2016 Speakers

Adam J. Williams

Adam J. Williams is an Erie, PA native, a Penn State Behrend alumnus, and a semi-professional beer drinker. As an attorney, he represents companies of all shapes and sizes. He also represents individuals in a variety of lawsuits and real estate transactions. His TED Talk will take a traditional concept from economics (i.e., the network economy) and apply it to an unlikely industry (i.e., microbreweries). By working together, small brewers are able to compete with multi-national breweries. Adam would like people to consider the idea that collaboration can be a new way to achieve a monopoly. Perhaps cut-throat competition is not the path to growth that the experts have always assumed.

Adam earned his law degree and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.  He spent time working at a Big 4 accounting firm, and clerked for a trial court Judge in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas before entering private practice. Since he started his practice, he has had the privilege of representing some of Erie’s largest and most prominent companies, as well as brand new startups with big dreams.

Dr. Arpan Yagnik

'Action inspired by creativity’ is Dr. Arpan Yagnik’s mantra. A creative and critical thinker, Dr. Yagnik is a natural teacher and therefore has been a positive influence on professionals and his students. He is a determined professor who believes nothing is out of reach for his students and inspires conversations that enables students to reach their goals. Dr. Yagnik is a native of Ahmedabad, India and currently resides in the United States. He is a recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his contributions in the academia, corporate sector, and community through his scholarship, teaching, consulting and involvement. What sets him apart is not his degree, designation or an award, its his attitude and approach to every minor aspect of life. He enjoys sports, dance, and creative aerobics. Dr. Yagnik was first introduced to Creative Aerobics in 2006 when he was a student. After a decade, he teaches the same at Penn State University. Creative Aerobics is a radical new way to speed up the creative process. Creative Aerobics uses four mental exercises that develop elasticity between the left and the right brain - the analytical and creative sides - allowing them access to solutions outside their present problem-solving techniques. Key features of this technique are: (1) it is process driven and participative (2) it increases productivity of ideas, without anxiety; (3) it is rooted in what participants do on a regular basis. Creative Aerobics is a useful concept for individuals who wish to explore creativity within themselves and even more useful for Ad agencies that are striving to deliver creatively crafted output in limited time.

Ashley White

Ashley is a psychology major in her second year at Penn State Behrend. She is also an assistant manager for Vector Marketing Corporation, where she will be opening and running an office in Texas this upcoming summer in between school years. Her entire life has been centered around setting and achieving goals and creating a vision to strive for. It's because of this mentality that she's been able to grow so much in her short amount of time here on earth so far. She feels that she is neither the smartest nor the most talented of her peers, and she is certainly not done growing. Her ability to succeed is directly correlated with that of her parents, mentors, colleagues, and her fiancé. They all constantly remind her of how far she can go, and that's why, during her speech, she will discuss the reasons why a majority of people do not achieve their dreams, and then give them reasons to try. 

Jason LeVasseur

Jason LeVasseur is the most awarded music performer in the history of campus entertainment. He is the winner of 18 performance awards including “Male Performer of The Year”, “Solo Performer of The Year”, and “Music Performer of The Year”. Campus Activities Magazine recently named Jason as one of “top 5 most impressive artists in the last quarter century”. He is a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, drummer, guitarist, songwriter, recording artist, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project® - a series of creative student leadership development programs designed for students of all ages. When not on tour he can be found in Nashville, TN - at thrift stores looking for funny coffee mugs, bouncing on the trampoline in the back yard with his daughters, or lounging on the front porch with his two dogs, Gobi and Scrappy.  For more info please visit www.JasonLeVasseur.com


Joel Hunt

Joel Hunt is a composer and performer of algorithmic computer music and interactive electroacoustic music. His compositions have been performed at electronic music festivals throughout the world, including the International Computer Music Conference (Athens, Greece), New York City Electronic Music Festival, Electronic Music Midwest (Kansas City), Primavera Festival of Contemporary Arts and Digital Media (Santa Barbara), and the California Electronic Music Exchange Concert Series (Los Angeles). Joel is a Lecturer in Music and Digital Media, Arts, and Technology at Penn State Behrend. He teaches courses in music theory, electroacoustic music, digital music production, computer-aided music composition, and film music.

