TEDx Manhattan College: A Year in Change

Photo by Victoria Hernandez, The Quadrangle

This week Manhattan College hosted a TEDx event. According to the TED website, the event was coordinated by Michael Cocce, who was a companion of Kelly Freeman, who was in charge of curation.

“Even though this TEDx event was independently organized, it is based in the TED format” Cocce said. These ideas could be shared within our community because of MC students and their dedication.

Ashkan Zandieh. Entrepreneur, CEO

Photo by Victoria Hernandez, The Quadrangle

Ashkán Zandieh is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Falkon, the leading platform to discover properties and the people behind them. He is an entrepreneur, speaker, and sociological market researcher in commercial real estate.

Zandieh talked about how some cities succeed and others don’t, which he explained this through his expertise in biology. The processes he compared were endocytosis that is basically how cells/cities grow, mitosis that is how cells/cities split and apoptosis, how cells/cities die. In his talk, he shared graphics and interesting facts about the dying of some neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and the growing of others like Williamsburg.


Andrew Skotnicki. Professor, Author

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Andrew Skotnicki, professor in the religious studies department at MC, is the founder and director of Engaging, Educating, and Empowering Means Change (E3MC), a partnership between MC and the New York City of Department of Corrections, in which men and women incarcerated on Rikers Island take an accredited college course with MC students.

Upon successful completion of the course, the incarcerated students are given the opportunity to continue, and hopefully complete, their college education at our main campus upon release from confinement completely for free. Skotnicki ended the TEDx event with an amazing talk about inequality.

“They’re not a world away, just a stop in the subway”, he kept telling the audience as he continued with his powerful talk that even made some cry. By taking students to the jail to take the class, he wanted them to see “the prisoners were hungry for a life of fulfillment.”

His idea about social engineering is to build bridges between communities so they could help one another and not segregate one another. He refers to this as a quiet revolution that has started between the Uptown Manhattan apartment and the Bronx.

Skotnicki told the story of a man that was released from prison and then admitted to MC, “He had no idea he was smart,” Skotnicki said, but “admissions at MC took a chance on him” and gave him the opportunity.


Lois Harr. Professor, Community Organizer

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Lois Harr has worked at Manhattan College since 1998 where she serves as the Director of Campus Ministry & Social Action. Recently she was appointed an Assistant Vice President in the Student Life Division.

In addition to her administrative duties at the College, Lois teaches a course in Religious Studies. Lois Harr shared with the audience her perspective on how wisdom is not the accumulation of data but rather the accumulation of experiences.

Having encounters and reflecting on them afterwards should be the ultimate goal because wisdom lies in “getting up and getting out there.”

She shared her experiences in Ecuador and how she learned about water consumption, family values and basic needs in South America not by reading about them but by living and experiencing them on her trip.


Jeffrey Rappaport. Professor, Geo-Scientist

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Jeffrey Rappaport, professor of the science department, is a life-long geo-science educator who specializes in dynamic teaching, innovative lab techniques, integrated computer technology strategies, and astrophotography imaging.

Rappaport explained climate change by tying a knot into a rope, and then trying to free it. “It takes time and one has to be patient,” he said.

He then explained the globe and said that “even though countries have boundaries, the atmosphere is shared,” which makes climate change a topic for all of us to be concerned about. He then incited attendants to use their bikes everywhere in order to reduce gas emissions and be able to contribute to the survival of the planet we live in.


Carolyn Predmore. Professor, Author

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Carolyn E. Predmore, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at MC. Her research interests cover entrepreneurship, innovation and creative perceptions of ethical issues. While she was on a Lasallian conference, a Bethlehem University professor asked her if she could help graduates in Palestine get a job, and she said yes.

Even though she did not have any previous experience, she was able to develop a program to create jobs on the internet. “It only takes innovation and creativity,” she said.

Predmore values diversity of all kinds, because according to her “diverse groups do better.” Predmore also talked about how education should be based more in creativity and practical application rather than the standardized lecture, with the “sit down and talk” format. Her goal is to provide “One more job, one person at a time.”


River Castelonia. Student, Entrepreneur

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River Castelonia currently studies mechanical engineering at MC and specializes in NX Unigraphics modeling and particle physics. He helped to co-found Havenlabs, a non-profit that designs custom 3D printed prosthetics for disabled veterans in the New York area.

River Castelonia shared the story of how, after failing several classes in his previous college and being told by others that he was not going to make it, he didn’t let that define him.

He then went on to tell the story of his young cousin, who had just gotten an A on his exam, and went to his mom (River’s aunt) and asked her if he was “smart like River,” it was then that Castelonia realized he had succeeded amongst it all.

He ended up his speech asking the audience, “If you fail once, would you let that make you a failure?” and inciting others to believe in their own dreams, no matter what anyone says.



Brian Beaulieu. Senior Sales Representative

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Brian Beaulieu has spent the past 18 years as a Sales Representative for Olympus Surgical America. His position takes him into the Operating Room where he provides education and direction for surgical products, real time during surgery.

Beaulieu began his talk with saying he had no idea what a TED talk was but that he was honored to have been invited. Afterwards, he shared that as a salesman, he gets told ‘no’, “99 times out of a 100,” but instead he “works for that one time, that one opportunity.”

According to him, in order to change we need to follow three steps: be motivated either from inspiration or desperation.

When he was 10 years old, a teacher told him he would never amount to anything, a phrase that impacted his whole life. The second step is to plan; everyone needs direction and a path to follow, and lastly, to execute – which is often the hardest part.

Executing the task regardless of excuses is the recipe to be successful. As a lover of quotes, Beaulieu shared one of his favorites wit the audience: “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right” because “what makes the difference between being great and mediocre is just doing it,” Beaulieu said.

He challenged the audience to “put that time you spend binge watching Netflix into working on yourself.”


Kim Breden. Musician, Entrepreneur, Volunteer

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Kim Breden is the Chief Executive Muse of Be Mused Productions which specializes in educational entertainment. Kim has volunteered for the past 9 years with Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), dedicated to using the creative arts as a tool for social and cognitive transformation behind prison walls. Kim Breden talked about her unconventional and completely natural methods to win the battle against cancer. It all started with a healing process that included emotional, physical and a spiritual aspect. “I committed myself to perfect health and the universe conspired to give me all I needed” said Breden. She tried colon cleanses, yoga, detox teas, a healthier diet that included giving up meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine etc. After all, Breden decided to try what really helped her, anthroposophic medicine, better known as mistletoe therapy. Breden cured her cancer naturally without surgery. Just by improving her overall well being. She then finished her talk, saying that “navigating your fear must be part of your journey, you have to mindfully focus your own body in well being” Breden said.