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Blinn brings the innovation, energy of TED Talks to Bryan-College Station

TEDxBlinnCollege will feature six speakers coving topics that include leadership, health care and political discourse

June 16, 2016

For 133 years, Blinn College has been devoted to bringing new ideas to the forefront.

Blinn will continue that tradition on Friday, June 24, with the inaugural TEDxBlinnCollege, a TED event where live speakers spark deep discussion and bring exciting new ideas to the forefront.

Beginning at 1 p.m. in Room E-120 of the Bryan campus Student Center, Blinn College will host six 15-minute presentations covering a wide variety of topics, including leadership, political discourse and health care. The event will begin with a one-minute video explaining the TEDx concept and its theme, “Universal Exploration: Ideas Worth Spreading,” followed by two pre-recorded TED talks before the live presentations begin.

Admission is free and tickets are available at The live audience is limited to 100 attendees at a time, but Blinn will offer an overflow room with a live stream of the presentations, if necessary.

Speakers include Becky Benes, an entrepreneur and team leadership builder; Paul Hill, an educator and former NASA director of Mission Operations; Dr. Vincent Ohaju, trauma medical director at St. Joseph Regional Health Center; Dr. Jennifer Mercieca, historian; and Dr. Macharia Waruingi, physician and healthcare executive. The event will also include a performance by the Marian Anderson String Quartet, the first African American ensemble to win an international classical music competition.

“We sought out incredible people with unique ideas,” said Laurie Metcalf, TEDxBlinnCollege organizer and Blinn speech professor. “We actively sought out unusual ideas, new approaches and innovations, and that led us to our speakers.”

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, and today covers almost all topics, from science to business to global issues, in more than 100 languages.

“I love watching TED talks,” Metcalf said. “I use them in my public speaking classes because they serve as great examples, but they also offer great talks about communication itself, so they can be tremendously beneficial for my students.”


Dr. Vincent Ohaju: “Hearts for my Father’s Land”

Dr. Vincent OhajuDr. Vincent U. Ohaju is the trauma medical director at CHI St. Joseph Health Care System in Bryan, Texas. Prior to that, he was the associate chief for the Division of Surgery & Neuromuscular Services at Essentia Health (formerly St. Mary’s Medical Center) in Duluth, Minnesota. Dr. Ohaju is a physician champion for the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) and a course director for the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).

Ohaju received his medical degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He completed his internship and residency in general surgery at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, and fellowships in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He is board-certified in both general surgery and surgical critical care.

Ohaju is a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons. He has been the principal investigator for several clinical trials. He served as an adjunct professor for the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth, where he received the honor of Community Physician Faculty of the Year in 2007 and 2011.

Ohaju has been honored by peers and has been named “top doctor” seven consecutive years prior to his relocation by the Duluth Superior Magazine, a local publication. In 2015, he was appointed a clinical assistant professor for Texas A&M University.

Ohaju is a Paul Harris fellow and past vice president of the Lake Superior Medical Society. While in Minnesota, he was a member of the Minnesota Medical Association and the Minnesota Committee on Trauma. He serves as a consultant for the fundamental critical care support (FCCS) course from the Society of Critical Care Medicine. He is a member of several non-profit organizations, including Silver Creek Institute and a founding member of VOOM Foundation.

Becky Benes: “Creating Peace by Engaging Your Greatest Fear – THEM”

Becky BenesA visionary and a catalyst for change, Becky Benes helps global leaders and organizations build authentic, sustainable and profitable leadership teams through development workshops, retreats and virtual coaching programs. In working with her, organizations experience a decrease in overall stress, conflict and disharmony and an increase in productivity, motivation, profits and work/life balance.

Benes is the owner and operator of the Oneness of Life Global Leadership Development Center and the author of two books: “Oh My Chocolate God the Great Chocolatier” and “Melt Into Your Essence Meditation Journal and CD.” She writes a biweekly lifestyle and values column, Something to Consider, in the San Angelo Standard Times, and has been the keynote or breakout and retreat facilitator for a variety of business and leadership conferences, spiritual programs and interfaith conferences across the globe, including the All Ladies League World Women’s Economic Forum in New Delhi, India, earlier this year.

Benes was honored as a 2013 CMMS Income Achievement Award from the International Association of Women in Coaching and was a 2014 recipient of the Girl Scouts of Central Texas Women of Distinction Award for her work in transforming the vision and impact of area organizations. She has helped organizations raise over half a million dollars, expand their vision, implement change and authentically impact the lives of others.

Benes earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at Angelo State University and a Master of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University.

Paul Hill: “Do Deliberate Leadership Values Matter?”

Paul HillPaul Hill served as one of NASA’s leading rocket scientists for more than 25 years, including eight as director of Mission Operations at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

A former Blinn College lecturer and a third-generation graduate of Texas A&M University, Hill earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering. Following graduation, he worked in military satellite operations in the Air Force. Attaining the rank of captain, Hill served as an aerodynamics and aircraft performance instructor.

Hill began working for NASA in 1990 as a space station and space shuttle operations engineer, where he was a leader in the development of Space Station Freedom assembly operations and participated in every formal space station design review.

In 1996, he was appointed space shuttle and international space station flight director, and was responsible for the safe conduct of manned space flight missions, leading the team in flight preparation and execution from Mission Control. As flight director, he supported 24 shuttle and international space station missions.

Hill led the Space Shuttle Columbia accident investigation team responsible for detecting and locating early debris during re-entry, obtaining and analyzing all data collected by government agency sensors during entry and coordinating radar testing with the Air Force Research Laboratory. Most notably, he led the teams that developed methods to detect and repair shuttle damage in orbit and then was the Flight Director who led shuttle’s return-to-flight.

