BSPH student to speak at TEDxUNC this weekend

Feb. 11, 2014

Safiyah Ismail

Safiyah Ismail

Safiyah Ismail, junior environmental health science major in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, will be one of 19 presenters at the TEDxUNC 2014 conference, on Feb. 15 from noon to 6 p.m. in UNC’s Memorial Hall.

TEDxUNC is an annual conference held at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that brings together innovative thinkers to discuss their approaches to some of humanity’s fundamental concerns. Their creativity stems from linking resource networks, exploring across disciplines, transgressing cultural boundaries and seeking simple, tangible solutions.

TED Talk speakers are asked to express their observations and innovative ideas in 18 minutes or less. Other presenters at TEDxUNC 2014 include a former astronaut, Dr. Jerry Linenger, who received master’s and doctoral degrees at the Gillings School in health policy and management and epidemiology in 1989; a biomedical engineer on the Harvard faculty; a UNC professor of Islamic studies; the chair of UNC’s music department;  a renowned migratory beekeeper; a multimedia artist and others.

Ismail says she is fascinated by the relationship between human health and the environment. As co-director of Students International’s Scholarships for Students program, she has been inspired by her international peers’ commitment to becoming strong women leaders in their communities. She is a resident adviser and member of the Honor Court at UNC and founder of UNC’s American Sign Language Club.

“It was such an honor to be selected to speak at TEDxUNC,” Ismail said. “I’ve been passionate about sign language for many years —  learning it on my own, interpreting it for my friends and teaching it on campus. I started a sign language club here at Carolina last spring, teaching my peers sign language because I felt it was my duty to contribute my passion and talents toward a more inclusive community on campus. It was a very humbling experience overall, and the amount of support I received was amazing.”

This year’s conference theme is “Taking Flight.” Ismail’s talk is slated for Session 1, “Discovering Lift and Gaining Altitude.” Tickets to the event, which were free, went on sale in January. More information is available online.

TEDxUNC is an initiative of TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” Begun as a conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with many initiatives.

Talks from TED conferences are shared with the world for free on A new TED Talk is posted every weekday. Through the Open Translation Project, TED Talks are subtitled by volunteers worldwide into more than 90 languages. Through its distribution networks, TED Talks are shared on TV, radio, Netflix and many websites.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or