First TEDxuLeth Event Proves the Joy of (Still) Learning

Screenshot from TEDxuLeth video on YouTube

Quick, without thinking, what is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a  “TED Talk”?

It was the water droplets, right?

Those water droplets have become synonymous with Saturday afternoon YouTube spirals, inspiring emails from concerned moms, and high school teachers using videos to engage with students. Now, that iconic sound is represented by the University of Lethbridge. 

On January 25, 2020, the University of Lethbridge held its first TEDx event. The “x” means the event was independently organized. Yes, this enormous event was orchestrated by two members of the U of L community, Kathleen Massey and Imogen Pohl. The pair organized everything, from proposing a theme (“I Am Still Learning”) to finding a circular red carpet for the stage (according to Pohl, far more difficult than you would think).

When I sat down with Imogen Pohl, catching her for a few minutes between other media engagements, she spoke about some of the challenges that come with organizing an event of this size.

“This is actually the third theme we chose—the other two were rejected by TED,” said Pohl. “We’ve been trying to organize this event since October of 2018.”

You might recognize the phrase “I Am Still Learning”, as it is emblazoned across the entrance to the university library. This theme guided and connected all the speakers as they discussed, questioned, and investigated what exactly “I Am Still Learning” meant to them.

Out of the over 100 applicants, Massey and Pohl chose ten live speakers total, over nine presentations. These speakers were Sandra Lamouche, Jeffery MacCormack, LaRae Smith, Brandy Old, Uriel Karewa, Tisha Gilbert, Eric Chang, Shandi Bleiken, Rosie Costen, Robbin Derry, and Saga Darnell. Though everyone presenting was connected in some way to the University of Lethbridge, either as staff, faculty, current, or former student, each presentation was a unique take on the theme.

For some, like LaRae Smith, Uriel Karewa, or Rosie Costen, “I Am Still Learning” translated literally, and they spoke about their experiences as students of the U of L. For Jeffrey MacCormack, his experience as a professor. Brandy Old and Eric Chang provided insight about entrepreneurship and their experiences learning from failure, Sandra Lamouche compared learning and hoop dancing, and Tisha Gilbert, Shandi Bleiken, Robbin Derry, and Saga Darnell shared intimate stories of personal discoveries and learning through personal growth. 

“I’m just so happy to see our community come together like this. I am so excited to see an event like this in Lethbridge, and I hope to see more good things come from this.”

Tickets for the event sold out the day they went on sale. TEDxuLeth generated so much interest that two viewing parties were organized to help share the event with as many people as possible. When asked about the future of the event, Pohl mentioned that she wanted this to be the first of many. 

“We’ve made, like, a 50-page guide on how to organize this event. It has everything—everything you need to know.”

It was incredibly moving to see the University of Lethbridge community gather together to support each other. During a brief moment, I managed to catch up with Shandi Bleiken, one of the speakers of the day, who spoke about what this event means to her.

“I’m just so happy to see our community come together like this. I am so excited to see an event like this in Lethbridge, and I hope to see more good things come from this.”