x = independently organized TED event

Theme: What's Next

This event occurred on
August 29, 2015
10:00am - 4:00pm CDT
(UTC -5hrs)
Memphis, Tennessee
United States

Welcome to TEDxMemphis!

Ted is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks.

TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.TEDx are local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks from live speakers and video combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event.

TEDxMemphis is excited to bring a series of dynamic, engaging, and thought-provoking TEDTalks to the MidSouth on August 29.

We are excited to bring a diverse lineup of speakers to share ideas and spark conversation, and hopefully inspire collaboration and action across disciplines. The Memphis community is rich with ideas and talent that we want to showcase. TEDx gives this talent a magnified voice and — through shared TED Talk videos — an international stage. We’re excited to export some unique Memphis talks while also reaching an engaged local audience.

*Engaged* is exactly the perfect word when talking about the audience. Attendees at TEDxMemphis will feel as if they are an integral part of the event: that's because we strongly believe this.

University of Memphis Rose Theater
3720 Alumni Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee, 38152
United States
See more ­T­E­Dx­Memphis events


Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Cliff Goldmacher

In the music business for over twenty-five years, Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, engineer, author and educator. His songwriting collaborators include Grammy award-winning and multi-platinum selling artists Keb’ Mo’, Ke$ha, Lisa Loeb, Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, and Chris Barron (Lead singer of the Spin Doctors). Cliff’s songs have been cut by major label artists in genres ranging from country, pop and jazz to classical crossover. His music has also been used on NPR’s “This American Life” and in national advertising campaigns. Cliff’s song, "Till You Come To Me,” went to #1 on the jazz charts.

Derwin Sisnett

Derwin is the co-founder and CEO of Gestalt Community Schools (GCS), a charter management organization that develops and manages the growth of high-performing, community-based charter schools in Tennessee. In partnership with the Power Center CDC and the City of Memphis, GCS is redeveloping 43 acres of blighted property in the Hickory Hill community, transforming it into a mixed-use development anchored by its founding school, Power Center Academy. Derwin has earned a BA in Psychology from Emory University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Hollins University. Derwin is also a Pahara-Aspen Fellow and a Broad Academy Fellow.

Dr. Kathleen Gallagher

Kathleen (Kate) Gallagher, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist and early childhood professional, with over 30 years of experience teaching and leading early childhood programs. She is a Scientist at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Gallagher designs and evaluates approaches that elevate the development and wellbeing of young children, families, and early childhood professionals – particularly in the contexts of poverty, adversity and disability. Her research and professional guidance have been published in books, journals and media publications. Dr. Gallagher’s ability to communicate the importance of investing in high quality early care and education are manifest in speaking engagements before a wide range of audiences, including UNC’s most popular TED talk of 2015: “The Healthy Child: Assembly Required.”

Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes

Loretta Jackson-Hayes, Ph.Dd, is Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at Rhodes College. She is a native of Coldwater, Miss. who earned a B.S. degree in Chemistry from Tougaloo College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Dr. Jackson-Hayes joined the faculty of Rhodes College in the Department of Chemistry in 2003. Her scholarly work includes research on regulation of genes involved in lipid metabolism and genes required for fungal cell wall synthesis and maintenance during development. In her free time, Dr. Jackson-Hayes enjoys fishing, gardening, spending time with her family, and attending basketball and football games with her husband Ken, son Kendel, and daughter Naomi.

Dr. Sarah Petschonek

Dr. Sarah Petschonek is founder and CEO of Volunteer Odyssey. She founded Volunteer Odyssey based on two landmark projects. In 2012, Sarah began Mission Memphis: 30 consecutive days volunteering with 30 non-profits, chronicled on her blog, Confessions of a Volunteer. Afterwards, she launched Volunteer Bound – a cross-country volunteer tour researching volunteerism in 9 US cities. Volunteer Odyssey has grown to include 40+ non-profit partners, the most comprehensive Calendar of Volunteer Opportunities in Memphis and the country’s first virtual volunteer fair called Volio. Dr. Petschonek earned her PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, an MS and an MBA from the University of Memphis. Her academic research and work experience focused on employee satisfaction, employee well-being, organizational culture.

