TEDx at VCU holds third conference

The third TEDx at VCU conference was held on Feb. 25, 2017, from 1-6 p.m. in the Grace Street Theater. TEDx at VCU is a student-led organization that produces a yearly conference that is open to members of Virginia Commonwealth University and the greater Richmond community, focusing on a specific theme or topic. In 2014, the conference theme was Simplicity; in 2016, it was Juxtapose; this year, the focus was on the theme of Patterns, which, in this context, are expected elements that make the unexpected happen.

“We thought about a simpler theme, one that people can relate to, and also thought about which one we could have the most fun with. We thought this was a very playful theme, where not only do we get to think about concurrent issues, but we also get to think about other topics that we might not discuss that relate to patterns,” Brandon Shields, president and co-organizer of TEDx at VCU and senior graphic design major, said.


TEDx at VCU was started four years ago by two students and their advisor, Dean Emeritus Joseph Seipel, former dean of the School of the Arts. The goal was to bring TED Talks to VCU and culminate them into a conference. Since then, the organization has grown into having 12 student members with current advisor Jody Symula, the assistant dean for Student Affairs for the School of the Arts. The students now oversee and manage the entire conference, from conception to production.

“I recommend [to] the student body to see TEDx at VCU not only because it’s a student-produced event, but it’s also a chance to hear from fellow students about their research, different topic areas and the things that are very important to us. I think it’s amazing that we have this opportunity to put our students on this platform where it might not be as readily available elsewhere,” Shields said.


This year, the conference was divided into three sessions, with four speakers presenting during each session. For the first time, featured speakers included presenters who were not from Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU students in attendance embraced the addition of non-local speakers and the diverse perspectives they brought to their chosen topic.


“I was looking forward to seeing how different people had different takes on the topics of patterns, and seeing how patterns are in basically everything from music to medicine,” Divya Krishna, sophomore biomedical engineering major, said.

Members of the conference planning team agreed.

“(I was very much looking forward to) hearing all of the speakers get on the stage and present the things that are most passionate to them. It’s really interesting to hear different perspectives on our theme and seeing how TEDx at VCU is becoming a little more than just a university-based conference,” Shields said.

This year, all of the tickets for the TEDx at VCU conference sold out. Tickets were free to the general public. Students are encouraged to mark their calendars for next year’s conference to secure their spots for the unique opportunity presented by the TEDx at VCU experience.


“My favorite part of the conference was simply being in the same room with all the amazing speakers and gaining knowledge about our world and society from hearing about their powerful experiences. I definitely emerged from the conference with a better understanding and appreciation of the patterns around us,” Emily Cheng, freshman biomedical engineering major, said.

For more information about TEDx at VCU and how to get involved with next year’s event, visit http://www.tedxvcu.com.

Speakers at the TEDx at VCU 2017 Conference:

Alixander Laffredo-Dietrich discussed how listening and music composition taught him how to listen to other people.

Former U.S. Ambassador Dr. Robin Sanders discussed human cultural expressions in remote communities and her personal experiences with the declining cultural patterns in many close communities.

Caroline Meyers discussed her research product about altering museum labeling to engage visitors on a personal level.

Aditi Sharma had an interactive presentation about how the patterns of rhythms in music trigger an emotional and intellectual response from our brains.

Becky Crump discussed how we can reframe our relationship with wellbeing in order to lean into wellness.

Paria Maghsoudi discussed how we can reduce the stigma of mental health in first responders.

Maggie Cullather discussed how demographics, geography and other variables affect how we treat the spread of disease.

Lauren White discussed how finding common denominators between cultures can cultivate empathy between various culture and how the theory was confirmed in her senior thesis, with a  table full of mothers with sons.

Pamela Ferrell discussed how hair strands shoe the distinct differences that we share.

Caitlyn Scaggs will be discussing the power of the seeming unrelated.

Elizabeth White discussed how millions of baby boomers are moving into old age with empty pockets and the reduced opportunities for employment.

Amy Oestreicher discussed how we can use the power of storytelling to health from trauma.


  1. […] 5. TEDx at VCU is a student-led organization that produces a yearly conference, focusing on a specific theme or topic. Last year’s theme was “Patterns” and all of the tickets available, sold out. Take a look at last year’s article to learn about how to get involved with TEDx at VCU, and details on upcoming conferences: TEDx at VCU holds third conference […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s