TEDxWVU Speakers 2018

Ginny Thrasher

Student at WVU

Ginny Thrasher won the first Gold Medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the Women’s 10 meter Air Rifle event. She achieved this at only 19 years of age, after picking up the sport as a freshman in high school. Ginny is currently a Junior at West Virginia University with a 3.90 GPA in Biomedical Engineering. She dedicates many hours to practicing with the reigning National Champion WVU Rifle Team. During her collegiate career, she has won the NCAA Team Title in both 2016 and 2017, as well as becoming the first freshman ever to sweep both Individual Titles in 2016.

Ginny credits her athletic achievements to the concept of growth mindset, and is eager to see it benefit others. She works with a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. Raymond Prior, on increasing mental toughness and creating consistent performance. Ginny’s mission is to transfer her unique experiences changing her mindset into better ways to teach growth mindset on a large scale. Ginny loves to travel and hopes to pursue higher education related to growth mindset, as well as the Olympics in 2020.

Sara Berzingi

Student at WVU

Sara Berzingi is a Morgantown native and senior in the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences at West Virginia University. She is double majoring in Biology and English with a concentration in Professional Writing and Editing. She spent the last four summers volunteering with aid organizations abroad, working to manage the Internally Displaced Persons crisis emerging from the siege of Mosul, volunteering in a labor and delivery ward in Erbil, Iraq, and teaching English to children in an Iraqi refugee camp. Berzingi twice served as president of the Muslim Student Association, was a member of the Student Government Diversity Committee, and is currently a diversity ambassador and student worker in the WVU Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

She collaborated with the Reed College of Media on Muslim in Appalachia, a 360° series featured on the multimedia news platform, 100 Days in Appalachia. As a Muslim American activist and an aspiring writer, Berzingi’s work focuses on the politics of identity and belonging in an increasingly exclusive America.

Flynn Pollard

Visiting Assistant Professor at Bethany College

Flynn Pollard is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia where he teaches courses in international relations, conflict resolution, environmental policy, terrorism, and international development. He holds two advanced degrees, a Masters of Public Administration and a Masters of Arts in International Environmental Policy Studies, both earned at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. He has worked as a data analyst and consultant on multiple social change projects in the United States and abroad. His work, both academically and professionally, has largely focused on the role of food in both sustainability and human security around the world. He is a co-founder and officer at an ag-tech social enterprise called Urbavore, based in Santa Cruz, California, where his team is designing low-cost hydroponic systems to improve sustainable food production and increase household access to healthy foods.

Flynn believes that the greatest challenges we face today must be considered holistically, and that the interconnections between them often hold the secrets to their solutions. Through developing our understanding of these complex issues, Flynn believes that we will increase our capacity to design better policies, technologies, and improved social networks that can build healthier, happier, safer, and more sustainable communities.

George Cicci

CMO of Impakt Media

George Cicci took his late-in-life ADHD diagnosis as both an answer to his questions about his personal behavior and difficulties, and as an opportunity to hit the "restart" button on his life and make up for lost time. Since his diagnosis thirteen years ago, he has become obsessed with learning to hack “The Superpower” as he calls it and teaches others to do the same. He is currently exercising this superpower as the Chief Marketing Officer at Impakt Media, where he works with brands like NBC Sports, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and Major League Baseball affiliates. In addition to this, he is finishing his book “ADHD Life Hacker: the Four Rules for Success” and is launching an online course in productivity for people with ADHD.

John Ebert

Owner/Operator of McDonald Stores

John Ebert is a 1982 graduate of University of Notre Dame with a degree in accounting. He has also attended entrepreneurial classes at MIT. Following college, he began working for Arthur Young & Co in Dallas. His clients included Frito Lay, American Airlines, Haggar Slacks and the Dallas Cowboys. John now owns 41 McDonald’s franchises with 2200 employees. He is the winner of the prestigious Golden Arch Award, and the Al Golin brand trust award which is presented to one operator in the McDonald’s system

One of John’s overarching goals is to help others reach their potential. He achieves this goal by teaching a free math ACT prep class which has been attended by over 2200 students. This class has helped many students improve their math ACT score and helped them get the Promise scholarship. It has given them hope that there is a better future for them.

John and his wife Cindy live in Bridgeport and have three children---Rachel, age 23, Jack, age 19, and Grace, age 16. John is co-chairman of the local 10k committee and is also a board member of MVB Bank. John has completed two marathons and in the last three years has completed 6 triathlons.

Ann Chester

Assistant VP for Health Sciences for Education Partnerships

Ann Chester, Ph.D. is the founder and director of Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) a campus/community partnership program initiated in 1994 which reaches out to 9th-12th grade under-represented students across West Virginia and supports them towards college and professional school. The program brings under-represented students and their teachers to multiple university campuses during summers for laboratory, classroom training and enrichment activities, and then provides the infrastructure and support for community-based science club projects mentored by teachers, scientists, health professions students and volunteer community leaders during the school year.

A distinctive piece of HSTA is its students’ development of research projects that examine and address health issues faced by their communities. These projects form the core of the HSTA experience and drive the academic learning the program promotes. The projects turn HSTA students into community advocates who address health and social issues at home even as they prepare to move on to college and beyond. In addition, Chester leads the WV National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health and the WV Health Careers Opportunity Program. For hobbies, she snowboards, golfs, bikes, runs half marathons and visits her 3 grandchildren with her husband.

