On March 23, student organizers hosted the TEDxFSU event at the Turnball Conference Center. Since 2010, independent TED conferences have sparked deep discussions about issues pertinent to the local areas they are held. This year’s theme, “Unity in Diversity,” was discussed in nine different speeches and three performances from the FSU community.
This year’s TED began with a poetry performance by Chris Ortiz, a senior Creative Writing student at Florida State University. His performance focused on the three reasons people do not write: they don’t like big words, they don’t like writing vulnerably, and they don’t have a story to tell. Ortiz shared poems he’s written that highlight how this obstacle can be overcome.
“I think it’s about time these barriers came down so we can all contribute to the collective human voice and empower everyone to tell their stories,” Ortiz said.
Engineer Madhuparna Roy is a winner of the 3 Minute Thesis Competition at FSU and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. In her speech, she talked about her research, which focuses on how 3D printing, and how it can be used to make lightweight plane materials that protect it from lightning. She also highlighted the disparity of women in STEM due to toys given as children that discourage the growth of spatial planning skills in young girls.
“Women are 47 percent more likely to have a serious injury in the case of a car crash because they used male dummy drivers for all of their crash tests and came up with a seatbelt design that works best with those dimensions,” Roy said, discussing the need for diversity in engineering. “Only in the year 2011 did they introduce female dummies.”
She shared how the dominance of men in engineering can lead to similar outcomes because there are no diverse voices to raise awareness to other viewpoints.
Filmmaker and CEO of an Advertising and PR agency, Pierce Kafka, is an alum of Florida State University. He discussed the idea of contradiction in his speech, which is also the theme of his most recent film aptly titled, “Contradiction.”
“Don’t get stuck in echo-chambers of seeing things and believing in things that only you want to hear because there is something valuable in the other side,” Kafka said. “Things we don’t want are there to get in our way, they’re there to make us realize the things that we really want.”
Shalom Chege, senior honors student majoring in Exercise Physiology and minoring in Biology and Psychology, is originally from Nairobi, Kenya. Her speech focused on leadership and the invaluable success that mentorship provides when there is a growth of understanding between mentor and mentee.
“Every time we find ourselves in a position of leadership and we chose not to step into a spirit of mentorship, we’re really holding back such an incredible gift,” Shalom said.
After a brief intermission, Kai Daniels gave a speech focused on her personal intersection with religion as a black lesbian woman. She graduated from FSU in 2014 with a degree in Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship. Daniels currently works as an Investment Analyst at GM Ventures, supporting multi-million dollar technology investments. She is also a passionate LGBTQIA+ advocate in the workplace and in her personal life.
Dr. Jeremy Owens works to investigate the variability of oxygen contents in the ocean and the effects on marine chemistry and biology. His talk touched on current ways researchers try to understand ancient climate change and how that impacts our current understanding.
Following Owens was Dominique Dubon, a senior double majoring in Psychology and Human Resource Management. She will be working at Amazon as a Senior Human Resources Assistant. Her research at FSU has focused on how the management, promotion and prevention of cell-phone use in a classroom affects a student’s productivity on given tasks. Her speech focused on technology and its effect on various generations in the workforce.
“I put my participants in two different conditions, those that were allowed and those that were restricted from using their cell phone,” Dubon said, discussing her research. “With both conditions, they were required to have their volume on loud and they received at least three notifications from my lab assistants. What we found from this study was that those who were restricted had almost identical scores to those who were allowed.”
After her speech, Thomas Clippinger, who is currently completing his masters on a full tuition scholarship as a teaching assistant, performed two classical guitar selections, the first by Italian composer, Giulio Regondi, and the second by Francisco Tarrega.
Following another brief intermission, Alexander Brickler spoke on Afrofuturism, the genre that has come up in mainstream storytelling with “Black Panther.” Brickler is a fifth-year doctoral candidate at FSU. His scholarship focuses on African American literature, specifically Black Science and Speculative fiction. One perspective he brought to the movie was the need for the main character to heal his experience of diaspora with a return to Africa and use of a suit to give him power.
Dr. Trisha Terebelski received her Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Biological Science from Florida State. She has been named a National Academics Education Fellow in the Life Sciences based on participation in the National Academics Summer Teaching Institute and was named one of Princeton Review’s Best 300 Professors. Her talk focused on how animals understand and react to diversity with research proving that exposure to diversity at a young age can change perception of belonging — even in fish.
The final speaker, Nikesha Williams, is an Emmy award winning news producer and author who graduated with a double major in Mass Media Studies and Creative Writing from FSU in 2008. She currently lives in Jacksonville and has written a book called “Four Women.” Her speech focused on the inconveniency of pregnancy, not only because of the burden placed on the woman’s body, but also the inconvenience employers feel, which can lead to stagnant and decreased wages after the birth of a child.
To conclude the event, an experimental musical piece was performed by Joshua Baerwald. He performed on cello with snippets of speeches from the day and electronic sounds that gave the audience his unique understanding of diversity.
If you missed the event, you can catch the videos online.
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