TEDxMiddlebury 2017: Lost and Found

TEDxMiddlebury 2017’s speakers were from all across the country, including a Midd alum, a linguistics professor, outreach director of Southern Poverty Law Center, a VT designer, a state representative from Kentucky, and of course our own student speaker. Read more about them below!

The theme was “Lost and Found” and was about the perpetual discovery and rediscovery that is essential to our existence as human beings. It questions what it means to feel lost and find purpose once again, be it in the formation of ourselves or the creation of our communities. It calls us to remember people, places, words, and histories we have left behind or taken for granted, but simultaneously invites us to reclaim, reshape, and reconstruct what we know. It makes space for both grief and joy, fate and intention, exile and belonging, context and abstraction. Most of all, it asks that we rethink our narratives of time and progress as we navigate our individual and collective past, present, and future.


Rana Abdelhamid ’15 is an internationally acclaimed human rights organizer, 1st Degree Black Belt, public speaker and social entrepreneur focused on the empowerment of marginalized communities. She is the founder and CEO of (IM)WISE, a nonprofit organization and global grassroots movement supporting women’s empowerment through self-defense, entrepreneurship and organizing training. Rana established (IM)WISE at sixteen after being attacked by a stranger who tried to rip the hijab from her head. Over the past seven years, (IM)WISE has engaged thousands of participants through its programs across the US and internationally. In 2017, (IM)WISE held its inaugural National Muslim Women’s Summit at Harvard University, training 50 Muslim American women in leadership and community organizing. Rana has personally conducted trainings and facilitated healing spaces in the US, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Jordan, Tunisia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

In 2013, Rana started Hijabis of NY, an online platform that highlights the stories of hijabi women. Rana has been featured on ELLE.com, BBC, Huffington Post and Aljazeera and was named an International Youth Advocate by the UNAUSA Foundation. She is highly committed to the global human rights movement and has worked on women’s and is currently the youngest serving Board Member of Amnesty International USA. Rana has a BA from Middlebury in International Politics and Economics and a Masters degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. At Middlebury she conducted extensive political science and economics research on the political inclusion and mobilization of minority communities in urban contexts and on media representation of minority communities. At Harvard University, her research was focused on policy interventions to mitigate the prevalence of domestic violence in Queens, NY and on refugee integration policy in the US.

Rana was born and raised in Queens, New York by loving Egyptian-American immigrants and has three younger siblings. She speaks Arabic and Spanish, loves to travel and learn languages. She is also a dedicated shotokan karate martial artist. Currently, Rana is working at Google on the central brand team for Google Cloud and is based in San Francisco.


Lecia Brooks leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s outreach efforts on key initiatives and social justice issues. As outreach director, she frequently gives presentations around the country to promote tolerance and diversity. She also serves as director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Ala., an interpretive center designed to provide visitors to the Civil Rights Memorial with a deeper understanding of the civil rights movement. She joined the SPLC staff in 2004 as director of Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a Teaching Tolerance program designed to help break down racial, cultural and social barriers in schools. Previously, she worked for 12 years in a number of capacities for the National Conference for Community and Justice in its Los Angeles office. She is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University.


Daniel Erker is an assistant professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Boston University. He teaches courses on language change, Spanish in the United States, the biological evolution of language, the linguistic structure of Spanish, and language and identity. Erker earned an M.A. in linguistics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in linguistics at New York University. He is currently the director of the Spanish in Boston Project, a federally-funded research initiative that investigates the sociolinguistic behavior of Spanish-speaking Bostonians. Erker has published research in several leading linguistic journals, and his work has been featured in the Boston Globe and on NPR. He has investigated a broad range of phenomena, ranging from microlinguistic variation in speech sounds to macrolinguistic trends such as the intergenerational maintenance of immigrant languages. His most recent work, published in the journal Language Variation and Change, examines filled pauses as a site of contact-induced language change. Results show that Spanish speakers with more life experience in the United States fill pauses in speech differently than recent arrivals to the U.S. Those with more experience in the U.S. prefer to fill pauses with ah, locating their behavior in between that of newly arrived Spanish speakers – who prefer eh – and monolingual English speakers – who prefer to fill pauses with uh or um. These findings help shed light on the nature of contact-induced language change and help to illuminate the organization of multilingual minds.


