Name: Alexandra Tarzikhan
Age: 24
Gender Pronouns: She/her


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am in my last year of law school. I am completing a dual degree in law and a masters in public health between Northeastern University School of Law and Tufts University School of Medicine.

What do you consider home?
Aleppo, Syria but since I cannot go back home physically, I now think of home as a place where my friends and family are reunited.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
To raise awareness about the refugee crisis and humanize the issue rather than discussing it from a political or legal perspective.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My idea of a perfect day would consist of a productive day where I manage to finish all of the things I need to do for that day such as assignments, and errands, but also manage to work out, catch up with friends, and put a smile on someone's face.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
I was a pre-medical student and thought I wanted to go to medical school as an undergraduate. Then through my work experiences and the escalation of the war in Syria I realized that I could still get to the goal of saving lives through law and policy and decided on law school.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
During my first year of law school, a group of my classmates organized a secret santa gift exchange and I had received a receipt for a donation made to a nonprofit organization that helped Syrian refugees. It was truly a heartwarming gift.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
I am really excited to be speaking at TEDxTufts this year and to have some close friends from all over the world be present for it.

What is your pump up jam?
Stranger Things by Kygo and OneRepublic.

Name: Benya Kraus
Age: 22
Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I'm a senior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Urban Studies, fusing together my passions for governance and understanding how peace and conflict are expressed spatially. Most of my time at Tufts is spent serving as President of the TCU Senate, having served prior as the TCU Diversity & Community Affairs Officer. I'm also working at the Tufts Office of Campus Planning, where I've learned firsthand how important designing for community is.

What do you consider home?
Home is street noodles in Bangkok, Thailand and sweet corn on the cob in Waseca, Minnesota.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
Last semester, I pursued an independent study examining how urban design can be a peace-building tool in conflicted cities. At the same time, I was working with the Tufts Office of Campus Planning, as well as actualizing the platform I ran on for TCU President, which focused largely on rethinking social spaces. From so many different angles -- from the international to the hyper-local -- I was thinking about how people interact with their built environment, and how our physical surroundings influence the types of communities we build with one another. Speaking at TEDxTufts seemed like the perfect venue to synthesize all these different ideas, to blend the "big" ideas with the local realities we experience on campus, and to hopefully inspire others at Tufts and beyond to examine how we impact the international, the national, and the local, and to ask ourselves, "how can I design for peace?"

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Breakfast in bed, a Dave's Fresh Pasta sandwich for lunch, and my mom's Thai food for dinner (if she's not available, a dish from Rod Dee would do).

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
I keep a post-it note on the inside of my laptop everyday with a phrase by John Wesley, shared to me by my best friend Anna Del Castillo: 'Do Good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God.' It was shared to me during a time of serious self-doubt, and I turn to it each time I'm feeling lost, imbalanced, or guided away.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
After I found out I was to be the role of the understudy to the understudy of Clown #2 in my ballet studio's The Nutcracker in the first grade, my mom took me to Toys“R”Us amidst tears and got me a sand-colored stuffed dog I cleverly named Sandy. I still sleep with her to this day.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
Inspired by his TED talk, I'm currently reading If Mayors Ruled the World by Benjamin Barber, and am fascinated by the vision of a locally led approach to global governance.

What is your pump up jam?
The Tufts Amalgamates rendition of Slow Dancing in a Burning Room ft. Isaac Lasko

Name: Delia Perlov
Age: let’s not go into that!
Gender Pronouns: Female


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am preparing to get back to my research interests after several years spent writing a text book on Cosmology, and several personal projects. I am also looking forward to teaching a class at Tufts this summer called “ Cosmology for the Curious”.

What do you consider home?
Boston

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
I think that the notion that we may live in a multiverse is absolutely beautiful, so I want to share this worldview with as many people as possible. I love TED talks, and Tufts, and couldn’t think of a better platform to share these ideas.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
It has to start with an excellent cup of coffee, include time with my family, friends, a good workout, some time to tinker on the piano and hopefully learn something new.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
Although I have two children in College - I also have a child who is in Kindergarten!

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
Being accepted into the PhD program at Tufts university as a mother of a two year old and a three year old!

