aquatic insect ecology and taxonomy, as well as in forest conservation and education.  His most recent books are entitled Wild Catalina Island: Natural Secrets and Ecological Triumphs (The History Press) with co-author Frank Hein; A Guide to the Carnivores of Central America: Natural History, Ecology and Conservation (University of Texas Press) written and illustrated with his wife, Claudia Nocke; andMysteries of the Brooker Creek Preserve (Pinellas County Publications, Florida), a multi-collaborator effort showcasing his writing and nature and insect photography.  Recently he also co-wrote the chapter Biodiversity and Actions for Change: Putting the pieces together to solve the biodiversity puzzle for the United Nation’sYouth Guide to Biodiversity.

He has been at La Selva since March 2012.

faculty speaker


Mimi holds an adjunct faculty position at Occidental College and a lecturing appointments at UCLA and LMU. She is a women’s empowerment scholar, and her primary research focus is disease prevention and health promotion in sub-Saharan Africa.  Her research experience includes developing anti-malaria drugs; using climate forecasts to predict disease epidemics; developing interventions for maternal and child health in South Africa; and using soccer to promote health.  She holds degrees in Environmental Biology (BA) and Climate and Society (MA) from Columbia University, and she is a Ph.D. Candidate at UCLA.  Mimi was formerly a professional soccer player.  She was a silver-medalist in the 2002 African Women’s Cup of Nations, and she represented Ghana in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“African Women’s Soccer and Empowerment: Memoirs of a Black Queen”

 Given the disparity between the rich and the poor in our world today, and given that the greatest burden of poverty rests on the shoulders of women, we must challenge ourselves to develop and execute more creative and innovative policy solutions to close these gaps.   I will discuss the potential for sports to yield important empowerment outcomes in the lives of women in developing regions.

external speaker
Valerie D’Costa served for close to a decade as head of infoDev at the World Bank, a cutting edge technology entrepreneurship program which supports innovative startups in over 80 countries. She now leads a program at the Bank to support women-led enterprises and female entrepreneurs. Before joining the World Bank, Valerie was Director of the International Division at the Info-Communication Development Authority of Singapore, where she represented her country Singapore on a range of international and bilateral tech issues. She has a deep understanding of the ICT for Development (ICT4D) agenda, and the role technology plays in fighting poverty and empowering people’s lives.

Think Circles, not Pyramids

Who understands most clearly the needs of citizens in developing countries? They do. So why don’t we include them in the design of development solutions more? It would happen if we thought about circles – rather than pyramids – of influence.

student speaker

Gaea Morales is a sophomore at Occidental College and an international student born and raised in Manila, Philippines. She is a Diplomacy and World Affairs major exploring the convergence of gender rights, democracy and sustainable development in climate change policy. She is a recipient of the Margaret Sanders Scholarship (East Asia Regional Council of School) and is an Ethics Fellow for the Future (Carnegie Council). Gaea serves as the International Admission Intern for the Office of Admission and a student worker for the John Parke Young Initiative on the Global Economy. She is also a member of the Occidental College Glee Club and the female a capella group the Accidentals. Besides singing, Gaea unwinds by coffee shop hopping, boxing and crocheting.


Will you roll down the window?

In her TEDx talk, Gaea engages the inextricable yet often invisible link between gender rights and climate change reform. In engaging the intersection from a broader justice perspective, she explores how we as individuals can identify where we choose to stand – and live - in the sustainability discourse, and act on it.


student speaker

Emily Linebarger is a senior Economics/Diplomacy and World Affairs major at Occidental College. She is originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and loves arguing about philosophy, cooking with kale, and petting pugs. Her long-term plan is to pursue a doctorate degree in international development, but immediately after graduation she hopes to find a job in Los Angeles impacting issues of homelessness or poverty.

The Paradigm of Poverty

How do our perceptions of poverty create injustice worldwide?


student speaker

Donovan Dennis is a senior Geology major originally from Great Falls, Montana. While a student at Occidental, he has been a member of the men’s swim and dive team, a writer and communications director for The Occidental Weekly, and a senior fellow in the Office of Admissions. Donovan is a self-proclaimed glaciophile, loving everything related to glaciers, icesheets, and paleoclimatology, and he actively plots his presumed return to these locales. His research investigates both the use of preserved oxygen isotopic ratios in temperate snow and ice as paleothermometers, and glacier-related hazards. After Oxy, Donovan hopes to continue studying the cryosphere in both formal and informal settings and improve the general understanding of climate change by elevating public science literacy.

When Caring isn’t Enough: The climate crisis and you

Description: Glaciers have long been called the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change. But a more accurate description would be to call them “glaciers in a greenhouse climate.” The canaries are dead and the glaciers are melting–climate change is here to stay. In his discussion on the immediate challenges facing our warming planet, Donovan incorporates the importance of not only sustainable living, but also the practice of engaging in sustainable science. By the end of his talk, he hopes audiences will love glaciers one-tenth of the amount he does, and recognize the power they have to impact a change in their world.


student speaker

Jacques Lesure, a first year student at Occidental College, was born and raised right east of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia. He is passionate about ensuring positive life outcomes for youth through equitable education. He plans to pursue a career in education policy.  He is a leader in many facets, functioning as a student activist, a member of the collaboration team in Oxypreneurship, a radio show host, and a researcher on a variety of special projects. Jacques gives back by helping youth with college access consulting. Jacques is also the creator of a website, “What About The Black Kids”, in which he produces content that addresses the intersection of education, race, culture, and politics.


