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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Eric Dozier

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Eric Dozier

Eric Dozier

Growing up in a black church in Tennessee, Eric Dozier had a broad range of musical influences, including gospel greats Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins and James Cleveland. Outside church he was listening to B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth Wind & Fire. He had the best of both worlds.

“And then in high school I went to an all boys private school and was exposed to classical music. I played piano, sang in the glee club and played hand bells all through Europe on tour,” laughs Dozier.

At Duke he initially studied engineering but soon changed to public policy because he really wanted to address cultural issues and somehow use his music to do it.

“Even though I had all this music in my life, being a professional musician was actually not my dream. But music was so pervasive in my life, the universe said, ‘this is what we want you to do.’ So I listened.”

Wanting to focus his public policy work on youth, race and education, he got his first opportunity when he volunteered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

“Music became the modality I used to reach them. As opposed to using public policy to address a particular issue they had, I would write a song, put a choir together, do a concert or even just have them singing on the street corner.”

Though he didn’t know it then, Dozier was on his way to becoming a cultural activist – a person who uses cultural understanding and tools to engage people in meaningful discourse about social issues.

“Social activism lies in the heart of African American music. It’s the music and story of people who had vision and wanted to affect the world. The old spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” let everyone know that God cared about enslaved people, too.”

Dozier says that America has a very dynamic history of singing for social change. The civil rights, women’s, labor and suffragette movements all had music that helped them affect social change. He wants young people today to understand this past and realize that a soul song like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” – the quintessential protest song – didn’t just evolve in isolation. Soul music came forth from spiritual and gospel.

Through his work with the Harlem Gospel Choir, the One Human Family Music Workshops and the Young People’s Freedom Song Initiative, Dozier keeps his eyes on the prize: to share the love and history of African American music across the world and help it continue to affect social change.

“Music is the lynchpin. We can hit a lot of messages with it. We can use it to teach our kids, reconstituting what we were and remaking the world through our songs.”

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Rosemary Taylor is a writer and digital content strategist;


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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Jenay Beer

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Jenay Beer

Jenay Beer

“It’s not just what technology can do or not do. The human must be considered in the equation,” says engineering psychologist Jenay Beer.

Beer understands human capabilities and limitations and her goal is to apply this psychological understanding to inform technology design. “We can’t lose sight of the human factors,” she says.

In her current work as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, Beer directs the Assistive Robotics and Technology Lab (ART Lab). There she leads her students in focusing on the interactions between humans and robots and smart home technology.

Beer never envisioned herself working with robots. Originally wanting to be a psychologist, she also loved technology and wanted to somehow combine the two. Deciding to pursue graduate work, she discovered the emerging field of Engineering Psychology and learned that Georgia Tech offered the best program.

So the Ohio native ended up in Atlanta (the Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park, and Highland Bakery are a few of her favorite hangouts) and earned both masters and doctorate degrees at Tech. It was there that she realized specifically what she wanted to do with her all knowledge and training.

“The lab I worked in focused on the aging. I fell in love with this population and began studying how robots could help them maintain their independence, improve their quality of life and allow them to remain at home and grow old. “

Beer’s robots can do a variety of things from household chores (cleaning, vacuuming, making the bed) to handing medication to a person. The robots don’t think for themselves, just take direction. For example, a robot cannot decide which medication a person needs to take…it simply brings what the person asks for.

She and her students test their robots at local continuing care retirement communities, where they’re welcomed with open arms.

“Through my years in research I found older adults weren’t afraid of technology, like you’d think they would. If it’s easy to use and meets their needs, they will adopt it. They often have a social connection with the robots and want to name them.”

Despite her success with robots, it’s her students that Beer is most proud of.

“When I’m teaching and hear them grasp the concepts, use the right terminology and ask the right questions, it is thrilling. It really is like a ripple: a ripple of me teaching my students and them rippling it forward and having an impact on our world.”


Rosemary Taylor is a writer and digital content strategist;

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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Brian Magerko

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Brian Magerko

Brian Magerko

“Without creativity we wouldn’t have anything. It’s what moves us forward as a species and makes us a better one,” says Brian Magerko.

As an associate professor of digital media and head of the Adaptive Digital Media (ADAM) Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology, Magerko works with his students in the inter-disciplines of human creativity, cognition and computing.

“We are treating creativity as a formal process – trying to de-mystify it, de-magic it – and understanding how this formal process helps design technologies that can support creativity or even make something creative themselves through artificial intelligence,” the Michigan native explains.

