What does the future look like when people “think big"?

The University of Rhode Island will offer some answers to that query through its inaugural TEDxURI event Saturday afternoon, when 14 individuals will share their thoughts on a specific subject matter, related to the theme "View to the Future."

A description for the event states: “Our speakers challenge us to think bigger than ourselves, participate in shaping the future, and do our part in protecting the planet. Our mission is to honor these ideas, and share powerful stories of imagination, innovation, and integrity that will inspire others to Think Big.”

Although sold out – the event will be held in an auditorium in the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, 95 Upper College Road, with overflow in a nearby screening room – it will be live-streamed for anyone wishing to watch from the comfort of home (or a dorm room). The talks will begin at 1 p.m. and the event is expected to end at 4:30 p.m.

TEDx events are an offspring of TED events. TED is a nonprofit organization “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading” and known for its two annual TED conferences, where “the world’s leading thinkers and doers” are invited to speak for 18 minutes or less. The majority of these talks are then posted on TED.com, and are often shared widely and go viral.

TEDx events are run with the same idea of spotlighting thinkers and doers, but on a community level. They are branded as “local, self-organized events,” and the “x” signifies an “independently organized TED event,” subject to certain rules and regulations. One such rule is that, for a first TEDx event, there can be no more than 100 people in attendance. As a result, limited seats for the talks were available. Those who bought tickets for the event – which cost $15 for students and $50 for general admission, and $10 for the on-site live stream, and are meant to cover only production costs – will be able to participate in receptions held during intermission and following the event. Live-streaming the talks from home is free; a link can be found at uri.edu/tedx the day of the event.

TEDxURI joins a growing list of TEDx events held throughout the state, which include TEDxProvidence, TEDxNewport and TEDxSalveReginaU.

The URI event is being organized by Maling Ebrahimpour, dean of the College of Business Administration, who applied for the licensing and assembled a team of people, mostly faculty, to create the event.

More than 100 people auditioned for the talks over a two-day period. That group was narrowed down to 20-30 semifinalists, who were reviewed by Ebrahimpour; Karl Aspelund, assistant professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design; Vince Petronio, assistant professor of communication studies; and Paula McGlasson, who chairs the Theatre Department. The chosen speakers all had to submit their talks, which range from 5-15 minutes in length, ahead of selection.

Caitlyn Sloan is the only university student who has been actively attending committee meetings, and said the theme, “A View to the Future,” is meant to play off URI’s motto, “Think Big. We Do.”

“We [tried] to find the biggest thinkers and connect to the theme of looking toward the future,” she said by phone last week. A senior majoring in theater for stage management, she was approached by McGlasson to become involved in the project. On the day of the event, Sloan will serve as stage manager.

When asked what she hopes viewers take away from the event, Sloan said, “I just hope that they realize the value of this event, [of] getting to hear from a wide variety of people in the community. It’s something that could become a tradition at URI ... [we] worked really hard to bring something different to our university.”

The 14 speakers span a range of ages and topics, and include the following:

  • Robert Ballard, a professor of oceanography who serves as director of the Center for Ocean Exploration at URI and is known for discovering the wreckage of the Titanic, as well as the first hydrothermal vents and their exotic chemosynthetic animal communities in the Galapagos Rift. He also gave a talk titled “The astonishing hidden world of the deep ocean” at an official TED conference in 2008. Ballard will be the first speaker after intermission, and will deliver the event’s keynote address.
  • Patrick Condon, a member of the class of 2019 and a doctor of pharmacy major, will speak about the lessons he learned after receiving a diagnosis that came with a very real, but unclear, chance of death and how they can be applied to living a better life.
  • Elizabeth Gruebel, a lecturer of human development and family studies and a marriage and family therapist, will discuss the transformative power of family stories and how they connect us to our past, anchor us in the present, and shape our future.
  • Aria Mia Loberti, a member of the class of 2020 and a triple major in communication studies, political science and philosophy, will discuss her experiences growing up with a disability and the lessons she has learned as an advocate for equity, particularly how can we use our voices to inspire and enact positive change in our world.
  • Daniel Faggella, an alumnus of the class of 2010 and the CEO of TechEmergence, will discuss how the job market is changing with the advent of artificial intelligence tools and will cover factors that contribute to job security in the future job market. He will also discuss the outlook of social risks.
  • Nancy Forster-Holt, professor in the College of Business Administration, Spachman Professor of Entrepreneurship and a business owner, will speak about entrepreneurship and the future of small business.
  • Silvia Dorado, a professor in the College of Business Administration and an associate editor of Business and Society, will discuss relationship-based lending, a term that describes lending with heavy involvement of loan officers. It explains why and how microfinance can act as a tool to alleviate poverty.
  • Anna LaCroix, an eighth-grade student at Chariho Middle School, will talk about eliminating sexual assault through education beginning in middle school.
  • Candice Genine Simmons, an instructor in the Harrington School of Communications and Media, will discuss the transformative nature of new technologies and communication across intellectual, cultural and social landscapes, locally and globally.
  • Kunal Mankodiya, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and founder of the Wearable Biosensing Lab at URI, will share his story of experiential learning. As a child, he helped sell textiles at his family-owned shop in India. Now, he demonstrates his design of a “smart glove” that is a marriage between textile and technology.
  • Akeem Lloyd, founder/CEO of A Leadership Journey and AkeemSpeaks, will discuss the role of social responsibility as a vehicle to creating a stronger community, and how more people should invest in the opportunity to become involved.
  • Erik Schlicht, a member of the class of 2020 and a double major in theater and political science, will speak about the disconnect in our culture between what we think we know about artistic majors and careers and the actual outcomes of people who pursue them. He’ll challenge the conventional wisdom that majors in the arts are impractical.
  • Elizabeth Mendenhall, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science who teaches international ocean governance in marine affairs, will discuss the rising global sea level and how it will cause significant practical challenges, but also create novel legal issues. She’ll discuss the practical and legal choices we are faced with, how they relate to each other, and what we should do.
  • Andrea Mason, a member of the class of 2018 and a double major in philosophy and textiles, fashion merchandising and design, will explore the intersection of fashion and philosophy while talking about a personal moment when she criticized someone for what they were wearing; she was able to use philosophical ideas to gain tolerance in her own perspective.

For more information about TEDxURI, visit uri.edu/tedx.

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