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"Access" took place on November 16th, 2014 at the Macaulay Honors College. 

TEDxCUNY 2014: Access

November 16th, 2014 at the Macaulay Honors College

The theme of our 2014 conference was Access. Access, a pillar of the CUNY philosophy, reflects the City University of New York's commitment to maintaining affordable higher education and a diverse academic environment. As CUNY continues to be an international leader in educational opportunity and affordability, Access is a theme both close to home and universal. 

TEDxCUNY explored how students, citizens, and humans interact with access in 4 different sessions. 


Access: Your Mind - TEDxCUNY will bring together cognitive scientists, engineers, philosophers, and teachers to explore how we all access our minds. Both an external and internal force, the mind is a powerful and curious instrument, and our speakers in this session will broadly explore the interactions of access and the mind.

Access: Your Community - The communities to which we belong are varied and diverse, material and elusive. Communities host the most powerful experiences of our lives. Through stories of travel, local adventure, and enlightenment, to grassroots movements and maintaining friendships, TEDxCUNY speakers will broadly explore the interactions of access and the communities we call home.  access their world, access their community, and access their future. Access will be examined in a diverse array of contexts. 

Access: Your World - The globe is in disarray, and it seems international communities have never been more disparate. Together with our diverse array of speakers, you'll explore the historical context of the crisis in Ukraine, how the cosmic universe is changing, and which forces are shaping the future of the global economy. We live in a world that is continuously shaped by external forces - the ideas of our speakers in this session will examine this from unique perspectives. 

Access: Your Future - Have you ever dreamed of the seemingly impossible? Have you every wished you were a part of something incredible? Are you a pioneer? In this session, meet incredible speakers who have done just that. From the first in their family to go to college, to the first person of their background to hold a certain job, these speakers embody looking to the future. These speakers predict trends, set the bar, and carve paths. They help others position themselves for success with both personal sacrifice and impressive accomplishments.

Meet Our Speakers

Don Lemon anchors CNN Newsroom during weekend prime-time and serves as a correspondent across CNN/U.S. programming. Based in the network’s New York bureau, Lemon joined CNN in September 2006. Lemon also serves as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College, teaching and participating in curriculum designed around new media. He earned a degree in broad- cast journalism from Brooklyn College and also attended Louisiana State University. 

Kimberly Yates is an actress and director. Some of her favorite projects include the LA Premiere of Elizabeth Meriwether’s The Mistakes Madeline Made (Beth), Richmond Shakespeare Festival: As You Like It (Celia), King Lear (Goneril), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena), and on film—Relatively Speaking (opposite Jim Parsons). You can hear her as a voice actress in anime features including Evangelion, Gunsmith Cats, and Burn Up Warriors. She is the Artistic Director of Moxie Street Picture Shows and proud member of the Theatre of Note.

Rajan Menon holds the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science at the City College of New York. He is also a Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a Global Ethics Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs. Until August 2012 he was the Monroe J. Rathbone Distinguished Professor of International Relations and chairman of the International Relations Department at Lehigh University. He has also taught at Vanderbilt and Columbia Universities.

Aakaash Varma is a junior at the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, and is part of the BA/MD program with SUNY Downstate Medical College. However, his interests extend beyond the sciences and he is completing a History major in addition to an English minor in the creative writing track. He is a recipient of the prestigious Rosen Fellow- ship at Brooklyn College, an experience which inspired his TEDx Talk, as well as the Treasurer of the Speech and Debate team at Brooklyn College.

Charles Liu is a professor of astrophysics at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island, and an associate with the Hayden Planetarium and Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.He received the 2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for his book One Universe: At Home In The Cosmos. More recently, he is the author of The Handy Astronomy Answer Book (2008, Visible Ink Press). He and his wife, who is way smarter than he is, have three children.

Darren Staloff is a Professor of American History at the City College of New York, CUNY. He received his BA, MA, and PhD from Columbia Universityand specializes in early American intellectual and political history. He is the author of several essays and articles as well as two books, The Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts and Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. He is the Director of the Hertog Scholars Program at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY.

Spiro Alexandratos is a Fulbright Scholar (Ecole des Mines, France), a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), and an associate editorof a journal published by the ACS, but, above all, he is just someone who has loved chemistry since the sixth grade and now lives at the intersection of chemistry and philosophy. Along with his research on the environmental remediation of water, he wonders: “Ti esti? What is? Can we know reality?” He invites you to wonder along with him.

Tim Decker is an internationally touring performance speed painter who performs at over 120 events a year.He has been featured on every major television network and regularly performs for fortune 500 companies and big name celebrities. In 2013, his paintings raised over $500,000 for various charities and he has had single paintings sell for as much as $70,000. His high- energy show combines music, art, humor, and audience participation. 

Lady Rizo aka Amelia Zirin-Brown is a NYC based cabaret star, composer, actor and performance artist. She won the inaugural Time Out London and Soho Theatre Award as well as the London Cabaret Award. She is a Grammy winner for a 2010 collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma on the Holiday album Songs of Joy and Peace. A recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship,she is currently Artist in Residence at HERE Arts Center creating a theatre piece entitled Soundstage with multi-media director Rob Roth that will debut in 2016. Her debut album is entitled Violet and available at

Sophia McGee is the Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at Queens College. She holds a Master’s Degree in Inter- national Affairs from the New School University. Her concentration was Conflict and Security with a regional specialization in the Middle East and a focus on the Israeli/ Palestinian Conflict. Ms. McGee has lectured and presented both on current affairs involving Israel, the United States, and the Palestinian Territories, as well as the use of innovative pedagogy to teach about the Israeli/ Palestinian Conflict.

Maura Lee Bee is a writer based out of New York City. She studies English and Media Studies at Queens College, with a focus on queer narrative. Her work has been featured in the How We See It... book series, a collection of independently published books whose proceeds benefit charities. With her theatrical background, she writes to stimulate the senses, manipulating language and form in order to do so. She is currently working on a collection of poetry from the LGBTQIA perspective. She also works in advocacy, teaching people how to create safe spaces for the LGBTQIA community, as well as expanding the nonprofit theatre group she co-founded, NPTC.

Tyler Alterman is a J.K. Watson Fellow, Goldsmith Scholar, and recent graduate of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College. Once a CUNY BA major in cognitive science and communications design, he has since combined these passions to co- author an upcomingbook on environmental psychology with the Earth Institute for Environmental Sustainability, design public health messaging under the president of Yale, and co-found The Think Tank, a science education nonprofit at the University of Chicago. Tyler now works as a crusader and movement builder for Effective Altruism.

Brian Kateman is a Reducetarian. He co-founded a growing community of individuals who are committed to eating less meat. He develops unique education programs at the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustain- ability and conducts research within the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology Department at Columbia University. Learn more about Reducetarian at

Sara Camnasio is an international student from Italy, pursuing her Bachelor's degree in physics and dance at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, where she is also a John P. McNulty scholar.. Following her childhood fascination with space and her dream of becoming an astronaut, she is also a junior astronomy researcher in the Brown Dwarfs in NYC group at the American Museum of Natural History. From promoting women's participation in science,to working on bridging the gap with the arts, Sara aims to make science less intimidating and more accessible. 



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