Point Park Globe

Student, faculty member among those who presented at TEDx Talk event at George Rowland White Performance Center

Senior Kristopher Chandler delivers a TEDx talk on maintaining mental health in college, and how art is an outlet for expression.

Senior Kristopher Chandler delivers a TEDx talk on maintaining mental health in college, and how art is an outlet for expression.

Photo by Skyler Eberlein

Photo by Skyler Eberlein

Senior Kristopher Chandler delivers a TEDx talk on maintaining mental health in college, and how art is an outlet for expression.

Written By Robert Berger, Sports Photo Editor

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Saturday morning at the George Rowland White Performance Center, Point Park hosted its first TedX Talks which featured topics ranging from mental health, prison system failures, online advertising and risk of energy consumption. 

Mark Houser, director of news and information at Robert Morris University opened the conference with a talk on bridges and what they mean to the people who use them.

“Next time you cross a bridge, think about what’s it’s story,” Houser said. “Who decided to put a road in a place where a road shouldn’t be? If you think about it, it’s probably older than you and barring tragedy will probably outlast
you too.”

Houser referenced Italian bridge builder Riccardo Morandi and the Morandi Bridge which collapsed this past summer and claimed 43 lives. Houser went on to explain that bridges are both a triumphant and tragic. 

The triumphant stage being the initial building and the practical use. The tragic being the known risk that a bridge
can pose. 

Relating back to Pittsburgh, Houser detailed the building of The Monongahela Bridge built in 1845. While this bridge is no longer standing it proved to be innovative as this was the first bridge constructed by John Roebling– the same man who constructed the Brooklyn Bridge. 

With human connection on the mind of the audience, senior screenwriting major Kristopher Chandler carried a talk on building bridges through art. 

Detailing the struggles of maintaining mental health in college, Chandler explained that he uses writing to pull through tough times. 

Through the talk, Chandler referenced a friend of his named Darius. Darius is a college acting student with anxiety over whether or not school is the correct choice for him, mainly because he feels college does not help students to thrive in the outside world. He, much like Chandler, uses art to cope with these feelings. 

“Personally, I live under the impression that the arts can be one of the most comforting and engaging tools to help millennials cope as we step into the real world,” Chandler said. 

While wrapping up, Chandler explained that Darius was simply a character he created as a way to express the emotions he has felt while in college. 

With mental health still on topic, Lorenzo Lewis, a mental health advocate from Little Rock, Arkansas. lead a talk on how African-American men tend to deal with their mental health issues. According to Lewis, one out of 10 African-Americans will have spent time in jail by the time they are 30
years old. 

Lewis was born in jail and has struggled with depression and anxiety throughout his teenage and early adult life. At the age of 17, he began associating himself with the wrong people and nearly became a juvenile delinquent. This is when depression hit him the hardest.

“I felt because of the color of my skin and because I’m a male I had to overcome this myself, I had no safe space,” Lewis said. “I felt trapped and trapped inside a cell at 17 years old.”

Lewis explained that in five southern states, 58 percent of African-Americans said they would seek mental health services if they were located inside a barbershop.

Lewis recalled from when he was young about spending time at his barbershop and explained this was where he went to indirectly receive mental health counseling and receive advice during tough times. 

“I would talk to my barber about, ‘I’m having a hard time and I feel lonely’, but it cheered me up and gave me a sense of ‘It’s going to be okay,’”
Lewis said.

While Lewis avoided incarceration through adulthood, concluding speaker Joseph Gonzales, a writer and former convict detailed the importance of human connection and what he learned on the topic while behind bars.

From the time he was young, Lewis dreamed of becoming a professional skateboarder but began running with the wrong crowd in his early adulthood. He was arrested and jailed for 15 years. 

“I chose the road less traveled and so over the course of the next 13 years I spent taking advantage of all the educational and vocational opportunities that the state had offered,” Gonzalez said.

He obtained a degree in business management and culinary along with certifications in numerous vocational trades. Most importantly, he studied the human interaction between workers and inmates. Gonzalez spent time speaking and taking notes on repeat offenders to uncover underlying problems of the jail system.

Gonzalez referenced a study done by the United States finding that violent offenders are least likely to become repeat offenders. However, these are the people who struggle to successfully survive outside of prison due to the social stigma behind convicts. Gonzalez took action to prove that upon release these former convicts can thrive. 

“As crazy as it sounds, being locked away in a closed in environment behind the walls of a penitentiary allowed me to look at the world from the outside,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez went on to say that he has dedicated his life to eliminating the stigma behind former convicts to help them thrive as he has. 

Freshman broadcast production major Colton DeBiase was in attendance and said Gonzalez was his favorite speaker from the morning. 

“Consequences will always be worse if we go down it,” DeBiase said. “What I took out of it is bridges accept the path we go on in life and I feel like we should always look to go down the right bridge if when we are tempted by the wrong one.”

Astrophysicist, astrobiologist and professor Dr. Brendan Mullan spoke about the importance of exploring outer space and compared energy consumption and advancement to building bridges. 

Mullan explained that energy use has increased as technology has advanced which deteriorates the ecosystem. While the earth can handle the excess heat and energy now, this will only harm us in the future as energy use continues to rise.  

“Remember that bridge and where it leads,” Mullan said. “In just a few human lifetimes we’ll have to use 1000 times the energy that we use now, and that magnitude of energy use will have significant consequences. If we keep building this bridge as we have done… our energy use will render the planet uninhabitable by the 24th century if not sooner.”

Digital marketing entrepreneur, Nicole Martin covered the bridges made on social media by discussing online advertising. Highlighting intrusive Facebook ads, Martin said that while consumers enjoy targeted ads for shopping, a majority of internet users are concerned by how heavily intrusive advertisements can be. 

“Marketers are walking a very thin line between delivering individual experiences and not invading the privacy of users,” Martin said. “Users are wondering how much data and information is there about me and how is it being used.”

Martin concluded that it is more important now than ever to bridge the gap between marketers and users to create an experience to benefit all. 

Point Park has been working to bring TEDx Talks to campus since last December and according to planner Heather Starr Fiedler, this will hopefully become an annual event.

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