TEDxFurmanU 2018

 Dr. J. Aaron Simmons

J. Aaron Simmons is an associate professor of philosophy at Furman University in Greenville, SC. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and specializes in philosophy of religion and political philosophy. He is the author of over 50 articles and book chapters and is the author of God and the Other, co-author of The New Phenomenology, and co-editor of numerous edited volumes including Kierkegaard’s God and the Good Life, and Phenomenology for the Twenty-First Century. He is the vice-president of the Søren Kierkegaard Society, previous president of the South Carolina Society for Philosophy, and sits on the executive board of the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology. He has been married to Vanessa for 16 years and they have an 8-year-old son named Atticus. Originally from Cleveland, TN, Simmons spends his free time trout fishing and playing the drums.

Jennifer Thompson

Jennifer Thompson is the Founder and President of Healing Justice, which aims to address the collateral human damage of wrongful convictions to all involved. Jennifer founded Healing Justice based on her experience with a failed criminal justice process that sent an innocent person to prison and left the true perpetrator free to commit additional crimes. Along with Ronald Cotton, who spent 11 years in prison after being wrongly convicted for Jennifer’s brutal attack as a college student in 1984, Jennifer co-authored Picking Cotton, a New York Times bestseller, after DNA testing led to Ronald’s exoneration and identified her attacker in 1995. Jennifer is a nationally-known advocate for criminal justice reform, focusing on the human impact of wrongful convictions, the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, the need to combat sexual violence, and the healing power of forgiveness. She currently serves on North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.


Adnan Sultan

Adnan Sultan is a staff attorney at the Innocence Project. He litigates post-conviction cases nationwide on behalf of individuals seeking access to DNA testing and relief from wrongful convictions. He also instructs law students as part of the Innocence Project clinic at Cardozo Law School. Prior to joining the Innocence Project, he worked as a staff attorney at The Bronx Defenders for five years where he represented thousands of clients charged with misdemeanors and felony crimes from arraignments to trial. In addition, he was a member of The Bronx Defenders’ Forensic Practice Group where he consulted with attorneys and conducted trainings on DNA evidence. Before working at The Bronx Defenders, Adnan was a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown Law School where he both represented clients charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes in D.C. Superior Court and supervised third year law students in Georgetown’s Criminal Justice Clinic. He graduated magna cum laude from American University’s Washington College of Law.

John Lanier

John A. Lanier is the Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, a Georgia-based private family foundation honoring the legacy of the late Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011). Lanier joined the Foundation in May 2013 to assume his current role at the helm of the Foundation that bears his grandfather’s name. Ray was a globally recognized industrialist and pioneer for environmentalism, and Lanier continues his legacy today through Foundation programs that seek to create a brighter, more sustainable world. He has an authentic passion for the Earth.

From 2011 to 2013, Lanier worked in Atlanta as an Associate Attorney in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP’s Tax Practice Group, specializing in U.S. Federal taxation. He represented the interests of various Atlanta-based nonprofits, gaining experience in nonprofit formations, compliance, and applications for recognition of tax-exempt status. During that time, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation was one of his clients.

Lanier currently serves on the Board of Directors for Southface, Project Drawdown, and Chattahoochee NOW. He is a graduate of the 2014 class of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership (IGEL). He serves on the Board of the Marist School Alumni Association in Atlanta, and he was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by the school. He earned his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law and he holds Bachelor of Arts Degrees in History and Economics from the University of Virginia. He is an Atlanta native, and he lives in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta with his wife, Chantel, and young son, J.R.

Quincy Mix

Quincy Daniel Mix is a History major from North East, PA, but has recently relocated to the Charlottesville, VA, area. Since coming to Furman, he has cultivated his leadership interests and personal passions in a variety of campus activities, including: the Shucker Leadership Institute, the Student Conduct Board, and the Bell Tower Boys a cappella group. Quincy is also a member of the Furman Community of Scholars, an inductee of the Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Alpha Theta Honor Societies, and a former Waco Childers Research Fellow.  In addition to his on-campus pursuits, Quincy has maintained a remote volunteer position with the Colorado-based nonprofit Life for the Innocent, an organization working to combat human trafficking in South Asia. Most recently, he has had the privilege of interning with the Furman Task Force on Slavery & Justice—which he will be joining as a full member in the spring of 2018—and has also been named a Furman Metropolitan Fellow for the summer of 2018. His interest in studying and critiquing the contemporary cultural emphasis on “the self” surfaced in the spring of 2015, when he was asked to deliver an address at his high school graduation. Through the TED platform, Quincy hopes his ideas will inspire both a conviction about self-complacency and a drive for personal growth in all areas of life.

