A Celebration of Learning at TEDxCUNY

Power of Knowledge and Unity at TEDxCUNY Conference

By: Lucia Elmi 

Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire Food Group. Photo credit: Lucia Elmi

On April 5, 2019, John Jay College of Criminal Justice was honored to host TED’s fifth annual TEDxCUNY conference. In attendance were not only a number of innovative public speakers and entrepreneurial thinkers, but CUNY students from all around New York City.

To date, TEDxCUNY is the largest TEDxUniversity independently organized conference event in the United States. Their theme for this year’s conference was “What Matters Now?”

Public speakers and thinkers prompted students to consider this question as they grapple with the important decisions concerning their futures and how they will impact the world around them.

With dedication, passion, and like-minded ideas, TEDxCUNY urges students to challenge their limits and be the future they want their children and generations to come to be apart of.

Some notable speakers were Hebh Jamal, an advocate for Muslims and education reform, Lin Liang, an aspiring midwife studying nursing at the College of Staten Island, and Linnette Attai, the founder of PlayWell, LLC, a global compliance consulting firm that specializes in data privacy and marketing security.

Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire Food Group, a company the processes insects into high-quality consumer products, had much to say on the need for innovation in a world where creating waste is just second-nature to us.

Ashour said, “What’s disturbing is that it literally takes more water to make the plastic bottle than the water inside of it. And that’s pretty depressing considering that we desperately need water. By 2050, we are expecting to live in a world where we might have more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

He believes that his protein-packed cricket foods have the potential to empower rural communities to harvest these insects to not only feed themselves, but to help them rise out of poverty.

In turn, we will be able to rely on a more efficient food source that is healthy but also safe for the environment, as it will reduce the need for livestock production and consumption, which is a huge source for greenhouse gas emission.

“Will Americans actually eat crickets? If we want this to work we have to appeal to their taste buds. Food is an intensely emotional experience.”

Linnette Attai, founder of PlayWell, LLC, shared her compelling and thought-provoking ideas to help assist students and business companies in securing their information from data breaches and unwanted leaks of private information.

“Why don’t we engage more deliberately around our information privacy? Perhaps the platforms and technology we use have become so big, so ubiquitous to our lives, that we believe our only choice is binary: take it or leave it.”

Attai urges professionals and students alike to take the time to think about what privacy means to them and how they may choose to defend those rights against companies or hackers looking to extract such information.

“Privacy is a discipline of behavior. It’s about when, how and, what information we choose to share and for companies it’s also about how they may handle and care for that information. Each of us may feel differently about what is and is not okay. Decisions about our privacy are personal.”

Attai adds, “Perhaps we do understand this but we just don’t believe we can have an impact on how our information is handled from the many companies we share it with, believing each of us alone is just one drop in the bucket, barely making a ripple on the surface. And so the constant flow of our information across the internet continues, facilitated by our agreement.”

“Our information is valuable, we should only exchange it for something worthwhile. Our information is currency, we just don’t tend to think of it in those terms.”

TEDxCUNY is a celebration of determined individuals who are passionate enough to engage others in their journey to spread ideas that spur the catalyst for change. As students that are fortunate enough to be apart of CUNY, the nation’s biggest university system in the country, we have the necessary tools and support needed to be those advocates for change and growth.


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