Daniel Brewster

Professor at West Virginia University

Professor Brewster asserts that he has always been a Mountaineer with a deep love for our state, and university. He is a 14-year member of the faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology where he teaches several courses including Sexuality and Society, and Social Problems in Contemporary America. Brewster also leads a study abroad to rural Latin America each spring with the Global Medical and Dental Brigades student organizations where they facilitate pro-bono medical and dental clinics in cooperation with Nicaraguan medical professionals.

Growing up in West Virginia wasn’t always easy, especially for someone living in “the closet” but Brewster never gave up hope and in 2011 after being threatened by a student on campus, he courageously came out publicly in the Daily Athenaeum. His courage inspired the campus to have serious conversations about bullying and homophobia and no doubt gave hope to countless Mountaineers.

Brewster as he is commonly known has been named an Eberly College Outstanding Teacher, and has twice been named the NAACP Professor of the Year. Professor Brewster is the current recipient of the Neil S. Bucklew Award for Social Justice for his leadership courage, and support to Social Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Emily Calandrelli

EP and host of FOX's Xploration Outer Space

Emily Calandrelli is the Executive Producer and host of FOX's Xploration Outer Space, which is now in its fourth season. She is also a correspondent for Bill Nye on his new show Bill Nye Saves the World, now in its second season on NETFLIX. Emily is the writer and host of Lockheed Martin’s Spotlight Space, a YouTube series that features the space projects they are involved in.

Emily published her first book in 2017 as the author of the Ada Lace Adventures, a chapter book series about a young West Virginia girl who solves problems with robots and technology. The second book in the series, Ada Lace: Sees Red, was included in the National Science Teachers Association’s list of best STEM books for 2018.

Emily has given talks about the importance of science literacy, the benefits of space exploration, and the challenges for women in STEM careers for clients like Google, Pixar, MIT, West Virginia University, Texas Instruments as well as dozens of K-12 schools across the nation. Her first two TEDx talks, “I Don’t Do Math” and “Space Exploration Is The Worst,” have garnered nearly 500,00 views on YouTube.

Judith Feinberg

WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry

In 2005, Dr. Feinberg was the first physician in metropolitan Cincinnati to recognize that opioid injection drug use (heroin, prescription painkillers) had emerged as a health threat, based on increased admissions for a serious heart infection (“endocarditis”). She became involved in harm reduction efforts and, in 2014, she established Ohio's 1st syringe services program, the Cincinnati Exchange Project (CEP). Conceived as a broad public health initiative, CEP not only exchanges sterile syringes for used ones, but also provides many other services: clean injection materials (cottons, cookers, etc) to prevent hepatitis C; overdose prevention education and naloxone to reverse overdoses; condoms and safer sex and safer injection education; on-site rapid testing for HIV and hepatitis C; enrolling clients for Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) insurance; referral and linkage to drug treatment programs, medical and mental health care, and social services as desired.

West Virginia has the highest rates of hepatitis C and overdose deaths in the U.S. After a long career in HIV/AIDS, she came to WVU in 2017 to focus on ending these opioid-related epidemics at their epicenter. Currently Professor of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry and Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases, she is working hard to turn the tide on opioid-related epidemics.

TEDxWVU Hosts 2018

Eric Minor

Freelance host for Comcast Newsmakers and West Virginia Illustrated

Eric Minor (BSJ, 1995, MS IMC, 2014), an award-winning television anchor and multimedia journalist, joined the staff of the WVU Reed College of Media in June 2013 as its first Director of Student Careers and Opportunities.

A 23-year veteran of broadcasting and television news oversees the College’s internship and practicum programs, which seek to complement a student’s classroom experience with critical real-world experiential learning at some of the world’s leading media companies. Minor also assists with the College’s mentorship program and provides career preparation assistance to students and graduates looking for their first job. He also teaches the College’s Beginning Video Reporting course.

His reporting career has taken him from the White House pressroom to the sidelines of the Super Bowl. He regularly grilled state, local and federal lawmakers and newsmakers on the public affairs program “One on One with Eric Minor” and was the principal anchor and Managing Editor of WTOV-TV’s newscasts.

Minor worked as an anchor/reporter/producer for WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, W.Va., after graduating from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism and then embarked on a 17-year-long career with Cox Media Group and WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Ohio/Wheeling, W.Va. During his tenure at WTOV, he also did freelance work for WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, Pa. He currently works as a freelance host for Comcast Newsmakers and West Virginia Illustrated.

April Kaull

Director of News for University Relations

April Kaull is the Director of News for University Relations, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the unit, which is charged with telling West Virginia University’s story.

Kaull joined WVU in January 2015 after a 20+ year career as a broadcast journalist in West Virginia. She joined WBOY-TV in Clarksburg in 1995, and rose through the ranks from reporter and producer to vice president of news operations for West Virginia Media LLC, a statewide media company which purchased WBOY in 2001. She also served as executive producer for WV Media and anchored the company’s nightly 30-minute statewide newscast.

Kaull is a 1995 graduate of WVU in broadcast news, and received her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication from WVU in 2016. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Reed College of Media.

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Chris J. Anderson