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Science, art, sociology expounded at TEDxPLNU

Friday saw the university’s first TEDxPLNU come and go with topics ranging from evolution to silence as an agent of social injustice.

PLNU’s independently run TEDx talk featured five faculty member speakers including Director of the University NOW Program and Associate Professor of Biology April Maskiewicz, Art Professor David Adey, Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation Jamie Gates, Adjunct Professor of Kinesiology Ted Vickey and a Professor of French and Literature, Hadley Wood.

A committee of event organizers including student representatives from the Student Senate as well as deans from PLNU’s College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Natural and Social Sciences chose the speakers from a list of 35 staff, faculty and alumni.

Executive Director of the Office of Strengths and Vocation (OSV) Rebecca Smith hosted the event and introduced each speaker.

“The TEDx tagline is ‘ideas worth spreading’ and when I think about the hours that our presenters today have spent in the last few weeks preparing for today, there is a unifying theme,” said Smith to the audience in Crill Performance Hall. “…A common denominator if you will, around the ideas worth spreading, that they’re going to share with us today.”

Smith believes that the ideas PLNU’s TEDx speakers were able to present were unique to the University based on its people and location.

Maskiewicz’s opening talk focused on the intersection of evolution and the Christian faith and the multiple myths that she believes surround the compatibility between the two.

“While there is a preponderance of evidence and data to support the fact that humans evolved in the same processes that all the other organisms on earth did, people tell me they reject human evolution…” said Maskiewicz.

After feeling compelled to start over part way through his talk, Adey spoke about his own artistic experiences and the unchanging nature of art and sculpture throughout history.

Gates, a professor of sociology, talked about his own work in social justice and studying sex trafficking using the mouth as a metaphor for a social justice that, if kept silent, would fail to prevent human rights violations.

“They depend on you and I not paying attention” said Gates about sex traffickers.

Vickey, who is the Founder & President of FitWell, Inc., a fitness consulting company and former executive director of the White House Athletic Center, spoke about the innovative use of smart phone apps in fitness and exercise.

The TEDx talks ended with Wood’s account of her own academic experiences and the facts, choices, and people that shaped her life.

“It’s a good way to get exposure, to bring attention to the types of work that we do here at Point Loma,” said G. James Daichendt, Dean of College of Arts and Humanities.

“Sometimes I think that we’re hidden, and when they think of us they think of the wonderful view and the wonderful ocean breeze and location and how beautiful it is, but there is so much more substance to that.”

Daichendt was responsible for the first efforts to bring TEDx to PLNU and had received approval from the TED organization when he discovered that members of Student Senate had already begun their own plans to organize a TEDx event.

“We’re really excited to have them at PLNU, I think it’s an incredible way to showcase all of the talent,” said Jacci O’Keefe, chair of the TEDx committee in Student Senate. “If you think about it, we have an academic community where people are so deeply invested in what they study, and as students I don’t think we get to hear that a lot.”

“So I think TEDx is a way for students to engage with the larger academic conversations,” she added.

O’Keefe led the Student Senates committee for TEDxPLNU and coordinated with Daichendt and Dean of College of Natural and Social Sciences, Holly Irwin to plan the talks and select speakers. Daichendt explains that part of operating a TEDx talk requires that organizers adhere to TEDx rules include limiting the audience to 100 members and that 25 percent of its talks must include prerecorded TED Talk videos.

For some of the TEDx coordinators, like Irwin, the event was an opportunity for university faculty to offer their own extra-curricular discourse.

“We wanted to be sure that we had breadth, so not all artists, not all biologists, right?” Irwin said. “And we have two colleges, so we wanted to make sure we had breadth across, that was an important part of it, and then it was: ‘who has a story to tell?’”

According to Deichandt an application for licensing has to be refiled for every TEDx talk, but he and Irwin hope to consider in the coming the possibility of having more TEDx talks at PLNU.

“There are future plans for a TED[x] talk, and Jim and I will have to talk about the frequency of that. Maybe every year, maybe every other year, we haven’t decided that yet,” Irwin said.

 

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Jonathan Soch

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