Championing “ideas worth spreading,” Utah State University hosted a TEDx event Wednesday afternoon.
The day included eight presentations given in the typical TED Talks fashion by USU professors, students, alumni and special guests.
TEDx is based off of the TED Talks, a popular nonprofit organization. TED, originally standing for Technology, Entertainment and Design, organizes two annual conferences where some of the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers come together to present and discuss news ideas. These presentations, known as TED Talks, have gained a huge following on the Internet.
What makes TEDx different than normal TED Talks is that it isn’t officially a TED-sponsored event. Rather, it’s independently organized, and TED lends its name and format to help bring the credibility and notoriety that TED Talks are known for.
The speakers at the TEDxUSU event presented on a variety of subjects, ranging from vipassana, a form of meditation focused on gaining insight from the moment, to ways science and medicine are improving the lives of babies born deaf with some hearing loss.
Rhonda Callister, a professor in the Huntsman School of Business at USU for the past 15 years, presented on barriers women face in developing countries and in developed countries.
Callister began working on this topic back in 2003 after becoming the principal investigator on a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. Their research focused on ways USU can improve recruitment, retention and the advancement of women in science and engineering.
“I was kind of steered away from gender issues when I was doing my graduate work because in business, it’s not one of the central topics,” Callister said.
She and her peers worked for six years gathering information and tracking data.
“Tracking data was a big part of it,” Callister said. “And showing data in graph form to a lot of different groups.”
The results of the research were telling, she said.
“Often times that data could be really powerful. For example, we had one department, we showed their hiring data compared to availability, women Ph.D.s in their field,” Callister said. “We compared it to their percentages and found they were hiring less than half the availability in the last five years. That’s pretty powerful.”
Another USU professor presenter was Chris Gauthier, an assistant professor of art in photography. Gauthier created a project entitled “Evidence and Artifacts.”
“The project is a portrait project really documenting the growing number of individuals not only on the spectrum of autism,” Gauthier said. “Also their family members and their siblings and also doctors, researchers, clinicians, teachers, people who are really committed every day to improving the quality of life for people who are on the autism spectrum.”
Gauthier became interested in autism after his two children were diagnosed with a form of it.
“I realized that, frequently, people don’t understand what autism is or how to understand it or understand the prevalence of it, and how many people have autism,” Gauthier said. “So I began looking at a way to convey the humanity of autism to a larger public audience at the national level.”
What started as a small grassroots movement began to garner national attention. His exhibit has been shown across the nation including at Johns Hopkins University and at the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association World Conference.
Interest in attending the TEDx event was so widespread that potential attendees had to apply for tickets in advanced.
J.D. Borg, a senior majoring in economics and finance, was one lucky individual who received a ticket.
“I love the TED Talks. I was really inspired by a couple of them. I thought it’d be a really cool opportunity,” Borg said. “Every presentation has spoken to me in such a different way.”
The event even brought alumni back to their alma mater. Thad Gillespie graduated from USU in 2009 and now works as an engineer for the Space Dynamics Laboratory.
“I’m a big fan of TED since I’ve been watching them online,” Gillespie said. “I heard they were doing it here, and I was really excited to come and participate here in person.”
The director of SDL, Doug Lemon, was also one of the guest speakers.
“He’s going to talk about the WISE satellite and some of the images that have come back from that,” Gillespie said beforehand. “I think that’s what I’m most excited for.”