For more than twenty-five years, Michael Jager has been creating and collaborating with brands, driven by the idea that design distinction matters most. His groundbreaking work with JDK Design continues with Solidarity of Unbridled Labour, a studio that conceptualizes and realizes ideas that help guide and create culture and positive change within it. The belief in a Living Brand® permeates all that Solidarity Design does, providing both creative freedom and discipline, allowing the studio to integrate design services around a clear, fundamental idea of what the brand means (rationally, emotionally, culturally) to its intended audiences. Working with internal and external partners, Michael has helped to create proprietary processes, experiences, and exploratory environments like the Collaboratory, Exquisite Corpse Artsite, and Iskra Print Collective. Guided by Ezra Pound’s simply but elegantly stated principle, “Make it new,” his collaborative output for a multitude of today’s most recognizable and relevant brands—including Burton Snowboards, Microsoft’s Xbox, Nike, Levi’s, Phish, MTV, Virgin, Lululemon, Yara, Seventh Generation, and Patagonia—is recognized worldwide by design magazines, books, blogs, competitions, exhibitions, and his peers. Michael speaks internationally and regularly serves as a judge at design competitions (such as the Mohawk Show 12 and the One Show Design). He is an ambassador for 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the environment that was founded by Patagonia’s Yvon Choinard and Chris Matthews of Blue Ribbon Flies. Through Solidarity’s own brand-design incubation platform, Michael has helped create unique home, sport, and lifestyle brands, such as Mamava and Maglianero. He is also the cofounder of the Karma Bird House, a creative-economy coworking space, now home to more than 60 inspiring entrepreneurial entities. The AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) awarded Michael its first Fellow Award in Vermont, honoring him for his mentoring, community building, and advocacy in design. Michael lives in Burlington, Vermont, USA.


Nia Robinson ’19 is a junior Sociology major from Chicago. Over the past almost two and a half years, she has served as a student member of the community judicial board, co-president of the Black Student Union, opinions editorial board member, AFC student intern and fellow, member of Poor Form Poetry, volunteer at Mary Hogan, and loyal viewer of Vermont’s sunsets. When she isn’t speaking, you can usually find her at crossroads, writing poems, or just trying to figure life out.

At home, she has an eight-year-old brother and eleven-year-old sister whose presence alone give her energy. Having been able to watch her parents raise her siblings has been both a blessing and a learning experience. From that, and writers like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, she has understood the importance of realizing we already have the answers we need. Whether it be historical, emotional, or generational, there is a memory that keeps returning to us. In the words of her former African-American Literature teacher, April Coleman, “Everything you have is everything you need.” Nia is excited to share her story about how she came to realize we are not as lost as we think we are.


State Representative Attica Scott serves Kentucky House District 41 where she is on the Education; Local Government; and Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committees; and State Government and Transportation Work Group during the interim session. She volunteered as an English immersion teacher in Taining County, Fujian Province, China in July 2015.

In 2010, Representative Scott graduated from the first class of Emerge Kentucky and was recognized as a Connector by Leadership Louisville. She was awarded the 2011 national “Woman of Vision” Award by the Ms. Foundation for Women. Representative Scott was a featured Daughter of Greatness at the Muhammad Ali Center in January 2013. In 2014, she helped pass pivotal legislation on Louisville Metro Council including a Ban the Box ordinance and the historic minimum wage ordinance, as well as a resolution to restore voting rights to Kentuckians.

In 2016, Representative Scott defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the state legislature. In 2017, Representative Scott was named to Essence Magazine’s list of #Woke100 women, became a Rise to Run Trailblazer and began serving on the Emerge Kentucky Board of Advisors.

Representative Scott provided leadership to a number of non-profit Board of Directors including Building Hope Kentucky, Women’s Network Commonwealth Institute for Policy Issues and Civic Engagement Board of Fellows, La Casita Center, Highlander Center for Research and Education “We Shall Overcome” Fund Advisory Board, New Directions Housing Corporation, Restorative Justice Louisville, National Organizers Alliance, Community Development Corporation at Greater Friendship Baptist Church, Hispanic/Latino Coalition of Louisville, and more.

Representative Scott is a certified anti-racism trainer through Crossroads Ministry and the Commission on Religion in Appalachia. Her proudest accomplishment is being a mom to Advocate and Ashanti.


The TEDxMiddlebury 2017 Conference was held on Saturday, November 11th, from 10: 00am to 1: 30pm in the Robison Hall, Mahaney Center for the Arts in Middlebury College.