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TEDxWVU returns for its second year with exciting new speakers

Last year, the TEDxWVU event sold out and this year the organization is expecting the same turnout. With a new venue, a new theme and new speakers, this year’s event is going to be better than ever. The event, TEDxWVU 2019, will take place on March 2 at 9 a.m. at the Gladys S. Davis Theatre in the Center for Creative Arts.

The event is limited to 100 attendees. Tickets will be $12 and go on sale through the WVU Arts and Entertainment office in the next few days. Those who do not get tickets will be able to watch on live stream. The link for the live stream will be found on TEDxWVU’s Facebook page and at

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or fewer) delivered by today's leading thinkers and doers. TEDx events take place in local communities around the world and are independently organized and licensed by TED.

This year’s theme has been announced as “Bridging the Gap” and will feature five speakers talking about a range of topics to support this theme. This series of TEDx Talks will challenge people to look at their similarities with each other, rather than their differences.

The first speaker, Shan Cawley, is currently an English student at WVU. She 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 deals with growing up in an abusive household, and overcoming trauma through a literary lens. Cawley is also the recipient of the WVU NCAAP’s Image Award’s Rising Mountaineer and the Jon Scott Nelson First Year Writing Award.

Emma Harrison, a 2018 Truman Scholar, was born and raised in West Virginia. She is a member of the West Virginia Innocence Project, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange, a teaching assistant at the Federal Prison Camp Hazelton, as well as a volunteer teacher at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton. She plans to pursue a law degree so she can continue her work with incarcerated individuals.

Anthony Zolezzi currently serves as the CEO of Twinlab Consolidated Holdings. He created Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. as well as co-founded Code Blue Recycling and created a partnership with them and PepsiCo. He has played a major role for the past 30 years in leading and advising corporations in uncovering new innovations. He is the 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.”

Amanda Messer is the Co-Founder of Because I said I would, an international movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. Since September 4, 2012, Because I said I would has distributed over 10.3 million Promise Cards to over 153 countries. 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 other programs.

And the last speaker, Ali Rezai, serves as the vice president of neuroscience and the Associate Dean of the John D. Rockefeller IV institute at West Virginia University. 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 is the past president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the largest neurological society in the world. He has received numerous awards such as the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Clinical Fellowship Award.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, usually in the form of short, powerful talks delivered by today’s leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED’s annual gathering in Vancouver, Canada, TEDWomen and TEDGlobal conferences, and thousands of independently organized TEDx events around the world, then made available, free, on and other channels. 

TED's open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; TEDx, which provides licenses to thousands of individuals and groups who host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities; and the educational initiative TED-Ed.


Follow TED on Twitter at, on Facebook at, on Instagram at and on Snapchat at tedtalkshq.

Noelle Forde