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Community support for TEDxUniversityofNevada larger than ever


Story originally published on Nevada Today, Feb. 26, 2019.

The seventh-year event drew more than 1,700 people and nearly 40 sponsors to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in the spirit of ideas worth spreading

Technology, entertainment and design. These three topics make up the acronym TED, a media organization that continues to spur and share new ideas worldwide. TEDxUniversityofNevada, an independently organized event, took place Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, and featured 22 talks and performances, all with big ideas worth spreading.

The day began with opening remarks from University President Marc Johnson and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. Both recognized the significance of bringing the University out into the community with this event and lauded the record-setting attendance of more than 1,700 people

Session 1 – Identify

Nilofer Merchant, three-time author and fellow of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, kicked off the event with her talk about “The Power of Onlyness.” University of Nevada, Reno’s own Michelle Rebaleati then captivated the audience with her talk on the use of virtual reality for preserving the past. Student speaker competition winner Jenna Weiner took the stage and shared her compelling argument for gender inclusivity in sports. She was followed by Tandy Aye, a pediatric endocrinologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Aye offered first-hand insight into transgender youth, making a case for them to have the choice to undergo surgery before the age of 18.

Reno local and owner of Evoke Fitness, Mena Spodobalski, shared the journey she takes with women – breast cancer warriors who commit to clean eating and intense physical fitness – in her program, Breast Cancer to Bikini. Renown President and CEO Tony Slonim, M.D., offered valuable insight of what has already been discovered through the Healthy Nevada Project and encouraged others to participate. Closing out the first session, Sarah Rogo delighted the audience with her soulful music as well as her look into the power of music.

Session 2 – Clarify

Sister-duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe brought attendees back from break with their energetic and inspired roots rock, performing “Bleach Blonde Blues,” their cover of “Black Betty” and “Mad as a Hatter.” Chris Voss – CEO of the Black Swan Group, author and retired FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator – enthralled the audience with his talk about the transformative skill of tactical empathy and never splitting the difference. John Petrocelli, a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, had the audience in stitches when he seamlessly announced his research expertise in cultural climate change, also known as “bullshitting.”

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic – an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development and people analytics – offered insight and research into the competence, integrity and humility of leaders, questioning why more women are not in positions of leadership. Mitch Prinstein, a board-certified clinical child and adolescent psychologist, then explained how popularity in high school impacts how people act today, extolling the notion that today’s society is more focused on status than ever before.

One of the world’s leading forensic meteorologists, Elizabeth Austin, gave the audience a glimpse into how the weather can be used as the smoking gun in many criminal cases. The final speaker of the second session, Larry Olmsted challenged the audience to think about the food they eat and to eat whole foods.

Session 3 – Enact

Cynthia Albright lead session three with her talk on urban planning, highlighting design choices she believes are the pearls that string urban areas together. In a shocking twist, Albright shared a photo of Reno’s Midtown District, offering a juxtaposition for what she believes needs to happen in order for Reno to move forward with successful urban design. Thomas Wright, professor of management at Fordham University, followed Albright and gave a talk on character. He was followed by TEDxUniversityofNevada returning speaker Erica Greve, founder and CEO of Unlikely Heroes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing child victims of slavery and restoring them worldwide. In her talk, Greve analyzed the one trait that helped so many of these victims see a brighter future: resilience.

Offering insight into today’s workforce, Mark Anderson, director of Nevada Industry Excellence, addressed the talent gap crisis and encouraged people not to dismiss older innovators. Graham Kent, University professor and director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, then started his talk with a photo of “the new normal,” by offering a vivid image of a wildfire burning in California. Kent, whose talk explained the benefits of a new wildfire camera network, showed how this technology could help prevent wildfires in the future.

Rounding out the day was a talk by two-time Olympic Gold Medalist David Wise and a performance by comedian and actress Anjelah Johnson. Wise charmed the audience with his talk on true success and being grateful for the struggle. His talk painted the story of his last Olympic run and everything it took to lead up to that moment. Johnson had the audience roaring with laughter during her stand-up comedy where she detailed getting older, a real-life experience with a masseuse who fell asleep and what it was like to have her husband dress her to go out. She completed her act with a rendition of the comedy routine that made her become a YouTube sensation, “Nail Salon.”

Lobby exhibits

New this year, TEDxUniversityofNevada presenting sponsors showcased their organizations with free giveaways, information and interactive experiences. Renown’s Healthy Nevada Project was also on site, and had more than 300 people participate by contributing DNA samples. TapSnap took photos attendees could share on social media and the Nevada Wolf Shop sold books and CDs from speakers and performers. Custom Ink printed commemorative T-Shirts, with more than $2,500 in proceeds benefiting The Children’s Cabinet.

TEDxUniversityofNevada concluded the event with a hosted after-party with food provided by Whole Foods Market and beverages by Bently Heritage Estate.

“The best volunteer army in town.”

Under the leadership of Bret Simmons, TEDx event curator and University of Nevada, Reno College of Business associate professor, a number of local businesses and organizations partnered to ensure the event’s success. This year, 37 community partners helped make the event a huge success.

“This truly is a University/community collaboration,” Simmons said. “We couldn’t do this event without support from our sponsors. The support we receive out in the community drives us to deliver a quality event each year. I’m so grateful to all of our sponsors as well as the dozens of volunteers who help raise the bar on this event year after year.”

TEDx events are locally organized programs aimed at sharing short talks focused on one “big idea worth spreading.” The format helps communities, organizations and individuals spark international dialogue through videos of the talks and performances, which will be posted to the official TEDx YouTube site, TEDxTalks, in the coming days.