The leadership team of TEDxSantaCruz is composed of successful entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropists, and educators who collaborate to build very special events that showcase innovations in technology, entertainment, design, and more. TEDxSantaCruz gathers leading thinkers, makers, and artists to share their ideas that create real change in Santa Cruz and around the world.

Located in Santa Cruz County and supported by a dedicated group of volunteers and generous sponsors, TEDxSantaCruz is dedicated to producing events that feature stimulating presentations, discussions, entertainment, and art that spark new ideas and opportunities. Since 2011, we have brought the innovative, energetic enthusiasm of TED and TEDx to the Santa Cruz area.

Following is a list of the volunteer team members of TEDxSantaCruz:


Nada Miljkovic, Licensee & Co-Producer & Speaker Coach



Nada Miljkovic is an artist, activist, collaborator, creator of media, performances, and installations, and UCSC Faculty Instructor and Project Manager for the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurial Development. She is also on the Board of Directors for Arts Council Santa Cruz County.

Jenny Kurzweil, Project Manager & Co-Producer & Speaker Coach


Jenny Kurzweil is a nonprofit storyteller who is passionate about using communications to advance social causes. She serves as the Communications Officer for Community Foundation Santa Cruz County and co-founder of Pie for the People Santa Cruz. Jenny loves baking pie, farmer’s markets, gardening, writing, coalition building, community activism, and hiking with her dog Muggsy.

Consuelo Alba, Co-Producer


Consuelo Alba’s work is grounded in equity, creativity, and joy. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Watsonville Film Festival which showcases primarily Latine and Indigenous stories to foster positive change. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Consuelo serves as the Board Chair of the Arts Council Santa Cruz County and is a founding member of Rise Together, a coalition working locally to advance racial equity.

Elana Solon, Sponsorship Lead & Co-Producer & Speaker Coach


Elana Solon is a community relationship-builder, connecting like-minded people and organizations to each other for mutual benefit and the greater good. With a background in operations, hospitality, and intercultural communication, Elana currently serves as Philanthropic Operations Officer at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. She also serves as a Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and on the Board of Leadership Santa Cruz County.


Jon Luini, Technical & Event Co-Producer & Speaker Coach


For over three decades, Jon has helped define the digital world, through groundbreaking 1990s online media companies, and now his boutique digital agency, Chime Interactive, He is a founding member and Producer of seven TEDxSantaCruz events as well as “Love You Madly”, a response to the CZU Lightning Complex fire.

Team Leads

Andrew Dao, Volunteer Lead & Coordinator


Andrew Dao is a former UCSC Banana Slug and avid fish sauce lover. He’s volunteered at the Homeless Garden Project, Homeless Services Center and helped clean up Bay View and Del Mar Elementary. His professional career in software sales helps fund his fun lifestyle which includes video games, nature, cooking, traveling, and eating exotic foods, like animal organs.

Grace Stetson, Marketing & Communications Lead


Grace Stetson is a freelance journalist and communications strategist, dedicated to sharing vital stories with the greater Santa Cruz Community. She writes for UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and coordinates political campaigns in Santa Cruz County. When not at work, Grace is volunteering at the SPCA, Kuumbwa Jazz, or Second Harvest, exercising, or getting lost in nature with a good audiobook.

Irene Tsouprake, Speaker Curation & Lead Speaker Coach


Irene Tsouprake, influenced by Riane Eisler’s partnership model and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, redefines corporate success through transformative events. Serving TEDXSantaCruz for a decade, advising regional TEDx events, and curating TEDxThimphu, Irene is a soil regeneration and Climate Reality advocate. She co-hosts the Sage Against the Machine podcast, contributing to conversations on an equitable, sustainable future. Irene enjoys writing, acting, camping, and quality time with her family.

Mary Andersen, Social Media Marketing Lead


Mary Andersen, the Director of Marketing for Digital Media Santa Cruz, manages brand vision, digital/print advertising, copywriting, communications, event marketing, website design, development, reputation management, and social media strategy. Additionally, she supports TEDxSantaCruz marketing, emphasizing social media and strategy. Mary is also a board member and Marketing/Communications Director at both Leadership Santa Cruz County and the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Raquel Cool, Speaker Liaison


Raquel Cool is a former tech journalist turned award-winning executive communications professional. She leads internal communications at Cisco for an organization of nearly 30,000 global employees, mostly engineers. She is passionate about storytelling, bringing big ideas to life, and making art projects.

