Western University held its fourth TEDx talk March 11, with a range of speakers exploring the theme of Colliding Worlds. Speakers interpreted the concept through unique, interdisciplinary lenses, where ideas were working together, rather than clashing as the name suggested.

Babara MacQuarrie, Community Director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children, spoke about sexual violence in the workplace and the existing gaps between implemented laws and reality.

Babara MacQuarrie talks about her research involving the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace.
Babara MacQuarrie talks about her research involving the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace.

MacQuarrie outlined her study on the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace, which was the first of its kind in Canada. She emphasized that gendered workplace violence is a human rights issue and a workplace hazard, so the importance of acknowledging its effects is crucial for change.

Levi Hord, a Rhodes Scholarship Recipient and Transgender Advocate, tackled something different: challenging the dominant worldview that transgender studies only matters to transgender people.

Levi Hord speaks about the language we use to define identity.
Levi Hord speaks about the language we use to define identity.

Hord discussed transgender theory and its place in academia and activism, as well as its role in shifting gender and identity politics. Hord outlined the importance of bringing people to the same page before productive conversations and actions could be made, sharing personal anecdotes to illustrate the point.

Showing empathy

Nick van der Velde, principal consultant at Impact Consulting, took the delegates on an “empathy walk”. The idea involves two people, or in this case, van der Velde and the audience, sharing each other’s major life experiences, current situations, and future aspirations.

Van der Velde described sharing his personal vulnerabilities to a large audience as one of the most difficult things he’s had to do. However, he said he wanted to share tools that would guide people to more self-love, more connections, and more awareness.

“Every time I went on a walk, I would share a bit more about my own journey and what I’m struggling with, but in turn, people were leaning into me with their own stories,” he says. “If my courage from today rubs off on other people so they can be more vulnerable, so they could ultimately reveal themselves, [it] would be [my] ultimate goal.”

Nick van der Velde shares about the concept of an empathy walk, a personal and vulnerable tool for connecting with others.
Nick van der Velde shares about the concept of an empathy walk, a personal and vulnerable tool for connecting with others.

Other keynote speakers from the event include Bonnie Schmidt, Sacha Bhatia, Rick McGhie, Syed Shaoib Hasan Rizvi, Jeff Preston, and Dr. Arthur Brown.

Local Exchange

TED is an organization devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’, supporting its mission with multiple initiatives and annual conferences. However, TEDx events are independently organized by local communities, with the advantage of local knowledge and expertise translating into immediate change and discussions in the community. The speakers at TEDxWesternU were all from the London and greater Southwestern Ontario area.

Attendees at this year's talks.
Attendees at this year’s talks.

Nancy Nguyen, Creative Director of TEDxWesternU and alumni from Western, acknowledges the importance and advantages of localized knowledge during the team’s planning process.

“It’s easy to get lost in the beginning stages, wanting big names,” Nguyen says. “But the point of having TEDx is to focus on the local community, not just global superstars.”

Mary Xie, a fourth year medical sciences student and one of the 100 select delegates who attended the event, found the local focus important as well.

“It’s important to have mentors and role models who we can personally identify with as students,” she says. “The things that the speakers talked about are very tangible and relatable to us.”

Van der Velde agrees.

“The smaller TED events give a voice to individuals who are otherwise not heard,” he says. “There are many people in the community who I’ve spoken to with very wise ideologies and wise ways of living. Maybe they’re not invited to very large conferences, but the ideas they have, they’re meant to be shared… meant to be spread in communities.”

Ideas to Think About

The TEDxWesternU event was created in hopes to provide a collision of ideas in an accessible setting. Ideas from science, to entrepreneurship, to music, came together in unexpected ways and provided the conference a multitude of perspectives.

“I really hope at least one of the speakers will resonate with the [attendees],” says Nguyen.

Delegates surely had much to think about after leaving the conference.

Photos by Bianca Jiang, Chantal Hermetz, and Kevin Zhou.

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