TEDxZayedUniversity comes back

TEDxZayedUniversity was held at Zayed University Convention Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Feb. 27, 2019. The event consisted of a series of powerful talks by Zayed University students, alumni, faculty, staff, and by members of local community. (Fatma Almuhairi)


By Hamda Al Falasi

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Feb. 27 was an exciting day for ZU, as TEDxZayedUniversity returned to campus one more time. This year’s theme was “Changing Frontiers, Evolving Journeys”. The event coincided with the Year of Tolerance in the UAE, and several talks addressed that topic. This year, many of the speakers were ZU alumni and faculty.

TEDxZayedUniversity was independently organized by Jody Johannessen, a professor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences, Osama Nasr, the director of Government Communications, and a group of student volunteers.

The first speaker was ZU graduate Ayesha Ahmed Alhajeri, who told the audience about the importance of masking yourself with your truth, rather than hiding underneath the mask of conformity. Alhajeri shared some life experiences that related to the topic and ended her speech with the importance of accepting your identity.

Sara Al Awadhi, a young international corporate and Islamic finance lawyer from the UAE, shed a light on the lack of female Emirati lawyers in the country and the importance of having local women take part in that career. She emphasized the power of law and the benefits of gaining the abilities that protect rights in the country.

The third speaker was also a ZU alumna Aysha Saif Al Hemrani of @Mnawrah fame. The artist shared with the audience her own recipe for bringing out the best in a person. Those included: be true to yourself, be considerate of others, and communicate. With those in mind, Al Hemrani has found success in her career and life.

Zayed University alumna Aysha Saif Al Hemrani shared her insights about becoming a successful artist. Al Hemrani is a self-taught artist known for her work as “Mnawrah” she uses to explore Emirati spirit. (Fatma Almuhairi)


During the first intermission, Khadija Salim and Hamda Obaid of Zayed University’s Harmony Club performed “Comptine D’un Autre Ete.”

ZU’s own Lynnette Eleanor Harper, the supervisor of the Learning Commons on the Dubai campus, shared her experience of working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. She was the 146th woman to winter over the South Pole, and she did it twice. She explained the many tasks that she had to do, alongside fellow women, who “may have been few, but they were fierce.”

Lynnette Eleanor Harper, Zayed University Learning Commons supervisor, shares her experiences of working as a support staff at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Harper compared wintering at the South Pole to living on a space station due to the harsh environment, isolation and inaccessibility. (Fatma Almuhairi)


Dr. Hanada Taha Thomure, an endowed chair professor of Arabic language at ZU in Dubai, discussed the beauty, flexibility and the versatility of the Arabic language and the importance of using it in our day-to-day life. She expressed that if you love something, it is not difficult to follow and perfect it. “If you do not use Arabic now, then when?” she asked.

Another interlude took place with a TED Talks Education video, where Angela Lee Duckworth gave a speech about the importance of perseverance. She based a theory on grit and how it can impact children into pushing them to be resilient, successful adults.

Then came a speech from Zainab Ali Dawood, a psychology and human service major at ZU in Dubai. Dawood talked about the importance of lifting the mental health stigma in the UAE. She shared her personal experience as well as the results of her research, where she studied her fellow university peers. In her research, she came to the conclusion that even though there is more awareness about mental health, there still is a long way to go, and it is up to us to remove mental health stigma.

Dr. Mirey Karavetian spoke about her life experience, relating to many young ladies here in the UAE. She said she had thought that she would have to choose between career or family, yet she, just like many Emirati women, had managed to juggle both. She credits and encourages girls to involve their support system and use perseverance to fully use the ability to “juggle.”

Another upbeat interlude featured Taryam Khatheeri and Qatada of Kharsha, performing a number from the fine art of Japanese drumming. The audience enjoyed the performance a lot.

Taryam Khatheeri and Qatada perform wadaiko drumming at TEDxZayedUniversity in Dubai on Feb. 27. The performers are members of Kharsha drumming club that consists of Emirati and Japanese drummers. (Fatma Almuhairi)


Salem Khaled Bin Beshr spoke next about the value of volunteering. He shared how a simple act changed his life path. Salem went from being a wallflower to giving presentations and speeches at important government organizations such as Qasr Al Hosn. This is where because of his volunteering experience, and despite still being a student, he managed to land a job.

ZU student Maryam Fuad Bukhash answered the question of, “What is the true definition of being open-minded?” Bukhash discussed the commonly known notions of open-mindedness in society, but educated the audience about the real meaning of what it is to be open-minded. “Acceptance does not mean you agree,” Bukhash said. “I can be open-minded without changing who I am. Open-mindedness is tolerance.”

Nouf Mohammed Al Katheeri, the UAE ambassador to the International University Sports Federation in Russia, spoke about maintaining her identity abroad while appreciating the diversity of people around her. She had taken inspiration from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s speech and applied it to her life.

ZU alumna Maha Yaqoot Harqoos took the mentality of a “leap of faith” in the matter of her studies at ZU. She had managed to grasp opportunities, despite the hardships in front of her until she managed to succeed. She is now a committee expert in the United Nations in New York.

Sharifa Yateem, a behavioral and autism consultant and a board-certified behavior analyst, spoke about inclusion. She had chosen people of determination as the center of her research and is working to educate the Emirati society on how to include them.

Lastly, Dr. Brigitte Howarth, an ecologist at ZU in Dubai, shed light on the importance of insects in our day-to-day life. She revealed to the audience the surprising fact that scientists have found more than 400 new species of insects in the UAE.

This year’s TEDxZayedUniversity was inspirational to students because it allowed them to see what their peers have achieved. It shows them that they can create experiences out in the real world, but can still come back to ZU and help others find their passions and inspiration creating a cycle of knowledge.

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About the author: Hamda Al Falasi is a staff writer at Zajel. She specializes in Converged Media in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai.

About the photographer: Fatma Ahmad Almuhairi studies Integrated Strategic Communication in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai.

About TEDx

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes or less. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

The annual TED Conference takes place each spring in Vancouver, British Columbia. TED’s media initiatives include TED.com, where new TED Talks are posted daily; TED Translators, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed. TED has established The Audacious Project that takes a collaborative approach to funding ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale; TEDx, which supports individuals or groups in hosting local, self- organized TED-style events around the world, and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

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About the Author

This story was edited by Yulia Medvedeva, an assistant professor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai.

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