2/23/23 | 7 PM


What ideas had us Facing Forward in 2023? We were asked to face realities moving forward, journey to what we imagine lies ahead, and plan for inevitabilities, and to not only face forward, but to move forward.

From nearly 300 speaker nominations, our TEDxTeam carefully curated an evening to appeal to a variety of interests. Thank you to all who joined us on 2/23/23 for seven talks by eight thought-provoking speakers.


Gust is the only professional drummer in the world with a certificate from the Polyvagal Institute as a Polyvagal-Informed Professional. He practices the clinical application of cutting-edge, nervous system science to drum performance. Adam focuses on identifying what happens when drummers find their “groove,” synchronizing brain/body and thought/feeling. Gust has hosted drum workshops at the Musicians Institute and performance workshops at the University of Southern California. He creates unique drum video content.


A technologist, entrepreneur and researcher at the University of Mississippi, Singh explores how culture-specific interpretation could be a key in developing balanced and ethical artificial intelligence (AI). Singh’s work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Harvard Smart Cities Accelerator, Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference, US State Department and the World Bank. For over a decade, Singh has carved a unique career path in software, higher education, journalism, and advocacy. As a civil rights advocate, he convinced a US House of Representative to back a bipartisan call to the FBI to track ethnic hate crimes. Singh was also part of the delegation invited to the White House for its first-ever briefing on Sikh civil rights issues in 2012. Singh is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Engineering at the University of Mississippi.


Sweet is a sociologist who explores the intricacies of community, culture and race, with a specific interest in the role of place and space. Through her work as a community engagement professional, she encourages exploring the unknown, making the unfamiliar familiar, and cultivating transformational relationships. Sweet has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice/Criminology from Hampton University, as well as a Master of Arts and Doctorate of Philosophy in Sociology from Louisiana State University.


Talk chosen for TEDx promotion by TED; delayed video publication

Having served 25 years as a Special Agent in the FBI, Bret Hood is very aware of how people fall down a slippery slope. Currently, Hood serves as an adjunct professor of corporate governance and ethics for the University of Virginia, a board member at Southern Illinois University’s Accounting School, and a faculty member for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. During his talk, Hood will show the audience how easy it is to deviate from ethical baselines but more importantly how to mitigate these unconscious processes to avoid making life-altering mistakes.


Talk chosen for TEDx promotion by TED; delayed publication

Wijayatunga (MBBS, MPhil, PhD, RDN) is an obesity researcher, registered dietitian nutritionist, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management at the University of Mississippi. She studies biobehavioral aspects of obesity and unhealthy lean (also known as skinny fat), as well as the role of diet and exercise in both conditions. Before coming to the United States for her PhD in Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University, Wijayatunga worked as a medical doctor and was a faculty member at the medical school of the University of Sri Jayewaredenepura in Sri Lanka. During her talk, Wijayatunga will explain the growing research around unhealthy lean and associated health risks.


Hafeli is an international speaker, author and advocate for mental health and suicide awareness in the workplace. Using his 37 years of industry experience, lived suicidal experience and doctoral research, Hafeli will lead the audience on his journey from adolescence to adulthood. He outlines how he has facilitated change in his organization’s culture when addressing mental health issues and raising suicide awareness, especially in the construction industry. He presents data from his Doctoral Candidacy research outlining relevant industry statistics and emphasizes: “It should be okay to say that I am not okay” in the workplace.


This duo of doctors will share their collaborative efforts to better understand plant responses to climate change. Yiwei Han is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Mississippi. Yongjian Qiu is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Han and Dr. Qiu collaborate closely on designing, manufacturing and implementing miniature and micro heaters that can be placed on the surface of young seedlings’ organs or inside individual plant cells. By fluctuating temperature and observing plant responses to heat change, they hope to uncover the mechanisms by which plant organs and cells coordinate a response to changing temperature.