This was a entry previously posted on the TedXUofM website.
The University of Michigan is at its best when it collaborates across disciplines and goes after complex and big questions that require active involvement from the kind of diverse backgrounds and academic excellence absent on most US campuses. This kind of cross-cutting excellence is mainly found in our students who strive towards creating and changing the world they live in.
To me, TedXUofM is an example of such an activity that deserves attention and engagement from the entire Michigan community. TedXUofM is an independent organized TED event that has provided some of the most talks available to everyone on campus. I think every innovator should spend at least one hour listening to random TED and TedX talks. The messages are brief, delivered with style and designed to reach an audience present at delivery, but also to a worldwide audience, who wants to learn, get excited, and get stimulated to do something amazing.
Among all TedX conferences, TedXUofM stands out as one of the few entirely student-run meetings. I have participated in planning meetings, just to suck up some of the excitement in the room, and I have personally met with many of the top organizers to talk about my experiences regarding the kind of challenges that come from doing something big related to our university. In fact, I even participated in the last TedXUofM as a speaker – I loved giving a talk to 2000+ people, and over 400 have watched my video online so far. I referenced many experiences on how to make a crazy idea happen.
This year’s focus is tremendously meaningful to me: “inform, transform.” To create lasting change, we need to get the best people, inform them and empower them to transform the world around them. I am a strong believer in the tight relationship between these two activities. To create transformation and change, we need to inform and teach. That is, after all, the main reason I am a professor at our University: my key purpose is to teach people so to enable their dreams. It turns out that many of our students are as smart as me, and even if I can get 10 students each year to go out there and change the world, I have over 100 times the impact I could have had by just pursuing my own dreams and transforming the world by myself.
But, here is the challenge: informing and teaching is not enough! So many members of the broad University of Michigan community are perfectly educated and equipped to transform, but they are captured within a very small space – limited by lack of ambition, lack of dreams, and lack of hope. My suspicion is that our friends in spaces like that are less happy – even though they fail less often than those who seek to create more impact and transform.
I would like to learn two things from this year’s TedXUofM:
1) Based on the examples discussed at the meeting, how can we better inform, and improve the teaching our students and our community to maximize the potential for major transformations to occur?
2) What are examples of great transformations that are occurring right now, and spaces that are in dire need for transformations Michigan scale?
As with every TedXUofM talk, I anxiously await hearing the message in person or on the web. Either way, it reminds me of the awesome things we are making happen. I am proud to be a TedXUofM alumnus and proud to be part of the University of Michigan community, the one community that has the diversity and excellence to transform some of the parts of our world that need it! And I look forward to see what new and exciting things are on the horizon.