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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Tabitha Brown, Giancarlo Esposito and Shiza Shahid speak at 2023 IMPACT Symposium

The speakers discussed everything from education to resilience to becoming a better leader.
Giancarlo+Esposito+speaks+at+the+IMPACT+symposium%2C+as+photographed+on+March+28%2C+2023.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FNarenkumar+Thirmiya%29
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Giancarlo Esposito speaks at the IMPACT symposium, as photographed on March 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)

Vanderbilt Programming Board hosted its annual IMPACT Symposium on March 27-29 featuring best-selling author Tabitha Brown, actor Giancarlo Esposito and businesswoman Shiza Shahid. After last year’s sold-out IMPACT Symposium featuring Hunter Schafer and Common, a third night was added to feature an additional speaker.

Tabitha Brown 

Tabitha Brown is an Emmy nominee, recipient of the NAACP Image Award and two-time New York Times best-selling author for her books “Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business!)” and vegan cookbook “Cooking from the Spirit.” Additionally, she has co-created and starred in her own children’s show with YouTube Originals, “Tab Time,” which is now a two-time Emmy-nominated series. She currently has a vegan cooking competition show on Food Network called “CompliPlated.” Brown aims to teach people about having faith, perseverance and how to pave their own unique path. 

In her talk, Brown discussed themes of resilience and personal challenges. She became vegan as a last resort after struggling with a chronic undiagnosed illness which became the inspiration for her award-winning vegan cookbooks and TV shows. She also shared stories about resilience in her changing relationships with God, faith, food and family.

After the shooting at The Covenant School earlier in the day, sophomore Carson Viggiano said Brown’s message brought comfort in light of the tragedy.  

“Tabitha Brown’s talk was a moment of comfort in the hours following the shooting at Covenant,” Viggiano said. “Every time she spoke to the importance of community, resilience and compassion, the audience responded with ‘Amen’ and ‘yes ma’am.’ Brown turned out to be as reassuring in person as she is online, and it was nurturing to see the crowd reciprocate her message of grace and strength.”

 Giancarlo Esposito

The second of the 2023 series of IMPACT speakers was actor Giancarlo Esposito, best known for his Emmy-nominated role as Gustavo “Gus” Fring on the AMC series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” He has also starred in numerous other award-winning films and television shows, including the narrating voice on the Netflix series “Dear White People.” Esposito has won over nine awards at various film festivals through directing work by his production company “Quiet Hands Productions.”

Giancarlo Esposito talks to the audience, as photographed on March 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)
Giancarlo Esposito talks to the audience, as photographed on March 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)
(Narenkumar Thirmiya)

Esposito started his talk by acknowledging the Covenant School shooting that occurred on the day before this event. He discussed how the past 24 hours had been difficult for the Nashville community and said he is in favor of instituting gun control in the future.

“We have made the gun bad,” Esposito said. “The gun is not something that we need to have in our cities.”

Many of the questions that Esposito answered concerned acting and the various strategies that he has used to create his characters like Fring and Buggin’ Out from the Spike Lee movie “Do The Right Thing.” He also discussed representation in the movies and the need for positive figures for audiences to see themselves in.

Some members in attendance thought Esposito’s talk was quite different from what they were expecting, like sophomore Philip Butcher.

“Giancarlo Esposito was interesting, to say the least,” Butcher said. “Basically an hour of rambling with some slightly questionable lines in there and almost entirely nonsense. I still think he’s a cool actor, and it was kinda cool to see him, though.” 

The questionable lines that Butcher mentioned included a story about how Esposito snuck up behind a woman at the airport to see how humans behaved, as well as a comment where Esposito mentioned that he loved and hated his mother more than anyone and misogyny was born into him, as Butcher clarified.

Esposito finished the moderated questions by giving the audience advice for the future, especially about how to become a better leader.

“You cannot lead until you can learn to follow,” Esposito said. “If you don’t want to follow, give up and get out of the room, because you need to follow.”

Shiza Shahid 

The final IMPACT speaker in the 2023 series was Shiza Shahid. The Stanford graduate earned her spot in many “Under 30” lists from accomplishments such as co-founding the Malala Fund as well as her cookware company Our Place. 

Shahid’s brief overview of her life told the story of a young girl who started volunteering in her community and at a women’s prison in Pakistan. These experiences drove her to give back to her community specifically through women. 

While studying at Stanford, Shahid became aware that, less than 300 miles from her hometown, girls in the Swat Valley were subject to extreme violence and banned from education. Moved by the words of girls from the valley, specifically 11-year-old Malala Yousufzai’s diary online, she created a summer camp for 26 girls to learn and find community. 

When Malala and two other girls were shot in 2012, Shahid reached out to her to see what she could do to help. Malala wanted to spread the word about the barrier between girls and education. Shahid quit her job at McKinsey, moved to New York and co-founded the Malala Fund. 

“I have found that the biggest things I’ve done in my life started as the smallest things I’ve done,” Shahid said. “If I hadn’t reached out to an 11-year-old girl who was trying to go to school, I wouldn’t have started the Malala Fund.”

This incident was the first of many times Shahid talked about the butterfly effect in her life. She aims to find ways to connect people to meaningful stories that are a part of imaginable issues, like the 130 million girls unable to attend school because of conflicts in their area. 

“At what point did we decide helping just one person wasn’t good enough?” Shahid said. 

After Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, Shahid wanted to get back to her mission of combining business and purpose. She took inspiration from her story as an immigrant and the togetherness around food at a table when creating her brand Our Place, which sells heirloom kitchenware designed to start familial traditions in the kitchen.

“We have always believed that when you sit across the table from someone, when you share a meal, when you share your stories, that connects us in ways that are far deeper than anything else,” Shahid said.  “It’s really hard to have dinner with someone, to break bread with someone and to hate them.”

Shahid combines her mission of hiring and sustaining a brand that prioritizes POC and women while bringing people together and telling stories about the power of food. 

During the Q&A portion of her talk, students expressed interest in a variety of topics from Shahid’s successful career. Some students wanted inspiration during what they saw to be a dark political time, others sought advice on creating meaningful yet profitable brands and finally, students asked for advice when facing adversity, pointing to how Shahid started Our Place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A lot of it was hard and it only gets harder, but that’s okay because I realized the fun things, the meaningful things are often hard,” Shahid said. “You can find a lot of joy while you are doing hard things.”

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About the Contributors
Jorie Fawcett
Jorie Fawcett, Senior Advisor
Jorie Fawcett ('25) is from Tiffin, Ohio, and studies secondary education and sociology in Peabody College. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and Life Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her teaching, reading or pretending to study at Local Java or Suzie's. You can reach her at [email protected].
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
Zach Joseph
Zach Joseph, Senior Staff Writer
Zach Joseph ('25) is from Chicago, Ill., and is majoring in law, history and society with a minor in Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the News section. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him going for a run around campus or passionately watching soccer games. You can contact him at [email protected].
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Narenkumar Thirmiya, Staff Photographer
Narenkumar Thirmiya ('24) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in neuroscience and medicine, health, and society in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, he is streaming TV, playing the piano or guitar or exploring nature photography. You can reach him at [email protected].
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