Clinical brain engineer
With his research and specialized medical training, Alik Widge, MD, PhD is a mental health pioneer. With a background in computer science, biomedical engineering and psychiatry, his life’s work is to develop new technologies to treat severe and treatment-resistant mental illness. He hopes to both improve individual patients’ quality of life, and also improve the quality of clinical neuroscience research around the world. Widge’s goal is to develop next-generation technologies and early interventions that will be safe and effective for humans seeking help. His recent work has demonstrated new algorithms for closed-loop brain stimulation and other methods for rewiring the circuits within that are connected to mental illness.
Using her voice to create systems of safety and accountability, Nicole Matthews is a change agent in Minnesota and beyond. A descendent of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Matthews has spoken nationally and internationally about sexual violence and sex trafficking to create social awareness and promote policy and legislation. As the Executive Director for Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, and member of numerous committees and task forces, such as Minnesota's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's Task Force, her ultimate goal is to reclaim the traditional values that honor the sovereignty of Indigenous people, and eliminate gender-based violence. Being a Matriarch, proud mother and grandmother has only strengthened her resolve to create change and elevate the voices of Indigenous women.
A refugee from Cyprus, Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Ph.D. uses her design profession to help create communities where everyone can thrive. By researching the ways the design of the built environment intersects with culture and identity, she sheds light on how physical, mental, economic and social costs associated with displacement can carry on for generations. In her most recent book, “The Right to Home,”, Hadjiyanni uses the stories of Hmong, Somali, Mexican, Ojibwe and African American families in Minnesota to explore how the design of residential interiors can support or suppress peoples’ ability to thrive. As the founder of Culturally Enriched Communities, Hadjiyanni advocates for built environments that help eliminate health, income, and educational disparities. Her award-winning teaching pedagogies as a Professor of Interior Design at the University of Minnesota have been used to decolonize design education and nurture global citizens.
Spoken word artist
A celebrated 2016 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow, Tou SaiK Lee is a renowned Hmong hip hop and spoken word artist that uses lyrical poetry to revitalize his culture’s legacy. For the last 15 years, he has enriched the lives of generations through artist residencies at K-12 schools and other educational centers. Additionally, Lee’s passion for connection and engagement has further inspired him to develop the Unified Creative Learning (UCL) arts curriculum based on his songs. Not only has his musical craft served as a personal refuge and inspiration for Lee, the impact of his talent has also been recognized in several documentaries. With every line of poetry chanted, Lee preserves the legacy of his culture and strengthens the ties that bind youth and elders together within the Hmong community.