Speakers 2012-2013

Scott Cowen is the 14th president of Tulane University. He also holds joint appointments as the Seymour S Goodman Memorial Professor of Business in Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and Professor of Economics in the School of Liberal Arts. President Barack Obama appointed him to the White House Council for Community Solutions, which will advise the President on the best ways to mobilize citizens, nonprofits, businesses and government to address community needs. In addition, President Cowen is the recipient of several national awards and honorary degrees from institutions such as Brown University, Yeshiva University, University of Connecticut, University of Notre Dame and Case Western Reserve University.

He is also the recipient of the 2009 Times-Picayune’s Loving Cup, which each year honors a New Orleanian who has worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of recognition or material reward. President Cowen was also honored in 2010 by New Orleans CityBusiness as one of the 30 “Driving Forces” in New Orleans in the last 30 years.

Dr. Jordan Karubian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University.  His community engagement, teaching, and research focus on understanding and reversing human-caused environmental degradation and associated loss of biodiversity.  Involvement of local residents lies at the heart of these efforts.  In South American rainforest, he has developed a multi-faceted program that blends scientific research with teaching, training, and capacity building to improve the welfare and conservation capacity of local residents.  In the Gulf of Mexico region, he works with students and community partners to research threatened species and habitats, and to promote environmental awareness to a range of audiences.  In threatened savannah habitats of Australia and Papua New Guinea, he melds research with training of students and local residents to address issues of conservation concern.  The common thread in all these projects is the integration of community engagement with more traditional scholarly activities to empower local residents to make informed environmental decision and act on them.  Dr. Karubian received his B.S. from University of California, San Diego and his M.S. and Ph.D. from University of Chicago.

B.B. St. Roman grew up in Kentucky, obtained a B.A. degree from Washington University in St. Louis, then moved to New York City in 1969.  There she became a sound recordist for documentary films, leading to 15 years of adventure in over 30 foreign countries. Some of her most memorable and influential life experiences occurred while meeting and filming Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, tribal chieftains in Africa and primitive shamans in the Himalayas.  In the early 1980s, when film shifted to video and sound recordists were often no longer needed, she became the road manager for New Orleans musician Dr. John and spent the next 10 years on the road with his band.  Frequent trips to New Orleans during those years convinced her that the French Quarter was the ideal spot to eventually settle down, as it was the perfect combination of all that she especially admired in cities and countries around the world. Once she made that move in 1991, she became active in the community around her, which led her to realize the importance of police-community partnerships in maintaining safe and vibrant neighborhoods. She became (and still is) coordinator of a Neighborhood Watch group as well as board member of a non-profit organization which supports the police in her district.  In 2004 the New Orleans Police Department hired her to run their newly-formed Homeless Assistance Unit. She and her 10-passenger police van comprise the whole “unit” and she spends most days out driving around, answering calls for service, stopping to talk to homeless people and often transporting them to the services most helpful to them. Though she sometimes finds the work challenging, especially when there is no immediate solution for someone’s predicament, she loves being able to put all the spiritual teachings of Mother Teresa and others into real action, making a difference, however large or small, in people’s’ lives who really need a helping hand.

Lea Keal is a CEO of a small for-profit social enterprise. Her company uses regulatory savvy to create business initiatives. Lea’s company Sustainable Environmental Enterprise, L3C uses Green Finance to erode the vestiges of poverty. For-profit businesses that aim to alleviate poverty typify her principles; this ideal of ensuring opportunity for the common man guides the philosophy of her business venture and her understanding of the best practices of nation building. During her post law school tenure at Masry & Vititoe, the law firm featured in the film Erin Brockovich, Lea realized that much of Plaintiffs’ ligation is created by corporate irresponsibility. It was then she began to champion the adage in the case of for-profit businesses “there has to be a better way”. From her time at the law firm she set her eyes on New Orleans in the wake of the resultant floods of 2005 after hurricane Katrina. She began her current undertaking to improve the service delivery model for Gulf Coast residents to procure their electricity. Upon her arrival she found that energy and access thereto was one of the largest areas of societal disempowerment throughout the region.