Apathy Factories: Lack As Violence

Jacques’ talk will address how failing schools serve as catalyst for apathy, he also describes the lack of access and opportunity as violence.

student speaker

Noorsher Ahmed is a junior Biophysics major. He is the co-founder and co-president of the student organization, People of Color in STEM, which seeks to promote the interests of students of color on campus who study science and mathematics. He has conducted research at Occidental College, studying microtubule dynamics and their effects on neural circuits, as well as research at UCSF, innovating novel emulsion-based microfluidic technologies for healthcare and research applications. Noorsher’s ambitions for his near future include graduate school and a career in biotech entrepreneurship and innovation. When not being a total nerd,Noorsher enjoys hiking, camping and occasionally leeching off of others’ Netflix accounts.

Brilliance Oppressed

Brilliance has been around since the beginning of mankind. We celebrate brilliance and we depend on it. In the modern era, popular culture often depicts scientists and engineers as the brilliant people who can solve some of the biggest problems that humanity faces. We elevate scientists and engineers such as Einstein and Elon Musk to near demigod status. But the brilliance we celebrate is white brilliance. It’s male brilliance. Racism in STEM has become institutionalized, oppressing the brilliance of minorities, who in fact represent the majority of humanity. It is this oppressed brilliance that must be liberated if the scientific field and the tech industry want to actually tackle humanity’s biggest global problems with their technical skills and abilities. Inaction will not only continue to cause inequalities to grow, but will also have a real economic cost.

Boniface Mwangi
external speaker

Boniface Mwangi is an award winning Kenyan Photo-Activist. For four years he held a staff photography position at The Standard, the second largest Kenyan newspaper, taking on various assignments of increasing responsibility in a number of countries.  Boniface became the eye of Kenyans during the 2007 post-election violence and showed courage and compassion to capture thousands of images; some so gory they could not be published. In 2009 Secretary of State of the United States, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter commending Boniface for his work during the post-election violence and stated: “Your photography is absolutely stunning and tells an important and powerful story for the world to hear.” His work has appeared in virtually all the important newspapers in the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Boston Globe and the BBC Focus on Africa magazine among other International publications. He holds a Diploma in Print Journalism from the East African School of Journalism and studied Human Rights and documentary photography at New York University.  He has been recognized as a Magnum Photography Fellow and twice as the CNN Multichoice Africa Photojournalist of the Year, Future Africa Awards in Advocacy among other awards. He is the youngest Prince Claus Laureate and is currently a Senior TED Fellow. New African Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Africans of 2014. Time magazine recognised him as Next Generation Leader in 2015.

Boniface runs Pawa 254 a collaborative hub for creatives in Kenya where journalists, artists and activists meet to find innovative ways of achieving social change.

Love is the answer



Joan Scheckel in SOHO. Photo by Ben Zucker/For New York Observer
External Speaker

Joan Scheckel is a producer, director, writer, photographer and teacher. She is the founder of JSFL and the creator of “The Technique”, the most influential craft to be developed since Strasberg’s “The Method”.   “The Technique” is a groundbreaking approach to writing, directing and acting craft known throughout Hollywood and the international film world as the crucial force behind the most exciting film and television being made today. Joan’s Filmmaking Labs have fostered 80 released projects, 71 of which came to the Labs without financing or finished scripts. To date, they have earned over 700 award nominations and over 400 wins, including major nods at the Emmys and Oscars.

Credits include: Jill Soloway’s Emmy Award Winning “Transparent” (Consulting Producer); Mike Mills Academy Award Winning “Beginners” (Executive Producer); Niki Caro’s “The Vintner’s Luck” (Co-Writer);  Niki Caro’s Academy Award Nominated “Whale Rider”, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Academy Award winning “Little Miss Sunshine”; Rupert Sanders Academy Award Nominated “Snow White and the Huntsman”; Alison Maclean’s Venice Little Golden Lion Winner”Jesus’ Son”;  Miranda July’s Golden Berlin Bear Nominated “The Future”; Richard Press’ Spirit Award Nominated “Bill Cunningham NY”; Sacha Gervasi’s Spirit Award Winning “Anvil:The Story of Anvil”; Mark Ruffalo’s Sundance Award Winning “Sympathy For Delicious”; Jill Soloway’s Sundance  Award Winning “Afternoon Delight”; Nick Jarecki’s Golden Globe Nominated “Arbitrage”;  Mark Romanek’s “One Hour Photo” and many more. With her reputation as a master of film and episodic craft firmly established, Scheckel believes passionately in the power of story: “I believe human beings crave authentic connection to themselves and others – and find it in stories that are daring, real, and true to the heart. From this root, I am compelled to bring about movies that inspire life.”