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2019 Speaker Interviews, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

A TEDxColumbus interview with Speaker Dr. Tim Raderstorf the Chief Innovation Officer at The Ohio State University College of Nursing.


TEDxColumbus: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

TR: I’m a husband, soon-to-be father of three, and all-around curious guy.  Many twists and turns led me to a career in nursing, where I became the first nurse named a Chief Innovation Officer in academia. Truthfully, I’ve gotten really lucky in my life.  Some of that luck resulted just from getting started and staying naïve enough to keep going. A healthy combination of naiveté and curiosity has led me to try things well beyond my scope, like build my own garage, start businesses, and found a maker-space. I’ve learned to “trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap.”


TEDxColumbus: What do others consider to be the most surprising thing about you?

TR: I’m a nurse, really, I’m actually a nurse.


TEDxColumbus: What inspired your interest in TEDxColumbus?

TR: I truly believe that everyone has a great idea to change the world; they just don’t know where to begin.  I hope my story gives others the confidence to take their first steps toward changing the world.


TEDxColumbus: What previous TED or TEDxColumbus talk was most meaningful to you?

TR: The first TED talk I ever saw was Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action
His Golden Circle approach was life-changing and inspiring.


TEDxColumbus: What inspires you about the future of Columbus?

TR: We’ve built one of the most collaboratively-competitive environments in the world.  Our desire to help others succeed will be the foundation of Columbus’ success over the next 10 years.


TEDxColumbus: When you host visitors from outside of Columbus, where will you typically take them?

TR: The North Market


TEDxColumbus: If you could give advice to yourself as a high school student, what would it be?

TR: Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up and take more risks.


TEDxColumbus: How did you select your career choice?

TR: It took me a long time and in many ways the nursing profession selected me. I went from wanting to be a doctor, then a teacher, then a nurse. No I am a Doctor/Nurse/Professor/Chief Innovation Officer. Weird.


And just for fun:

TEDxColumbus: Dog or Cat

TR: Dog


TEDxColumbus: Netflix or Theater

TR: Netflix


TEDxColumbus: Facebook or Twitter

TR: Neither


TEDxColumbus: Form or Function

TR: Function


TEDxColumbus: Beach or Mountain

TR: Both!


TEDxColumbus: Big Party or Small Gathering

TR: Small Gathering


TEDxColumbus: Summer or Winter

TR: Winter


2019 Speaker Interviews, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

A TEDxColumbus interview with Speaker Saideepika Rayala is the founder of the Columbus Civic, an email newsletter focused specifically on various immigrant and refugee communities


TEDxColumbus: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

SR: I am a senior at Olentangy Liberty High School, and a journalist who is passionate about using journalism to empower immigrant and refugee communities. I am the editor-in-chief of my school newspaper and have interned at various local news organizations. In 2018, I used the skills and interest I had to create a news organization called The Columbus Civic. The organization provides the local news of Columbus, Ohio in the native languages of different communities. One day, I hope to bridge the gap between immigrant communities and newsrooms.


TEDxColumbus: What do others consider to be the most surprising thing about you?

SR: Most people become surprised to find that I am a target archer and a level 1 archery instructor since it is a very niche sport.  


TEDxColumbus: What inspired your interest in TEDxColumbus?

SR: The first time I encountered TEDxColumbus was when I got to volunteer at the TedxColumbus 2017 event. As a volunteer, when we were done serving all the guests, we got to sneak into the back of the theatre and listen to some of the speakers. I remember sitting there being awed by how passionate the speakers were about the topics they were speaking on. It inspired me to search for a topic that I was really passionate about – and maybe even get to do a TED talk about it.



TEDxColumbus: What inspires you about the future of Columbus?

SR: In my school, the places I have volunteered at, or even at the TEDx auditions, I have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people who have big dreams about the future. Those people that are not willing to sit and be complacent, but instead want to be out in the world doing things and making a change, make me excited about the future of Columbus.


