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Top Intellects Talk on Pertinent Topics



The TEDxUCSB conference featured 10 campus professors from a wide range of disciplines last Friday in the MultiCultural Center to give 18-minute speeches about an aspect of their par- ticular research.

The forum — an independently organized version of the popular annual TED conference in Long Beach — included discussion on topics rang- ing from stem cells as a cure for ocular diseases and the feasibility of a world powered by solar and wind energy to public displays of affection and divorce’s effect on children. TED, an acronym for “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” is a non- profit organization that hosts leading innovators and experts to speak for 18 minutes each and then broadcast the videos on its website.

Health and Wellness Program Health Educator Mark Shishim, who emceed and helped organize the event, said the professors represented some of the campus’s top intellectual speakers.

“Let me just say, from a personal point of view, that I study happiness, and I don’t quite know how to explain what’s going through my head right now,” Shishim said. “We’re going to hear from some of the best and brightest talent on this campus, but it’s just a smidgen, if you will, of the amazing professors we have here at UCSB.”

The organization started in 1984 as a yearly conference and has since grown to incorporate numerous offshoot events and hundreds of inde- pendently organized local seminars. Previous TED speakers include Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and Bill Clinton.

Third-year biology major Jimmy DeMayo said the localized version provided insightful commen- tary from experts in their respective fields.

“I’ve seen a lot of these videos online so I thought it would be a good experience to see some speakers who are actually from my school,” DeMayo said. “I really liked the variety of topics chosen, and I thought the speakers made a lot of good points.”

The event based the discussions around its over- all theme ‘passion,’ focusing on how passion helps people overcome obstacles and inspires potentially world-changing ideas. Sociology professor Victor Rios described his personal experiences overcoming teachers and author- ity figures writing him off during his teenage years to ultimately become a college professor. Rios also discussed how his work aims to prevent this type of discrimination.

Rios said high crime rates are part- ly attributable to the educational sys- tem’s tendency to label certain youths as criminals from a young age rather than help rehabilitate them.

“I never imagined I would be a college professor or an author of two books,” Rios said. “The reason I never imagined this is because, from a young age, I was labeled ‘at-risk.’ I’m here today to make a point — that we need to stop calling people ‘at-risk’ and instead see them as ‘at-promise.’”

Education professor Jason Raley spoke about different types of educational reform during his lecture focusing on how school systems stif le the creative process. Raley said schools’ rigid curriculum structure takes the ‘passion’ out of learning that comes from students exploring their interests.

Physics professor Walter Kohn, a Nobel Laureate whom UCSB’s Kohn Hall is named after, explored the implications of expanding solar and wind energy.

According to Kohn, humankind is on the cusp of a historically unprec- edented climate change that will require a drastic shift in energy pro- duction and use.

Other speakers at the event includ- ed geology professor Susannah Porter, biology professor Dennis Clegg, English professor Ken Hiltner, communication professors Walid and Tamara Afifi, art professor Laurel Beckman and computer science pro- fessor Chandra Krintz.

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