When TED talks, people listen.

The immensely popular lecture series will make its UCCS debut May 5, bringing with it a potpourri of speakers hailing from near and far.

“Flourish” is the title of the half-day, independently organized event. Presented by the El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization, speakers will ruminate, in 18-minute blocks, about everything from lost communication skills to positive leadership. Presenters include a former writer for Saturday Night Live, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and a dancer who specializes in “hip-hop, popping, locking, break dance, krump and house.”

Harmonizing relationships

UCCS’s Tom Duening is team lead for its business and entrepreneurship program, as well as the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. Duening was instrumental in bringing the program to the campus.

TED, which is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, features “world-class speakers,” Duening said. “They represent some of the brightest and most talented people in the world.”

Duening said the series has allowed presenters and audiences a chance to “expand themselves and harmonize relationships with one another.

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“Bringing together great speakers in these venues enables them to share ideas and explore different ways of perceiving the world … cave explorers to those exploring the farthest reaches of space to world-class musicians and innovators in technology,” he said. “TED nailed it when it originally came up with this format.”

Duening said having a TED-licensed event in the community helps boost the city’s relevance.

“You want the community to be in line with what other major communities are doing around the world. Events like Ignite and TEDxUCCS marks you as a community that’s serious about being an international player.”


Speaker Ethan Beute has local ties. Beute is vice president of content and communication at Springs-based BombBomb, which facilitates the use of easily exchangeable videos to communicate more effectively. He’ll be speaking about the lost art of face-to-face communication.

“Face-to-face is far more rich,” Beute said. “Almost everyone has a smartphone with a super nice camera in their pocket all the time — and by the way, it’s hooked up to the internet.”

Beute said human communication has evolved to become heavily reliant on the written word — text messages, emails — but so much is lost in briefly scripted messages that can be better conveyed with a little eye contact.

“Go into the history of humans communicating face-to-face, which is millennia,” Beute said. “Spoken communication has been around for 150,000 years. Writing has been around for about 5,000 of that. You could infer that writing isn’t necessarily natural or fundamentally human. … Make the flight back to the face.”

Regarding TEDx’s “Flourish” theme, Beute said, “Human flourishing is about people and relationships. All of our success, personal and professional, is directly or indirectly connected to other people. Relationships are how we flourish. Anything that inhibits better human connection (which is face-to-face,) is a reduction in human flourishing.

“If we start to value relationships more and take the time to overcome the distance, it makes a difference. My call to action is getting face-to-face. Your most important messages are being relegated to channels of communication that don’t have the clarity or personality that will help you flourish.”

Plants and animals

Speaker Kim Cameron was recently recognized as among the top 10 social-science scholars in the world whose work has been downloaded from Google. He is a co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan and he helps organizations throughout the world develop positive organizational cultures and positive leadership.

Cameron used the heliotropic effect to highlight his upcoming presentation.

“If you put a plant in the window, it leans toward the light,” he said. “Every living system, from a single-celled organism to something much more complex has a tendency toward light and away from dark — or toward the positive away from the negative.

“If that’s true, that humans flourish in the presence of positive energy, it has big implications in everything from how we rear children to how we manage people,” he said.

Cameron said he’ll offer insight into the differences between influencing and energizing.

“People often operate under the assertion that, if I can get you to do what I want, I’m a leader,” he said. “But we can measure positive energy. When I interact with X, what happens to my energy? Is it uplifting or depleting?

“As it turns out, positive energy is four times more important in predicting success by an organization or person than influence. Influence is a fourth as important as energizing people, but we manage influence all the time. The question is, does anyone manage energy? Do you know anyone who was promoted or hired because they were a positive energizer? Most would say they didn’t even know that exists.”

Patricia Marx knows what it’s like to be an energizer, even if it’s behind the scenes. Today, Marx writes for The New Yorker, but in the early 1980s, she energized audiences as a writer for Saturday Night Live.

Marx, who resides in New York City, teaches at Columbia and Stony Brook universities, was the first woman elected to the Harvard Lampoon and the first to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. She most recently published “Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties.” Marx is currently writing a book expanding on a piece she wrote for The New Yorker about the egregious misuse of support animals.

“If you fly, you’ll see lots of animals flying for free,” she said. “Is that thing really helping you? To expose this abuse of the law, I took weird animals to weird places and claimed they were my emotional support animals.”

Marx said trips included taking a leashed turtle through a museum and to a pedicure.

“I took it to a funeral home to prepay for a funeral,” she said.

Marx took a snake to a Chanel store and was shown a matching pocketbook. She took a turkey onto a luxury bus to the Hamptons.

“I got off on a stop in Lower Manhattan,” she said. “The driver seemed more bewildered that I’d pay full fare and not go to the Hamptons than the fact that I had a turkey on the bus.”

Marx instead took the turkey to a deli where she had … a turkey sandwich.

Marx said, without giving too much away, her talk May 5 will revolve around dealing with declining faculties as one ages.

“I and everyone else my age must be thinking, ‘What’s happening to my brain?’ I embarked on a four-month program to see if I could do anything about it,” she said.

If you go:

What: TEDxUCCS — “Flourish”

When: 4-9 p.m. Thursday, May 5

Where: Berger Hall, UCCS Campus

For more information, visit


Shane J. Lopez – Gallup senior scientist, leading researcher on hope, author of “Making Hope Happen”

Kim Cameron – University of Michigan, professor of management and organizations and professor of higher education

Baron Baptiste – yoga teacher, author, trainer and leader in the realm of personal growth

Patricia Marx – author, writer for The New Yorker

Edgar J. Johansson – Laboratory of Atmosphere and Space Physics, manager of strategic initiatives

Ethan Beute – BombBomb, vice president of content and communication

Valerie Anderson – Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic, director

John Mehall – Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery Associates, director of cardiothoracic surgery

Ron Jules – all-style dancer, choreographer, teacher