TEDxColumbus: If you could give advice to yourself as a high school student, what would it be?

SR: As a senior in high school, this advice would be for the dazed and confused freshman that I was four years ago. I would say it’s okay to not have everything figuredout. Take some time to find the things you are interested in, and once you do, put everything you got into those select few interests. I would also tell myself to get involved in the community around me whether it be the school community or the outside community. Working to better your community and knowing that you were able to make a change – no matter how little that change may be – is a very rewarding thing when you look back on your four years of high school.


And just for fun:


TEDxColumbus: Dog or Cat

SR: Dog


TEDxColumbus: Facebook or Twitter

SR: Twitter


TEDxColumbus: Work Hard or Play Hard

SR: Work hard, and then play hard


TEDxColumbus: Summer or Winter

SR: Summer


2019 Speaker Interviews, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

A TEDxColumbus interview with Speaker Alexander Wendt, Professor of Political Science, Mershon Professor of International Security, The Ohio State University


TEDxColumbus: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

AW: I am a professor of political science at Ohio State, specializing in the philosophy  of international relations.  I have also long had a side-interest in anomalous phenomena, and in 2008 published the only academic article I know of that takes UFOs seriously.


TEDxColumbus: What do others consider to be the most surprising thing about you?

AW: The fact that I like metal.


TEDxColumbus: Have to ask, what is your favorite band?

AW: That’s a tough one, with so much good music out there!  I’d have to say Avenged Sevenfold or Slipknot, depending on my mood; can we go with both?


TEDxColumbus: What inspired your interest in TEDxColumbus?

AW: I’ve heard about it for years from my neighbor and in this case I was encouraged to actually apply by one of your organizers.


TEDxColumbus: What are you most looking forward to as a TEDxColumbus speaker?

AW: My ideas reaching as large an audience as possible.


TEDxColumbus: What inspires you about the future of Columbus?

AW: The presence of so many talented, forward-thinking and socially conscious young people


TEDxColumbus: If you could give advice to yourself as a high school student, what would it be?

AW: Don’t change a thing, or I wouldn’t be as lucky as I am today.


TEDxColumbus: How did you select your career choice?

AW: I didn’t have any other skills and my father was a professor, so it was a natural path to follow.


And just for fun:

TEDxColumbus: Phone Call or Text

AW: Phone call


TEDxColumbus: Facebook or Twitter

AW: Facebook


TEDxColumbus: Beach or Mountains

AW: Mountains


TEDxColumbus: Big Party or Small Gathering

AW: Small Gathering


TEDxColumbus: Train or Plane

AW: Train

Interested in Alexander’s music choices? Check them out here:

Alexander will be taking the main stage at 2019 TEDxColumbus: Spark.  You can read his bio here.


TEDTalks, TEDxColumbus

TEDxColumbus Event Organizer Meagan Buren appeared on the 610 WTVN-AM morning show to talk all-things TEDxColumbus. In her interview with host Matt McCoy, Meagan shared insights on topics like:

– What exactly is TEDxColumbus

– What the theme SPARK signifies

– What we can expect to hear from the 2019 speakers

– What the is process for selecting speakers

– Which past TEDxColumbus speakers stand out to Meagan

– Where you can find the archive of TEDxColumbus videos

Listen to the interview here:

TEDxColumbus 2019: SPARK will take place Friday, November 15. Tickets will go on sale in early September. Watch our site and social media channels for details.

With gratitude to The Columbus Foundation, Kramer-Celeste Family Fund, IBMix, LBrands Foundation, The Ohio State University, Safelite AutoGlass, Kaufman Development, Crane Group, Crimson Cup, WOSU Public Media, Bonfire Red, Fort, and FALKtography for their generous partnerships in helping to underwrite TEDxColumbus.  

We’d love to have your organization be a part of TEDxColumbus, too. Interested sponsors can email us at to learn about our opportunities.


