UNO hosts its first TEDx event

Photo courtesy of Ryan Henricksen The first TEDxUNO sold out in just a few days, resulting in an audience packed into the Strauss Performing Arts Center.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Henricksen
The first TEDxUNO sold out in just a few days, resulting in an audience packed into the Strauss Performing Arts Center.

By Eugene Kim, Contributor

The inaugural TEDxUNO conference was held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Strauss Performing Arts Center to a sold-out audience on Feb. 28.

A TEDx event is closely formatted to the widely popular TED Talks conferences, but organized and coordinated independently, under a free license granted by TED. As such, TEDx event aligns with the spirit of TED’s slogan, “ideas worth spreading,” while remaining free from corporate, political or religious agendas.

TEDxUNO was curated by the TEDxUNO Planning Committee and hosted by TEDxUNO committee chairman Ben Jager, who is also the associate director of Student Activities.

According to Jager, in general, TEDTalks cover topics that support theTED acronym: technology, entertainment and design.

“TED Talks address those topics in a short, dynamic talk,” Jager said.“They’re always under 18 minutes. It’s not about a 45-minute lecture to explain an idea. They’re about presenting a case…almost asking more questions than providing answers for. They’re meant to spark conversation, further debate and discussion—really getting people thinking.”

The event included eight “talks” for a total of 10 combined local speakers, all of which fit into this year’s TEDxUNO theme of “Community.”

“With us being a metropolitan institution, the engagement with our community is central to everything we do here,” Jager said.

“The work that we’ve been doing is being recognized nationally and we decided what better way to kick off our TEDx series than with an event about community, something that everybody can get involved in,”Jager said. “We wanted to honor that relationship and commitment with our broader community by putting on an event that we could all sort of talk about the collective good work that’s happening here.”

The speakers for the event included four UNO faculty members and one current UNO student, as well as other community standouts and leaders. They responded to an open call put out last November or were approached by the Planning Committee. 

Cameron Logsdon, UNO alumnus and assistant director of MavForensics, was chosen to be the event’s opening speaker.

“I think it’s really exciting that UNO is doing their own TEDxevent,” Logsdon said. “To be involved in that, I felt honored and very excited.”

Brian Smith, the founding curator and license holder of TEDxOmaha since 2010, was an important mentor and advisor to the TEDxUNO event.

“We have a very strong community of people in Omaha who are excited about TED,” Smith said. “This gives the opportunity to expand the experience from just watching TEDTalks on your computer to actually being in the same room as these other people who are very curious about new ideas.”

TEDxUNO was one of the first TEDx university events in the state and is one of a few that exists regionally. Its origin is credited to Daniel Shipp, the associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

According to Jager, Dan Shipphad the idea a year or so ago, and TEDxUNO would not have come to fruition without his ideas and support.

“It was really his brain child,” Jager said.

Additionally, WhyArts? presented collaborative art projects available to attendees to interact with during the TEDx event’s breaks. These allowed participants the chance to discuss, debate, and reflect on the speaker’s topics as well as to network and connect with the artists, presenters, and one another.

First-year MBA student Michael Munger attended and was impressed by the use of the continuing theme of community and how it all tied together.

“I think absolutely all the speakers hit it,” Munger said. “It is really relatable because while Omaha isa bigger city, it still has the feeling of a smaller community.”

According to the pre-event ticket sales, about 70 percent of the attendees were area high school, UNO or other college students.

The TEDxUNO Talks will be available online on the TEDx Talks YouTube channel within 30 days of the event. The prerecorded TEDTalks videos, which were presented during the event, are already available for on the TEDxUNO Facebook community page.

“TED Talks are really geared toward people who are curious about the world around them,”Smith said. “These are conversations and discussions that are important to a healthy community.”