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
The tufts TEDx talk, the recent release of my first book and I’m going to a Sam Harris show soon!

What is your pump up jam?
I’m too old to even know what this means? Translation please?!!

Name: Ea Domke
Age: I had to think about this one for a few; biologically I guess I’m 36, thanks to hormone replacement therapy starting a second puberty I’m also somewhere around the age of 13, but emotionally I feel like I’m 17 again.
Gender Pronouns: She, Her, & Hers


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am a working artist and a Post Graduate Teaching Fellow at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. I am also an alumna; I graduated with my Master of Fine Arts from SMFA at Tufts in May of 2017.

What do you consider home?
I am from Iowa originally, but I consider Boston my home.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Hmm, a few quick things would be; I’m vegan, I love color theory, and since I’m a painter you would never guess it, but my eyes have a slight red and green color deficiency.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
I think the best gift I've ever received is the continued love and support, from some very wonderful people in my life, after I came out as transgender. The best gift I have ever given would probably be the year I asked my nephew what he wanted for Christmas and he told me hot wheels cars. I spent about eleven dollars on ten toy cars; after opening my gift, he immediately started to play with them, and refused to open any more presents. So, I feel like I won the best gift award from my nephew that Christmas.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
My estrogen level is up and my testosterone level is down, and that is super exciting for me! I am also working on my next artistic project, which deals with; transgender identity, the transwoman’s body, which is my body, transition, internalized emotional distress caused by social trauma, the negative physical manifestations caused by repeated traumas, and the triumph and joy of the transgender spirit.

What is your pump up jam?
I listen to so many different kinds of music every day that this is almost an impossible question. I feel like any music that I can dance to while painting in my studio, with an up tempo and great beat, could be my jam for the day.

Name: Jon Gillis
Age: 26
Gender Pronouns: He/His/Him


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I'm currently a MALD candidate at the Fletcher School focusing on Energy Policy.

What do you consider home?
I grew up right outside Washington, D.C., but I'm happy to be calling Somerville home now.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
After leaving the Marines last summer, I began to notice that many people, especially in cities, have very little interaction with the military. The public understanding of veterans is largely informed by movies and news articles, many of which tend to fit military personnel into the role of hero, villain, or victim. Those characterizations are not accurate, but they can have a major impact on how we interact with veterans, and even how we approach defense policy. Because Tufts is such an important school for International Relations and Public Policy, I am excited to get the chance to talk about the true, human side of the armed forces.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would start with a morning walk (the colder the better), a cup of coffee, and an episode of Jeopardy. Then I'd head to the climbing gym for a while, watch the Atlanta Falcons game, and end the night with friends at any bar with a good lager on tap and Dave Matthews Band on the radio.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
I never even thought about joining the military until my junior year of college. I actually graduated from Georgetown University before I enlisted. Infantry Marines come from all sorts of places!

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
My parents gave me a beautiful Martin acoustic guitar in 2005. Some of my best memories from high school, college, and the Marines are playing that guitar with friends.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
The Pentagon has been investigating UFO reports from Navy pilots. While I'm no scientist, I am a space geek, and I've loved following this story. It's doubtful that the aircraft in question have anything to do with aliens, but I'm holding out hope anyway.

What is your pump up jam?
At Least That's What You Said by Wilco. It starts out with a very somber intro, but it builds into a wild guitar rampage. It's always the first song I listen to on a run.

Name: Katie Hyten
Age: 29
Gender Pronouns: she, her, hers


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am an alumna of the Fletcher School (2014) and currently work at an organization called Essential Partners. I work with teams, organizations and communities as they navigate difficult moments and work together across differences in identity or perspective. And I run operations for the organization internally. I also work a bit on the side as a conflict resolution consultant.

