Brand strategist Jennifer Sullivan
Brand strategist Jennifer Sullivan

TEDxChapmanU stirs up conversation about science, business, media and more

Don’t dismiss video gaming as a waste of time. Embrace social media, but leave room for real hugs. Imagine a world where televisions once again flicker on at the touch of one button. Those were just a few of the ideas explored at TEDxChapmanU, Chapman University’s second annual independently organized TED event  Tuesday, June 4.

Nearly 600 community leaders, business people, students, faculty and staff poured into Memorial Hall for an afternoon of talks focused on “ideas worth sharing” delivered by leading thinkers from the worlds of science, media, law, business and entertainment. Twelve speakers — from the president of the private space exploration company SpaceX to a beauty queen considering a double mastectomy as a preventive strike against breast cancer — spoke on myriad topics. But the theme of re-thinking old assumptions and habits was a common thread throughout the event, organized by the department of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

Exploring that track was Chapman’s Reggie Gilyard, dean of the Argyros School of Business and Economics and former partner and managing director with The Boston Consulting Group. Gilyard advised business leaders to be more alert and to have several ways of catching “the signals” of rapidly transforming markets.

“Think about those signals that are critical for you to watch,” Gilyard said.

A Chapman student and one of the university’s newest alumni sparked conversations about throwing out old rulebooks. Digital media game designer Liz Fiacco ’12 spoke of the learning that occurs during the problem-solving tasks of video gaming. Mark Pampanin ’15 gave a humorous talk calling for young women to get over the notion that a gay best friend is a fashionable status symbol.

And even at what is arguably one of the most social-media-savvy gatherings around – TEDx fans are famously fond of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – two media leaders called for sharper street smarts out on the digital highways.

“We strongly believe in the power of social media and crowd sourcing. However, a Facebook post isn’t necessarily authoritative. A lone blogger doesn’t have the resources to subpoena records and dig deeper. And crowd sourcing doesn’t include lively news and debates and layers of skilled editors to ensure accuracy,” said Kathy Thomson, president/COO of the Los Angeles Times Media Group and recently named COO of Tribune Publishing.

Connections made through social media can be life changing, don’t let social media consume your every waking moment, said blogger Kristen Howerton, a marriage and family therapist and author of the blog Rage Against the Minivan.

“Social media can save lives, but it can also waste lives. We have to figure out how to balance that out,” Howerton said.

And work hard to keep things simple. It’s not just good business, it’s also solid engineering, said Gwynne Shotwell, president/COO of SpaceX.

“We can’t all be engineers,” Shotwell said. “But there are some things that everybody can do. Behave a little bit like an engineer and maybe think about that in your everyday lives. … Keep it simple. For those of you own remotes at home, it should only take one remote and one button to turn on your TV.”

Video highlights from the day will be posted soon at Chapman University’s YouTube channel, where videos of last year’s speakers may also be found.

Other speakers at TEDx ChapmanU 2013 included:

  • Michael Goldsby, co-founder and CTO of Jointly Health, an innovative software company providing an advanced analytics platform for the healthcare industry.
  • Prince Gomolvilas, a Thai-American playwright whose thought-provoking plays have been produced in the U.K., Singapore and the U.S.
  • Jennifer Sullivan, an award-winning brand strategist who has helped top film and entertainment companies successfully navigate the entertainment industry.
  • Ali Nayeri, Schmid College of Science and Technology professor and a member of the university’s Institute for Quantum Studies. Dr. Nayeri is also listed among the top 100 Iranian-American scientists.
  • Allyn Rose, Miss District of Columbia 2012, who is considering a double mastectomy as a preventive measure after breast cancer claimed the lives of three women in her family, including her mother and grandmother.
  • Lisa Sparks, a highly regarded teacher-scholar in health communications at Chapman, and the author and editor of more than 10 books in the areas of communication, health and aging.


Dawn Bonker

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