TEDTalks, TEDxColumbus

Year 11.

Last week we announced our 11th year of speakers for TEDxColumbus.  I’ve transitioned to become a member of the curatorial committee, after 10 years of chairing and facilitating it.

It reminded me of the values on which TEDx was formed and how they’ve helped to translate and ground us in our own coaching and training practice. It’s always good to revisit those values, and I hope by doing so, they will help others build what I call resilient storytelling cultures.


A. Democratization of ideas.


Creating one stage, one audience, one set of speakers is how TED started and continues to do it. No breakouts, no hierarchy or one speaker better than another. Sure, some may get more time to explain a more complex idea, but otherwise the ideas are truly treated equal.


B.  The idea matters first, then the person.


When we curate a TEDx event or a TED-like event inside a company or organization, we care most about the idea and will it provoke the audience, bring them new thinking, draw out a bias or inspire them to new action. While the person delivering the talk is very important, it is the ideas we choose first.


C. An idea is not worth spreading just because you experienced it.


It is worth spreading because it applies to a larger audience than yourself when others can benefit and relate.


Undoubtedly, the hardest talks to pick are those in the “personal story” category. Since we limit the number of personal talks (against those in technology, design, medicine, science, research, engineering, social change, etc), the more compelling stories will always tip the scales. Remember the other two (general) categories are ownership of Intellectual Property and front-row trend watcher.


D. Ideas come on a spectrum of maturity.


Some are still nuggets in your brain, some others are built out but not yet proven fully, and some have insights and reflections based in truths that are undeniable. Largely, TEDx talks are looking for the last category. Talks that project an idea still in the rumination phase usually are not received well by audiences.


E. Whenever someone is chosen for a talk, there is a lot of work that goes into taking the idea and expressing it through a great talk.


We have found repeatedly that what someone invests in time, practice, iteration and delivery will return in spades. The value of accountability is super strong in the process of preparing a talk – and we are known for building accountable schedules that almost guarantee you’ll deliver a great talk no matter the event or audience.


Ruth Milligan is co-organizer of TEDxColumbus. Since 2009, Ruth has selected and coached over 200 speakers who have taken the TEDxColumbus stage.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet the Speaker: Doug McCollough

Augmented reality & driverless cars … and the city of Dublin’s just getting started

by: Cheryl Forcina


The Columbus suburb has a growing reputation as a mecca for tech-driven businesses. And this “smart city’s” head innovation guy wants to make sure Dublin’s status stays that way.


In summer 2016, the debut of mobile game Pokemon Go brought location-based augmented reality to the masses.


Now imagine using that same technology as you navigate your way around Dublin, Ohio.


But instead of trying to capture Pikachu, Eevee and the hundreds of creatures that populate the Pokemon world, you’re simply on the hunt for lunch.


That’s just one of many uses for the digital wayfinding system set to hit Dublin’s Bridge Park neighborhood in the next few months, said Doug McCollough, the city of Dublin’s CIO.


“It’s like engaging with a concierge service—you’ll get that level of convenience,” McCollough explained. “You use your phone and animation to get directions by using a symbol versus a sign.”


McCollough heads up technological and digital initiatives for a city that a think tank ranked No. 7 in the world’s top intelligent communities in 2010—and its reputation as an innovator is only growing, thanks to other efforts, like the driverless cars being tested on a stretch of Route 33. Not bad for a suburb outside Silicon Valley. “(The city of Dublin) definitely serves as a benchmark,” McCollough said.


It was a detail the Michigan native couldn’t ignore when the city tapped him to be chief information officer in 2015. Of course, his grinding commute between Columbus where his family lives and his job at the time—in Virginia as the city of Richmond’s IT director—helped with his decision, too.


“We were waiting to all relocate (to Richmond), but Dublin called before I could find a home there for my family,” he recalled.


Along with McCollough’s experience and self-professed fascination with his field, the city of Dublin also gained an advocate. Particularly when it comes to casting the widest net possible in tech talent searches.


