TEDxMacatawa returns to the Lakeshore

TEDxMacatawa is returning to the Lakeshore next month with a cohesive vision for “reconnecting by design.”

“The speaker committee was intentional about the selection process, aiming for diversity of ideas/industries and speakers based on their demographics and delivery style,” says TEDxMacatawa committee member Patrick Clark. “We were also listening for alignment to a common thread, which manifested itself pretty organically. The unifying idea of ‘reconnecting by design’ resonates within all of our speakers' presentations.”

TEDxMacatawa topics for the Sept. 27 event will include fun in the workplace, education reform, Shakespeare behind bars, plant production, folk music, and AI-driven health advancements.

The speakers

Charles Elwood, a Microsoft Artificial Intelligence MVP and innovative technology expert, will explore the transformative power of artificial intelligence in enabling communication for individuals with disabilities and preserving endangered languages, fostering a more connected and inclusive world in his talk, “Voices Reimagined: AI’s Role in Empowering Communication and Preserving Cultures.”

Elwood recently used AI to help Chris Martin, a former DJ who had lost his voice to throat cancer, pulling 70 samples from recordings Martin had made. 

With a background in the automotive industry and a wealth of experience in artificial intelligence applications, Elwood has demonstrated the transformative power of technology in enabling communication and preserving endangered languages. 

Della Fetzer is a plant biologist, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt process improvement specialist, speaker, founder, and biotechnology entrepreneur serving the plant production industry. 
She will speak about what must we learn from nature to overcome a global plant shortage and achieve sustainable success in our industries and daily lives in “Industrial-Strength Process Improvement Advice From Your Mother (Nature).”

Brady Mills has spent the past two years traveling to and from Nicaragua, where he is collaborating with the community of Isiquí to design a creative classroom structure for their preschoolers. In the Holland area, he works at an architecture and engineering firm, developing capital campaign communications strategies for public school districts. His talk, “Is Creativity the Classroom’s Responsibility?,” will combine global trends in declining creativity, lessons learned in a rural classroom, and reflections on the local approach to classroom structures.

Jen Plante Johnson is a freelance writer, independent film producer and production advisor based in Douglas. Decoding the connective tissue between us has been Jen’s most profound professional theme and ongoing life lesson. Her talk will be “Pass the connective tissues.”

Richard Ray’s talk “Higher Education in Prison: An Uncommon Good” will talk about the swirling cauldrons of inequity that are modern American prisons. Those stripped of their liberty for what should be the most productive periods of their lives have little hope of reentering society on a level playing field. Earning a college degree in prison can substantially alter the trajectory of an incarcerated person’s life. This presentation will help listeners better understand incarcerated people as bearers of the same human dignity as all people possess, and how a college education helps them, their families, their communities, and even those who supervise them while in prison. 

Ray is professor and provost emeritus at Hope College. He is presently co-director of the Hope-Western Prison Education Program, a Hope College degree program at Muskegon Correctional Facility. 

Robyn Schopp’s talk, “Leveraging the Power of Fun at Work,” will teach attendees how leveraging the power of fun at work can create a stronger and more productive team.

Drawing from her own experiences with a life-changing brain injury and the pain of losing loved ones, Michigan musician Caitlin Cusack has discovered a path to healing through songwriting and now seeks to shine a light for others navigating their own darkness with her inspiring and uplifting music. She will speak on “Overcoming Brain Injury and Loss: The Healing Power of Music.”

Over the past five years, Michigan–IO has been re-imagining and rearranging 19th century lumber and mining songs in a sound and style that rings true with the spirit of the original songs as well as our contemporary ears. Michigan–IO exists to give voice to these incredible tunes and celebrate the folk music tradition throughout the Great Lakes.
Their talk, “Songs of the Lake and the Forest: A Michigan Folk History,” will give a glimpse into that creative past.

All-volunteer-run event 

Since 2013, TEDxMacatawa has been a biennial event, but the event has been on a four-year COVID-induced hiatus.

TED Talks and TEDx Talks both hold to the TED organization’s global mission of researching and sharing meaningful new ideas. 

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.

TEDx is a localized version of the TED conferences and requires a vetting and licensing process from the parent organization. T

When the original lead organizers no longer had time to manage running the event, Emily Wilkins, now of Marketing Metal, and Vince Boileau of  Boileau & Co. stepped up to lead the event. Vince now manages the license. Three employees of the West Michigan-based strategic marketing, web and video agency, including Clark and Erich and Vince Boileau, are on the TEDx committee.

Mission Design, West Michigan Law, and Keystone Coaching, and Marketing Metal are among the small businesses represented on the committee.

“Behind each TEDxMacatawa event has been a great team of over a dozen organizers who volunteer hundreds of collective hours to make it a success,” Clark says. “We see this very much as a community-led event that attracts volunteers who are passionate about ‘ideas worth spreading.’”

The TEDxMacatawa speakers take the stage 12:30-5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the  Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, 221 Columbia Ave., on the Hope College campus. Register for tickets at  eventbrite.com/e/tedxmacatawa-2023-registration-690298690967.
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.