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Former Canadian Astronaut and MP Leads Outstanding Line Up of Speakers at TEDx Trent University

January 20, 2014

Trent students and Oshawa community share in expanse of creativity and expertise

Former Canadian Astronaut and MP Leads Outstanding Line Up of Speakers at TEDx Trent University

On Saturday, January 18, 2014, TEDx Trent University took the concept of compelling dialogue to a whole new level.  And when attendees found themselves face-to-face with the first Canadian in space, some would say so literally. The day was charged with inspiration, new concepts, unfiltered emotion and music. United with TEDx, Trent University did what it does best, share great ideas.

Trent Psychology student, and event emcee Chris J. Fernlund, spearheaded the charge to bring TEDx to life at Trent University. TEDx ( is a self-organized event that is in keeping with the widely popular non-profit TED organization and its series of lectures and videos that promotes “Ideas Worth Spreading” throughout the world. Along with many other enthusiastic faculty, staff and student volunteers at Trent University Oshawa, ( Mr. Fernlund approached the TED organization and worked diligently for months to execute the event. 

Mr. Fernlund is a firm believer in the value that TEDx has to offer the Trent community and beyond. He said, “I am very passionate about the TED initiative. The concept of “Ideas Worth Spreading” is exactly what I stand for. It is my belief that students deserve the opportunity to have access to learn from the works of brilliant individuals. Trent University’s mission is to inspire students to reach their maximum potential by creating creative individuals. During the process of inspiring creativity, Trent provides a collaborative and engaging atmosphere. That it is of vital importance to continue learning and acquiring knowledge. I hope this event inspires many individuals to take action.”

Joseph Muldoon is one of the organizers and head of Trent University Oshawa. “This is a first for Trent Oshawa and TEDx,” said Mr.Muldoon.  “The Trent Oshawa community brings students and staff together naturally and allows them to be involved in some exciting initiatives such as TEDx. It is no accident that the theme of the day, ‘Creativity, Collaboration and Engagement’ reflects the real spirit of Trent Oshawa as an institution.”

Marc Garneau featured as speaker

To kick off the day, federal MP and foreign affairs critic and former astronaut, Marc Garneau, spoke about the importance of technology in space to explore the universe beyond earth. Equally important is to turn the focus back onto our planet and ourselves.  Images from space show our physical, human impact on the globe. Visuals of depleted rainforests and soil erosion are some of the examples that demonstrated the importance of carefully managing the finite resources on our planet needed to sustain our expanding population.

When asked about how his extraordinary background may appeal to audiences, he said,” I think it’s partly the story I have to tell that may attract some people to come.  Certainly a big part of it is talking about space but also there are people who are interested in politics as well and many people want to know the linkages between the two.  Why did I go from one to the other?  I welcome that interest. It gives me an opportunity to get some messages across and also I talk to people about in a more general way to try to get the most out of their own lives.”

Encouraging students to dream big and stretch the abilities, he added: “You shouldn’t shy away from doing things that you think you might be able to do and might want to do. You’ve got nothing to lose… I try to convey that as well.”

A high-calibre roster of speakers followed. (  Marcelo da Luz wanted to make a difference that would impact the world so he designed a solar power car. He was also the first person to drive an electric car to the Arctic. However, it was his story about the inspirational influence of a homeless man named Mike that truly captivated the audience.  Fearful of drinking away any little money he had, Mike insisted on donating twenty dollars that he managed to scrape together to Marcelo’s project. He too wanted to do some good.

One visiting professor spoke about the priceless, collaborative value of open dialogue in a global classroom, another talked about tweeting cows as part of a digital media experiment. Derek Blais, an advertising executive revealed how the creative process should not be hindered by an initial voice of criticism, reminding us that two heads are definitely better than one.

Following Mr. Blais’ presentation, one audience member tweeted, “Just got off the stage at @TEDxTrent speaking about creativity and collaboration. What an incredible experience!”

Journalist, artist and curator, Jes Saches, kept the audience on their toes with her blunt and humourous accounts of personal challenges as a self-described “genderqueer, femmecrip, poet and general badass.” The sessions ended with entertaining musical performances from singer and guitarist, Taylor O’Meara, and the Unity Singers, an Aboriginal women's acapella group.

A poignant account about the careful use of medical marijuana to cure a little girl of grand mal seizures and the horrific revelations of the global sexual trade and the story of the brave woman that helped victims overcome their abuses opened minds and, at times, evoked tears in many.

Dr. Sara Humphreys, an assistant professor in the Department of English Literature at Trent was also a speaker at TEDx. She demonstrated how video games shape our perception of the world.        

She feels Tedx is an ideal fit for Trent. She said, “I think it shows what we do so well,” she said alluding to Trent’s uniquely collaborative approach to teaching and research.  “This all came together really easily. Why? Because we are interdisciplinary already.  We spread great ideas so this is a natural place for TEDx to be.”

Eighty-three year old Selina Appleby of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the mother of presenter, Lon Appleby, who spoke about the global classroom. She was deeply impacted by the entire TEDx presentation and the stimulating discussion.

As she described her personal experience at the event she said, “It’s the strangest feeling I had.  It was like I was at a turning point in the world of knowledge. It was something completely new for me and I thought aren’t I lucky to still be living to experience what I am experiencing today.  That’s how it affected me.”