top of page

TEDxCUNY 2015: Borders and                               Belonging

November 20th, 2015 at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center

TEDxCUNY 2015 explored the physical and socially constructed borders between peoples, places, and communities, as well as challenged how borders divide and unite us. What brings people together? What pushes them away? 

Diverse in age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, language, and interest, the CUNY community is composed of students, faculty, and staff from every background. Not only are CUNY students advocating against the prison-industrial complex, homelessness, and domestic violence, they are also at the front lines of the legislative battle to pass the DREAM Act in New York State. CUNY people are discovering new uses for the ultrasound, and simultaneously planting the seeds for the next great American company. Members of the CUNY community have won Fulbright awards, Rhodes Scholarships, National Science Foundation Fellowships, and Pulitzer Prizes; CUNY people are crossing borders literally, academically, and artistically. 

Meet Our Speakers

Erin Thompson is an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is America’s only full-time professor of art crime. She studies the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art. Currently, she is researching the ways in which terrorist groups sell and destroy antiquities in order to support their genocidal campaigns. She has discussed art crime topics in The New York Times and on CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera America, and the Freakonomics podcast. Her book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors was published in 2016.  

Sofia Ahsanuddin is a senior majoring in political science at the Coordinated BA/MD Program and the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College. Sofia is a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar and a Rosen Fellow. She has previously interned at the United Nations, NYU School of Medicine, and currently works at Weill Cornell Medicine. She has served as a delegate to the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2014. As an aspiring physician, medical anthropologist, and public health specialist, Sofia intends to specialize in global health and infectious diseases.

J.A. Strub is a student of economics at Hunter College and a lover of direct democracy, roast pork, and his piano. He is currently working on bringing Participatory Budgeting, a program by which members of a community can choose how to spend a portion of a budget, to campuses at the City University of New York.

Jess X Chen is a first generation Chinese-American poet, artist/activist, filmmaker. Her work exposes narratives of colonial trauma, Asian-American diaspora, and collective protest by connecting the violences between the female, queer, and colored body and the body of the Earth. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, her art and films have been featured in the Asian American International Film Festival, The United Nations Human Rights Council, The Huffington Post, The NY Times Headquarters, The Wing Luke Museum, Feministing, and more. 

Jill Bargonetti and her Hunter College students performed selections from ‘Choreographing Genomics’ a course that is part of the Biological Sciences Department at Hunter College. It is described as using ‘postmodern dance to model biological processes.’ Students explore the biological science of molecular genome information by viewing it through various artistic lenses, including dance and poetry. 

Jayne Raper is a principle investigator in the Department of Biological Sciences at Hunter College, where she has been since 2011. She is currently managing a program project (NSF/Gates) to generate transgenic cows that will be resistant to all forms of a lethal parasite, African trypanosome. Prior to joining CUNY she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Raper conducted her postdoctoral research at the ICP, Brussels, Belgium and at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on African trypanosomes. She earned her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge.

Robina Asti is a 94 year old World War II veteran with a passion for flying. She has lived in New York City all of her life. In 2012 Robina was denied survivor benefits through the Social Security Administration because as a transgender woman, they did not see her marriage to her husband Norwood as legal. With the help of Lambda Legal Robina not only was able to collect her survivor benefits but she helped to change the SSA’s policy regarding transgender people in the United States. 

Kathryn Rodriguez has worked on border, immigration, and human rights issues for more than 15 years. She has worked on farmworker struggles in Immokalee, Florida with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Woodburn, Oregon with PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste). She is the Missing Migrant Project Specialist at the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, handling case management for migrants reported missing by their families. She is also an Administrative Assistant with the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders. 

Rachel Stephenson is the University Director of the CUNY Service Corps and TheDream.US program and has worked in CUNY’s Office of Academic Affairs since 2009. Her professional history includes classroom teaching as well as the program design and implementation of high-quality, innovative youth development, continuing education, workforce development, and community service programs in New York City. Rachel holds a BA in English from Trinity University and a Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University. 

Marta Effinger-Crichlow is an interdisciplinary scholar and artist drawn to stories about black women and girls as well as migration and place. She is the author of “Staging Migrations Toward an American West: From Ida B. Wells to Rhodessa Jones.” She is Chair and Associate Professor of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology at the City University of New York (CUNY). Effinger-Crichlow received herPhD from Northwestern University. She is the recent recipient of a PSC-CUNY Grant for her documentary project "Little Sallie Walker.

Michel Karsouny is an artist with a background in Graphic design, Illustration, Fine Arts, Acting, and Music. He is proud to be born in Beirut, Lebanon, where he studied Graphic Design and Fine Arts, founded two design and illustration companies, and is a prominent voice over actor for the MENA region working with companies like Nike, L’Oreal and McDonalds. In 2013 he was voted one of Communicate Levant Magazine’s “30 Creatives Under 30”. Concerned with Middle Eastern issues such as sectarianism, anti-feminism and the binary understanding of the sexual experience, Michel held his controversial solo show entitled “Emporia” at ArtLab Gallery in Beirut in 2014. 

With roots in classical dance, Carissa Jocett Toro's acting debut was as lead in the Off-Broadway play Platanos Y Collard Greens.  A true leading lady, she has been featured as the starring role in both Repertorio Español's La Gringa and NYC indie feature film Empire Gypsy. She was also a principal performer in The American Mime Theatre for nearly a decade.  Her other credits include various commercials, voiceovers, web series, and notably Law & Order: SVU.  A few short-term goals: international photo-journalism, plant whispering, and polyglot singing.  

Sean DesVignes is a 2015 Beinecke Scholar and the author of “Take My Eyes To The Dry Cleaners” (evolNYC, 2014). A Cave Canem & Callaloo fellow, his honors include the Beatrice Dubin Rose Award and the Burton A. Goldberg Poetry Prize. He is a member of the Divine Fabrics Collective and a poetry editor at Kinfolks and shufPoetry. 

Aashna Shah graduated the Macaulay Honors College at City College with a Bachelors in computer science and minor in psychology. She is passionate about the intersection of the two fields and wants to use the power of and advancements in technology to make mental health care more effective and universal. She wants to raise awareness about mental illness and bring psychology therapy to low socioeconomic communities and developing countries. She is a Horace W. Goldsmith scholar, a recipient of the Bronx Science-CCNY scholarship, and a member of Tau Beta Pi/Golden Key International Honors Society.

Hila Tzipora Chase is a multicultural, NYC-born artist and scientist. Using their visual and performing arts background and their interdisciplinary bone, paleontology and biomechanics research, they work to dissolve the barriers between art and science. Hila is currently co-developing a movement called Outward Mind that aims to encourage empathetic interconnectedness through the use of play, deep imagination, nature education, interactive ritual, and collaborative art.

Jason Ramos is an aerially-delivered  firefighter. He has responded to fires from Alaska to Florida and nearly everywhere in between. Aerially delivered  firefighters, sometimes referred to as Smokejumpers/Helitack, are highly trained and specialized professionals who can parachute or rappel into remote areas to  fight forest  fires. They work independently in some of the most difficult terrain imaginable. They remain one of the oldest resources deployed by the fire service today.

2015 Art and Interactive Exhibits

Tina Jing Ru Shen

Lee Jacob Hilado

Shinnosuke Seto

Hila Tzipora Chase



The Healthy CUNY Initiative (HCI)


Caputron Medical Neurostimulation



Watch Now
bottom of page