Communication Arts’ Student Club Members Impress at TEDx FIU 2015


The 2015 TEDxFIU event held Thursday, November 5th at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center was awe-inspiring, in large part to two speakers who emerged from the Communication Arts Department’s student organization, the TEDxFIU Club.  Club members Patricia Kayser and Rhett Williamson (L to R below) ended up on the TEDx FIU stage with a little push, and a lot of polish from Communication Arts.  Kayser attended the club’s “Your Speech, Your Night” event last Spring and was encouraged to apply to be a speaker at TEDxFIU. Williamson came to the CommArts Studio to prepare for a “Three Minute Thesis” competition at a graduate conference he was attending. After working with the CommArts Studio staff and giving his speech to fellow TEDxFIU club members, he was compelled to expand his newly-honed three-minute talk into a 10-15 minute “TED talk” and apply to be a speaker. He ended up joining the club, applying to speak at TEDxFIU, and the rest was history….

Kayser and Williamson were selected from hundreds of applicants for the 2015 TEDx FIU, with its theme of “Always Forward,” for their compelling stories of how they were making their dreams come true.  At the event, doctoral candidate in chemistry, Williamson described how he was living his childhood dream of being a forensic scientist as he helped create the first-ever international database of inks, designed to identify the “chemical fingerprints” of inks and scan for matches and sources of the sample inks.   The method he applied for this purpose and the database he worked on will aid forensic labs in police and government agencies around the world to identify and trace counterfeit documents and currency, much like the more well-known DNA database, CODIS, and the fingerprint database, AFIS.  Undergraduate Kayser shared how her desire to communicate with her autistic brother, Chris had led her to become a musician, singer, and philanthropist, and what Chris had taught her about loving and accepting people with special capabilities. Because her brother is non-verbal, Kayser taught herself to play guitar and sing, when she saw how Chris reacted to music and how it helped him “tune in” and become more social.  She shared how her experience with her brother led her to found the non-profit, Autism and Music, which hosts musical events for autistic children and their families throughout South Florida. She also revealed that she will soon be recording her first album, thanks to her brother’s help in discovering her passion for music.

The sold-out crowd at the 2015 TEDx FIU event was impressed by the accomplishments of these young students and their poise in telling their stories.  “The only word I can think of is ‘gob-smacked'” said author and motivational speaker, Nance Guilmartin, who flew in from Boston to attend the event. The members of the TEDx FIU Club are proud of their fellow members and invite any students looking to prepare and perfect their own “TED” or “TED-like” talks to join them by contacting the club’s faculty advisor, Antoine Hardy at


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