Journalist, entrepreneur among this year’s TEDx speakers at UW-River Falls

Posted February 17, 2016

The TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks are coming back to UW-River Falls, this time featuring Twin Cities journalist Cathy Wurzer and entrepreneur Mark Lacek, both of whom are alumni.

The TED talks feature a series of speakers who discuss various topics related to their interest in hopes of educating, informing and entertaining the public. The TEDx talks will begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, in the University Center. The event is free for UWRF students to attend but they must register for the talks.

Wurzer is co-host of the “Almanac” public affairs show on Twin Cities Public Television and also host of “Morning Edition” on Minnesota Public Radio. She is a 1992 graduate of UW-River Falls, where she studied broadcast journalism and urban planning. Wurzer also is author of “Tales of the Road: Highway 61,” published in 2008 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Lacek is a 1979 graduate of UWRF. His latest venture is FamDoo, a smart phone application and website that helps parents reward their children for doing chores. Lacek’s other notable ventures include founding Minneapolis-based Denali Marketing in 2007, which later merged with Olson, now the largest advertising and marketing agency the Twin Cities.

Other speakers confirmed for TEDx include artist and art education Ann E. Lawton and several UWRF students: Michael Mader, Rebbekah Hite and Joshua Gustafson.

Mader, a senior in marketing, will speak about his personal journey and his goals to start his own social enterprise.

“So I’m going to tell the story about how I just kind of realized that I don’t want to take the traditional path that most college students are taking these days, and I want to go out and start something of my own and do it in a way that is beneficial to other people as well,” Mader said.

TEDx at UWRF started with Student Senate organizing and putting together the event as a way to have a change from the more traditional guest speakers who come to campus. Organizing of the event now has shifted to Student Involvement.

Last year, the TED talks the event drew around 300 people, according to Director of Student Involvement Paul Shepherd. Some of the challenges of organizing this year’s TED talks were gaining involvement, interest and trying to find speakers, he said.

“The thing that was a little bit of a challenge is that we were trying to highlight a lot of undergraduate students here that were involved with undergraduate research and we have three individuals that are going to do that but there were not a ton of applications that came through when we put the word out there,” Shepherd said.

“Giving a TED talk is kind of a nerve wracking thing,” he added, “so some people may have thought, ‘There is no way I would want to put myself through that,’ but we got to the point now where we have our speaker lineup set and it was exactly the number that we wanted.”

Student Senate President Chris Morgan said he hopes the event will be a success.

“It’s a great showcase for high profile speakers and student researchers to come and speak about specific topics that have an impact,” he said. “…We had it last year and it went great, the Chancellor loved the idea, so I am happy to see it come back.”