Liahona Vaioleti is a current Freshman at the University of Arizona, where he is pursuing a Major in Engineering and a Minor in Spanish. Throughout high school, he competed in Speech & Debate and was named a State Champion, National Semi-Finalist, and the highest-ranked competitor in Duo Interpretation in Arizona upon graduation. He served as a Captain on his team, becoming the first in his Speech team’s history to reach 1000 NSDA Points while simultaneously training his underclassmen. Today, he continues to serve the Speech & Debate community as Tournament Judge, and he looks forward to maximizing every opportunity to use his background in Public Speaking to help others grow more confident on and off of the stage. He hopes to find more opportunities like TEDx to speak on ideas and issues throughout his community, and he looks forward to growing as both a speaker and student in the years to come.
Jennifer Carlson, PhD, a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, researches gun politics, culture and trauma in the United States. She writes on the politics of guns in American life. She is the author of three books—Citizen-Protectors (Oxford), Policing the Second Amendment (Princeton), and Merchants of the Right (Princeton)—and has published widely in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, Social Problems, Social Forces and Gender & Society. She is a frequent contributor to leading news outlets such as PBS, the New York Times, NPR, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. She is currently conducting National Science Foundation-funded research on gun violence survivors. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kai Lepley is a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona’s School of Geography, Development and Environment. He works at the confluence of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and resilient land use. Kai sees light in every aspect of his life. His research uses light through a remote sensing perspective to study multifunctional land use—agrivoltaics, agroforestry, urban agriculture, and PV+. As a NASA Space Grant Fellow, he brings the science of light into southern Arizona classrooms through project-based learning and remote sensing curriculum. As a documentary filmmaker and photographer, he captures light to communicate science and the intersections of human livelihoods and natural biodiversity. Kai hopes to make the human impact on Earth a positive one.
Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, and author of The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss. She directs the Grief, Loss and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab, which investigates the effects of grief on the brain and the body. O’Connor earned a doctorate from the University of Arizona in 2004 and completed a fellowship at UCLA. Following a faculty appointment at UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, she returned to the University of Arizona in 2012. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Psychological Science, and featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona. For more information go to https://www.maryfrancesoconnor.com
Meow or Never A Capella
Founded in 2008, Meow or Never A Capella's inception at the University of Arizona as a student-led group of various majors, ages and musical interests, no doubt contributes to the diversity of the ensemble's repertoire and close-knit personality. All of the arrangements that the group performs are completed by current or graduated members of the ensemble, and the group has a tradition of ending every set with their rendition of the University of Arizona's fight song, "Bear Down, Arizona!".
Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta, M.P.A., Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science, with joint appointments in the College of Public Health and the Global Change-Graduate Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Arizona. Using an environmental justice framework and participatory research methods, she investigates exposure pathways and communication strategies to visualize and translate environmental health research to action and achieve structural change.
21-year-old Patrick Robles is actively advocating and fighting for the community that built him. The undergraduate Student Body President of the University of Arizona, Patrick is a first-generation college student majoring in public management & policy with a minor in pre-law. Born and raised in the Southside of Tucson, Patrick is a proud product of the Sunnyside Unified School District.
After graduating High School in 2019, he became the youngest staffer for then Pima County Supervisor Ramón Valadez where he helped lead the office in constituent services. Additionally, Patrick joined the Sunnyside Foundation Board as the youngest board member in foundation history raising money and community support for Tucson's Southside. In 2021, Patrick was the youngest member of the Pima County Attorney’s Office Senior Leadership team where he served in the role of Community Outreach Coordinator and actively engaged in underserved communities in criminal justice reform efforts.
Sam Watson is an Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Arizona School of Dance. He teaches jazz and modern dance techniques, choreography composition, dance ensemble and lectures for dance history.
His creative work often merges reality with fantasy while pondering the thought of how the human psyche responds to their environment. Since joining the UA faculty in 1999, Watson has created many choreographic works including: SideShow, a full length interactive site-specific experience, Tales and Rhymes, based on the oddities of the Grimm Brother’s Tales and The Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and contributed choreography for Broadway/Film actress and singer, Liz Callaway for An Evening with Liz Callaway at the UofA Stevie Eller Dance Theater.
Watson’s choreography has been in the repertoire of companies including, Giordano Dance Chicago, River North Dance Company, Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Ohio Ballet, Ballet Tucson, Big Muddy Dance Company, and Masashi Action Machine in Japan. His own dance troupe, WatsOnDance, was featured at the Jazz World Congress in Washington D.C., Wiesbaden, Germany and Nagoya Japan as well as touring the United States, Europe, and Guam. The documentary film, Oh Watson, was created in 2010 by cinematographer/director Christopher Wright which chronicles Watson’s choreography featured at the Santa Fe Dance Festival.
In addition to his work at the U of A, Sam has traveled yearly to Europe as a guest teacher/choreographer for over 30 years. Currently, he teaches in workshops, seminars and international dance festivals in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.