This time last year I was preparing to attend and present at the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver, BC Canada. Attending the TED conference was mind blowing. Seriously, if you ever have a chance to attend a TED event – Jump. At. IT! Even just watching the program via live-stream will shift your consciousness in ways you never knew possible.


One thing to note is that those TED style talks don’t “just happen”. There’s an amazing team of people who help you craft the perfect talk – from the slides you use, to the words that come from your lips, to your on stage presence. Your talk is crafted with weeks of practice and input from the most professionally astute people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Becoming a TED Fellow is life-changing – no exaggeration. My internal dialogue has been on another frequency since arriving in Vancouver, BC last spring.  I’ve also had many conversations – with myself and other fellows – about how amazing TED is in general and the TED Fellows program in particular. However, most of it has been pure disbelief that *I* was chosen and had a chance to meet the people I met, shake the hands I shook, hear the talks I heard.

How did I end up here, here on this red dot? This girl from south Memphis, who grew up in a 3 bedroom apartment with 4 generations of relatives all piled in under the same roof? How did this little girl, who heard so many different messages about what a ‘child like me’ could have out of life? The world sends so many unsavory messages to unwed teen mothers and by default, society heaps a whole lot of ugly prophecies on the children of such women. So again, I ask myself – How am I here? Why am I here? 


After proceeding several days into TED, I by chance discovered my how and whom? I was boarding the bus to a special dinner where some of the TED attendees signed up to have dinner with TED Fellows. A tall lady with friendly eyes and a nice smile said hello to me and called me by name. We talked. By the end of the evening I discovered it was she who recommended my name for application. (Note: You must apply to be a TED Fellow and there is a selection process).  I never ever, ever would have considered applying for the TED Fellows program if she had not set things in motion. NEVER. I didn’t believe I had done anything interesting enough. I didn’t think I was on that level (whatever that means, and yet I still didn’t feel up to snuff).

And she imparted such wisdom and kindness in me before leaving. She challenged me. Last month I prepared a presentation about my research subject and outlined my vision for my career studying pouched rats. I revisited my notes from TED 2015 and my sit-down talk with my TED angel.

What is the value of the TED Fellows program? It supports dreams – grand, bold, audacious dreams. It invests in dreamers – spiritually and professionally (note: it does not grant funds or money or broker deals) through the fellow Fellows you meet. As my friend, sister, and 2015 TED Fellow & Astrophysicist Dr. Jedidah Isler describes it “I found my tribe”.  It’s the biggest, most diverse, smartest, innovative, caring and passionate people from all over the world belonging to the same sorority or fraternity.

Speaking of dreams, each year the TED Prize program awards $1,000,000 to someone with a bold, creative vision for sparking global change.  This year, the 2016 TED Prize winner is a TED Senior Fellow, Dr. Sarah Parcak. I met her last year at the conference and she spent time with me discussing ecology and my field research with pouched rats. She’s amazing and so generous, like everyone else I’ve met through TED.

Dr. Sarah Parcak will reveal her big idea to take her work to the next level on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at the annual TED Conference. In the meantime, please check out her TED Talk from 2012 that describes her research.