“One of the strongest dichotomies we have is the lack of diversity,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have access to these jobs or to promotion.”


McCollough points to black tech professionals. “If you’re African-American and entry level, you may be very alone,” he said. “Companies just don’t know how to support them.”


To that end, McCollough has lent his voice to issues like inclusion, workforce development and opportunities for women in technology.


“Companies should make diversity a priority, if for no other reason, than to give them a competitive edge,” he said. “These are companies that have huge amounts of money. They need to use the resources who are out there.”


The city of Dublin’s Chief Information Officer Doug McCollough has spoken on the topics of diversity, inclusion, career advancement and using technology for economic and community development. A graduate of the University of Toledo and the University of Notre Dame, McCollough is chair of the planning committee for the 2018 CIO Tomorrow Conference. His diverse passions include jazz (he was a trained musician), artificial intelligence, automation, bots and the social implications these technologies bring with them.





On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Scott Woods:

Performer to showcase poetry inspired by social issues


by: Cheryl Forcina


The written word, performance art and activism have been connected for as long as there’s been social upheaval. And present day is no exception. A Columbus poet has continued that practice for years, and will share his experiences and work on stage.


Scott Woods knows what audiences want. And what they want, Woods claims, is a performance.


“Anytime someone is sharing a poem, it’s a performance,” the author said. “And somewhere in the back of the audience’s mind, that’s what they’re lookin for.”


Woods is well aware. In 2006, inside a Short North warehouse where cutting-edge Acme Art Co. once resided, he became the first to complete a 24-hour poetry reading—solo, and without repeating a single poem. Toward the home stretch, the crowd swelled, hoping to “watch the wreck,” Woods said, describing his own condition after such a long spell without food or coffee.


“By the time the end rolled around, I’d caught my third wind,” he joked.


Now long gone, the Acme Art Co.’s spirit of alternative mediums and activism made the gallery a perfect match for Woods’ feat and writings rooted in social justice. One issue he contends with: gentrification.


“Columbus has heaping amounts of (gentrification),” Woods said. “The city has developed itself to the point of cultural extinction.”


He points to Columbus’ South Side where he grew up. In a poem titled “The Livingston Avenue Suite,” from his 2016 anthology Urban Contemporary History Month, Woods remembers a street different than the one now undergoing development.


“I wanted to write a single poem that was as long as the street,” he explained. Like a walking tour, “the points of interest run east to west and pop up in the poem where they’re supposed to. These are lives; these are people; it was important for me to put it on record.”


Which is something the author has always done. “(Poetry has) always been something that was there,” he recalled. “I’ve always written it and it stuck.” Especially when Woods began giving open mic readings in his mid-20s.


Now 47, he thinks poetry’s broad reach—thanks to technology—is “a beautiful thing.” That audience has found Woods’ work in several books, on NPR, through a poetry series he co-founded and the nonprofit organization Poetry Slam, of which he was a former president, among other achievements.


But when it comes to his city’s own prospects, there’s one thing he hopes for most. “(Columbus) is still looking for an identity. I’d hope that one day, Columbus finds what it’s looking for,” Woods said. “I hope I’m alive to see it because what it has isn’t the answer.”


Scott Woods is a poet and author born in Louisiana and raised in Columbus, where he still resides. An accomplished writer and performer, Woods works at The Columbus Metropolitan Library and believes that libraries are “the second-greatest invention of mankind ever.” (The first, he says, is music.) He also is a horror movie buff and counts John Carpenter’s The Thing as a favorite.



On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Ronald Murray:

Voguing demonstration will bring glimpse of house and ballroom culture to TEDx stage


By Wendy Cornett


This summer, producer Ryan Murphy’s FX drama Pose brought the underground house and ballroom scene to the surface and showcased an unprecedented number of transgender actors as series regulars. One of Columbus’ own curators of house and ballroom will share his perspective — along with a demonstration — of this vital, life-affirming culture.


