David Sweeney, associate professor of sports management, occasionally uses TED talks in his classes because they are short and impactful. One day after watching a couple, he realized that Seton Hill University (SHU) should have an independent TED event (called a TEDx). The culmination of this moment of inspiration, was TEDx Seton Hill where 15 speakers and 100 audience members joined together to share in their passion.
The official theme of the Feb. 19 event was “What’s Next,” but according to the audience when Sweeney asked for input after the event, the real theme was “journeys” and “passion.”
“We wanted to do this event to bring people who are passionate about things in their lives.Our objectives were met,” Sweeney said.
A diverse group of speakers spoke on various topics, sharing life experiences from being on Mr. Rogers and researching burnout to filming a documentary and raising a child with autism. SHU faculty and departments all took part in suggesting speakers. E Magnify, SHU’s business center for women suggested several women and one, Jennifer Croneberger, heard about the event after speaking at another TEDx event and volunteered to speak.
The journey to having a TEDx event at SHU was not easy. The first time Sweeney applied for a license for SHU, he was turned down; TEDx is very stringent about their requirements. On the second try, however, and with a broader theme, SHU was approved for the event. Next, Sweeney said, came the planning of the event with a team of fellow staff and faculty which came with its own challenges.
Fellow planner and hospitality and tourism instructor, James Bosco, said the event ended up being “fantastic.”
“I think it was a good picture of what higher education should be about: people sharing in a common cause with excitement and enthusiasm,” he said.
The audience was chosen in a ticket raffle. Anyone who wanted to attend the event could apply for a chance to get a ticket online. Only 100 people were chosen because of the size of the venue, Reeves Theater.
“Every person in the audience wanted to be here and wanted to experience this. We wanted to make sure this wasn’t about getting extra credit,” said Sweeney.
Students played several roles in the TEDx experience. Some watched the speakers, scribbling notes and utilizing time to converse on the coffee breaks that separated the three sessions, while others served as hosts and helped run the technology.
“I’m glad I came,” said Ryan Michalowski, a computer science major. “They made me think more than I intended and put their topics into the perspective as my life as a college student.”
Sweeney called this year’s event inaugural, and says he hopes to bring TEDx to SHU each February in the future. He hopes that, after gaining some experience planning the event this year, next year’s event will be more student led.
“We want more student involvement in the planning and curating of speakers next year,” Sweeney said. “We didn’t really know what we were doing this year. But that’s what this is about. It’s a big learning lab.”
“It’s revolutionary to bring (TEDx) to campus and there’s potential for a bigger conference next year, which is exciting,” said Gabby Gassman.