2020 JOY Speakers

Herman Brodie

Herman is an international speaker, educator, behavioural economics specialist and co-author of The Trust Mandate. He has advised hundreds of major firms in the financial services industry during his 25+ year career in investment banking and consultancy. As a proud Ambassador of the Diversity Project, an initiative of the UK savings and investment industry to accelerate progress towards an inclusive culture, Herman is an advocate for workplace diversity and inclusion. His work focuses on helping people navigate a diverse environment by examining one behavioural concept that shapes the interpersonal exchanges: the stereotype. Herman believes that JOY can stem from understanding the purpose of stereotypes, how they work, and how you can improve or change yours. The result is that you will be able to build more honest, open and trusting relationships – both inside and outside the workplace.

David Burke

Blurring the lines between chef, artist, entrepreneur and inventor, world-renowned David Burke is a leading pioneer in American cooking today. Raised in Monmouth County, NJ, he has launched dozens of innovative restaurant concepts across the country. He has authored two cookbooks and become a recognized chef on television, including appearances on NBC’s TODAY Show and two seasons on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Burke believes that food can be described in one word: JOY. Food is a joy to prepare, to share, to gather and create and, of course, to eat. Food is what connects us around the dinner table and around the world.

Sarah Elizabeth Charles

Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a rising vocalist/composer based in NYC. Her band, SCOPE, has been together for 10 years, releasing three albums and performing at prestigious venues including the White House and Carnegie Hall. She was the recipient of the 2019 Yale University School of Music’s Distinguished Teaching Artist Award. Leading SCOPE while working with other artists and as a teaching artist represents her goal to reflect the world around her through her compositions, collaborations and educating. Having experienced a plane of JOY and gratitude that exists in the creation and absorption of musical sound, Charles believes that through music, human beings can experience a transformative range of emotional, physical and spiritual spaces.

David Cieri

David Cieri is a composer and musician who has written film scores for many of today’s most distinguished documentarians, including Ken Burns. Cieri’s film scoring work with Burns has been extensive, including The Vietnam War with Yo-Yo Ma and Trent Reznor. He has recorded nine acclaimed albums under his own name and made two records with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Yusef Komunyakaa. His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center among other prestigious venues. Cieri believes that JOY has many tributaries and will explore our capacity and willingness to become “unstuck” from singular outlooks as one.

Ben Freeberg

Ben Freeberg is a funny, money man. A healthcare venture capitalist and stand-up comedian who studied Economics at Duke University, he is also a tennis coach, a snowboarder, an expert in the ancient art of juggling Chinese Devil Sticks and a cancer survivor. Freeberg believes that you experience JOY when your reality consistently exceeds your expectations — and the answer is not to set those expectations low.

Roger Manix

As a Stanford University Graduate School of Business Instructor, Roger Manix created a methodology to teach emotional and social intelligence using play- based learning. He was invited to Parsons School of Design at The New School to develop a play-based program in Design Strategies for Cities, Services and Ecosystems. Currently, he teaches “Compassionate Leadership through Play” in the Global Executive Master Program. Roger has been nominated for The Distinguished Teacher Award along with Outstanding Contributions to Social Justice Teaching Award for his work on experiential learning. Roger is also co-founder of Ludolo, a play-based learning company that fosters creativity and empathy in Fortune 500 companies to make the world a kinder, more connected and joyful place. Roger believes that the basis for JOY is connection and that we don’t experience joy in a vacuum. Joy is born of relation to something else — people, animals, nature, meditation, food…. Collaborative play trains us to explore the unknown and maintain a joyful state of mind.

Michele Mitchell

Michele Mitchell is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist best known for her work exposing crimes against humanity. As both an on-camera reporter for PBS and CNN Headline News and as a documentarian, Mitchell has worked with survivors of mass violence in Bosnia, Cambodia, Kenya, Myanmar, Rwanda and South Sudan. She studied trauma in journalism as an Ochberg Fellow at Columbia University. Her documentary, The Uncondemned, has been translated into five languages. According to Mitchell, we live in a world where 85% of us encounter “small” traumas daily. How do we re-wire ourselves after a traumatic moment or sustained experience? The way forward is through JOY.

Michael Nayak

Dr. Michael Nayak is an award-winning scientist, engineer, pilot and military officer who deployed to the South Pole as a National Science Foundation Principal Investigator in November 2018. Michael is a National Defense Science and Engineering Fellow, a Collier Trophy nominee and winner of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement for developing a new dynamical method to analyze planetary surfaces across the solar system. As Research Section Chief for the DoD’s largest telescope, he directed $85 million in federal research funds for optical/astrophysical R&D. Outside of work, he owns a small aerospace consulting firm and he also instructs skydiving, high performance parachuting and vertical wind tunnel flying. The season that Michael spent in the brutal South Pole cold at the bottom of the world taught him about being happy in the modern world. He found JOY in one of the most isolated places on Earth, discovering how shared suffering breeds teamwork and how isolation can make us more connected.

Edafe Okporo

Born in Warri, Nigeria, Edafe Okporo is an activist, businessman and author. He is passionate about extending a hand to communities in need and teaching leaders in communities and organizations how to motivate their members to act. Self-identification as a gay man led to his displacement from Nigeria in 2016. His memoir, Bed 26: A Memoir of an African Man’s Asylum in The United States, shares how he fought his way out of constant persecution and reclaimed his freedom. He became a fearless activist and an unstoppable force for change, determined to expose the truth. Today, he lives in New York City where he is executive director of RDJ Refugee Shelter in Harlem. He is also the founder of The Pont LLC, a full service media company helping brands tell their stories and empowering communities through storytelling. His work includes trying to build an inclusive society, both in and out of the workplace, that will spark JOY. Inclusion of LGBTQ people, refugees and marginalized people is a path to building a joyful society.

Jason Watt

Jason Watt is a founding partner of Smith Hospitality Group, comprising eight restaurants in two states, which include three of the most popular brands in Asbury Park. Watt has been with Smith for 21 years and has been instrumental in its evolution from a branding and marketing firm to a 30+million dollar enterprise. He is also co- founder of Fishbird, a brand and leadership development process offering a unique training culture and philosophy that supports organizations around the world through transformative breakthroughs. Watt believes that JOY is available as a choice and a declaration, not as something out there in the future to one day obtain.

Craig Wortmann

Craig Wortmann is a Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the Founder of the new Kellogg Sales Institute. Craig designed, developed and teaches the award-winning course called “Entrepreneurial Selling, ranked by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top Ten” courses in the country. Craig also won the Faculty Excellence Award, given to the professor who has had the most positive impact on the students. His book, What’s Your Story?, looks at how leaders and sales professionals use stories to connect, engage and inspire, and encourages them to communicate what really matters: vision, mission, ethical behavior, teamwork and commitment. Craig finds that we are all selling every single day, and that selling is listening, empathizing and helping others realize the right solution to make progress. Craig believes that JOY is rooted in helping others make progress in their lives.