Student-led group brings renowned brand to University of Idaho to expand discussions around “ideas worth spreading.”
There are a lot of people in this world with ideas.
Big ideas. Small ideas. New ideas. Reinvented old ideas. Good ideas. Sometimes, bad ideas.
And if you are one of those people with ideas, you probably want a way to share them. Which can become a problem.
In this big world full of ideas, how does one person — particularly one person from a small town like Moscow, Idaho — share his or her ideas?
A Place for Ideas
TEDxUIdaho is about filling that need: This spring, the student-led organization is offering its second TEDxUIdaho, a daylong forum of ideas aimed at “cultivating curiosity.” The event, held Saturday, April 9, 2016, showcases 20 speakers and performers, including alumni, faculty, local and regional experts and those with interesting, passionate stories to tell.
The event is officially licensed through the TED organization, a nonprofit dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”
UI’s TEDx event was launched by Yvonne Nyavor a neuroscience doctoral student from Ghana, Africa.
Originally from Ghana, Africa, Yvonne Nyavor, a graduate student in neuroscience at UI, founded TEDxUIdaho in 2015. This photos were taken during Nyavor’s trip to the TEDGlobal conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in December.
Nyavor came to UI in 2012, terrified and not sure what to expect.
“I didn’t really know anyone here. I was just like, ‘How am I going to survive?’” said Nyavor, who selected UI because she wanted to work with Onesmo Balemba, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science. “But in the end, I chose to come here because of the researcher. I realized the school itself is very friendly, very accommodating to international students. I felt like I needed time to be able to learn in an environment full of nice people, as opposed to a crazy busy place.”
Nyavor began exploring how to bring a TEDx program to UI in 2014 after realizing that no one in the state of Idaho had hosted such a conference. She applied to hold an event, and was approved.
The initial TEDxUIdaho event, held in March 2015, was limited to 100 tickets. It featured 10 talks, including UI biological sciences professor Larry Forney, Shades of Black founder Kwapi Vengesayi, and sociology and anthropology professor Rodney Frey.
The event sold out in a matter of hours, causing Nyavor to look into expanding her TEDx license.
The Idea Gets Bigger
Growing TEDxUIdaho meant Nyavor had to attend an official TED conference.
She received funding support from the Office of the President to attend TEDGlobal in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 2015. UI President Chuck Staben has been supportive of TEDxUIdaho and bringing an expanded license to the university.
“I’ve watched a lot of TED talks, and I find them very engaging,” Staben said. “Having them at the University of Idaho brings more excitement about ideas to campus.”
In Geneva, Nyavor met with other TEDx leaders from around the globe and was inspired by their events and vision.
“I was pretty intimidated by how amazing the other TEDx organizers from around the world are,” Nyavor said. “They are such amazing people — willing and believing in the vision and so completely into it. It inspired me to come back and do more.”
“More” for 2016 means moving the TEDxUIdaho event from the Bruce M. Pitman Center to the University Auditorium in the Administration Building. This spring’s event can accommodate just over 400 attendees. The number of presentations has doubled to 20, and the event stretches from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is separated into three sessions, with TEDxLabs — opportunities to interact with the speakers and to experience innovative technologies from Idaho — running before and between the sessions.
Performances during TEDxUIdaho include a Native American drum team; Worldbeat, a West African music group; and Sadie Sicilla, an alternative rock artist. Talks and performances range in length from three to 18 minutes.
Speakers include Spokane’s KHQ anchor Stephanie Vigil; UI psychology and mindfulness instructor Jamie Derrick; and UI alumni Noah Kroese, Sean Prentiss and Anthony Curcio. One speaker will present a talk about her experience as a Syrian refugee relocating to Idaho. College of Natural Resources alumnus Steven Armstrup will speak about his work with polar bears and global warming. Other speakers from the UI include Samantha Ramsay, Wesley Loftie-Eaton, Bryce Blakenship, Zachary Lien, Francis Cheng and Yousef Bayomy.
Including local voices was a big goal for the eight students that make up the TEDxUIdaho executive team.
“We’re not just bringing random people on the stage. We’re bringing people from the community and giving them a platform to share their ideas,” said Kyle Morgan, a freshman computer science major from Caldwell who serves as the group’s technical director. “One thing that’s really great about TED is you don’t have to be a professor or a Ph.D. to have an opportunity to come on to our stage. We accept everyone from the community as long as you have something valuable to say.”
Ideas for the Future
Moving forward, the TEDxUIdaho team hopes to keep the event growing strong and continue to attract high-caliber speakers from the Palouse and beyond to inspire campus.
Nyavor, who is set to graduate in spring 2017, is training Morgan as the next licensee. She will continue to be a co-licensee in order for the group to keep its expanded rights, but Morgan will be in charge of organizing the event.
Nyavor dreams of doing a small, student-oriented TEDxUIdaho event in the fall, even expanding into area high schools as part of the TEDxYouth program. Students from the UI group are going visit a high school in Spokane to judge speakers at a TED day.
One day, Nyavor would like to see 2,000 people attend TEDxUIdaho.
But no matter how much it grows or how quickly, offering a platform for all these ideas will remain at the heart of the event.
“We’re not just bringing ideas from one specific place. We’re bringing them from all over our community,” Morgan said. “That’s great for the University of Idaho, for the community. It really gives us a voice.”
Article by Savannah Tranchell, University Communications & Marketing
Making the TEDx Letters
UI student Brian Hanson, a member of the TEDxUIdaho executive team, used UI’s laser cutter to create new TEDxUIdaho letters for this year’s event.