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2019 Speakers

A Rezai

Ali Rezai

WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

Ali Rezai serves as the vice president of neuroscience and the Associate Dean of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Rezai earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Southern California and underwent neurosurgical training at New York University. Before coming to WVU, he previously served as associate dean of Neuroscience and the director and CEO of the OSU Neurological Institute. Dr. Rezai was named one of the best doctors in America in Castle and Connolly’s Guide to America’s Top Doctors from 2001-2017. He has published more than 175 peer-reviewed articles and 40 book chapters. He has also presented his work to the President of the United States as well as to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. He is the past president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the largest neurosurgical society in the world. He has received numerous awards such as the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Clinical Fellowship Award. He also holds 54 U.S. patents for medical devices and technologies. Dr. Rezai’s work has been in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The NewYork Times, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Reader’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune. He has appeared on numerous local and national radio and television broadcasts including CBS’s 60 Minutes, Prime Time, CNN, NPR, PBS, the BBC, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and The Discovery Channel.

amanda messer

Amanda Messer

Co-founder of because I said I would

Amanda Messer is the Co-Founder of because I said I would, an international social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. At a young age, Messer learned the effect that promises broken have on relationships. Her father struggled with addiction and was not good with keeping his commitments to his little girl. Messer was drawn to helping start because I said I would knowing that there are other children whose lives are deeply affected by broken promises. In November of 2013, Amanda became because I said I would’s first full-time employee after over a year of volunteering her time to the cause. Since September 4th, 2012, because I said I would has distributed over 10.3 million Promise Cards to over 153 countries, started local chapters of volunteer teams, developed free resources that have been downloaded over 1,000 times, delivered live character development programming to over 150,000 students and created awareness campaigns that have been seen by millions. Because I said I would’s work has been featured on CNN, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, the Steve Harvey Show and many other programs.


Anthony Zolezzi

CEO of Twinlab Consolidated Holdings

Anthony Zolezzi has played a major role for the past 30 years in leading and advising corporations to innovate within their existing strengths, while increasing profitability and uncovering new innovations. Zolezzi’s work has resulted in numerous successful entrepreneurial movements, companies and products focused on sustainability and health. He currently serves as CEO of Twinlab Consolidated Holdings. He created Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. packaged retail shrimp and restaurants based on the award-winning film “Forrest Gump”. Some of his most impressive business ventures include creating the partnership between Wild Oats and Walmart to make wellness products both affordable and accessible, which became one of the most successful product launches in Walmart’s history. He co-founded Code Blue Recycling, which filed 19 patents on unique recycling technologies, then created a partnership with PepsiCo and sold it to Waste Management in 2006. Zolezzi also co-founded and launched Pet Promise natural pet food that quickly became the leader in the natural pet food category. Zolezzi’s other outstanding career accomplishments include developing Horizon Organic Dairy’s children’s products and the partnership with Horizon Organic and Starbucks; Nestlé Waters PET recycling; New Chapter children’s supplements and first ever pet probiotic; and developing and directing The Prince of Wales’ book and documentary, “Harmony” that highlighted Prince Charles’ personal health and sustainability initiatives. He is author of numerous books including, “Uncharted Waters,” “Do Something: Leave Your Mark on the World,” “The Detachment Paradox” and “Chemical-Free Kids: How to Safeguard Your Child’s Diet and Environment.”


Emma Harrison

Student at WVU

Born and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Emma Harrison is a senior studying political science and multidisciplinary studies with areas of emphasis in Africana studies, women's and gender studies, and leadership studies at West Virginia University. A 2018 Truman Scholar, her volunteer work and studies have led to a passionate pursuit of fairness and justice in our criminal justice system. Through her work with the West Virginia Innocence Project, she assists with the exoneration of wrongfully convicted West Virginians. Harrison is a member of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange, a class made up of both college students and incarcerated students, and now helps to facilitate the class as a teaching assistant at the Federal Prison Camp Hazelton. In addition, she is a volunteer teacher at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton. She plans to pursue a degree in law, so she can continue her work with incarcerated individuals, understanding the roles that education, prison policy, and access to technology play in an imprisoned person’s successful re-entry.


Shan Cawley

Student at WVU

Shan Cawley is currently a full-time English student at West Virginia University and a part-time poet. Cawley is the author of depression is a thunderstorm and i am a scared dog and kingdom now, both published by Maudlin House Press. Much of Cawley's work primarily deals with the intricacies of growing up in an abusive household, and overcoming trauma through a literary lens. Cawley is also the recipient of the WVU NAACP's Image Awards Rising Mountaineer and the Jon Scott Nelson First Year Writing Award. Cawley hopes to pursue an MA in English literature, and then move towards a PhD specializing in the construction of gender narratives in 18th century British Romantic fiction.

TEDxWVU Hosts 2019

Eric Minor

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

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.

“Your number one mission as a speaker is to take something that matters deeply to you and to rebuild it inside the minds of your listeners. We’ll call that something an idea.”
Chris J. Anderson