Thirteen speakers will take the stage for TEDxUniversityofMississippi at the Ford Center Saturday night, ranging from Beth Ann Fennelly, the Poet Laureate of Mississippi, to Pakistan native and Ocean Springs High School senior Areesha Razi.
“I am looking forward to challenging the community to think outside of the box, meanwhile engaging those thirsty for knowledge,” Kendal Outwater, a junior on the TEDx Student Planning Committee, said. “I believe TEDx will unite every demographic in a positive light.”
The event, which began at Ole Miss in 2015, gives speakers 15 minutes to tell their stories in a way that relates to a common theme. This year’s theme is “Continuum: Ideas Worth Spreading,” which also serves as the national TED slogan.
TEDx is planned entirely by the Student Planning Committee, which is made up of 12 students with the help of three faculty advisors. It’s a subsidiary of the national TED organization, which started in California 30 years ago. TED hosts two annual conferences and invites some of the world’s leading minds to talk for 18 minutes or less.
Since it started, over 1,200 people have attended TEDx conferences at Ole Miss, and more than 1.5 million people have watched the 34 TEDxUniversityofMississippi YouTube videos featuring past speakers. Of past speakers, 50% were from outside of the university, 38% were university faculty or staff and 12% have been students.
The 2020 speakers will focus on topics such as women in politics, immigration, Mexico, heart disease, poverty, ageism, music, race, migration, literacy, yellow fever and community development. Nine of the 13 speakers are teachers or students at the university or in Oxford.
Fennelly teaches in the M.F.A. program, where she was named Teacher of the Year. She has published three poetry collections and a nonfiction book, as well as a novel with her husband, Tom Franklin. She expressed her excitement to be able to elaborate on her work at TEDx.
“For me, the TEDx talk is the opportunity to distill and clarify my work over the last twenty years of teaching literature,” Fennelly said. “I’m passionately convinced that reading can change our lives for the better, and I’m looking forward to showing people how and why.”
Donald Guillory, a doctoral student at Ole Miss, focuses on race, gender and identity in the U.S. and Latin America. He graduated from Georgia Southern University, Arizona State University and served in the U.S. Army. He authored “The Token Black Guide,” which examines perspectives on race in America. Guillory also co-hosts a podcast, “TheNecronomi.com” and will release his first two novels later this year.
Hannah Gadd Ardrey, the 2019-2020 Mississippi Teacher of the Year, has taught music history and choir at Lafayette Middle and High School for five years. In 2018, she created the More than Music program, a student-led music class for special education students in elementary school. She received her Bachelor’s in Music and Master of Music degrees from Ole Miss.
Fernando Arroyo Lopez, a doctoral student in the department of nutrition and hospitality management, developed a sustainable boutique hotel in Mexico, for which he serves as CEO. He is a Graduate Assistant in the Institute of Child Nutrition.
Stephen Fafulas, assistant professor of Spanish and linguistics, serves as director of the Study of Communities, Involvement & Outreach and Linguistics Laboratory (SoCIOLing). In that program, he oversees students researching Spanish in the American South. He has also worked to develop dual-language immersion programs to be incorporated in K-5 schools. These programs would introduce bilingual and bicultural education to children.
Ole Miss Law student Muriel Collins represented the Mississippi Communications Association as an undergraduate panel speaker in 2017. She has served as an intern for Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo and hopes to become a lobbyist in Washington after law school.
Carolyn Freiwald, an associate professor of anthropology, studies ancient migrations across the Americas. She also traveled to japan, Canada, France and Belize in 2019 to study as part of the College of Liberal Arts’ New Scholar Award. Her research entails using biogeochemistry to research isotopes and ancient human diets to understand ancient populations.
Professors Wayne and Shirley Gray will be presenting together. Wayne Gray teaches microbiology and virology and said he is committed to reducing the threat of infectious diseases like HIV. Shirley Gray teaches writing and rhetoric with an emphasis on science and technology. Her first-year composition classes are designed specifically for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors.
Tallulah Jones, a junior engineering student on the Student Planning Committee, said that working with the speakers to make this event happen has been an inspiring opportunity.
“I am so excited about the opportunity to work alongside such talented people,” Jones said. “(This event) creates a bridge between the Ole Miss students and surrounding Oxford community by sharing new ideas.”