As an executive, Hill managed a $650 million, 3,000-employee enterprise that included Mission Control. While continuing space operations, he led initiatives that cut Mission Control’s operations costs in half and increased capability. He developed groundbreaking partnerships with commercial spacecraft manufacturers that resulted in NASA’s Mission Control providing commercial service to this new industry, and pioneered additional commercial partnerships to share aerospace-related facilities with other industries, further reducing NASA’s costs of doing business.

Hill has an unprecedented track record for evolving an established large organization into an aligned, high-performing senior leadership team, and has transformed a government organization into a competitive, customer- and market-focused enterprise by embracing corporate business rigor in financial and project management practices.

Dr. Jennifer R. Mercieca: “Be a Citizen, Not a Partisan”

Dr. Jennifer R. MerciecaDr. Jennifer Mercieca (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is an historian of American political discourse, especially discourses about citizenship, democracy and the presidency. Her scholarship combines American history with rhetorical and political theory in an effort to understand democratic practices.

Her citizenship research argues that current views of citizenship treat Americans mainly as partisans, which prevents them from acting for the common good. Her presidency research argues that we have heroic expectations for the presidency that are both unrealistic and unconstitutional and that these expectations burden the presidency. She is the author of “Founding Fictions” and co-editor of “The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency.”

Her essays have appeared in scholarly journals like “Rhetoric & Public Affairs,” “The Quarterly Journal of Speech,” and “Presidential Studies Quarterly.”

Mercieca teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on political communication, presidential rhetoric, activism, citizenship and the public sphere, social movements, rhetorical theory, and the history of American public discourse.

She has been honored with the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award.
Mercieca frequently appears as an expert commentator and as a consultant for news stories on politics and the presidency, especially issues related to demagoguery and the 2016 election. She has been interviewed by The New York Times, BBC World News, Huffington Post, Politico, and WPR, among many others.

Dr. Macharia Waruingi: “What is Global Health?”

Dr. Macharia WaruingiMacharia Waruingi is a physician and healthcare executive holding various positions in healthcare business, academia and research.

He founded and serves as president and CEO at Ustawi Biomedical Research Innovation and Industrial Centers of Africa, Inc. (UBRICA), a company focused on developing life science and health products in Africa. UBRICA sponsors investments in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, clinics and hospitals in the frontier market. In addition, the company sponsors investments in specialized real estate for life science and health care and invests in building “Sustainable One Health Communities” designed to overcome the grand challenge of global health.

Waruingi teaches courses, conducts academic research and supervises dissertation projects in the United States and Kenya, and has conducted and supervised research in medicine, health care management, finance, regulation, design, program implementation and monitoring, architecture, and the design of health care systems. He is a visiting scholar at the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University and a faculty fellow for the Center for Health Systems & Design. Waruingi also works with interdisciplinary teams at the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Center for Health Organization Transformation.

As an educator, Waruingi has extensive experience in advanced academic instruction, medicine, health care administration and global health, and holds expertise in managing, instructing and developing curricula for distance education programs using web-based technologies. He has conducted more than a hundred webinars and shared them through Ustawi Research Institute’s online portal.

Marian Anderson String Quartet: “Creating New and Diverse Audiences”

Marian Anderson String QuartetFirst violinist Marianne Henry has toured extensively as a founding member of the Marian Anderson String Quartet. A native of New Orleans, La., Henry holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. She received a second master’s degree in string quartet performance at the Shepherd School of Music in Houston.

Henry is a devoted teacher of violin and chamber music as well as a performer. She has served on the faculties of the Harlem School of the Arts in New York City, New York City College and California State University, Los Angeles. Henry has been a soloist on KUSC Radio’s “Sundays at Four,” a features soloist with the List-Glenn Festival Chamber Orchestra, the South-Central Chamber Orchestra and the Afro American Symphony. She has been involved in a myriad of other orchestra work, which includes Phantom of the Opera, the Academy Award Orchestra, and The American Music Awards.

Nicole Cherry, second violinist and a native of the Washington, D.C. area, discovered her dream job in music after hearing the Marian Anderson String Quartet perform nearly 20 years ago at the world-renowned Lincoln Performing Arts Center in New York City. A graduate of the Juilliard School with a Master of Music degree in violin performance, Cherry performs at concerts and educational seminars, exploring the essence of European classical music and collaborating with some of the world’s most established artists.

Noted for her ability to play in many styles, Cherry has shared the stage with a diverse list of esteemed artists such as members of the Audubon String Quartet, Cleveland String Quartet, Colorado String Quartet and famed pop diva Whitney Houston. Cherry has also toured internationally, performing and giving presentations throughout the world. In the United States, she has performed in such venues as the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. Her past performances in Europe, the Middle East and Asia include a tour as a featured soloist in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and South Africa.

A founding member of the Marian Anderson String Quartet, dedicated teacher and eloquent public speaker, violist Diedra Lawrence has shared her passion for chamber music through both her instrument and the spoken word. A native of New York City, Lawrence received her bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a master’s degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. She has held teaching positions at the City College of New York, the Bowdoin Music Festival and California State University, Los Angeles. Lawrence has been a guest artist with the Southwest Chamber Ensemble, performed as a concerto soloist for both the List-Glenn Chamber Music festival and the Symphony Camerata, and has perform live on KUSC Radio’s “Sundays at Four.” She has also been a grant panelist for the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.

Prudence McDaniel, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Drake University, Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music, and an artist diploma from Dequesne University. McDaniel has performed as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician throughout the United States and Portugal. Through participation in the Minority Orchestral Fellowship Program, McDaniel was a section cellist with both the Houston and New York Philharmonic Orchestras. She has also been principal cellist with River Cities Symphony Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and an Associate member of the Columbus Symphony.