At Crossroads: Campus TED talk gives UI students inspiration for future


Esteban Gast, comedian and social entrepreneur, gives a presentation at the I Hotel and Conference Center during Saturday’s TEDxUIUC 2015: At Crossroads event. The next TEDxUIUC event will be on April 23, with the theme “Creative Chaos.”

By Michelle Redondo

As the lights lowered and speakers took center stage, 500 attendees waited to listen to the lectures given at TEDxUIUC 2015: At Crossroads on Sunday.

TEDxUIUC is an annual, independent event branched off the popular TED talks. Tyler Matteson, MBA student and TEDxUIUC director of marketing, said choosing the theme was the most crucial aspect and all 14 talks encompassed different perspectives on the theme.

“We had a light bulb moment,” Matteson said. “Crossroads is decision-making on every scale — personal, cultural, societal, global. It’s something that impacts every one of us in our daily lives.”

TED was founded as a nonprofit in 1984 as a platform for aspects of technology, entertainment and design to converge. TED Talks are focused on spreading ideas through lectures less than 18 minutes long.

Once the theme was decided, Matteson and the rest of the TEDxUIUC team reached out to potential speakers to gauge their interest.

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    The event was open to all who were interested.

    “It’s open to absolutely everyone. We definitely see the faculty as a source of huge knowledge,” Matteson said. “We encourage each and every person to attend the talks.”

    Two of Sunday’s talks focused on the United States’ obesity epidemic and improving people’s relationship with food.

    April Winslow, dietitian at Choose to Change Nutrition Services, opened up during her presentation about her own relationship with food.

    “My best friends were cheese, chips and ice cream,” Winslow said. “They were always there for me, they were faithful and they never talked badly about me.”

    Throughout her life, Winslow said she used food as a form of escape and security from her home environment and past traumas. This led to 16 years of binge eating and an unhealthy and overweight lifestyle.

    Eventually, Winslow said she realized she was at a fork in the road: She could either transform her life or stay the same.

    “I ended up turning at my fork and started eating for consciousness and truth,” Winslow said. “I didn’t want excuses, I wanted ownership. Being conscious makes you powerful.”

    Following Winslow’s talk, Maria Ludeke, CEO of Creative Health, discussed how the marketing of unhealthy foods contributes to obesity in America.

    She said 69 percent of adults and 39 percent of children in America are overweight or obese.

    “These statistics came from 2012, and we know those rates have only grown,” Ludeke said.

    The key is in the marketing strategy — foods with more fun and appealing packaging attract children, she said.

    “If we could make children love snacks solely based on the design of the packaging and creativity with the marketing, I know we can use those same tactics for selling fruits and vegetables,” Ludeke said.

    She added that the food choices we make as a nation correlate to the fact that one in every four deaths in America are caused by heart disease each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Ludeke said 90 percent of information transferred to the brain is visual.

    “Escaping marketing and social media in our current world isn’t an option for certain people,” Ludeke said. “If we want to change, we must change what we see.”

    As TEDxUIUC continues to grow, Matteson said he looks forward to the future.

    “It’s a phenomenal event, and this year has been a huge success,” Matteson said. “We filled up all 500 seats, and we’re expecting good news for next year.”

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