Our speakers and performers turn the impossible into the possible. Human rights, cutting edge technology, breakthrough science, innovative design: these people make it happen.

Amber Rae. Creative Catalyst

Amber Rae is a creative catalyst and starter of meaningful things. She’s currently the chief evangelist of Seth Godin’s new publishing venture, The Domino Project. When she’s not spreading ideas and inspiring movements, she curates stories of change-makers and culture-shapers who take initiative at revolution.is

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Amber also co-founded what the New York Times calls “The Fraterntity of the Wired Works in the Wee Hours” aka New York Nightowls, a late-night coworking group that’s active in 30 cities and 14 countries. Above all, Amber believes in chasing what makes you feel alive and being unreasonable in the pursuit of your dreams.


Dr. Michael “Doc” Chemers. Professor of Dramatic Literature

Michael Mark Chemers first came to Carnegie Mellon in 2003 as a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Center for the Arts in Society, and joined the School of Drama faculty in 2004. He is the founder and director of the School’s Dramaturgy BFA Program. Michael holds a PhD in Theatre History and Theory from the University of Washington (2001) and an MFA in Playwriting from Indiana University (1997). He was a Wimmer Faculty Fellow of the Eberly Center in 2006.

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He is the author of Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010) and Staging Stigma: A Critical History of the American Freak Show (Palgrave, 2008), which was honored by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education with an Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Book Award of 2009. Michael’s work as a theatre historian and theorist has appeared in Modern Drama, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, Theatre Survey, Theatre Topics, New England Theatre Journal, Journal of Theatre and Performance, TheatreForum, Comparative Drama, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Michael has also written chapters for books on South Park and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.With J.A. Ball, he adapted a Lysistrata (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007) that has been revived at universities across the US. He authored the independently-produced film When Tyrants Kiss (2004) which appeared in the Three Rivers Film Festival.

His playwriting has received many national awards and has been performed across the country. He has over two decades of experience in dramaturgy, most recently with the Leon Katz International Theatre Collective headquartered in Smolyan, Bulgaria. He also acts, most recently appearing in the School’s The London Cuckolds.Michael lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Farhana and his son Zain. In his spare time he collects masks, teaches martial arts at USA Professional Karate, and juggles things that are on fire.


Paul Dateh. Songwriter, Violinist, Singer

Paul is an independent musician who has made a name for himself by being multi-talented artist. Youtube has been an outlet for Paul’s work these last few years as he is able to display his wide range of jazz, pop and hip hop renditions along with a musical comedy series entitled Violince.

But he didn’t start out with Jazz— Learn more about his beginnings

While he began his education at the University of Southern California, Paul had matriculated as a Violin Performance major but much to everyone’s surprise, he enrolled into the Jazz Studies Vocal program instead within days of arriving at USC. While it is often taboo for classically trained musicians to venture into the jazz world, Paul found it to be a passion. Since then, he has helped sculpt the environment of self-starting Youtube musicians to become a high quality, innovative, entertaining world. It’s probably important to note that many of his viewers refer to him as the Asian Brad Pitt.


Ken Belcher. Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist

Ken is one of those people who was musical from the day he was born. By the time he was 5 years old, he had already become better at the piano and ukulele than people thrice his age and size. Within the next 5 years, Ken was given his first acoustic guitar and midi keyboard and proceeded to produce two albums of original music and a rock opera based on the biblical Moses story.

And the rest is history…

A decade and then some later, Ken became an alumni of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music for jazz/studio guitar. He has spent his post-college years as part of several bands including The Jazz Three-O and Absolute Stereo with who he composes and performs original pieces.  Ken’s independent works as well as his collaborations are testaments to his love for music. Amongst his current endeavors, Ken is the guitarist on his collaboration album with Paul Dateh, The Good Life which you can find here.

Mickey McManus. Chief Mad Scientist

Mickey McManus is the CEO of MAYA design, an ubiquitous computing firm in Pittsburgh. As President, CEO and Principal, Mickey leads a highly skilled, interdisciplinary team that creates innovative ways to integrate information and technology into satisfying user experiences.

Wow. A CEO. But he’s a lot more than that. Find out more.

Mickey graduated with honors from the University of Illinois in Chicago, School of Art and Architecture with a BFA in industrial design and extended studies in communication design and mathematics. In 2005, Mickey spearheaded the launch of MAYA’s Pervasive Computing practice, which focuses on ways to design information objects so that all sorts of data can flow easily among vastly distributed devices, many hidden in the environment. MAYA’s work in pervasive computing has been featured in the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal. Mick’s design awards include the 2005 Consumer Electronics Innovation Award, two Addy Awards for advertising and video production, the AIGA Communications Show Judge’s Choice Award, SuperComm 2000 Best of Show in Design, and the Exhibitor Award for Best Conceptual Design. His articles and work have been published in Innovations, Graphis, and Space magazines.

