Annual conference adopts nomadic theme

The second annual TedxQueensU event will take place this Sunday in Convocation Hall

The TedxQueensU event takes places on Sunday. 16 students were involved in its organization.
The TedxQueensU event takes places on Sunday. 16 students were involved in its organization.

Since turning 22 last year, Megan Gebhart has had 52 cups of coffee with total strangers and documented the experience on her blog.

Gebhart is one of the 10 speakers slotted for the second annual TedxQueensU event to be held this Sunday in Convocation Hall. The event was organized by a group of 16 Queen’s students.

Gebhart, a recent graduate of Michigan State University, said she started her project because she likes connecting with people.

“I had a strong sense of curiosity and I love meeting new people and getting to know them better,” she said.

Of the 52 people she met with, Gebhart said her favourite person was bestselling New York-based author Seth Godin.

“He is someone that I really respect … the conversation was just a really meaningful conversation.”

The theme of this year’s Tedx conference is nomads. Gebhart said while completing her six-month project, she stayed in 60 different locations, financing her travels through savings and a job with her school’s alumni association.

Mark Black, another speaker at TedxQueensU, was born with a heart defect, forcing him to constantly move back and forth from hospitals. In September 2002, he had a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant.

Black said his message is inspired by thoughts he had sitting in a hospital bed wondering how much time he had left.

“Life is short and we only get to do it one time and we want to make it count,” he said.

Black said student leadership conferences offer the best audiences.

“They’re the students that are A, most receptive to learning and B, most interested in pushing themselves,” he said.

Black is a successful marathon runner, writer and motivational speaker. He said that physical health will be a focus of his talk.

“Getting rest and eating well and talking about stress problems before they become critical are all parts of becoming a healthy human being,” he said.

Ralph Mercer works in the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston and is an advocate for social media. At the conference, Mercer said he’ll talk about what it means to be a digital leader.

“It gives us a tool to be able to communicate on a much wider scale to source information,” he said.

Mercer said he decided to speak at this year’s TedxQueensU because he’s a fan of the Ted Talks, a series of videos online with varying topics that are run through TED, a non-profit organization with the mandate to spread ideas.

“I usually view one or two or three of them whenever I have time,” he said.

Mercer added that he hopes his talk inspires students to take on a leadership role.

“[My message] is not to be afraid of taking charge and doing it and getting out in front and being a person who takes charge and gets involved in the community,” he said.

Richard Day, an associate professor in Global Development Studies, said he’s one of the few self-designated anarchists working in Canadian universities.

“I’ve moved towards movement-based theory, which means, ‘Okay, here we are trying to help, not save or fix this world, but perhaps make a few things a little bit better,’” he said.

Day said he doesn’t think the current Occupy movement around the world against global inequality is going to succeed because of a number of flaws. One major debate is over using the term ‘occupy’ because of the historical occupation of Aboriginal land throughout Canada.

But, he said he’s hopeful about the protestors in the movement, because they are building a culture of resistance.

“People are realizing ‘Man, the cops really do come in and beat the crap out of us and lie about it later. Wow, Officer Friendly is a motherfucker.’”

Day said he was chosen to speak at the TedxQueensU because of how his views differ from the norm.

“Part of my job is to reach people who don’t generally hear radical critique, who don’t generally hear about any of the alternatives out there. They want me because I’m shocking and different.”

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