TEDxMarquetteU hosts 2021 spring conference “Flourish”

Melissa+Shew%2C+a+visiting+assistant+professor+of+philosophy+at+Marquette%2C+talked+about+the+dangers+of+intellectual+disempowerment+of+women.

Photo by Joceline Helmbreck

Melissa Shew, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Marquette, talked about the dangers of intellectual disempowerment of women.

TEDxMarquetteU hosted its second conference this year called “Flourish” which was live streamed from the Varsity Theatre March 28. Three speakers from the Milwaukee and Marquette communities delivered presentations on various topics relating to our society.

TEDx is an organization that posts online presentations on innovative ideas for viewers across the world.

Aiesha Anchan, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and an associate director for TEDxMarquetteU, said that given the situation with COVID-19 this year, their team wanted to choose a theme that would represent growth.

“We wanted to talk about how we, as a community, can grow and learn no matter what circumstances we are in,” Anchan said. “Regardless of where you are and what you’re giving, you are still able to grow and develop.”

With this semester’s theme being “flourish,” each of the speakers at this semester’s conference touched on growth, connection and society. All three speakers were also Marquette professors. 

Melissa Shew, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Marquette and the first speaker, talked about philosophy for women and girls. 

“In (Shew’s) speech, she bridged the concept of the Greek goddess Persephone and her journey as a god with woman’s voices and women’s studies,” Anchan said. “She also talked about the actions we need to take to uplift these voices.”

Chelsea Cook, an assistant professor of social behavior, neurobiology and behavioral genetics at Marquette, talked about how bees, specifically honey bees, and how their behavior is very similar to how we function in society.

“Bees have very concrete roles, and there’s a very diverse amount of behavior in a colony,” Anchan said. “(Cook) talked about how the diversity and behavior of those bees and their cooperative abilities can be applied to the problems that we have in our society.”

Michelle Rodriquesz, a primatologist and a biological anthropologist, as well as assistant professor of social and cultural sciences at Marquette, does research on social networks and stress in monkeys, apes and humans. 

Rodriques is an advocate for the conservation of primates. In her speech, she talks about how colonized primatology impacts the communities that these primates live in.  

“A lot of these speeches are very rooted in what these professors study and what their biggest interests are,” Anchan said. “It’s very unique to see how their ideas and solutions can not only apply to Marquette University, but our society in general.”

Anchan said their biggest struggle was making these speeches as engaging as possible in a virtual situation.

“I think our team really pulled through this time, especially with the amount of practices these speakers had, and just all of us being there to be the audience,” Anchan said.

Melissa Shew, the first speaker at the event, said she is heavily devoted to education and advocacy in support of women, both in her role as an educator and just as a female in the world.

“I wanted to give a talk that laid out the importance of empowering women and girls intellectually … so my talk really focused on the importance of supporting women as thinkers and knowers,” Shew said. “I understand it as part of my job to help people learn how to think their own thoughts and have the confidence to be able to do so, especially when or if they make mistakes.”

She said that while she has given a lot of other presentations before, giving a TED talk was a whole different experience.

“The amount of stress and nerves that I felt beforehand, but it was also exhilarating,” Shew said. “On top of it, giving a TED Talk a year into a pandemic, with two little children at home and a lot of curveballs and chaos, was a very special experience. I remember right before I went on stage, thinking I will never do this again, and then after I did it, I was like ‘well, maybe I could do this again.”

Shew said the team of TEDx students who put this together did an “absolutely sensational job.”

“They were so well organized amidst all the chaos and changes that they were going through, and they pulled off a fantastic event,” Shew said. “I really love that even in the chaos of a pandemic, these students are so devoted to innovative ideas, because it is easy to deemphasize the importance of ideas in this moment. Everyone is just trying to get through on a daily basis, but I really admired their commitment.”

Lily Eggerding, a first-year in the College of Arts & Sciences, is not a member of TEDx, but got to watch the event in person because her roommate is a part of the organization.

“I honestly didn’t really know anything about TEDx and the process behind that, so it was really cool to see,” Eggerding said. “There had been no in-person events this year, so it was awesome just to be able to see some professors that I’ve had and listen to what everyone had to say.”

Eggerding said her roommate met with Shew about once a week.

“Shew probably wrote about 30 minutes of content, but had to break it down,” Eggerding said. “It was interesting to see how attached people can get to their ideas and what they write.” 

The speeches were limited to around 20 minutes.

She said watching the event in-person was much different than watching it online because she actually got to see the participants speak, and there were times when she even got chills from what they were saying. 

“I’ve watched a lot of TED Talks in class and for different things, but I think seeing it in person is so different because you get to see the speaker talking to you, not at you,” Eggerding said. “You could see their passion when they were talking about their topics and they seemed really nervous when they come out and then they get into a groove. I feel like you can’t see that as well online. It kind of added to the experience and you got to feel what they were trying to invoke.”

This story was written by Skyler Chun. She can be reached at skyler.chun@marquette.edu.