What do you consider home?
I was raised in a military family, and moved all over when I was growing up. So I feel most at home when I'm around the people I love most: I love Boston, my mom's family is in Southern California and my dad's family is in Alabama. My nuclear family considers Colorado home right now, so that also feels like home for me.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
The first time course I took to build a skill in conflict resolution - rather than to build theoretical knowledge - shifted the way I approach my whole world: my career, my relationships, and my everyday interactions. This pivot has reverberated through everything - and has become the lens by which I view the world. My hope is that someday, it won't be such a phenomenon to teach people how to communicate just as much as we teach people what to communicate. And my hope is that someday, this TEDxTalk will be obvious and outdated. But until then, I want to share the shift I experienced with others, and encourage people to think intentionally about the way they set up conversations in their school, work, and home lives. For me, this is also particularly timely, as conversations across political differences and identities feel harder - and more essential - than ever.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I love the mountains; in a perfect day, I would be staying in a cabin in the mountains with the people I love most. And we would spend the day cooking, hiking, talking, and playing games.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
People assume that because I work in conflict resolution and with people all day, that I must be extroverted, empathetic, and driven by wanting people to get along. The truth is, I'm driven by outcome and results (and I'm actually quite introverted). I never considered myself a peacemaker. What I have discovered, though, is that by paying attention to people, their relationships, and yes, even their feelings - that we can improve outcomes and results as well.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
When I was really young, I was more of a tomboy (with the one glaring exception that I LOVED twirling in dresses). But I would spend my days climbing trees and reading and playing sports. Around this time, someone had given me a teddy bear where you could sew their clothes and build a teddy bear outfit. This poor teddy bear subsequently sat unused for a long while, as I had no interest in making clothes; but around Christmas, I decided I wanted to show my mom I loved her by making her something. But I had to be sneaky, and since I didn't have any money of my own, I decided I would make her a fully clothed teddy bear. I worked so hard after everyone went to bed to sow a little t-shirt, some buttons, and some pants. I worked until Christmas Eve and had to sneak downstairs to put the bear in her stocking before she woke up. I was so proud of that little bear's outfit, and it made me so happy to see my mom smile on Christmas morning at the little teddy bear sticking their head out of her stocking.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
I grew up around Alabama football. It is a BIG deal with my family, and the evening before I wrote this response, our team won the national championship! Which is exciting in and of itself, certainly. But what is more exciting to me about that game, is that we struggled in the first half - and in the second half, we brought in a true freshman backup quarterback and a freshman wide receiver. The whole team (including the benched quarterback) rallied around these freshmen during the biggest game of the year, and those freshmen led the team to a win in overtime. It was an amazing example of teamwork, servant leadership, and lifting up those below you.

What is your pump up jam?
Countdown by Beyonce!

Name: Mary Travers
Age: 22
Gender Pronouns: She series


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I’m a senior at Tufts, and in a few months I’ll be following in the footsteps of my brother Peter who graduated from here in 2012!

What do you consider home?
Princeton, New Jersey

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
Instead of talking about art in the context of Art History, TEDxTufts provides a platform for a community conversation that’s larger than any one discipline. I want to share the work I’ve done studying Medieval art objects in a way that conveys passion, but also relatability. I’m also excited to speak because it’s pretty out of my comfort zone.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Any day that starts with coffee and ends with a good book.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
I first applied to Tufts as a natural science major. Sophomore year when I switched to Art History, it felt like a different world. What I’ve realized is that the sciences are much more relatable to the humanities than department divisions make it feel. And the coolest moments and most memorable conversations I’ve had are ones that ignore disciplinary boundaries.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
My family spent hundreds of hours over the past four years travelling to my field hockey games. The support and time they put towards something I love so much was the most meaningful gift I’ve ever received. I am so thankful to have shared my career with them.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
I’m excited for next year. I have no idea what I’ll be doing, and I’ve loved my time at Tufts, but I’m feeling ready to graduate and explore a new time in life.

What is your pump up jam?
Anything off Watch the Throne or The Black Album

Name: Megan Zella Rounseville
Age: 34
Gender Pronouns: She, her


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am a PhD student at the Fletcher School. I study Development Economics and Impact Evaluation. I also work part time as an economist for the World Bank conducting research in Latin America. I mostly work in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru with national governments to design evaluations of programming that addresses poverty in some way.

