TEDx conference to focus on “building bridges” with others

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-News Editor

Point Park will host a series of TEDx talks this Friday, Sept. 14. Billed under the theme “Building Bridges,” the university will host a selection of speakers focusing on “unique stories of bridge building,” according to the event website.

Heather Starr Fielder, the chair of Point Park’s Community Engagement Department, sent out proposals for the TEDx talks last summer.

“Bringing a TEDx conference together was a much bigger job than expected,” Starr Fielder said.

Proposals went out this past summer. From there, it was time to narrow down 110 possible speakers to just six.

Starr Fielder said the community engagement department pared down the candidates by looking at what best fit the TED mission of spreading ideas. After two rounds of vetting, it was down to half a dozen speakers covering identity, the arts and actual bridges.

Mark Houser, the director of news and information at Robert Morris University, is presenting the story of John Roebling.

Roebling most famously designed the Brooklyn Bridge, but he also designed a number of Pittsburgh projects including the original Smithfield Street Bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1881.

“Pittsburgh played a key role in pioneering bridge design because of John Roebling,” Houser explained.

Houser’s presentation discusses the bridges of Pittsburgh that have been overlooked – “Mostly because they’re gone,” Houser said.

His biggest statement was that many citizens in Pittsburgh refer to their city as the “city of bridges” for the wrong reason.

“It’s not that it has more bridges,” Houser said.

It’s because of the city’s rich history of bridge innovation.

The conference focuses on other avenues of connecting people beyond construction.

Kristopher Chandler, a senior screenwriting major, will be speaking on how the arts can be used to help young people transition into new life experiences.

Chandler said that developing the presentation was difficult, but it was fun at the same time.

“It was difficult because it came from a deeper internal thought,” Chandler said.

Chandler said one of the more difficult aspects of developing the presentation was looking for info about millennial anxiety.

This year, the American Psychiatric Association ran a study featuring over 1,000 U.S. adults and found that millennials are the most anxious generation.

Chandler said that, since such research is so recent, it was difficult finding stats to explain why millennials struggle with anxiety and transitional change.

More than anything, Chandler said he found that researching his TEDx talk taught him the “importance of indulging in something you love.”

TED – which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design – have featured thousands of talks by famous and influential figures, ranging from Vice President Al Gore to record producer Mark Ronson.

While TED originally focused mostly on the Silicon Valley scene, it has broadened into fields far beyond its California roots. 

According to the TED website, the TEDx program strives to bring “the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe.” TEDx conferences are organized independently of the TED organization and are granted a free license.

Starr Fielder said she thought that the university would be a great environment to inspire students. In the past she’s assigned students to find TED talks to present to the class to inspire themselves and others.

The conference will be held this Friday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m in the Lawrence Hall GRW.