Every year, an independently organized event known as TEDxUSU comes to Utah State University.
This year marked the sixth annual TEDxUSU event and 1,068 tickets were sold. Preparation for this event begins as soon as the previous year’s event ends.
“Faculty and staff audition to participate in TEDxUSU in April and work with the team for a good six months developing their talk before taking the stage in October,” said Brigitte Hugh, social media and undergrad research project manager for USU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
Meanwhile, the TEDxUSU team reserves venues, selects a theme and focuses on logistical details like visual identity, branding, venues, catering and event promotion.
This year’s theme of “Movement” brought together many different ideas from USU faculty and staff alike.
Pamela Martin, coordinator of outreach and peer learning for the Merrill-Cazier Library, chose to speak on a topic related to her profession. As an academic librarian, Martin helps students learn skills to evaluate information and find good sources.
“I’m very concerned with the spread of misinformation and fake news online,” Martin said.
Martin prepared for TEDxUSU months in advance.
“I only spoke for about seven or eight minutes, but I’ve been thinking about it for months and months,” Martin said. “You workshop your talk with the other speakers, which is great, but also intimidating.”
Martin was pleased with the end result.
“It was hard work, but worth it. It’s great to get to know the other speakers,” Martin said.
Martin hopes her talk helped encourage students to think more critically about the information they are consuming online.
Students, faculty, and staff of Utah State University had many different reasons for attending TEDxUSU. Students Alexandra Bobella and Alexi Lamb enjoy attending TEDxUSU because it is a community event.
“It’s interesting to see the different things people are working on here, or other places where they are bringing people in,” Lamb said. “TED talks are always a way to learn something new.”
Bobella enjoyed being exposed to new ideas and thinking about things in a different way.
“The acting talk (given by Jason Spelbring) was our favorite,” Bobella said. “It is interesting that movement creates character. After getting food, you can’t help but watch people walk by and watch how they’re moving.”
Jason Spelbring is an assistant professor of acting for the Caine College of the Arts. He was nominated by CCA Dean Craig Jessop.
Spelbring enjoyed being able to participate in what he calls a “once in a lifetime” experience.
“My overall thought was that I’m an actor. This should be easy,” Spelbring said. “I was actually quite terrified.”
In his classroom, Spelbring teaches movement to actors to help create character. The goal for his talk was to show the natural link that exists between movement and character.
Spelbring brought this concept to life by inviting a couple of his acting students to demonstrate contact improvisation for the TEDxUSU audience.
“I’m an actor whose character was shaped by gymnastics,” Spelbring said. “I wanted the audience to see what contact improvisation was and how it complimented my topic.”
Britany Chamberlain, a graduate student and NASA Space Technology Research Fellow at USU, was invited to present a talk after speaking at Ignite USU during research week last spring.
“Speaking at TEDxUSU was terrifying but was also a great learning experience,” she said. “I should be able to do any public speaking now with ease.”
Chamberlain has worked at the Propulsion Lab on campus since 2011, which helped her pick her topic.
“I guess my topic chose me,” Chamberlain said. “When I started working on my masters, I began working on CubeSat rockets. I’ve always been interested in space debris. The two topics are naturally related.”
Chamberlain expressed that she doesn’t believe humans are meant to stay still.
“Movement is life,” Chamberlain said. “Every day is an opportunity to learn, do, and experience new things.”
The TEDxUSU talks are now available on Youtube.