Dr. Scott Morris

Scott Morris, M.D., M.Div. is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Church Health Center, which opened in 1987 to provide primary health care to the low-income uninsured working people of Memphis. The center, an ecumenical health care ministry supported by the faith and medical communities, averages 30,000 patient visits per year. His dedication and vision led to the opening of the Hope Healing Center, where the best disease prevention efforts of medicine are combined with the pastoral and spiritual care of the faith community. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University, and M.D. from Emory University. He is a board certified family practice physician, an ordained United Methodist minister, and is the author of the book God, Health & Happiness.

Dr. Stacy L. Spencer

Dr. Stacy L. Spencer is arguably one of the country’s emerging pastoral leaders and visionaries. He serves as Senior Pastor for New Direction Christian Church. The man of humble beginnings now leads one of the country’s premier congregations with a membership of more than 9,000 members in four campuses in Memphis, Tenn., Holly Springs, Miss. and a network of affiliated ministries in Dutwya, South Africa. He earned a Doctorate of Divinity from Drew University, Madison, N.J. (1999), a Masters of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. (1993) and a Bachelor in Broadcast Communication, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Ky. (1990). Dr. Spencer is an accomplished author with books such as U-Turn: 12 Step Guide to Spiritual Transformation and Naked and Unashamed: The Journey Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage, his published daily devotional essay, 365 Meditations for Men by Men, and two sermons published in the 2001 African American Pulpit.

Ephie Ballard-Johnson

Ephie Ballard-Johnson is President and CEO of the Neighborhood Christian Centers (NCC), a nonprofit Christian organization that provides programs and assistance for 50,000 neighbors in need annually. Ephie was born in Memphis and, after graduating from Treadwell High School, attended the University of Memphis where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She has worked as an educator in the Memphis City School System and as Administrative Director of Neighborhood Christian Centers, Inc. After ten years as Administrative Director, she succeeded her mother and NCC founding director, JoeAnn Ballard, as President and CEO. Since that time, Ephie has spearheaded the creation of the Early Childhood Brain Development program, Operation Smart Child, in partnership with The Urban Childhood Institute, and organized the First Ladies for Healthy Babies Network with the support of Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam.

Gabriel Fotsing

Gabriel Fotsing is the Founder and CEO of The College Initiative. He is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the organization and plays a lead role in its development and partnership relationship management activities. Gabriel acts as the primary representative of The College Initiative to the external community, including funders, partners, and peer organizations. In 2010, Gabriel received a B.A. from Harvard University where he studied Economics and French.

Jason Wexler

Jason Wexler is the President of Business Operations for the Memphis Grizzlies and FedEx Forum. Wexler has primary leadership responsibility for all aspects of the business, including ticket sales and service, partnership marketing, arena operations, marketing communications and broadcast, community engagement and general operations. Wexler joined the organization as Chief Operating Officer in April 2013. Previously, he served as President of the Henry Turley Company where he was responsible for spearheading efforts to realize compelling city center development initiatives and managing the day-to-day operations of a full service real estate firm. Prior to that, Wexler founded the real estate development and investment firm Greenhat Partners LLC, and was a partner in the Memphis law firm of Hanover, Walsh, Jalenak and Blair, PLLC. Wexler graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and from Columbia Law School.

Katie Smythe

Katie Smythe is the founder, CEO and Artistic Director for New Ballet Ensemble. At the Los Angeles Music Center and through volunteerism in New York public schools, Katie cultivated a vision to align with educators and human service organizations to reach children on the margins in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn. She founded New Ballet Ensemble in 2003 to build an arts bridge across racial and economic barriers. Since 2008, 100 percent of NBE graduates have attended college, with five seniors earning $700,000 in college scholarships in 2015. Acclaimed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, Katie’s creative work, Nut ReMix ™, Harlem at the John F. Kennedy Center and The Swan© with Lil Buck have brought international attention to this inclusive Memphis organization. In 2014, Katie accepted the National Youth Program Award (President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities) from Michelle Obama.

