Our Mission

Our mission is to bring together a diverse body of thought across a range of disciplines and share it with students, staff, faculty, and community surrounding the University of Rochester. We exist to give voice to those who are actively changing the face of the world as we know it. We move to upset the norm; to question; to empower; to explore. We challenge our audience to ignite the candle of knowledge and put out the darkness of ignorance.

Now that’s an idea worth spreading. Welcome to TEDxUniversityofRochester.

The Event

TEDxUniversityofRochester will take place on Sunday, April 22nd 2018 in the Feldman Ballroom in Douglass Commons at the University of Rochester River Campus. Our address is 500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd, Rochester, NY 14627.

Meet The Team


Leif Johansen, President

Leif is a sophomore at the University of Rochester, majoring in Economics and Political Science. He originally hails from the Catskill Mountains. When he isn’t in class or pretending to study in the library, Leif is working in his capacity as a student senator in SA Government, giving tours to prospective students, playing pianos around campus, or singing in Men’s Choir or Chamber Singers. Off campus, he works for the New York State Assembly. He loves dogs, hiking, and his TEDx team. He co-founded TEDxUniversityofRochester last year.


Syed Muhammad Miqdad, Vice President

Miqdad is a junior at the University of Rochester, majoring in Chemical Engineering and minoring in Economics. A social entrepreneur by spirit, Miqdad is involved with community-building clubs on campus, Muslim Students’ Association, and ADITI. He has previously served as a Student Life Executive in SA Government and was awarded Andrew Friend Prize for leadership and service during his Freshman year. Miqdad is a die-hard Manchester United fan, and loves bring students together in his free time for discussions over a hot, delicious meal of his homemade biryani.


Sarah Benraiss, Head of Curation

Sarah is a fourth year student at the University of Rochester studying Environmental Science and the Environmental Humanities. She is passionate about food justice in the United States and abroad. On campus, Sarah works as Resident Advisor, a Teacher’s Assistant in Biology and a Technical Assistant researching neurodegenerative diseases at the URMC. She also tutors young refugees in English and volunteers at various events in Rochester throughout the year. In her free time, Sarah enjoys writing poetry, reading novels and cooking French and Moroccan dishes.


Annie Forestiere, Head of Finance

Originally from a small town in northern New York State, Annie is a senior studying business and music with a citation for achievement in college leadership. Her campus involvements revolve around helping others to achieve their full potential, including work as a resident advisor and an academic coach for students with intellectual and learning disabilities. As a future law student with an interest in intellectual property law, Annie is passionate about sharing ideas and encouraging innovation. This past year she has taken her passion one step further, and is competing in an international social entrepreneurship challenge called the Hult Prize on behalf of the University of Rochester. When she is not running from meeting to meeting, you can find her in a practice room, at the gym, or reading novels on topics ranging from historical music practices to science fiction.


James Pike, Head of Logistics

James is a senior majoring in Economics and minoring in Organizational Psychology. Asides from TEDx, he is a project manager at the iZone and also works at the residential life office. ​He is also an avid runner, singer and a support of Liverpool FC. He has watched big bang theory throughout the ten seasons many times and is still looking for a new tv show to watch. If he is not watching Liverpool highlights, he is probably napping in the Welles Brown Room.


Chester Szeen, Head of Marketing

Chester is an international student from Hong Kong, and is currently a first year Graduate student in Data Science. Previously he obtained his Bachelor of Business Administrations degree in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has had vast international exposure, and have study or work experience in Japan, Germany and Shanghai. Chester is particularly interested in educational technology, and is aiming for entrepreneurship upon graduation.  He enjoys sports and learning languages, and was a varsity champion in karate.


Oliver Stabbe, Curator

Oliver Stabbe is a senior from Washington, DC, majoring in psychology and ASL with a minor in BCS. Having followed TED talks since primary school, Oliver is thrilled to curate speakers to expose UR to new perspectives on familiar topics and introduce talks on topics not yet heard of. Outside of TEDx, Oliver interns with Trillium Health and is working on his honors thesis regarding psychological flexibility in the department of Clinical & Social Psychology.


Nathalie Leon, Curator

Nathalie is a first-year student and competitive coder who spends her time thinking big to create schematics on the back of calculus I worksheets. With a penchant for presenting and speaking about my most preposterous ideas, Nathalie is devoted to bringing the best speakers to the University of Rochester. She thinks, without a doubt, arcade games are the best games in the world. In her free time, she nerds out on playing the classics or cracking complex math problems online.


Rylan Blowers, Curator

Rylan is a senior studying data science and business and will be working in the tech sales industry after graduation in New York City. On campus he is involved with the student alumni ambassadors, greek life, and order of omega. Outside of school he has experience launching a number of startups, and in his free time can be found traveling, golfing, skiing, and gaming.