What do you consider home?
Boston, grew up here.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
I am at a stage in my career where I feel like I have stories to share. Part of the joy I get out of my work is being able to go places and listen to so many people, about their experiences with poverty and the challenges they face. But part of the responsibility, that I believe comes with this work, is a commitment to make those stories heard by people that don’t have the opportunity to hear them.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I really am inspired by talking to people that are different from me. Some of the most fulfilling days have been hearing people’s stories whether that be with how they raise their young children, or with teenagers hearing about their hopes and dreams for their future. Also talking with people implementing programs on the ground hearing about what they are proud of that works and where they have questions about how to do things better. This is where I feel like I can contribute by designing evaluations that can answer their questions and turn many stories into data that can be used to make government programs work better for people. On a personal note, I always enjoy a good hike, a run outside, or paying in a pick-up soccer game.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
That my work and contribution is really shaped by a deep-seated belief that we are all the same in that we are all trying to do our best, do what we can in the world. That leads us on different paths but we are all on this journey to figure out how we can do that.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
Time. The time with family and friends, sharing moments big and small, little kid giggles and older folks sharing memories of the past. Time together is definitely the best gift I have received and shared with others.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
The connection that millennials are creating through political organizing and getting into the streets and into local community meetings to create change. We have so much work to do, and for a while it has felt like there weren’t many people willing to get involved. That seems to be changing and I am inspired by it!

What is your pump up jam?
Love me some Latin music! Una vaina loca by Fuego and also Cheerleader by OMI, Felix Jaehn

Name: Sam Usher
Age: 21
Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am a Senior studying Human Factors Engineering.

What do you consider home?
I grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, but I’ve also called Copenhagen, Denmark; Leadville, Colorado; and Jerusalem, Israel home at different points in my life.

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
I wanted to speak at TEDxTufts because advertising and marketing affects us every single day, and I think it’s important to be aware of the psychology and neuroscience that is being used to target consumers.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I don’t know exactly what my perfect day would look like, but it would definitely involve brunch, quality time with my friends, exploring a new place, and brie cheese.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
Just because I’m the one standing on stage doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily an expert - I’m just hoping to start a conversation on a topic that I think is super interesting and relevant. Also, I am horrified of public speaking!

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
The best gift I’ve ever received was tickets to see Book of Mormon - it was my first Broadway show!

What is your pump up jam?
I Wanna Get Better - RAC Mix by Bleachers

Name: Winnona DeSombre
Age: 22
Gender Pronouns: she/her/hers


What are you currently up to and what’s your Tufts affiliation?
I am a senior studying Computer Science and International Relations at Tufts - by the spring I will be enrolled part time and working at cyber security start up Recorded Future on their Threat Intelligence Team.

What do you consider home?
I grew up in Hong Kong, but I really consider Boston my home. Who knew I could grow so many roots here in 4 years?

Why did you want to speak at TEDxTufts?
Cyber security is my passion, and I think that the Tufts community has not had as much exposure to it as it has to other important subjects, although they're really starting to grow this field of study. Additionally, I've come across many individuals at Tufts who would love to know more about cyber security but don't understand what problems there are in the field, or what the field really has to offer. I hope to bring a little taste of some of the interesting problems that cyber security solves (and creates) through my talk, and hopefully get more individuals interested in learning more about the field.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Having the time to read a book, go for a walk from Davis to Central Square, get some work done (I'm a workaholic) and maybe knit a little.

What is something that you want your audience to know about you that they may not know already?
I think that it is incredibly important to know that, even though I am a CS major talking about Cyber Security, I had not touched computer code prior to college. I feel that many individuals look at Computer Science or Cyber Security as a field that they can never grasp - but like any other language, Computer Programming Languages are learned, and like many other humanities fields, computer history and lessons from previous cyber attacks are studied and memorized. I came to college wanting to be a diplomat - I never would have imagined that I would be studying Cyber Security, let alone giving a talk on it.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
A scarf - it was an incredibly thoughtful gift from someone who saw me wear the same scarf in class every day. Practical, stylish and keeps me warm through the terrible Boston winters.

What’s something that’s exciting you right now?
Honestly, graduating and seeing what the next chapter of my life will be like.

What is your pump up jam?
Timber by Kesha. I won't apologize for it.