TEDxSIU returns to Carbondale

March 9, 2023

Eight speakers assembled on Saturday, March 4, 2023 in the Student Center for the revival of TEDxSIU. Speakers Michael ‘Bret’ Hood, Haydeé Acebo, Scott Hamilton-Brehm, Brian Croft, Desmon Walker, Sarah Michalak, Nic Skovgaard, and Blaze Currie all had interesting talks about important knowledge and life-lessons to share with attendees. The topics of the talks ranged from “Take a Break and Get Outside… Doctor’s Orders” to “Why Brands Need Black Culture”. All who attended got a well rounded understanding of the topics that were discussed.

TEDxSIU had something for everyone to take home with them that day. All of the speakers felt a personal connection with the talks and emphasized the importance of their knowledge as well as the knowledge of others.

“…I teach leadership, one of the things we talk about: if you can change just one life, you change the world. And TEDx is one way that we can all change the world and make it a better place,” says Michael ‘Bret’ Hood, one of the speakers.


Hood opened the talks with his talk “Being Ethical is Harder Than You Think” where he gave personal experience from his 25 years as an FBI agent that while most of us think we are incapable of performing unethical behavior, it is a trap that people unfortunately fall into more times that you think.

Along with Hood’s talk, there was plenty of opportunity for attendees to have an introspective, from Haydeé Acebo’s talk “What Open Water Taught Me,” where she talks about a change in mentality from goal-orientation to just going out and doing it, to Blaze Currie’s “We Can Facilitate Learning that is Transformational” that focuses in on the change in perspective that can bring us all together.

“Transformational learning: …it’s based on a learning theory by Jack Mezirow… it’s basically about when a person experiences a disorienting dilemma, something that really challenges their existing beliefs, and the process that we can help them go through by asking really good questions, having conversations with them, giving them time to learn and grow. When you do those things, it becomes transformational. It changes the way people see the world,” says Currie.

Opportunity was another big talking point. Sarah Michalak is an SIU student who talked about her experience as a flight student here at the university and how she had to make a change in major due to disqualifiers that kept her out of the cockpit. In her talk, “70% of Us Will Never Make It to the Cockpit,” she talks about this, highlighting the side of aviation that nobody talks about and how she found her calling despite this barrier.

Speaking on another industry, Desmon Walker spoke on “Why Brands Need Black Culture” focusing on the reliance of black culture in branding, but the lack of credit that is given to it.

“So I think brands have a few different ways that they can and have gone on this topic. You have brands who still don’t get it. Who are not willing to get it. You have brands who try, but will not really holistically try… and then you have brands who just are completely scared to mess up as well…” Walker said.

He feels that thought should be put into who is in the room on these decisions and have a more conscious effort in both the creative and business side of marketing and branding.


Another visionary, Nic Skovgaard talked about “The Future is Vertical: Why Vertical Video Will Flip Your Screen Forever.” Touching upon the media world, he believes that content creation is going to move to vertical, going away from the traditional horizontal screens of television in favor of the vertical smartphone screen.

“The majority of the content that people are consuming, they’re consuming vertically, they’re consuming in short format, and they’re consuming very casually, and I think that there are so many powerful stories that are out there to be shared that giving more people access to share them more easily can create some really amazing opportunities,” Skovgaard said.

On the flip side, Brian Croft advocated for disconnecting and getting out more. “Take a Break and Get Outside… Doctor’s Orders” is about the effect the outdoors has on us and how we have a yearn for the outside world.

“Outdoor experiences have a way of calming us… it’s in some ways even an opportunity to disconnect, just that ability to get away from the stressors we have… that’s why our wallpapers have such pretty views…” emphasized Croft.

To further go along with the importance of the outdoors, Scott Hamilton-Brehm is a professor here at SIU who has studied in the realm of microbiology and now focuses on fighting climate change. He explains a process called Oxidative Hydrothermal Dissolution, a fairly new and promising process that uses heat and water to dissolve carbon-based biomasses. It relies on plants to help fight carbon emissions. Hamilton-Brehm wants this process to become more known and believes that this is a solution that can be implemented right now, it just needs the traction to be picked up.

If there is anything to be taken from TEDxSIU this year, it is that everyone has something to give.

“I am on the TED stage today because of my heroes who were on the TED stage before me,” Skovgaard said.


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