A place for ideas and growth

Joseph Mara speaks about Western misconceptions of developing nations during the inaugural TEDx Central Michigan University event April 29. Eight speakers shared their takes on the theme ‘The Essence of a Changing World.’ [Courtesy image | Taylor Idema]

Tiffany Judge issued a challenge to the sold-out crowd Saturday. 

“It’s one thing to say that you're working towards a better world, but it's another to actually do it,” the Central Michigan University student told attendees at a TEDx event in the French Auditorium.

CMU’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted the TEDx event April 29. For more than two hours that afternoon, eight CMU students and faculty members had the opportunity to speak in front of a sold-out crowd.

With the theme, “Essence of a changing world,” each speaker used their own personal experiences to help spark conversation among related topics. From disability acceptance, diversity and inclusion to technology usage and wonder, each conversation represented an important aspect of our world today.

“There are so many motivated and passionate students on campus who don't know of ways to share their ideas ---- where they can really express their talents,” CMU student, TEDx lead organizer and host Tyler Thompson said. “An event like this is really a platform to be able to amplify their thoughts or ideas.”

Each speaker spent between 10 and 15 stage; all held the audience's complete devoted attention. Some speakers had a few slideshows to aid the presentation, others brought nothing but themselves. 

Jurge opened with her presentation “The University: An Evolving Mosaic.” She discussed higher education, a university's role and social responsibility to students and community. 

The next speaker was CMU student Anyah Lewis, whose presentation was titled “Life After Trauma: Youth Cultivating Resilience.” Much of Lewis’s presentation was focused around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which according to Lewis are defined as “any traumatic event that has occurred in a child's life before the age of 18.”

Next speaker up was CMU student Jessica Hetzel and her presentation “Disability Studies: The Key to an Inclusive Society.” Hetzel spoke about how even in an age of increased inclusivity and diversity, disabled people are often forgotten about. 

“We talk about racism and sexism, but never talk about ableism,” said Hetzel.

After Hetzel was Dr. Shawna Patterson-Stephens, the vice president and chief diversity officer at CMU. Patterson-Stephens’ presentation “Community, Counterspace, and the Digital Domain” focused largely around technology and how, despite its importance, it has changed the way humans behave and interact with each other.

Following a brief intermission with snacks, refreshments and plenty of conversation, was CMU student Jada Trash and her presentation, “Your Power of Wonder.” According to Trash, “Wonder is not only the essence of our changing world but our catalyst to solve all our greatest global challenges."

Dr. Nikita Murry provides oversight for institution-wide diversity education initiatives at CMU. With her presentation “Kindly Managing a Changing World,” she spoke on kindness and how important accepting yourself individually is. 

The next speaker was Joseph Marah, a CMU student and president and founder of the Joseph Marah Arnold Foundation in Sierra Leone, West Africa. In his presentation “Western Misconceptions on Developing Nations,” Marah focused on how Western society views developing nations, despite many similarities between countries across the world. 

Lastly, Dr. Jonathan Glenn, director of diversity & inclusion/deputy Title IX coordinator at Alma College presented “Finding Yourself Through Consistency,” which focused on personal struggles he has had and how he has worked to overcome them.

“It's important to be sharing ideas and thoughts,” said Thompson. “It's cool that we get to cover some topics, but there's so many topics that we don't cover.”

Thompson first had the idea for a TEDx event in the summer of 2022, though he credits a mentor of his for helping come up with the theme. Starting with research on the licensing and eventually moving into the application process during the fall 2022 semester, it took until January 2023 to finally get approved by TED. 

Tiffany Jurge issued a challenge to the sold-out crowd Saturday. tice and planning, the date had finally come to put it all together. With speakers from a multitude of backgrounds, each hadr their own perspective on life and the world as we know it. While the main goal of this event is to spark conversation about these different issues, they also intend to push people towards action.

“It's about getting them in that sort of mindset and having them start thinking and start engaging and start having conversations with other people about those ideas,” Thompson said. “Then actually moving forward and taking the first step.”

More information about TEDx events can be found on their website and a livestream of the CMU TEDx event can be watched here.