The TEDxUniversityofTulsa speakers included not just students and faculty, but many Tulsans unaffiliated with the university. Photo by Adam Lux

TEDxTU spotlights footnotes from Tulsa speakers

TEDxUniversityofTulsa once again allowed TU and the Tulsa community to share ideas on local and global scales.

This year’s TEDxUniversityofTulsa talks mark the event’s fourth anniversary and its first time inviting all of Tulsa to participate.

The running theme of this year was “Footnotes,” meaning each of the event’s fourteen talks called to attention topics and problems typically overlooked. Among these topics were abuse within the eldercare system as discussed by TU sophomore Catherine Aaronson, D.C. Hegdales’s exploration of the pitfalls of modern maternal health care, and Tulsan Katie Plohocky’s attempt to minimize local food waste and food insecurity.

The talks this year were unique so far in the history of TEDxUniversityofTulsa in that they were the first to open up the event to the city of Tulsa. While the previous three TEDx events taking place at TU largely featured faculty and student speakers, eight of the fourteen of the speakers for this event were not affiliated with the university. Attendance was opened up to a much larger audience as opposed to previously being limited to only 100 attendees within the auditorium of the Lorton Performance Center.

The last three TEDx talks at TU did not require tickets due to being smaller events, yet this year’s saw long lines of general attendance forming to purchase tickets. The event, which took place Friday, March 16 from 1 p.m. through 5 p.m., in the auditorium of the LPC, was host to a large audience of TU students and faculty, as well as Tulsans interested in hearing local speakers and ideas.

Local artist Written Quincy kicked off the afternoon with a spoken word performance exploring the relationship between artist and the time that may limit them. Backed by musicians playing cello and djembe along the rhythms and swells of Quincy’s words, the performance set a meditative mood for the remainder of the evening.

Echoing Quincy’s performative approach several speakers later, doctoral student Autumn Slaughter reenacted three mundane conversations and analyzed the unsaid undertones of each. The last of the three examined the vagaries of trust within interpersonal relationships by presenting a situation in which one person reassures another, “Of course I can handle this.”

Directly following Slaughter, Nehemiah D. Frank related his journey to discovering his personal excellence within. Frank, founder and Editor in Chief of “The Black Wall St. Times,” discussed how he views education as an opportunity to help the community. Especially in light of his own struggles with literacy, being helped by a perceptive teacher in the fifth grade, Frank advocated uplifting Tulsa for the community to achieve its own inner excellence.

On the subject of the opening the event up to the Tulsa public, Dr. Charles Wood, associate professor of Marketing at Collins College of Business and the advisor of TEDxTU, commented that since the event’s conception, the university “wanted TEDx to go to the city and be about the whole of Tulsa.” With performances like Frank’s, it seems this vision has already come to fruition.

For the event to grow beyond the 100 attendees limit previously in place, the university sent a representative to 2017’s TEDFest. There, the representative attended a live TED program and met other representatives from TEDx conferences around the world. With the information and experiences brought back to Tulsa, our own TEDx talks could officially expand past the attendance boundaries. Dr. Wood attributes this growth to the aspirations of President Clancy, who has “always wanted to have a greater connection between TU and the city, so he funded a person to go to Brooklyn’s TEDFest.”

The idea of TU building connections to the city of Tulsa seemed to be baked into the very theme of this year’s TEDx event. Footnotes, as a broad topic, is about raising awareness, building bridges and telling the untold. Just as TU is inviting in and connecting with the city of Tulsa, the speakers invited the audience to expound their horizons and examine preconceived notions.

In this vein, TU senior Tori Burris explored the relationship between media exposure of disabilities and the general societal understanding of disabled experiences. Burris emphasized the necessity for disabled people to be seen in all types of narratives, not just of those lamenting their disability. Channel 4’s staffing of disabled employees was given as a positive example of what’s possible in the field.

Lindiwe Chaza-Jangira was the third-to-last speaker of the evening and addressed one of the most culturally and politically pressing issues of the event — alienation of refugees within host countries following an arduous relocation process. The presentation followed the story of a mother’s long-term struggle to receive asylum in the United States with her children at the cost of leaving behind her husband, who had been indefinitely stalled for further interviews. Once in the U.S., the family continued to face high risk of poverty and discrimination. Chaza-Jangira concluded with noting that Tulsa has done well to be accepting of refugees, but large-scale improvement in empathy is yet possible.

The above TED talks, as with all of the event’s, discussed some facet of society or culture that could be better understood. TEDx exists as a global marketplace of ideas, and that aspect of TEDx was amplified by particularly strong, well-delivered presentations.

TEDx itself couldn’t have happened without the intensive efforts of TU students Aaron Krusniak and Amelia Som de Cerff, the organizers of the event this year. As their advisor, Dr. Wood praised the passion of both students and commented that the event “pretty much runs on their backs.” Amelia Som de Cerff will continue to organize TEDxTU in the 2018 – 2019 school year, along with a new co-organizer.

If you’re interested in seeing any of the talks from this most recent TEDxUniversityofTulsa, they will be posted digitally about a month following the event at, along with talks posted from the past three years.

*CORRECTION: This article was edited to correct a misspelling of Tori Burris’ name. The example of staffing disabled employees was also incorrectly attributed to the BBC rather than Channel 4.

Post Author: Emily Every