Sam Fowler

Sam Fowler is Junior from Tampa, Florida, majoring in Communications Studies. Sam is a Shucker Leadership Institute Graduate and an Admissions Ambassador. With an interest in art, Sam’s paintings were featured on the home renovation television show “You Can’t Turn that into a House” last summer.  Sam also created conversation cards for mentors based on developing emotional intelligence in children for a partnership between Frameworks and Big Brothers Big Sisters which are now being sold nationwide. She interned in public relations at Brock Communications last summer.  Sam is a Junior Board member of the Triad Foundation, where she reviews and allocates charitable grants. Sam is a Chi Omega at Furman. In Tampa, Sam was nominated for a Lightning Community Hero award for community service in 2015 for establishing an art program for homeless teens in a non profit program, Starting Right Now. Based on personal experience and research, Sam will speak about the impact of addiction on family members and friends, with tips on navigating this issue which touches so many in America.


Noelle Warner

Noelle is extremely passionate about storytelling and video games, so she combined the two with an English and Information Technology double major. On campus, she is a part of Delta Delta Delta and work in the admissions office. This past summer she conducted research with Dr. Oakes from the English department about video game narratives, how they relate to literary conventions, and how they are becoming a unique new form of storytelling. This topic is special to her because my most impactful experiences with fiction have come from video games, and her greatest goal is to reach others through her own stories within the medium.




Alexis Myers

The story of people of mixed-race is one of suppressed identity and delayed self-discovery. People of mixed-race have learned to become shape-shifters in a society where they are ostracized for categorizing themselves with one group versus another. Alexis will explore instances where mixed-race individuals attempt to use their status and abilities to help certain people groups, only to be met by an unwelcoming America in her talk, “Will America Ever Embrace Racial Ambiguity?”

Alexis Myers is a senior chemistry major at Furman University. After graduation, she plans on attending chemistry graduate school in the hopes of obtaining her PhD. When she is not in the research lab she enjoys engaging people in conversations about their faith, their journey towards self-discovery and practicing yoga.

Dr. Judy Stuart

Judy Stuart is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Special Education programs for the Department of Education at Furman University. Dr. Stuart also coordinates programs and advises students seeking an Education major without certification as preparation for non-teaching fields. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Louisiana Tech University and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of New Orleans. She teaches undergraduate courses in Human Development and an introductory-level special education course. She also teaches graduate-level special education courses. Dr. Stuart has been actively involved in working with professionals in special education and other related service providers with particular interests centered on children with special needs and their families. She shares her passion through involvement in the community and in projects with Furman students.

Matthew Morris

Matthew Morris is a Trade & Investment Associate for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade. In his current role he promotes increased trade relations between the US and UK for the advanced engineering and manufacturing sector; this includes representing UK autonomous vehicle technology to cities and automotive manufacturers in the Southeast USA. He previously worked in the Scottish Parliament during the 2015 referendum for Scottish Independence with SNP MSP Dave Thompson, of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

Matthew received a BA in Political Science and Communications from Furman University and an MSc in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh. While at Furman he received the Willard A. Metcalf Award for Personal Character and published an academic publication on the rhetoric of Martin Luther King. Jr. His master’s dissertation focused on trends in international economic development collected through primary interviews with economists, ministers and parliamentarians in Lebanon.

Dr. Shane Purcell

Dr. Shane Purcell was born in Athens, GA and is a true Bulldog by birth. He graduated Mercer University School of Medicine after completing Armstrong State College in Savannah, GA. He went on to finish a family medicine residency in Anderson, SC were he continues to reside.

After completing residency, Dr. Purcell worked in private group practice for 3 years before opening his own cash-only primary care clinic in 2005.  As he built his cash-only clinic, he was also working part time in a local urgent care facility. In 2008, he purchased a dormant medical clinic on the “wrong side of the tracks” and opened an urgent care and primary care clinic.

After gaining his freedom from third party captives, Dr. Purcell along with his colleague formed the first direct primary care clinic in Anderson County in 2015. Since then, he has been operating both his walk in clinic and the direct care clinic third party free. The direct primary care model has brought about a restoration of a relationship with patients broken by third party middlemen. Now, he can offer more access and more of his time to patients. Dr. Purcell firmly believes that the direct primary care model is the last hope for health care in America.

Dr. Purcell is an active member in several medical organizations including American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Free Market Medical Association, Doc 4 Patient Care Foundation, Carolinas DPC Alliance and American Academy of Family Physicians. He currently is the Vice Chair of the Direct Primary Care Member Interest Group for the AAFP.

Dr. David Moffett

David Moffett is a Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department at Furman University.  He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physics from North Carolina State University, and his Ph.D in Astrophysics from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.  He was a post-doctoral research fellow in Australia at the University of Tasmania, for two and half years prior to his arrival at Furman.  Specializing in radio astronomy, he actively uses radio telescopes, such as the Very Large Array in NM and the Green Bank Observatory in WV, to study supernova remnants and pulsars.  He shares his love of astronomy through courses at Furman and the Green Bank Observatory, research with students, and through outreach at Greenville County Schools’ Roper Mountain Science Center.