2019: Overlooked

Sergeant Michael (Mac) McLeon is a correctional officer currently assigned to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Michael Unit in Anderson County, Texas. Mac is part of a team who developed a method of growing crops and herbs within the prison system using aquaponics and hydroponics to provide fresh food for offenders, food banks, homeless shelters and children’s homes. Even though offenders are incarcerated, through the program they can make a positive difference.

Leneisa Parks shared the tales of triumph and woe of underrepresented communities and how individuals and groups built their own narratives and chose to reject narratives that were created for them. She presented about the art of storytelling, and explained that there is power in our own books of life where we must choose to be authors, and not just readers.

Ed Koharik is a student entrepreneur who is passionate about student innovation. He shared with the audience how we can help cultivate and encourage curious minds at the university and beyond. Ed also shared how college entrepreneurship helps develop fresh insight and practical problem-solving skills that lend themselves to careers post-graduation.

Josh Morris is a retired Army Ranger who became interested in historical human conflict. From his research, Josh presented about how throughout history, conflicts have almost always been fought over resources. He proposed solutions to reduce future conflicts, including moving towards a sustainable lifestyle, and addressed the factors that contribute to the current environmental, energy and agricultural crisis.

Alex Giger challenged the mindset of the farm-to-table movement and described what it takes to work with local farmers to bring food from the farm, onto the plate, then the table. He also described how farm-to-table is dependent on relationship-building by forging community bonds. Alex Giger, is the executive chef of Just a Taste in St. James.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a lifelong gardener, but it was not until she started to keep honeybees in her garden that she began to understand the scope of the pollinators, down to honeybees providing 1/3 of the world's food supply.

Mike Schmidt is a process safety engineer, so you could say that he lives and breathes workplace safety. He explained what hazards consistently contribute to workplace fatalities, and how as a society, there are steps we can take to make everyone safer, including ourselves.

Tamar Makharashvili is pursuing an electrical engineering Ph.D. from Missouri S&T, and she discussed how her current path is something she could not have dreamed of ten years ago. As a girl growing up in Georgia, where gender roles and social dogma dictate career paths, Tamar knew that her interest in STEM would not be realized outside of the classroom.