Stacey Marie Garcia, Facilitated Lunch Program Lead


Stacey Marie Garcia creates experiences for people to connect, learn, and take action together. At the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience she supports museums, historic sites, and grassroots initiatives in inclusive community engagement, public programming, and organizational change. Previously she was the Engagement Officer at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County and the Director of Community Engagement at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.


Vania Benavides, Website Lead


Vania Benavides, founder of VAB Media Digital Marketing Agency with over 12 years of experience, oversees fully integrated and standalone social media and advertising campaigns. Her responsibilities extend to cohesive online campaign team management, content ideation, and reputation management. Notably, she has contributed her expertise to organizations such as TEDxSantaCruz.


Alexandra Proca, Speaker Coach


Alexandra Proca, a Romanian immigrant and former journalist turned Silicon Valley translation operations manager, is a passionate volunteer, focusing her efforts on underrepresented communities. She contributes to the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire and volunteers at the Homeless Garden Center Store and Farm. An occasional dancer and music enthusiast, she actively engages in the local and global art scene.

Andrea Roth, Speaker Coach


Andrea Roth is chair of the English Department at Pacific Collegiate School where she teaches AP Language & Composition and Rhetoric. She’s been teaching for 28 years.

Bettina Aptheker, Speaker Coach


Bettina Aptheker, a scholar-activist with over 50 years of public speaking, co-led the movement to free Angela Davis in the early 1970s. Now Distinguished Professor Emerita in Feminist Studies at UCSC, she’s known for her impactful career and a 30-year-long, beloved teaching of Introduction to Feminisms.

Daris Jaspher, Photographer


Daris Jasper is a Bay Area-based photographer who explores moments of ritual, legacy, and spirituality in his work. His photography provides a purpose and means to serve as an activist for social justice and his camera acts as a witness to the customs and traditions of cultural lifestyles of marginalized and underrepresented individuals and groups in society.

David Warren, Speaker Curation & Speaker Coach, Founder of TEDxSantaCruz


David Warren, a retired Cabrillo College faculty member, educator, technologist, and activist, once served as the program director and counselor for returning Vietnam veterans. He played a key role in establishing adaptive computer labs, securing a $2 million grant to connect regional schools to the Internet in the early 1990s. David also taught Cabrillo’s first desktop publishing classes.

Gayle McCallum, Speaker Coach


Gayle McCallum, a lover of stories and avid reader, is not only a veteran community college teacher but also a dedicated volunteer and world traveler. Whether riding her orange bicycle around town or hiking in the redwoods, Gayle often delights in saying hello to passersby, embodying her passion for connection and exploration.

Janet Janssen, Speaker Coach


Janet Janssen, a Life in Business coach and accomplished public speaker, clinched the 2020 Toastmaster International award in Northern California. She specializes in one-on-one coaching and team-building workshops. Beyond her coaching role, Janet is an active board member of Leadership Santa Cruz County, a member of 831 Storytellers Toastmasters in Scotts Valley, and a columnist for Press Banner.

Joel Hersch, Speaker Coach


Joel Hersch, born and raised in Santa Cruz, began his career working as a journalist for local publications, penning stories on local politics, environmental controversies, emerging technology, and the countless people who make this community so unique. Joel specializes in brand marketing, multimedia production, and documentary storytelling.


Jules Holdsworth, Photographer


Jules Holdsworth captures life through a distinct lens, challenging viewers’ perceptions. Fans of Jules’ work say that she is the perfect example of photography not being about the equipment, but about the heart and soul behind the lens. Her work graces local publications and exhibitions, showcasing in venues like the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History and the Cabrillo Gallery.

Leland B. Thompson, Speaker Coach


Leland Thompson established his coaching practice to empower leaders in developing high-performing teams and refining critical leadership abilities, including presentation and interview skills. His guidance has led professionals across diverse sectors, such as retail, education, and tech, to achieve substantial growth. He offers coaching services both domestically and internationally.

Melissa Fowler, Speaker Coach


Melissa Fowler, Chief of Engagement at AVID.org, holds a BA from MSU and is a certified Leadership Development Coach. On the NAMI Santa Cruz Board, she supports those impacted by mental illness. Melissa finds joy in outdoor activities and the adventure of exploration.

Nada Khorchid, Speaker Coach


Nada Khorchid, a seasoned professional with over 20 years of dynamic executive experience in the tech industry, is passionate about transforming leaders and organizations. Leveraging her diverse cultural experiences and a solid tech background, she is dedicated to driving positive change. Nada heads a global coaching and consulting company, Lead for Change, committed to elevating leadership and organizational impact worldwide.

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