According to Magerko, human creativity is simply somebody creating something new that has some kind of personal or societal value. And the one characteristic all creative people share is that they’re very knowledgeable and really informed about their fields. Expertise is the most important thing.

Even as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies become more popular, it’s actually STEAM (STEM + Art & Design) studies that Magerko says will really educate successful, prosperous students who can transform our economy in the 21st century.

“By integrating science and technology with the arts we can learn more about the world than without that integration. Putting them together in a meaningful manner opens up an array of studies for students, particularly for engaging the underrepresented ones who view STEM topics as being uncool or daunting.”

Though Magerko was always interested in computers, it wasn’t his first love. Music and improvisation were. He played trombone in his high school marching band, and at Carnegie Mellon University he DJ’d at the school’s radio station and acted in a local improv group.

And he never forgot his love of music and the aesthetics even while he was taking computing and psychology classes. It all came together his senior year at college when he studied with Herbert Simon, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence.

“I got this idea that I would do a cognitive study on jazz improvisation. Simultaneously, I took a mobile robot planning class, where I focused on building an improve robot comedy troop. Both projects worked in parallel to give me a formal understanding of creativity from a cognition point of view and a computing point of view.”

Today, Magerko is exactly where he wants to be: at the crossroads of learning, computing and aesthetics. His creation (in collaboration with Georgia Tech colleague Jason Freeman) of EarSketch, an integrated approach to teaching computer science through computational music remixing, is used by thousands of high school students annually in the U.S.

And he’s still occasionally performing, most recently with The Imperial Opa Circus house band as the resident accordionist and trombonist.

But if he decides one day to chuck academics, he’d love to be a Disney Imagineer. “It’s an interesting combination of technology, arts and entertainment. What a supercool and fun job that would be.”


Rosemary Taylor, writer and digital content strategist at

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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Glenn Bolton

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Glenn Bolton

It was a chance meeting with a member of a gangsta rap crew from Long Island that changed Glenn Bolton’s name…and his life.

“I was going by the name of “Doctor On,” and this guy said, ‘that name is crap. You’re going to call yourself “Daddy-O” and he immediately when into this rhyme I still remember.”

D to the A, double D-Y-O

I go by the name of MC Daddy-O

And this is something that you must be told

You couldn’t touch me with a sureshot pole

Daddy-O, rhymes galore

MC Daddy-O came back for more y’all

The rapper also told Bolton something important he needed to hear at that time of his life.

“He told me I had talent. He didn’t want me to end up on the street corner selling drugs. That’s the thing about the hood. There are a lot of knuckleheads but if one of us has potential, they’re going to help us anyway they can. That’s what that guy did for me. He gave me confidence.”

Growing up in Brooklyn, Bolton got straight A’s in school but never considered any career other than music. His house was filled with it. Mostly jazz, urban and soul records, but also pop and rock. Local bands played every weekend and his older sister dragged him along to listen. He loved every minute of it.

Hip-Hop started in the late 1970s in the Bronx, and its culture spread quickly to all parts of New York City. “Daddy-O” became a member of the pioneer hip-hop group “Stetsasonic.” After they disbanded in 1991, he continued as a rapper, and also became a hip-hop record producer.

Always evolving and wanting to know more about the business, he became an A&R (Artists and Repertoire) executive for MCA Records and then Motown Records, working with artists like Mary J. Blige, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queen Latifah, among others.

“I’m still an A&R person at heart. I’m a sucker for a great song and a great singer. I can look and know quickly whether there’s something there, whether it can be developed or whether you should just quit and become an attorney.”

His genuine desire to discover talent has stayed with him and pushed him in new directions.

“I caught the digital bug over a decade ago and I still apply my A&R skills to working with new talent, whether it’s a programmer or a graphic artist. I never look at young people as a threat. I want to learn from them. I listen to them and I hope they learn from me the lessons of hip-hop: tenacity, passion and family.”

“Daddy-O” says that he had a light bulb moment when he read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy,” which describes how companies should create “blue oceans” of uncontested market space.

“I came up as a rapper. There was nothing like it before we came along. We saw a space and moved into it. That’s the trick – and the challenge – for the future. Finding the space that is not there.”

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Rosemary Taylor is a member of the awesome TEDxPeachtree content team. She is a professional writer and digital content strategist. 



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