University hosts second annual TEDx talks

On the afternoon of  Feb. 23, the university’s second annual TEDx event began with an introduction from Polly Black, director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Her opening remarks focused on the university’s goal of enhancing the intellectual and exploratory experiences of students. Black also addressed the overarching mission of the TEDx event.

Julie Huggins/Old Gold & Black

“What we hope is that you students will hear today’s speakers and be inspired to think, to take action, to persevere, and to effect change in your community,” Black said.

Following Black’s introduction was Provost Rogan Kersh’s discourse on the digital age and on Generation Y, which he believes comprises the future leaders of the country.

“I’ve done TEDx at other schools before now, and unlike those events, this one conducted here at Wake was planned almost entirely by students with just a little bit of guidance on the edges from us adults,” Kersh said.

Kersh then introduced the Master of Ceremonies, Morris Morrison, who offered the audience a touching story about a young boy who not only taught himself how to swim after many failed attempts, but also inspired his younger brother to follow in his footsteps. Morrison used the story as a metaphor for leadership and innovation.

“I think the majority of us are like [the younger brother]. We just need to see one example, one model, someone who’s willing to unstrap his life vest. That one action can create a ripple effect,” Morrison said.

The first set of speakers was led by university alumnus and co-founder of the famed CollegeHumor.com, Ricky Van Veen (‘03). Though Van Veen began his talk, You Are What You Tweet, with two of his web site’s most popular videos and maintained a humorous tone throughout his presentation, he addressed what he considered a serious topic — identity creation. He began to notice this trend a few years ago after taking interest in the kinds of information people share with others on various social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

“People tend to share more information about causes they believe in, organizations they support, and nostalgic symbols than the more personal clicks which we’d probably prefer that people didn’t know about,” Van Veen said. Van Veen interprets these sharing trends as a mode by which people construct an image of who they are and where they stand on certain issues in a very social and a very open context.

Kevin Snyder, former dean of students for High Point University and co-founder and CEO of InspirActive Solutions, spoke next. Piggy-backing off of Morrison’s anecdote, Snyder discussed the ripple effect and the importance of a proactive and optimistic mindset when working toward the fulfillment of a personal dream or goal.

Snyder employed the example of how he came about fulfilling his own dream of shaking hands with the late game show host Bob Barker of The Price is Right despite the many obstacles he faced in trying to do so.

“I believe the best way to begin working toward achieving a goal is simply to act. Even though people made fun of me for my obsession with The Price is Right, I was so determined that within seven years of conceiving my dream to be on [the show], I finally did it, and I won,” Snyder said after playing  a video clip and showing pictures from his fifteen minutes of fame.

Acclaimed author and professor of English at Emory University, Mark Bauerlein gave the final presentation of the first set. Bauerlein began with a disclaimer that unlike the first two presentations, his was meant to be more of a warning than an inspiratory speech. He spoke on the focus of his book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.

Using facts and figures to support his suppositions, Bauerlein asserted his belief that the intellectual capacity of Generation Y has been impaired by an imbalance in the amount of time spent socializing with peers versus that spent with learned adults and reliable literature, which could potentially expand the intellectual horizons of this generation.

“I believe that this generation is characterized by an unintellectual, non-historical and anti-eloquent mindset,” Bauerlein said. “If you feel as though you’re consumed by the multimedia world of communication you’ve created for yourself, it might be time to cut back.”

Read  about the second hour of TEDxWakeForestU here.

Read about the third hour of TEDxWakeForestU here.

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