Yuanheng (Arthur) Wang

Arthur comes from Kunming, China, and is currently the only international student majoring in English at Penn State Behrend. He serves as the ESL Teaching Assistant at Behrend's English Language Learner’s Program, providing instructional and tutorial support to the College's growing International and New American students in their academic English skills.

Because of his interest in the intersections among language acquisition, instructional communication, and literary studies in a higher education environment, Arthur has given multiple presentations at different academic and professional conferences both in the states and in China, including the Gender Conferences at Penn State Behrend and the National Secondary Teacher’s Training Program at Yunnan Normal University, China. His co-authored book, titled The Scenery that Never Ends: Ideas and Practices of Zhou Lirong, A ‘Textured‘ Chinese Education, examines the pedagogical value of combining a Chinese Literature and Culture curriculum with a Chinese Language curriculum to better teach China’s secondary school students, and has been published by SiChuan University in 2014. His other scholarly publications can also be found in The Communication of Chinese Teaching. Currently, he is developing a small corpus linguistic study identifying the writing differences among Chinese leaners from different educational backgrounds so that improved ESL methods and materials can be developed. Arthur’s academic and serviceaccomplishment is recognized by the university-wide W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award (2016), the Rose Cologne Keystone Citizen Award (2015), and the college-wide Irvin H. Kochel Award (2015).

In “Thinking Beyond Borders: A Cross-Lingual Experience,” which is his presentation for the PSUErie TEDx conference, Arthur aims to combine research and experience to illuminate what it means to be a bilingual student in a monolingual English-speaking environment. He hopes to provide his audiences with a cross-lingual perspective in balancing the borderland boundary that separates individuals across the globe.

Amanda Pieper

Amanda Pieper is a thinker, an educator, and a lover of learning. Since graduating from Penn State Behrend in 2001, she has explored a number of roles and challenges across the world including teaching English in South Korea, serving as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in the West Indies, and working at various non-profits across the US. After finishing her MBA at Penn State Behrend in 2006, she started a career as a consultant with one of the country’s leading consulting firms. She has since changed firms and moved from Washington DC to Atlanta, GA.  It was during her tenure at these various top consulting firms that she started noticing the differences between her male and female new-hire colleagues. Watching their interactions in the work force and how they grew and developed over time, made her ask, “why?”  She’s an advocate for women’s rights and encourages young women to be confident self-promoters. She currently lives outside of Atlanta with her partner and 2.5 young children.

Bobby Audley

Bobby Audley has worked with thousands of students and professionals across the country as a speaker, teambuilding facilitator, and trainer. Bobby began his career working in higher education as an Orientation and Leadership Specialist, and spent 3 years working for Project Ascent. In January 2016 Bobby gave his first TEDx talk titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Do Your Best.” He is active in his local business community serving as the coordinator of a non-profit Entrepreneur Center, and he is an active member of his alma mater’s Alumni Board.

At TEDxPSUErie Bobby will challenge you to expand your network. From his first job to his first business, Bobby has gained so much from sharing good conversations with great people. Imagine the impact having one conversation each week with someone new would have on your life? Your current social circle consists of people at your level, below your level and above your level. Sharing a conversation over a cup of coffee with a new person each week for one year will help you mentor those chasing you, connect with those in line with you, and learn from those ahead of you. Success leaves clues. Simply by grabbing coffee Bobby found his first three "real jobs," found the mentor who helped him quit his full-time job and start his first successful business, and met a billionaire! In this TEDx talk Bobby will share his story and challenge you to create your own with the one year 50 Cups of Coffee Challenge.

Charisse Nixon

Dr. Charisse Nixon is currently a Professor of Psychology at Penn State Behrend. She trains educators throughout the United States providing a unique integration of empirical research and practical strategies to help caring adults create environments that optimize children and adolescents’ developmental outcomes. Her research interests currently include studying effective prevention and intervention efforts related to reducing peer mistreatment and its associated harm. Building students’ resiliency through mentoring is a core tenet of her work. Charisse has a heart for young people–for young people to actually thrive and not just survive, to be the best that they can be.

At TEDxPSUErie, Charisse will challenge you to think about the current state of your relationships, your culture and empower you with ways to establish and maintain constructive relationships over time–relationships that will last and move us from isolation to meaningful connections.