2017 speakers, artists and performers

Shake It Up

Dan Bellack

A psychology professor for the past 30 years, Dan Bellack is driven by his curiosity for what makes us human. Through his research for how people think, he helps us learn more about how we naturally operate, and how we can improve our thinking to create deep, lasting impact in the world.  


Li Chang

As a Boeing engineer and technical fellow, Li Chang is always asking: how can we do this better? A leader that invokes the leaders within his team, his work is focused on leveraging complementary strengths to build a culture of better products, experiences, and innovations.


Edie Cusack

A passionate advocate and educator, Edie Cusack turns disabilities into opportunities. As the founder of the College of Charleston’s REACH Program, she works with universities to build inclusive programs that unlock entire new worlds for students with unique gifts to give.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

Sarayu Das

This South Carolina-based high school student, researcher, and scientist is on a mission to increase consciousness about water contamination – starting right here in her backyard.

Website | LinkedIn

Phillip Dustan

Phillip Dustan is a College of Charleston biology professor passionate about spreading the news: the future of Charleston’s underwater ecosystem is in our hands. Equal parts researcher and messenger, he’s shaking up how we see – and save – our reefs.

Website | LinkedIn

Feral Creative

A child at heart and a fabrication artist by trade, Kris Manning is the fearless leader of Feral Creative, a troupe of professional puppeteers bringing their ‘wild’ side to Charleston and beyond. Appearing with Ms. Manning are Becky Becker, Geoffrey Cormier, Henry Riggs and Maari Suorsa.


Kris: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
Becky: Website | Facebook
Geoffrey: Instagram | Facebook
Maari & Henry: Website | Instagram | Facebook

Jason Kerestes

An engineer and researcher, Jason Kerestes’s days are spent pioneering the next big advance in robotics, while educating his industry about the role they’ll play in the world’s economic future.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Michael Kleiss

A Clemson University School of Architecture professor, Michael Kleiss believes that the bridge between present and future is built brick by (Lego!) brick as a way of embracing playfulness in the way we architect our worlds.


Jeremy McLellan

Jeremy McLellan knows that a laugh can break the ice and break cross-cultural tensions. A traveling comedian, he visits colleges and universities to forge friendships between racial and religious communities, all through the power of comedy.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Steve Palmer

A celebrated restaurateur who began washing dishes at age 13, Steve Palmer knows firsthand how the strains and successes of his industry can drive employees to the darkest of places. With a focus on service, he’s committed to flipping the tables on professional support. Photograph by Woodie Williams

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Christan Rainey

A full-time father, fiancé, and fire department engineer, Christan embodies commitment in action. Now, he’s calling men to take up the same cause through Men Against Domestic Violence (MAD USA), a grassroots organization that’s putting violence at home to rest.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Ranky Tanky

Get down with Ranky Tanky, a Gullah quintet, celebrating the timeless sounds of the Southeastern Sea Island region with more contemporary arrangements. Group members include: Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Quiana Parler, Clay Ross and Charlton Singleton. Photograph by Reese Moore

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
Quentin: Website | Instagram | Twitter
Quiana: Website | Instagram | Twitter
Kevin: Instagram | Facebook
Clay: Website | Instagram | Facebook
Charlton: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Rene Russell

A professional musician for two decades, Rene Russell lives inside her songs as much as her songs live inside her. Real and raw, her performances remind us of the truth she sings: that with love, we can accomplish anything.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Tina Singleton

Fashion industry professional turned international development worker turned farmer, Tina Singleton is no stranger to reinvention. As Transformation Table’s founder, a business for inclusivity through food, she’s bringing the city’s diverse neighbors together, one meal at a time.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

Jake Stauch

A former cognitive researcher, Jake Stauch is now the founder of NeuroPlus, a company helping children find focus and self-control through brain-sensing technology that supports their ever growing, changing nervous systems. Photograph by Jake Stauch

Website | LinkedIn

Brian Sullivan

A clinical psychologist, College of Charleston professor, and software company co-founder, Brian Sullivan uses his talents and insatiable curiosity for how people think and behave to better understand how technology can bring us together, not push us apart.

Website | LinkedIn

Emily Torchiana

A former College of Charleston student, Emily Torchiana has emerged from the shadows of cyberbullying and suicide attempts to turn life’s darkest moments into moments of meaning for others who need a mental health hero.

Website | Instagram | Facebook

Vickie Waller

By using leading edge technology as a constructive business generation and marketing tool, this CEO of SB6Technologies, a local B2B tech business is out to reposition small and family businesses to capture the benefits of today’s e-marketplace.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Marcus Amaker, 2017 Emcee

With an unique gift for rhythm, deep meaning and language, Charleston’s first Poet Laureate and performer for TEDxCharleston 2016, Marcus Amaker returns as our 2017 emcee.

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All photographs by Vince Musi unless otherwise noted.