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2015 TEDxUTA Speaker Information

Dr. Colleen Fitzgerald  

Presentation:  Back to the Future of Endangered Languages

Rapid globalization and technology that brings majority world languages into minority language homes threatens the survival of the estimated 6,000 to 7,000 languages worldwide.  Whether in Africa, Australia, the United States or beyond, tiny languages are endangered, with their survival often depending on the last elderly speakers.  Europe's endangered Irish language is a great story of a language reviving its prospects, but success stories of languages renewed and reclaimed abound, such as the Wampanoag language, spoken by the tribe reputed to have celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims.  The human spirit craves a connection to ancestors and the past, and heritage languages do just that, while breathing new life into the future.

Dr. Abu B Yilla

Presentation:  Disability Sport: The Future for Superior Sport Performance 

Dr. Yilla received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Texas Woman’s University, and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Nottingham, England and the University of Texas at Arlington. His research focus is the explication of the lives of individuals with disabilities, elite disability sport, and in particular, wheelchair basketball. He is a Paralympic medalist, coached national and international championships in wheelchair rugby and has won 19 national championships in wheelchair basketball (8 in Great Britain as a player; 6 as a player, and 5 as an administrator in the USA).

Dr. Michael Varner 

Presentation:  Skin that Speaks: the "talking drums" of Nigeria

Dr. Varner has been Director of Percussion at the University of Texas at Arlington for 34 years. He holds a degree in Music Education from Bowling Green State University, a Master’s in Performance from The University of Michigan, and a Doctorate in Performance from The University of North Texas. With a long history as an educator he has given presentations Internationally. He draws from 40 years experience performing repertoire to the highest standards. In 2014 he released his latest CD “reVelations” featuring his own compositions. Excerpts from Dr. Varner's performances can be seen on Youtube.

His interest in world music led to a sabbatical in Nigeria and “Study-Abroad” classes to Ghana. His article “Skin That Speaks” was published in the 2013 Percussive Notes Journal. He received a Grant to accept an invitation from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. He teaches all Percussion and world music courses at UTArlington and is a member of the Honor’s College Faculty, chosen recently as Honor’s faculty member of the Year. He has presented Percussion clinics in every state, Europe, and Japan and has over 20 commissioned compositions published internationally. He is an artist performer for Remo World Percussion, Vic Firth mallets, Yamaha drums, and Sabian cymbals. 

Ya’Ke Smith 

Presentation:  Creating Art From the Soul

Ya’Ke Smith, known for his unflinching and veracious style of storytelling, is a rising voice in independent cinema.

His films have received world-wide acclaim, screening and winning awards at over 80 film festivals. The Director’s Guild of America, the Student Academy Awards, HBO, Showtime, and the City of Buffalo, NY, which proclaimed February 23, 2013 as Ya’Ke Smith Day, have honored him. His short, Katrina’s Son, screened at over 40-film festivals and won 14 awards. The film was also eligible for the 2012 Academy Award in short filmmaking. His debut feature, WOLF, which NPR called “an impressive piece by a young director,” premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and has gone on to screen and win awards at festivals across North America. The film is now available for download via several Video-on-Demand outlets. His latest short, dawn., will make its broadcast premiere in February of 2015 on HBO.

Ya’Ke has been featured on NPR, CNN, HLN, Ebony Online, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Shadow&Act.

Ya’Ke graduated with his B.A. from the Communication Arts Department at the University of The Incarnate Word and his M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin’s film program. He is currently the Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor of Film at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Dr. Zdzislaw E. Musielak 

Presentation:  The Quirky Black Holes

Dr. Zdzislaw E. Musielak is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). He received his PhD degree in Physics from the University of Gdansk in Poland. Before joining the UTA faculty, he worked at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, M.I.T., NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He is the recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Prize and additional Humboldt Follow-up Research Awards. His research has focused on extra-solar planetary systems, the origin of dark matter and dark energy, black holes and formulation of fundamental theories of physics.

Seokjin Jeong 

Presentation:  Are you a bystander? You Must be Ashamed

Seokjin Jeong is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Texas Arlington. Dr. Jeong's research interests include school bullying, cyber deviant behaviors and evaluation of juvenile justice prevention/intervention.

Seehum Isa

Presentation:  Finding faith, When You're Born into Two Religions

Daughter of Nash and graciela isa. Her mother is from Mexico and father from Palestine. One older sister who just graduated from university of Texas at El Paso. She was Born here in Arlington but grew up in Orlando, Florida, Chicago, Illinois, and El Paso, Texas. A member of freshmen leaders on campus, students for justice of Palestine, leadership honors program, and film and video organization here at UTA.

Bhavik Patel

Presentaiton:  WTF? What The Frack? 

Bhavik is a senior majoring in Politcal Science. His interest is in the cross-section of law and public policy. He is the President of the Moot Court Team, a Student Congress Senator, a Toastmaster, and a Wrangler with an iconic giant foam cowboy hat. He strives to speak in a manner thats easy to understand but also informative.

Wasiu Lawal

Presentation:  Water as a friend and a Right

Wasiu is currently a Ph.D. student in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department

where he’s working on the development of treatment processes for the removal of persistent organic contaminants in water using nano particles.  Though he was born in the U.S., he lived in Nigeria for over 20 years before returning 9 years ago. 
He is currently the President of the Graduate Student Senate and is also active in a number of organizations off campus including the American Chemical Society.  Wasiu currently lives in Arlington Texas with his wife and is a big fan of the Arsenal soccer team and the Houston Texans.

John Jordan

Presentation:  The Making of The First Glass Electric Cello

John Jordan seeks to create the first ever glass electric cello, glass and wood blended together harmoniously to make melodies, this is is the focus of my Bachelor of fine arts exhibition and the culmination of my undergraduate Career. I would like to talk about the journey of making of the glass electric cello and how glass and music coexist, and end my talk by playing a piece I wrote on the cello about the cello.

Amit Kudtarkar

Presentation:  Designing the New Industrialism

Amit Kudtarkar is a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate at UTA. He grew up in Plano and started at UTA in 2012 quickly falling in love with UTA Racing. After 2 years of racing, in 2014 Amit had the once in a lifetime opportunity to work closely with the library in the creation of the new FabLab at UTA.

Interactive Session

Take advantage of networking with new friends, colleagues, or just other interesting people.  During these x2 thirty minute breaks the interactive session provides an opportunity for you to connect with speakers or interactive booths featuring exciting experiences and innovative ideas and maybe a few refreshments.  

Exhibitors include:

  • University Libraries Robots
  • University Libraries FabLab
  • UTA Glass
  • UTA Racing
  • Fine Arts Society of India
  • American Society for Quality, Section 1416
  • R.O.V.E.R. Society
  • UTA Linguistics Lab
  • Pre-Law Center
  • Graduate Student Senate
  • Unmanned Vehicle System Interest Group (UVSIG)


TEDxUTA is excited to have the opportunity to work with Pie Five Pizza Co. @piefivepizza on the UTA campus (501 Spaniolo Dr. Arlington, TX 76010) as they host the @TEDxUTA Afterparty immediately following the final presentation of ‪TEDxUTA‬ 2015.   Just because the final presentation is over doesn't mean you will need to stop the conversation. You will be able to keep it going. Everyone is welcome to attend, but attendees to the TEDxUTA conference will receive a special offer coupon in their attendee credentials. Also, while you are there enjoy live entertainment from local musician Chris Acosta.