Composite image of Bryant alumni speaker headshots and TEDx illustration
Alumni offer breakthrough perspectives at TEDxBryantU 2021
Feb 25, 2021, by Staff Writer

Bryant University’s fourth annual TEDxBryantU, held Feb. 20, featured a blend of students, alumni, faculty, trustees and guest speakers in a compelling day of inspirational talks.

A number of students attended in Janikies Theater on campus, and nearly 300 more tuned in online to hear the speakers’ talks on the theme “Breaking Barriers,” inspired by the social, economic, and political barriers that have been broken during the past unprecedented year.

Alumni inspire with life stories and advice

Steven Craffey 86, MBA ’21

Steven Craffey ’86, MBA ’21, is a Principal with Island Creek Partners, LLC, a health care consulting firm he founded in 2016. With over 30 years of experience in the health care industry, he led the deployment of the largest virtual cardiac rehabilitation program in the United States. In his talk, titled Facing Adversity and Winning, Craffey shared stories from his career and his life, using these examples to advise listeners to find the right perspective, avoid assumptions, give freely, and share learnings.

Button linking to related story featuring student and faculty TEDx speakers

“When you’ve got an obstacle – something you need to get through – think about this: Your greatest obstacle may turn out to be your greatest opportunity,” Craffey shared.

An FAA-Certified Flight Instructor who helps pilots improve their flying skills, Craffey values supporting and coaching others to be the best versions of themselves.

Ann-Marie Harrington ’86

Bryant Trustee Ann-Marie Harrington ’86 made a special appearance, advising listeners that “It’s ok to not know what’s in front of you for years on end. It’s ok not to have everything planned out. And it’s ok to reinvent yourself, even if you reinvent yourself every decade.”

“Even if you don’t reach the goal that you set, it’s not a fail. Learn from it.”
- Rita Williams-Bogar

Harrington is a successful entrepreneur, advisor, investor, and board member of in both the business and nonprofit spaces. She built the bulk of her career in web development, an industry that wasn’t in the public consciousness until seven years after she graduated. She grew her business, Embolden, for 16 years, riding the wave of the industry, following her gut through each phase, she said, despite the fear, risks, and doubts.

“Treat every interaction as currency,” Harrington advised, emphasizing that successful businesses rely first on relationships, filling the metaphorical cup a with a little bit more equity from each interaction. “Be kind, listen to yourself, take risks in those things that you believe in,” she offered.

Rita Williams-Bogar ’76

Bryant Trustee and Chair of the Board of Trustees Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Rita Williams-Bogar ’76 talked about Surpassing Your Personal Best, and shared her personal experience of overcoming both internal and external barriers as she developed a new passion for running, even as people were asking her when she was planning to retire.

A professional leadership development consultant, in the last three years she has participated in more than 40 running events in the US and abroad, and though she finished her first event in last place, she is on track to complete four half-marathons in the coming year.

“There will always be somebody who thinks your dreams are too big,” she told the audience, but she advised them to “change your mindset,” by “flipping the script” on negative thinking, and instead of saying “I can’t,” ask “how can I?”

“Even if you don’t reach the goal that you set, it’s not a fail. Learn from it.”

Tim Barton ’85

In another special guest appearance, Bryant Trustee and Founder and Managing Partner at Barton Executive Search, Inc., Tim Barton ’85 offered his perspective on breaking barriers, offering his take on what constitutes a good leader – a positive disruptor – who can break barriers.

“My clients who are most successful are always, always leaning in on disruption, innovation,” he said, not just in products and services, but in who they hire and how they hire them.

In his executive search business, he said, “When we are asked to find a leader to drive change or lead a company or a discipline in a new direction… we are seeking individuals who can build trust and alignment early; people who are inquisitive…” and who offer humility, respect, empathy and understanding of others.

Rewarding experience for students and alumni

TEDxBryantU has become a feature event for the University, offering an inspiring opportunity to listen to members of the Bryant community who share personal ideas, perspectives, and thoughts about ways we can improve and better serve the world. Alumni participate each year, offering their own unique experiences and advice, and say they take away as much inspiration as they provide. 

“I got so much out of my colleagues talks, the students, the faculty and the other alumni,” said Craffey following the event. “I may be older than some of the other speakers but I have as much to learn as they do. We’re all Bulldogs, whether you graduated in 2021 or 1986, or 1976 or whenever.”

Williams-Bogar added that the event is a great feature for Bryant, because of the creativity and independent thinking it inspires, and its broad appeal across audiences. “This is not something that just belongs to one committee or one team, or one part of the community. It belongs to the entire Bryant community,” she said.

About TEDxBryantU

A student-run initiative, TEDxBryantU is independently organized and licensed by the TED media platform. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.  Samantha Scoca ’18, inspired by Bryant’s culture of innovation, applied for a TEDx license in 2018 and brought the conference to campus.

See recordings of messages from Trustees Tim Barton ’85 and Ann-Marie Harrington ’86. The recorded TEDxBryantU talks will be made available by the organization in the future at


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