William Gahl. Medical Mystery Man

William Gahl, MD, PhD is the clinical director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the US National Institutes of Health. Called a “super–diagnostician” by the University of Wisconsin School of medicine, Dr. Gahl leads the Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) at the NIH and essentially sees patients who lack a diagnosis after years of visits to other doctors.

Sounds a lot like Dr. House right? Find out more here.

He also studies very rare inborn errors of metabolism and recently encountered a disease so rare that he, essentially, discovered it. The media has often compared him to the fictional Dr. House, but where exactly do the similarities end? Dr. Gahl’s work has been featured in CNNNewsweek, People MagazineThe New York Times, and Nature. In 2011, Dr. Gahl received the American Medical Association’ s highest honor, the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service.

Michealene Risley. Daring Human Rights Activist

Michealene Cristini Risley is the founder of Fresh Water Spigot. She has long been an entrepreneur who has created some of the largest deals in consumer products and the entertainment industry. But, entrepreneur turned activist, her most recent project was the film “Tapestries of Hope” which explores the rape and abuse of thousands of women in Zimbabwe by men under the belief that it will cure their HIV/AIDS.

Activism isn’t her first revolutionary act. Find out more here.

Michealene launched the first-ever branded maternity line in conjunction with Adidas. As Vice President of Licensing and Character Development for Sega of America, she championed the Sega Girls Task Force and produced well over 100 episodes in animation. She also wrote, produced, and directed a short film called “Flashcards,” which won Best Cinematography at the California Independent Film Festival, Best Short film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, and the film screened in the Cannes Film Festival “Shorts Du Jour” program.

Charlie Hoehn. Marketing Genius

Charlie Hoehn is just 24 years old and has interned for Seth Godin, helped write and market the #1 New York Times bestseller, “The Four Hour Body”, and wrote the 30–page guide called Recession-Proof Graduate that’s been read more than 80,000 times, and is one of the top 10 most popular “career” Slideshares (read what Seth Godin had to say about it, or you can see how a bunch of other people responded).

Wait! But that’s not all! Find out more.

He helped Ramit Sethi with the online marketing of I Will Teach You to be Rich (which hit #1 overall on Amazon, and is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller), and went on a 31-city movie tour with Tucker Max, shooting and editing funny videos to help promote I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. And this is just the beginning.

Luis Von Ahn. MacArthur Fellow & Professor of Computer Science

Professor Luis von Ahn works in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. His research has changed the world. You know that annoying little anti–spam image thing (a CAPTCHA) that you have to type all the time on the internet to prove that you’re a human? Well, he invented that.

Okay, okay. Mind totally blown. What else has Luis been up to?

His current research interests include encouraging people to do work for free, as well as catching and thwarting cheaters in online environments. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Packard Fellowship, a Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship, and a Sloan Research Fellowship. He has been named one of the 50 Best Minds in Science by Discover Magazine, one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business of 2010 by Fast Company Magazine, one of the “Brilliant 10″ scientists of 2006 by Popular Science Magazine, one of the 50 most influential people in technology by Silicon.com, and one of the Top Innovators in the Arts and Sciences by Smithsonian Magazine..

Jacob Cass. Design Guru

Jacob Cass is a dedicated, passionate and influential designer who has recently emigrated from Sydney, Australia to NYC to pursue his career in the world of visual communication. Jacob has worked with clients such as Disney, Red Bull, Nike & Star Wars and although his skill set is vast, his major skill sets lie in the world of visual design, brand identity, brand strategy, UX, UI, new media design and print design.

And he’s amassed quite a following on the internet.

Jacob has a thorough understanding of social media and the latest web technologies which has allowed him to build up a strong personal following of over 37,000+ Twitter followers and 28,000+ blog subscribers. You can find Jacob on one of his three websites; JustCreativeDesign.com,LogoDesignerBlog.com and LogoOfTheDay.com.

Jenny Blake. She does everything. Seriously.

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach, Googler and yoga teacher. She has worked at Google for over five years in training, coaching & career development. Prior to Google and halfway through her junior year at UCLA, Jenny took a leave of absence to help launch a political polling start-up company with her college professor and mentor.

And what happened next?

She returned to finish at UCLA in the spring of 2005. The experience of leaving school before her friends inspired her to start a blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, which she has now translated into a book. Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want is a portable life coach for 20-somethings, filled with tips, quotes and coaching exercises to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives…not just the details.

“Impossible is not in the dictionaries of leaders.”

Be sure to check out who spoke in 2010.