Jane Yi, Logistics Team

Jane Yi is a first year at the University of Rochester. Her four years of contribution to her high school’s robotics team as a machinist, Public Relations Lead, and Outreach Coordinator inspired her for a career in STEM. She plans on majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in robotics and business. Outside of TEDx, Jane is an E-Board member of RICE Crew, the University of Rochester’s K-Pop dance performance crew. Her interests vary from drawing, listening to music, and machining.


Svarina Karwanyun, Logistics Team

Svarina is a sophomore from Mumbai, India majoring in Film & Media Studies and Economics. Apart from TEDx, her passion for event planning also lead her to  organize the Boar’s Head
Dinner in the fall of 2017, and she is the newly-elected chair of next year’s Yellowjacket Weekend and Dandelion Day. Svarina’s idea of a good time comprises of reading, dancing, making
color-coded excel sheets, and getting involved in film-related projects around campus (although
not at the same time). She’s currently writing scripts for an Indian animated television series for
children, and is hoping to forge a career in the film industry going forward!


Ronak Amir Sardari, Logistics Team

Ronak is a sophomore at University of Rochester, planning to major in Microbiology and Immunology. She aspires to become a physician and work for the united nations. She works as a volunteer at Golisano children hospital and University of Rochester department of pediatrics cardiology. In her free time, she loves reading poetry and playing the violin.


Tom Yi, Marketing Team

An international student from China, Tom is a sophomore at the U of R, currently studying Psychology and Philosophy with minor in Linguistics. He is a huge fan of musical theater and involved with an the musical performance group, “Off Broadway On Campus.” Tom’s interest in TEDx began four years ago when he volunteered with a TEDxYouth organization at his high school, and he is excited about dedicating his time to TEDxUniversityofRochester.


Brian He, Marketing Team

Brian is a junior majoring in Statistics and minoring in Computer Science. Always fascinated by the natural sciences, Brian currently conducts research on nanoparticle drug loading, delivery, and release systems and has also served as a teaching assistant. He is passionate in being involved with TEDx because he enjoys being exposed to ideas, both old and new. During his free time, Brian enjoys anything basketball related, listening to hip-hop, following the latest technologies, and learning new languages.


Matthew Sundberg, Marketing Team

Matthew Sundberg is a freshman student from across the states in Oregon. He is planning to major in Computer Science with a possible minor in Digital Media Studies. Hobbies of his include graphic design, glasswork, web-design, and watching movies. In addition to his role in TEDxUniversityofRochester, Matthew is the publicity coordinator for the UR Engineers Without Borders and an active member in the Rochester Design and UR Cinema Group clubs. When making posters Matthew uses Illustrator CC 2018 and a generous dose of Helvetica.


Jake Mitchell, Marketing Team

Jake is a sophomore Computer Science geek at the University of Rochester. He has a passion for starting projects and companies, especially in the tech or education fields. Among these projects is the Mentor Project, a nonprofit company striving to further the education of students that struggle in typical learning environments. On campus, he works as a Digital Media Specialist and a Web Developer for University IT and is a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He serves on the executive board for TEDxUniversityofRochester and holds two research positions. He also thinks writing in the third person is surreal.


Sophia Rosman, Marketing Team

Sophia is a junior pursuing degrees in Philosophy and Art History. Originally from Baltimore, MD, she has been professionally performing as a juggler since she was 7. In 2012 Sophia began exploring the intersection of entertainment and fine arts, and she now travels as a professional bodypainter and airbrush artist. Through this, Sophia became passionate about using the arts and entertainment to spread ideas and enable voices to be heard. On campus she is involved with the University of Rochester Strong Jugglers, ArtAwake, the Student Alumni Ambassadors, and running club.


Wade Bennett, Stage Design

Wade is a Sophomore at the University of Rochester double majoring in Electrical/Computer Engineering and Physics, with a minor in Classical Studies. Beyond his studies, Wade actively participates in the University’s growing improv comedy scene, being a founding member of the newest troupe, False Advertising. Off campus, Wade spends him time tinkering and woodworking.


Ishaan Kumar, Finance Team

Ishaan is an international student from India who is currently a sophomore majoring in financial economics and physics. He is an avid gamer and a gym rat – you’ll either see him behind a screen or on a pull up bar; places where he finds peace. He is also currently the co-founder of the first blockchain focused club here on campus and hopes to education fellow students about the new hot technology. FC Barcelona is his first love and he will, quite literally, argue to death about why Messi is the GOAT


Ntemena Kapula, Licensee

Ntemena Kapula is a graduating senior majoring in mathematics on a pre-medicine track. She is currently passionate about improving the healthcare of institutionalized orphans specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. Ntemena describes herself as an optimist and is a big believer in networking and creating social capital. Ntemena is interested in idea sharing and development, for this reason, she became a part of the Bezos Family Foundation and attended the TED Global 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania.

More About TED

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, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. 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.)


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. Many of these talks are given at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and made available, free, on TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include TED.com, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from thousands of volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed; the annual million-dollar TED Prize, which funds exceptional individuals with a “wish,” or idea, to create change in the world; TEDx, which provides licenses to thousands of individuals and groups who host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

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