Social worker Ronald G. Murray is also known to some as Father Ron “drama” Xclusive Lanvin. Since 1993, Murray has gone from active participant to respected leader in the house and ballroom community, which serves as a sanctuary for LGBTQ people of color who are ostracized by their birth families.


“This underground community existed because there were individuals who were rejected by their regular families because they came out as gay,” Murray explained. “They found commonalities among one another, and they started creating their own families, and they called these families ‘houses.’ Back then, you essentially stayed in the house with the people who were part of your family because you had no place else to go.”


At just 44, Murray is already preparing to assume the mantle of family elder to fill a void in the black gay population.


“In the black gay community, there aren’t many elders due to HIV/AIDS decimating an entire generation of our society,” he said, adding that few black gay men make it to their 50s. “One reason I stay involved in ballroom is that it allows me to connect with the younger generation and role model how to be a professional man.”


The family-like structures within the houses — complete with mother and father figures, sisters and brothers — provide, among other benefits, an atmosphere of inclusiveness and empowerment. Competitions (called balls) allow family members to express their truest selves in safe, supportive surroundings, while competing for prizes in different categories, one of which is voguing.


“Voguing became popular in the mainstream communities when Madonna created a song regarding it, but we’ve been voguing in our communities since the 1970s,” Murray noted.


To give the TEDx audience a live look at the energy and talent on display during a competition, Murray’s presentation will include a voguing demonstration courtesy of house and ballroom community participants.


Along the way, Murray will share his insights into the history and culture of house and ballroom, the uniqueness of it, and the importance of it for those who depend upon it for survival.


“Today, there are house and ballroom members who are doctors, lawyers, social workers,” he added. “We are writers; we are choreographers; and these are things that we wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the ballroom community.”


Ronald G. Murray is a community leader with more than 15 years of training, education advocacy, counseling and social work experience beginning as a youth HIV/AIDS advocate consultant. He also is the founder and CEO of P.E.A.C.E. of Mind, LLC, a consulting agency that provides personal and professional development and education on the issues surrounding LGBTQ people of color.


Murray also has been an active participant and leader in the underground house and ballroom culture since 1993. He is committed to educating others about and advocating for this community as a safe and worthy conduit for local and national outreach, education, support and visibility. Additionally, Murray is a licensed social worker and chemical dependency counselor with a master’s degree in public administration. He lives in Columbus.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Edith Espinal:

After a year in sanctuary, local, undocumented immigrant wants to ‘keep fighting for my family’


by: Cheryl Forcina


Last October, Edith Espinal entered the Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood seeking refuge from the government’s deportation policies. A year later, the fight in her hasn’t waned; it’s only been strengthened by family, community and time.


When the kitchen inside the Columbus Mennonite Church isn’t already bubbling with activity, Edith Espinal uses it to cook for her family.


“My kids, they like anything I cook,” she said, a proud mom.


But it’s after dinner, during the quiet of weekend evenings when the family settles into the night’s movie, that truly transports Espinal outside the church’s four walls.


“When we’re watching movies, I’m not thinking I’m here in the church,” she said. “I feel like I’m home when my family is here.”


It’s been one year since Espinal’s new normal—as an undocumented immigrant living in the church-turned-sanctuary. Faced with deportation last fall amid headline-grabbing issues like ICE detainment practices and the government’s hardline stance on immigration, Espinal drew community support, particularly from the Clintonville church and its congregation.


“It was very difficult the first days or months,” she said of being in sanctuary. During this time, one of her sons endured surgery for appendicitis and—like any sick child—asked for his mother. “This scared me because I couldn’t stay with him,” she recalled. “I felt like I was going crazy because I didn’t know what was going on with my son. Any mom (would feel) like that.”


In the year that has followed, Espinal’s resolve has only intensified as she absorbs all the behind-the-scenes efforts toward her freedom.  “I’m learning every day … how to organize, do events and rallies,” Espinal continued. “I want to know, how’s my case? How can we organize better?”


