Student Voice


September 27, 2023


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TED Talks comes to UWRF campus as TEDx

April 11, 2014

Next year, TED Talks will be closer than ever for the UW-River Falls community. TED Talks will be on campus, in the form of a TEDx conference.

“TEDx is the name for an independently organized TED event. TED has their conferences and events in New York, the TEDx are independent groups that are organizing TED-like events,” said Paul Shepherd, Director of Student Life.

Student Life is leading the effort to get a TEDx event on campus. The first step is to get a TEDx license.

“You have to apply for a TEDx license, and it’s officially approved by the TEDx organization, but they don’t provide any assistance in making the event happen. We applied a few weeks before Spring Break,” said Shepherd. “It’s a pretty extensive application process, and I’ve completed that application and have been in contact with the folks at TED who are reviewing it, and everything looks good. It’s just a matter of time.”

Once approved, Student Life will put together a committee of faculty, staff, and students to plan the event and recruit speakers. Shepherd said the committee will hopefully be in place by the end of this semester.

Sarah Stoneburg, a junior and intern at Student Health Services, said she is excited about a TEDx event coming to campus, especially for the health services department.

“I think that it would be very interesting to have an event like that to come to campus,” said Stoneburg. “I think the department (Student Health Services) would like to get involved in something like that.”

Speakers for the event could be faculty or students from UWRF, or speakers from outside the community.

“I think what’s cool about doing this on a college campus is that we have a lot of faculty doing amazing research that the campus doesn’t really get to hear about,” said Shepherd. “If we have to go out and recruit outside speakers we could certainly do that. I think it would be cool to have a mix of faculty, staff, students, and outside people.”

If the TEDx event happens on campus, it would take the place of the Wyman lecture series, but not the Wyman performing arts series. However, Shepherd said that this comes with one caveat.

“The only difference is with TEDx, this is one of the rules from the organization in New York, is that you cannot pay speakers to come to a TEDx event. It’s supposed to be about community and creating this free exchange of ideas,” said Shepherd. “It would make recruiting a little different, but hopefully there would be incentive because a lot of TED speakers on their website are discovered through the TEDx process.”

UWRF would become the third school in the UW System to host a TEDx event, along with UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee. At Milwaukee, the planning process is 100 percent student run.

“We have an advisor but we haven’t met with her, we will one she gets back to the country. But even when she does get back, all of the leadership and planning is done by students,” said Mike Sportiello, the content coach for the Milwaukee TEDx conference.

Similar to what Shepherd said, the Milwaukee event is reaching out to faculty, staff and students already on the campus.

“To recruit presenters, I made a Google Docs form from which people can nominate themselves or others,” said Sportiello. “Most of the recruiting has been from reaching out to people we know that we think have a great story that fits our theme, or reaching out to people we don’t know and trying to explain exactly what we want from them.”

Shepherd said the University of Minnesota runs its event in a similar way, but planning under Student Life may be more beneficial than an entirely student run process.

“It’s an organized group of students, similar to a student organization (at Minnesota). They do it independently, so it isn’t an arm of the university like Student Life,” said Shepherd. “When I was talking to them, they seemed to think we might have an easier go of it because we’re a part of the University and not just a group of students.”

Shepherd said that there is discussion on whether or not to have the event on one day, or having multiple smaller events through the year.

“Doing it sporadically through the year, the event might be kind of short. The great thing about the TED experience is that full conference experience,” said Shepherd. “I think that to do just short snippets, you wouldn’t experience that full piece.”

If any students or faculty are interesting in joining the committee to help plan the TEDx event, they should contact Shepherd.