Aztec students present TEDxSDSU

by J.D. Hodges

TEDxSDSU, an offshoot of the popular TEDTalks, held an event on Sunday at the KPBS studio next to San Diego State.

TED takes the best and brightest from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design and gives them up to 18 minutes to present the best talk of their lives. The talks often appear on various social media platforms, with some videos achieving millions of views.

TEDx is an independent variant of TED, though it is still associated with the larger brand, allowing smaller communities to have a similar experience on a more local level. This year’s speakers included 4-Profit co-founder and president Larry Kesslin, Associated Students President Josh Morse, registered nurse Christine Magnus and executive director of The 1:1 Movement Jonathan Zaidman, among others.

The speakers addressed a wide range of topics, including getting stranded in the Himalayas during a snowstorm, fighting injustice, connecting with people, drinking straws, overcoming cancer, expressing one’s true self, and overcoming adversity.

Deborah Plotkin spoke about turning pain and suffering into compassion for others. Plotkin is the founder and director of  U-Touch which helps bring disconnected areas of the world online with computers that would be normally discarded.This was inspired by when she and her husband were trapped in the Himalayan mountains for days and narrowly escaped death.

Marketing senior Jay Vermont, attended the event with 10 of his brothers from the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and said he enjoyed Plotkin’s speech the most.

“Her story from the Himalayas and what she is doing now is inspiring,” Vermont said.

Another speaker, recent USC graduate Nate Howard, started Movement BE, a limited liability company that inspires youth from the millennial generation to turn their stories of hardship into solutions for change.

Howard was a favorite of public administration junior Randy Sebeny.

“You could tell by the power in his voice that he had been through some stuff,” Sebeny said.

Morse spoke about his journey from homelessness and how he came to the university through SDSU Guardian Scholars program he now advocates.

Business management junior Cleo Sherouse hadn’t heard Morse’s story before.

“My favorite talk was from our student president,” Sherouse said.  “It made me realize you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.”

Zaidman, a SDSU graduate, spoke of something rarely given a second thought – drinking straws – and how they contribute to pollution and are generally unnecessary.

Political science sophomore Lindsay Altman also said she enjoyed event.

“I like the straw idea, it was interesting.” Altman said.  “I’ll definitely try to go to another TEDTalk in the future.”

This year’s event was organized by SDSU students and was lead by journalism junior Brooke Martell. Martell, a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, wanted to give this years TEDx a red carpet feel.

“I want to go into entertainment broadcasting, so that is what I am basing the event off of,” Martell said.  “Any celebrity that walks the red carpet gets, a gift basket and that’s what I want to incorporate at the student level.”

Martell arranged sponsors to have their products available at the event as raffle prizes during the intermission.

“I’m really proud of all the speakers they blew me away,” Martell said.  “It’s great to see everyone come away so motivated.”

Video of the event is available at or on their Facebook page at