All the while, the Columbus mom’s day-to-day—which includes morning visits from her daughter to help her youngest get ready for school—helps give the Espinals a semblance of, well … a normal routine.


In the meantime, her fight continues. And Espinal is nowhere near giving up. “I feel like I can do this; it’s made me strong, and the support of community has made me strong,” she said. “I know now where I’m going: to get legal status for me and my family.”


Edith Espinal had been living in Columbus with her husband and three children for 20 years before the threat of deportation led her to seek sanctuary in October 2017 at the Columbus Mennonite Church. She first came to the U.S. with her father as a 16-year-old trying to escape drug cartel violence on the streets of her native Mexico. Espinal later petitioned for asylum on behalf of her family; it was denied in 2015. Early last year, all her appeals were denied, and in August 2017, she was ordered to leave the country. She urges other undocumented immigrants to “keep fighting. If we don’t fight for ourselves, no one else will do it for us.” Get updates on Espinal’s continued fight against deportation on Facebook’s Solidarity With Edith Espinal page.


 On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Liv Gjestvang:

Local parent shares an inspiring story of a growing family circle


By Wendy Cornett


Assisted reproduction can be an intensely personal and powerful experience. Sharing the gift of family with someone who needs help requires iron-clad mutual trust. One Columbus woman reveals her remarkable journey as both receiver and giver of the ultimate gift.


Three years ago, Liv Gjestvang took a monumental leap of faith. She had to trust the medical procedure that would lead to her conceiving a child; trust her body to do everything it was supposed to do to grow a healthy baby; and trust her own resolve to withstand – both physically and emotionally – that moment of separation, when the child she carried and delivered would go to live with another couple.


“Julie and I had already had two kids,” Liv shared, referring to her partner. “It was clear we didn’t want to raise another child, but I had really enjoyed being pregnant.”


Liv and Julie had welcomed their two children with the help of sperm donors – friends Mark and Erik, who had their two daughters with the help of a surrogate, Wen.


“I had been really touched by seeing Mark and Erik have their two girls and knowing that, Wen, helped them have a family because it was something that she believed in,” Liv recalled. “It was a really powerful thing for me to see what that looked like for her to be pregnant and give them the gift of family – twice. And it stuck with me.”


So when friends living in Amsterdam were ready to expand their family, the seed of inspiration that had been planted while watching Mark and Erik’s family grow was ready to surface.


“This was something that I had wanted to do for a really long time,” Liv said. “It was somewhat surprising to me the level of emotion it elicited in people I talked to. I could see it resonating – the power in being able to give a family to people who couldn’t do it on their own.”


While Liv’s desire to help another couple start a family grew organically out of her life experiences, the process itself was a journey through the unknown.


“There were moments when I remember feeling like I was going up that first hill on a roller coaster. I was pregnant. I was having a baby. This was going to happen. There was no getting off,” she said candidly. “The only way through this was to go all the way through it.”


Liv and Julie now share living, breathing bonds with two other couples who comprise their extended family. The unshakable trust that brought them together paved the way to profound joy and gratitude.


“This process has given us more than a baby,” Liv reflected. “It has expanded our family in a bigger way that I think we all truly value.”


Liv Gjestvang moved to Columbus from Brooklyn in 2002 and has spent her career working in education, technology and the arts. As Associate Vice President for Learning Technology at Ohio State, she leads educational technology initiatives, including the Affordable Learning Exchange and Digital Flagship. 


She has taught film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taos Talking Pictures and the Sundance Film Festival, and is founding director of Youth Video OUTreach, where she worked with gay and lesbian high school students to create the award-winning documentary 20 Straws: Growing Up Gay. 


Liv also is co-director of the Educause Learning Technology Leadership Institute and has written and presented about community media, social justice, college affordability and transformative leadership across the United States.