Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

TEDxDU showcases what DU has been “duing” in the world

TEDxDY presentation

DU Professor Philip Tedeschi gives a talk at TEDxDU, a one-day event that featured 18 speakers and artists sharing ideas on May 13 at DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tedeschi spoke about the role animal abuse plays in domestic abuse cases.

With loud music thumping in the background and throngs of people waiting to get in, the atmosphere at TEDxDU was more like a rock concert than a lecture series. More than 900 people attended the “TEDxDU: a Celebration of DUing” May 13 at DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets for the free, live event went quickly, as did tickets for watch parties held on campus at Driscoll University Center and Craig Hall, where approximately 500 people viewed the event as it happened. It also was streamed live on the DU website.

Ideas for a better world

TEDxDU was designed to connect attendees to powerful, world changing ideas. Eighteen speakers and performers— about half affiliated with DU — discussed some of the world’s most challenging problems, such as combating poverty, getting clean water to those in need and creating widespread policy change. And each speaker each did it in fewer than 18 minutes.

The TEDxDU talks followed the format of the internationally known TED conferences. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and since 1984 its conferences have brought together some of the world’s most fascinating thinkers. TEDx is a TED-like program of independently organized events.

Peg Shannon, a pastoral care giver from Colorado Springs, Colo., attended the event with her daughter, Kathleen Barlow (BA international studies ’07). Shannon wasn’t sure what to expect, and said before the first speaker came onstage, “I’m just open.”

Interactive displays for hands-on learning

Exhibits around the Newman Center complemented the talks. Among them were:

A digital photography exhibit of Aaron Huey’s (BFA ’99) poignant images from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Interactive kiosks designed and produced by DU students from the electronic media arts and design and digital media studies programs. In one, participants could play the role of a future citizen on the Living City Block and see the outcome of their energy choices.

A facial recognition database project by DU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Another engineering exhibit that allowed participants to test their skill at operating ground robots and mini helicopters.

Participant responses

Audiences took to their feet when the Spirituals Project Choir performed. Later, they enthusiastically welcomed speakers Stephen Brackett and Jamie Laurie, better known as Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 of the Denver-based band Flobots.

Mark Blair, a Web services manager from Parker, Colo., took vacation time to attend the TEDxDU watch party at Driscoll.

“I’m a huge TED fan,” Blair said. “I was very excited to hear there would be an event at DU. It helps me to look at things from a different perspective and opens my eyes to a lot of creative thinkers out there.”

Blair was fascinated by Lukas Biewald’s talk about using crowdsourcing technology, which distributes tasks to people throughout the world. It generates rapid disaster response, such as gathering ideas to combat the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“It’s great that they’re tapping into [ideas from] high school kids and that citizens from all over the globe are trying to help out. It’s so wonderful to capture all of the knowledge sources that are out there,” he says.

Jie Feng moved from Beijing last fall to attend DU’s Graduate School of Social Work. She saw Philip Tedeschi’s talk at the watch party in Craig Hall. Tedeschi is clinical director for DU’s Institute for Human-Animal Connection and a professor at the school. He cited a study where more than 70 percent of abused women said their abusers had first harmed an animal — research that shows violence against animals predicts violence against people.

“When people realize the connection between the human abuse and the animal abuse maybe they will be more willing to report the animal abuse,” Feng said.

After the event, Peg Shannon was glad she’d accompanied her daughter.

“It kind of reminded me of a talent show for ideas,” Shannon said. She was particularly intrigued by the challenging ideas for improving life in Africa posed by three speakers: Karambu Ringera (PhD human communication studies ’07), founder of International Peace Initiatives; Barry Hughes, director of the Pardee Center for International Futures and a professor in DU’s Josef Korbel School for International Studies; and Rod Denham, chair for Rotary International’s Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group.

“Africa is a question for the global community. What are we going to do about Africa?” Shannon asked.

DU as change agent

In a letter welcoming attendees, University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe wrote, “TEDxDU is an ambitious presentation of the ways in which the University’s identity as a change agent and action leader is manifested. We are showcasing our commitment to improve the human condition through the lives of our graduates and the work of our students, faculty and staff.”

TEDxDU talks will be posted at in the coming weeks.


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