Kimbal Musk

Kimbal Musk is an investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a chef. He is on the board for Tesla Motors, SpaceX, The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and Chipotle Mexican Grill. His personal mission is to get communities rapidly thriving by improving every part of the food culture. Kimbal is a co-founder of The Kitchen, a growing family of restaurants that sources directly from local farmers, stimulating the local farm economy to the tune of millions of dollars a year, and creating quality jobs. In 2011, Kimbal co-founded The Kitchen Community, a complementary non-profit organization. The Kitchen Community has already built 225 Learning Gardens reaching over 135,000 students every school day, improving their vegetable intake and academic achievements. Follow Kimbal on Twitter @Kimbal.

Lt. Col. Jon S. Jackson

Lieutenant Colonel Jon S. Jackson is currently assigned to the Office of Military Commissions, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel. He is the Deputy Chief Defense Counsel for all assigned Army personnel and lead military defense counsel for Majid Khan. He previously represented Omar Khadr and Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi. Prior to his assignment at the Office of Military Commissions, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel; he was the Deputy Chief for the United States Army’s Defense Counsel Assistance Program (DCAP). Lieutenant Colonel Jackson was commissioned a second lieutenant through Army ROTC from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. He then earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis School of Law. He also holds a Masters of Law degree with a specialty in criminal law from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School where he was named the trial advocacy honor graduate.

Marco Pavé

Memphis native Marco Pavé sits at the intersection of hip-hop, arts communities, technology, and local activism, harnessing the power of music to transform his city. He is Project Pat meets KRS-One, spitting an urban country consciousness with a confidence that could only emerge from coming of age as a Muslim Millennial in North Memphis. As the leader of Radio Rahim Music, Marco is committed to his community as well as his music. He uses his music as a pathway to build partnerships and influence how organizations engage with Memphis communities through art. Memphis’ robust arts community is poised to empower diverse community members to identify local issues and develop ongoing solutions. He has partnered with Memphis grassroots organizations, government officials, schools and universities, activists, and local entrepreneurs on various projects that have transformed how the city of Memphis tackles such issues as literacy and economic development.

Melissa Anderson Sweazy

Melissa Anderson Sweazy is an award-winning screenwriter, film and music video director, essayist, photographer, and mother living in Memphis, TN. (She has yet to win awards for mothering, but she could medal in making up bedtime songs on the fly.) She is a recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission grant, and her most recent film The Department of Signs and Magical Intervention is making the festival rounds, having its international debut at the Oaxaca Film Festival this fall. Her parenting/photography blog Thoroughly Modern Medusa was recognized by Blogger as a “blog of Note” (back when people still blogged) and you can see her movies and catch up on her sporadically updated adventures at

Robert B. Carter

Robert B. (Rob) Carter is Executive Vice President of FedEx Information Services and chief information officer of FedEx Corporation. He is a member of the five-person Executive Committee, which plans and executes the corporation’s strategic business activities. Carter is responsible for setting the technology direction of the FedEx applications, infrastructure, networks and data centers that provide around the clock and around the globe support for FedEx product offerings. He joined FedEx in 1993 and has over 30 years of systems development and implementation experience. Carter has been awarded many industry accolades, including, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2014 and 2010, Fortune Magazine’s Executive Dream Team, Information Week's Chief of the Year Award in 2000, 2001 and 2005, and a seven-time recipient of CIO Magazine’s 100 Award. Carter is also a charter inductee into the publication’s CIO Hall of Fame.

Organizing team




  • Anna Mullins
  • Warner Russell
  • Wilson Orr
    Senior Advisor/Sponsor liaison
  • Bentley Goodwin
    Speaker consultant
  • Robert Fudge
    Stage Design/Technical Consultant
  • Clay Smythe