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Thinking Bigger

By Becky Zieber

Video courtesy of TEDx Cal Poly
Student Nicole Huffman was one of 10 speakers at TEDx Cal Poly this fall. In her moving presentation, she shared her experience with sexual assault and talked about open communication as a way to prevent such violence in the future.

When it comes to spreading big ideas, TED is a household name. This fall Cal Poly hosted TEDx, an independently organized TED event. Under the theme “Plot Twist,” 10 speakers, including Cal Poly students, faculty and alumni, gave talks on subjects ranging from the future of autonomous cars to new approaches to combating sexual assault.

The event was the brainchild of fourth-year psychology major Cameron Wiese. “We have brilliant people working on projects across campus, but very few of these people cross paths,” said Wiese. “I realized that if we get people together having intimate conversations around important ideas, it might foster the development of new, world-changing projects or drastically improve people’s lives.”

Weise had originally planned for a small event of only about 100 guests, but after attending a TED Summit he was inspired and equipped to think bigger. “At the Summit, I gained support from experienced TEDx event organizers from around the globe and brought those ideas and values back to Cal Poly as we moved through the planning process,” Wiese explained. “A lot of time went into making TEDx Cal Poly what it was, and it was the collective result of over 20 students working intensely toward the end goal.”

In the end, over 1,200 tickets were sold to the sellout event. The speakers included social entrepreneur Carissa Phelps, psychology Professor Don Ryujin, author and political science Professor Hill Krishnan, student entertainer Jordan Miller, entrepreneur Luke Fox, author and environmental businessman Michael Shellenberger, social advocate Nicole Huffman, ethics Professor Ryan Jenkins, landscape designer Sara Bendrick, and technology and inclusivity advocate Vanessa Slavich.

Weise is excited about the potential for more events like this at Cal Poly. “The entire team came together to make an event unlike anything this campus has ever seen before and put us in a very strong position to continue to develop and grow this idea,” he said.

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