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University of Mississippi

TEDxUniversityofMississippi Brings ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’

Seven speakers for 2018 program


Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern Studies, discusses his research at the recent TEDxUniversityofMississippi event at the Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

The University of Mississippi hosted its third TEDxUniversity of Mississippi conference with seven speakers giving brief, thought-provoking lectures on the theme of “MomentUM.”

The 2018 lineup included faculty members, a graduate student, a law student and others discussing a variety of topics, including how substance abuse is treated by the criminal justice system, lessening the dependence on foods that come from slaughterhouses and forming your worldview.

The series is completely organized and designed by Ole Miss students with the original theme ‘MomentUM,’ which celebrates the diversity of people and ideas that are collectively moving our world forward, said Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies, who serves as TEDx faculty adviser.

“We were thrilled to invite the community to the best TEDx event we have hosted here in Oxford since its founding,” King said of the February 3 event at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. “The ‘MomentUM’ talk series is designed to embody the spirit of both the university and of TEDx.”

King said he’s proud of the energy the Student Planning Committee brought to getting the event together.

“They selected the speakers, designed the artwork and stage presence,” King said. “They’re all in. Each year we produce a better event, and this year was no exception.

“We were very excited to bring TEDx back to campus for a third time. We think it was a fun and engaging show, complete with a live music intermission.”

Will Tribble, a junior mechanical engineering major from Charlottesville, Virginia, and one of the event’s coordinators, said that inviting students to speak was important to the committee this year.

“Our speaker selection process was intended to reflect the nature of our event: showcasing the best of Mississippi while introducing new perspectives as well,” Tribble said. “As a student-run event, we made it our goal this year to showcase students for the first time.

“Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm for this opportunity, we were able to select multiple students to speak.”

TEDx uses the widely popular TED Talks conference format, which brings together lecturers and other participants in a global set of conferences under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

For the first time in the event’s history, students were among the speakers taking the stage to share their ideas worth spreading. Besides the headlining speakers, the event also featured a talk from a local middle school student with the Lafayette Middle School TED-Ed club.

The professional speakers headlining this year’s event represented Mississippi, Southern California and Brooklyn, New York. Their talks highlighted topics ranging from the interpretive power of storytelling to the future of global food production.

Speakers for this year’s event were:

  • Brian Foster, a UM professor of sociology and Southern Studies, talked about the “interpretive power of missing stories – the absence of an entire demographic group from certain spaces, the desire of an individual to repress or ‘move on from’ certain memories, the quiet pauses of conversation – that teaches us about ourselves, each other and how societies change – or don’t.”

    • Josh Horton (BA sociology ’15, JD ’17), a UM law student, talked about his conviction that addiction should not be treated as a stigmatized moral failure, and that society should start re-integrating those who have been pushed to the fringes. From inmate to advocate, Horton’s journey from a substance abuser with a criminal rap sheet to a magna cum laude J.D. influences his passion to advocate for restorative communities and legal processes for recovering addicts nationwide.

    • Janet McCarty (BA art ’14) talked about how being introduced to simple, instinctual behaviors from an unconventional mentor can transform the human perspective and the way we pursue goals and dreams. She introduced a few simple behaviors she learned from her mentor and applied to her life. Putting these behaviors into practice gave McCarty a unique perspective on life, allowing her to achieve her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

    • Jandel Crutchfield, a UM assistant professor of social work, asked the audience, “What is your worldview? And what experiences have helped you develop it? Before engaging in a debate of any kind, what if individuals truly understood their answers to these two questions? Communicating a worldview as one single number compels us to not only look outward, but inward.”

    • Emily Frith, an Ole Miss graduate student, talked about the complex process of creative thinking, where the goal is not merely to be creative, but to produce a solution that has value, either on a personal level or on a broad scale. She explored how society can learn to problem-solve and problem-find using trainable creativity tactics. The implications could be instrumental in this modern age of excellence in education and innovation.

    • Leena Patel addressed “Gamulation,” the practice of using games and simulation to improve teaching and learning, specifically in the workplace. She answered the question, “Wouldn’t work be a better place for most of us if we were having more fun?”

    • Jacy Reese talked about “clean meat,” which refers to real meat made from animal cells without animal slaughter. He focused on social solutions informed by breakthroughs and historical successes will eventually allow for an ethical and efficient food system where slaughterhouses are obsolete.