Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the Harre Union Ballrooms on Jan. 20, 2023 in support of one thing: ideas. TEDxValparaisoUniversity returned to campus for its eighth year and placed its focus on the theme “spark your imagination.”

“We didn’t want to have a narrow topic. It’s really about creating an environment for outside-the-box thinking and making sure people expand their ideas of certain things, hear people’s stories, research other things. It’s really important for people to not be narrow-minded, especially for people going into the workforce after college,” said Spencer Lehmann, the Overall Director for TEDxValparaisoUniversity.

The event’s lineup highlighted 10 diverse speakers each tackling this year’s theme from various perspectives. TEDxValparaisoUniversity’s executive board welcomed the opportunity to provide a platform for the assorted individuals.

“The biggest thing is getting people, whether that’s students at Valpo, faculty at Valpo or just the general community, to share ideas that are unique and to bring different perspectives to bring positive changes after college. The biggest thing is sparking ideas for people, which is why we picked the theme for this year,” Lehmann said.

With over 70 initial speaker applications, the executive board endured a rigorous screening process. Before reviewing the candidates, a list of criteria was established in relation to their theme.

“The first thing we looked for was making sure people had an idea that was unique and different, something that would get people interested. That was the screening process per say and once we got to see the videos of people, we got to see how passionate they were about their topic. That was important to us, making sure the people speaking were coming from the heart and [their own] experiences, that was big,” Lehmann said. “We wanted a diverse group and we didn’t want it to be the same speech over and over again.”

Speakers themselves included students, those affiliated with the university and community members. Terri Britt, Mark Wilson, Kevin Gary, Natalie Gold, Sara Strauss, Shereen Thor, Karleen Savage, Azeez Lakhani, Eric Beschinski and Daniel Faill all spoke at this year’s event. Three breakout room speakers also joined the list: Korynn Amm, Milana Schaal and Susan Kirt Alterio.

Following two years of an adjusted event experience due to COVID-19, the eighth annual event welcomed a fully in-person operation. Moreso, however, it sparked new content and conversations.

“The big thing is that people have new ideas every year. Especially after COVID, we saw that grueling isolation process; coming back and transitioning to the real world as college students was a pretty difficult time. Getting back into the swing of things and hearing people from all areas of life, older, younger, diverse backgrounds—it's good to hear how people have pushed through adversities,” Lehmann said.

Tickets for the event were sold at the Union’s Welcome Desk and online at etix.com. The community-inspired initiative allowed for an in-person audience of 100 and a virtual audience via a Facebook livestream.

“At the end of the day, I hope that everyone can take at least one piece from any talk and really implement in their life or make some sort of change, whether that’s for themself or others or our community—really just creating change is the biggest thing,” Lehmann said.

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