TEDxMiddlebury 2016: Playing the Game

TEDxMiddlebury 2016: Playing the Game

The TEDxMiddlebury 2016 Conference was on November 13th, from 10: 00am to 1: 30pm.

The theme for the conference was “Playing the Game”. We all play “the game” in one way or another, and we want to highlight the ways in which each of us learns to navigate the games, and by extension, the systems that surround us. This event is about questioning the different strategies we might use and our varying definitions of what success can be. It is about the personas we take on to “win” different rounds, about being honest in the face of expectations, and about deciding whether or not to play by the rules. It is about experiencing moments of defeat and deciding to keep playing, and knowing when and why we quit. This year we had seven speakers, one of whom was a student speaker.

TEDxMiddlebury 2016 Speakers:

Gabbie Santos ’17 is a senior International Politics and Economics major from the Philippines. After graduating from an all-girls Catholic high school south of Manila, Gabbie first arrived at Middlebury College not knowing that the journey across the globe would be as personally revelatory as it was physically expansive.

Growth and learning became more than just about attending interesting classes and engaging in thought-provoking conversations; it was discovering during sophomore year that it was neither the ‘L’ nor the ‘Q’ in the so-called alphabet soup (LGBTQ+), but rather the ‘T’ that resonated, finally, with Gabbie’s own experiences of a mismatch between physical appearance and gender identity. Gabbie today identifies as male transgender. On his last stretch at Middlebury, he is excited to share his current, most authentic self with our community.
Gabbie hopes to share through this TED talk, his own stories about coming to terms with his Trans identity and “playing the game” when it comes to gender norms, masculinity, and heteronormativity. Recognizing that he is not a beginner at navigating societies where gender is performance, he also hopes to challenge the audience, and himself equally, to think critically about the consequences of “winning”. Finally, he invites us to look around and see that everyone is playing the game, that it is much bigger than just the male transgender community, and that perhaps by raising our consciousness and questioning what we do to fit ourselves into this scheme, we can find some agency in rewriting some of the rules of this game that we play.

M Jackson is a self-described glacier nerd, adventurer, and environmental educator pursuing a doctorate degree in geography and earth science at the University of Oregon as she researches glaciers and climate change in the Arctic.

Jackson is a two-time U.S. Fulbright Scholar, most recently the first ever student in the United States to receive a 2015-2016 Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research grant. Jackson spent her grant period living in Höfn, Iceland researching how glacier change impacts communities on the south coast of the island. Jackson’s first 2011 U.S. Fulbright grant took her to Samsun, Turkey, where she taught at Öndöküz Mayis Üniveritesi and investigated glaciers in the Kaçkar Mountains. Jackson has worked for over seven years for the National Geographic Society as an Arctic Expert, leading expeditions and lecturing about the Arctic, glaciology, climate change, and environmental sciences. Jackson released her first book in 2015, While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, on glaciers, climate change, and family. Jackson’s parents died when she was in her 20s, and her book explores what it means when the climates of a family and a planet simultaneously change. In 2011 Jackson earned a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Montana, where she examined climate change and Alaskan glaciers. Prior to Jackson’s graduate work, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia on the Linking Income, Food, and the Environment (LIFE) project and worked for over ten years in Alaska and the Yukon Territory guiding backcountry trips and exploring glacial systems.



Kaamila Mohamed believes that we can each be a part of healing ourselves, our communities, and our world. Living and working in Boston, much of her own work in community has focused on queer people of color and LGBTQ Muslims.

As a theater practitioner and performance poet, Kaamila believes that through art we are able to share our truths and connect in ways that transform individuals and communities. With this vision in mind, she founded and directed BlackOUT Boston, an ensemble of young, queer Black artists who shared original performance pieces in order to challenge antiblackness, homophobia, and transphobia.

In 2012, Kaamila co-founded the organization Queer Muslims of Boston (QMOB) that she co-led through Spring 2016. QMOB provides a space for LGBTQ identified Muslims to connect and build community. Working to provide visibility for her community, Kaamila has been a speaker, panelist, and educator around her identity and the issues affecting LGBTQ Muslims. As part of a national movement of LGBTQ Muslims community builders, she has served several years on the planning committee of the annual retreat for LGBTQ Muslims hosted by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD). Currently, she serves on the MASGD Steering Committee.

Beyond the bounds of her formal roles, Kaamila is passionate about holding space for empowerment and connection, and she has facilitated community conversations around issues of identity and justice, enjoys emceeing events, and has even ordained a queer interfaith wedding. She has led workshops that have explored and educated on topics including bullying, mental health, racial justice, cultural appropriation, and ageism.

Kaamila fills her free time with chosen family and friends, reading novels, and binging on Netflix and/or Talenti ice cream. Recently she moved to Miami, Florida, where she lives with her partner, Dr. Van Bailey, and their black kitten, Raheema “Ra” Mohamed.

Artist Willie Condry Jr. — popularly known as KASSO was born and raised in Trenton, NJ. KASSO grew up quickly understanding what he wanted from life. He started creating art at age five. Art was a creative outlet that manifested itself early on.

