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TedxNorthwesternU will be held on May 14, 2023

For any urgent inquiries, please contact

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2022 Conference Speaker Lineup 


Jason Hamera, MS -  The Gray Institute 

A firm believer that every choice is a chance to make the world a better place, Jason Hamera has chosen to dedicate his life to the service of others. As a health and fitness professional for 17 years, Jason managed several major gym chains, was head trainer at a boutique fitness studio in NYC, and obtained myriad certifications. 5 years ago, Jason discovered his true passion: teaching. Completing a MSc. in educational psychology, and a  specialization certificate in positive psychology Jason shifted his focus from training bodies to training minds. Positioned as a mindset guide writing for his blog, Words Create Worlds, Jason is focused on using his platform to uplift and inspire the upcoming generation, by using language to change mindsets. He is also a faculty member at Gray Institute for Functional Movement, the director of education for Procedos exercise systems, and a motivational speaker with teaching experience in over 15 countries.  Jason's lifelong dream is to spread hope and positivity throughout the world, encouraging others that no matter how difficult things may become, we always have the chance to make a better outcome. Jason has earned his Masters in Psychology from Purdue University. 

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Leona Ba, PhD- Senior Change Management Specialist. Social Impact

Dr. Leona Ba is an organizational development and human resource development consultant with more than 20 years of experience in improving the performance and effectiveness of organizations, teams, and individuals with clients such as the United States Agency for International Development, United Nations agencies, and the International Development Research Centre. Her extensive experience working in a wide variety of cultural contexts developed her ability to integrate cultural responsiveness throughout her work and specifically in areas related to diversity, inclusion, and equity; culturally responsive program design and evaluation; and cross-cultural communication. She has been teaching her Culture and Evaluation course at the Evaluators’ Institute of Claremont Graduate University since 2012. She is currently working with Social Impact as Senior Change Management Specialist. In this role, she works with leaders at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and provides technical leadership and guidance for the development and implementation of change management interventions in support of USAID’s change efforts. Leona is originally from Senegal and holds a Doctorate in Human Resource Development and Organizational Development from the George Washington University, where she conducted research on organizational culture.


Alice Kim, MFA - Director of Human Rights Practice at University of Chicago 
Alice Kim (she/her) is Director of Human Rights Practice at the University of Chicago's Pozen Family Center for Human Rights where she directs a Human Rights Lab focused on mass incarceration. Centered on narratives of incarceration, Alice's work addresses building practices of solidarity across the prison wall, creating platforms for truth-telling about the carceral system, and increasing access to education in prison. Alice co-leads the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project’s (PNAP) Think Tank at Stateville Prison. The PNAP Think Tank builds knowledge about long-term sentencing practices, creates cultural works about the lived experience of incarceration, and facilitates community-building efforts connecting scholars, teaching artists, and community leaders with incarcerated students. Alice is also a co-founder of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), the collective that spearheaded the campaign for reparations for Chicago police torture survivors. She was a leader in the movement to end capital punishment in Illinois and nationwide, working closely with the Death Row 10, a group of Black men who were tortured by Jon Burge’s forces and sentenced to death.


Cynthia Wang, PhD - Executive Director of DRRC, Professor at Northwestern University

Cynthia Wang is the Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution and Research Center (DRRC) and a Clinical Professor of Management and Organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University and a M.S. and Ph.D in Management and Organizations from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Dr. Wang has taught classes in negotiations, organizational behavior, group decision-making, and cross-cultural communications at the undergraduate, MBA, and executive levels. She has examined how perspective-taking reduces prejudice, encourages the coordination of social behavior, and bolsters social bonds in diverse settings. Complimenting her interest in perspective-taking as a means to reduce bias, she has also demonstrated how stigmatized groups can reduce the social biases that they experience. She explores how individuals employ social creativity to diminish the pernicious impact of stigmatizing labels by self-labeling. She is an active member in the international academic community. She is President-Elect, International Association for Conflict Management, and has served as the program chair of and is a board representative for this association. She also currently serves on the editorial board for Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 


Mark Vondracek, PhD - Research Adviser at Evanston Township High School 

Mark Vondracek has been a physics teacher and research adviser at Evanston Township High School for the past twenty-four years. Prior to teaching high school, he earned his Ph.D. in high-energy particle physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, using data from the Collider Detector Facility collaboration at Fermilab. While research was fascinating, Mark’s true passion involved helping and working with young people. He believes every student is capable of doing great things in their lives, and looks to get them working on personal interests
whenever possible, in local, state, national, and international activities and projects. He has been honored and humbled by being recognized as one of the world’s top 50 teachers in the Global Teacher Prize, as well as a Claes Nobel National Top 10 Teacher of the Year, the Contemporary Physics Education Project’s National Teacher of the Year, the Illinois State Board of Education’s highest recognition as an Award of Excellence winner, Northwestern’s
Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award, and dozens of others. He is co-founder and President of the National Coalition for Safe Schools, was elected to and served two terms on the school board of Woodland School District 50, and has contributed to over 120 articles on education and particle physics research. 

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Vinayak P. Dravid, PhD - Northwestern University Professor, Director of NUANCE

Vinayak received his B.Tech. from IIT Bombay in 1984 and joined Northwestern soon after his PhD from Lehigh University in 1990. Vinayak’s scholarly interests revolve broadly around nanoscience and nanotechnology for energy, health and environment. He has a diverse research portfolio covering advanced microscopy, nanotechnology, energy policy and emerging educational paradigms. His Google analytics include over 625+ archival journal publications, H-index of more than ~110, over two dozen issued patents licensed to start-up companies related to nanotechnology for environment and sensor/diagnostic systems. Vinayak has co-founded MFNS-Tech, a start-up company that is commercializing his Northwestern research group’s innovations in environmental remediation with sponge/foam-based platform called: Oleophilic, Hydrophobic and Multifunctional (OHM) technology. As a Clarivate Analytics’ highest cited researcher for many years, Vinayak’s awards/honors include Fellowships to professional societies related to materials science and engineering. He has been elected to NU Faculty Honor Roll for several years for excellence in teaching. Vinayak serves as advisor and consultant to microscopy, energy-related corporations, IP firms, the Chicago museums. He advises international and NGOs, professional society outreach programs, and private sector about science, technology, and policy. 

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Dan Cnossen, MPA - United States Navy SEAL, Officer-in-Charge

Raised on the farmlands of Kansas, early on Dan knew he wanted to serve his country. Upon graduating high school, he was accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy and spent the next four years relentlessly pursuing selection for SEAL training. One of only 16 members of his class given the opportunity to enter Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training as officers, Dan successfully completed the grueling process in the fall of 2003. Over the next six years, Dan was deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan and rose in rank to become the officer-in-charge of an 18-man SEAL platoon. In 2009, Dan was deployed to Afghanistan, into an area of heavy combat. There, on a night mission in the mountains, he stepped on an IED, losing both legs in the blast. He would later be awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. For the next two years Dan fought for his life, enduring over 40 different surgeries, while readjusting to civilian life. It was during this time, as part of his rehab, that he was introduced to the sports of cross-country skiing and biathlon. He eventually earned a spot on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team. In 2015, Dan returned to graduate school, earning two degrees from Harvard University. At the 2022 Paralympic Games Dan won gold for mixed relay cross-country, and in 2018, he won Best Male Athlete of The Games.. 

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