Kevin Brown  is the Executive Director of Trinity Christian Community, a New Orleans-based organization that seeks to strengthen families and challenge youth through leadership opportunities, and economic and urban development. He has worked extensively in the field of mental health, He was previously the Director of Child and Adolescent Services at the Minirth-Meier Clinic, where he worked in hospitals, partial hospitalization programs and in outpatient family, individual and group counseling. During this time he was heard on the nationwide broadcast of the Minirth-Meier Clinic hour and hosted his own talk show “Talk It Out” in Chicago.  He has written four books.  He has spoken internationally on a variety of topics related to marriage, families and adolescents.

Because of Trinity Christian Community’s important community work Kevin has been awarded The President’s Call to Service Award, named Citizen of the Year by the United States Marshals Service and Meritorious Public Servant of the Year by the United States Justice Department.

Johanna Gilligan has worked in the field of food education for the last eight years. She began her career at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York in the Education Outreach department, where she taught inquiry-based plant science to students in Title 1 schools throughout Brooklyn. In 2006 she moved back to New Orleans and worked as the Educational Programs Manager with the New Orleans Food and Farm Network for four years. While with NOFFN she developed many educational programs for youth and adults related to cooking, gardening and health. She now works as a Food Education Consultant and has her own business, Clean Plate Projects, LLC. Developing the Grow Dat Youth Farm in collaboration with Tulane University and many additional partners has been one of the greatest joys of her career. Johanna is very excited to be one of four Urban Innovator Challenge Fellows in 2011/2012.

Laura Murphy is currently based in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development at Tulane University in New Orleans. She has appointments in the Payson Center for International Development and the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane. She teaches a range of courses on the intersection of population, environment, technology, and development.

Her research has focused on the livelihoods of the poor, the implications of the African HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the social shaping of technologies, such as mobile phones and kitchen gardens. She lives and works in New Orleans and Nairobi.

Anoop Jain is a graduate student at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in the Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences Department. He is one of the founders of the Humanure Power Project, which aims to provide sanitation and electricity to rural India by building community toilets and harnessing methane gas from human waste to produce electricity that will be distributed to the community via 12-volt batteries. The venture recently placed second in the Dell Social innovation challenge with a prize of $30,000. The Humanure Power Project’s goal is to create a sustainable model that can spread throughout India and the world.

Haley Burns is a sophomore from Huntsville, Alabama studying Political Science/International Relations and International Development. Haley was originally attracted to these programs in order to study about non-profits and global poverty alleviation, never expecting to apply her classroom curriculum to the city of New Orleans. During her summer as a Lend for America intern, Haley founded Fund 17. Fund 17 is a completely student-run microfinance institution working to end income inequality in all seventeen wards of New Orleans through educational and fiscal empowerment. Through Fund 17, Haley hopes not only to impact low-income New Orleanians, but to also create a sustainable and unique student-led model that will bridge the gap between Tulane’s campus and the city of New Orleans.

Dr. Vicki Mayer is a Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She founded MediaNOLA, a platform for preserving New Orleans’ diverse histories. The site serves as a web portal for the collection and presentation of histories of cultural production in New Orleans. The site is an interactive experience in writing and mapping cultural history to connect events through time and space. MediaNOLA is a collaborative effort with Tulane students, programmers, archivists and staff partnering with various nonprofits and archivists around the city.

Gabriella Runnels is a freshman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was drawn to Tulane because of its renowned public health program, and she will be majoring in Public Health and International Development. After she finishes school, Gabriella wants to work to advance maternal and child health in the developing world, with a special emphasis on educating girls. She feels right at home at Tulane, and she is so honored to be speaking at this year’s TEDxTU!

Sam Kiyomii Turner  is an undergraduate at Tulane. During high school in Brooklyn New York, Sam became involved in an organization called NY2NO, which brings New York high school students to New Orleans to help local students become young leaders. Sam works for Our School at Blair Grocery, a farm in the Lower Ninth Ward that works towards youth empowerment and urban food justice through agriculture.


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