KASSO went on to study Fine Arts and Illustration. At the College of New Jersey, he excelled in painting, drawing and ceramic sculpture. He furthered his education under the tutelage of legendary graffiti artist, teacher and mentor Daniel “POSE 2” Hopkins. KASSO mastered the fine art of aerosol painting.

Today, KASSO is primarily known for his unique portraits and vivid aerosol based murals. He is a pioneering force in the Trenton art scene, working with numerous nonprofit organizations: One Simple Wish, Albus Cavus, NJTL(National Junior Tennis League), Home Front, City Without Walls, Isles Youth Build and The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

KASSO is the founder of the S.A.G.E.(Styles Advancing Graffiti’s Evolution) Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization composed of a diverse group of visual artists, engineers, fabricators, musicians and teachers who are dedicated to initiating, planning and establishing inner city beautification projects. With a focus on cultivating a new and unique focus on urban renewal, SAGE Coalition’s goal is to remind those in economically depressed neighborhoods that unity and pride can thrive through creative problem solving and civic engagement.

He is also the co-founder of the Vicious Styles Crew; Trenton, NJ first aerosol art production crew. With each organization, he has produced dozens of murals throughout the city of Trenton and along the east and west coast. He has also produce work internationally; within Tijuana, Mexico and London, England. Numerous celebrities and avid art collectors have commissioned him to produce fine art and collect his work. His goal is to keep producing art by any means and to keep pushing the limits of what art can conceive and achieve.

Mattie Brice is a play and games artist, critic, and educator. Starting from media criticism centered around cultural and literary theories, she grappled with the video game and wider tech industry’s problems with diversity, from representation of marginalized peoples in the content of games to their positions of power and visibility in the creative process of making games.

Mattie was a part of a DIY movement within video games that created games inspired by personal experience using tools that didn’t require programming. She made experimental games that broadened both the ways games could be used to communicate with other people and the the kinds of people who could make them. Her first notable work, Mainichi, tours from museums (Museum of Design Atlanta) to art festivals (IndieCade) to game conventions (GaymerX) and more, becoming a prominent work discussed in independent games and queer games studies. Balancing theory with practicing art and design, Mattie regularly speaks at conferences (Game Connect Asia Pacific) and universities (Stanford, USC) internationally on creative practice, outsider art, and political engagement. She became an activist for marginalized creators and players in games and organizes academic conferences (Queerness and Games Conference) and community events (Lost Levels). Mattie currently teaches about play design and art activism at New York City schools (NYU, Parsons) and does grad work in the Integrated Digital Media program at NYU. Her current research and practice interests include using play and performance to engage the public politically, intimate and vulnerable methods of activism, and design processes that account for measuring social impact. She also consults companies on issues of representation and diversity with regards to interactive media and acts as project manager and organizational strategist for design companies and artists. Mattie is frequently influenced by cooking, performance art, fashion, fan cultures, dating apps, BDSM, the everyday, and cyborgs.

Marco Mezzavilla‘s passion for technology and creativity stems from a hybrid education. His career began with pursuing a diploma in Classical Studies in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, the birthplace of Giorgione, founder of the distinctive Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting.

Marco then completed his B.Sc., M.Sc. and PhD in Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Padua, Italy, a historical academic institution founded in 1222, which inspired revolutionary minds like Copernicus and Galileo. His doctoral dissertation covered various aspects of next generation networks, with a particular focus on mobile cellular technology: 4G LTE. During his studies, Marco spent one year at UPC in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an international student exchange program. He carried out his Master Thesis at NEC Europe Labs in Heidelberg, Germany, and, as part of his PhD, he spent six months at Qualcomm Research in San Diego, USA. Now a Research Fellow at NYU, in New York, Marco leads the design of new radio protocols that will define 5G, the future paradigm of wireless connectivity. Marco is a Technology Evangelist and co-Founder at Snapback, a core-technology startup based in Rome, Italy, focused on developing new, intuitive ways to interact with smart devices. His research interests include 4G/5G broadband wireless technologies, device-to-device communications, context awareness, smart society, virtual/augmented reality, human to machine interfaces. His passions are liberal arts, food, friends, music, and his camera.

Sarah Finnie Robinson is the Founding Partner at WeSpire, the science-based behavior-change platform that engages employees for purpose and positive impact. With a configurable behavioral-science library comprising hundreds of action-based programs, WeSpire involves individuals and entire organizations to drive measurable results on sustainable goals.

Previously, Robinson was the long-time Editorial Promotion Director at The Atlantic. She was tapped as the launch Editorial Programming Director at iVillage; she began her career at The New Yorker magazine. Robinson holds a M.A. from the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College and a B.A. from Princeton University. She serves on the advisory council of Boston Harbor Now, and on its climate preparedness committee; of Metcalf Institute of Marine & Environmental Reporting; and of the Princeton78 Foundation, which supports service projects around the world. She was named a scholar at the penultimate Aspen Institute Environment Forum, judges the MIT Climate CoLab competition, and she completed the inaugural altMBA program. Publications include The Atlantic, Family Life; and via Huffington Post, Medium, and LinkedIn. Robinson is a frequent guest speaker at conferences and business courses focused on human behavior, sustainability, climate solutions, work and life, and living well with positive impact.