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VOL. 131 | NO. 169 | Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Giving Ideas Of Memphis ‘Rock Stars’ Bigger Stage

By Madeline Faber

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Eighteen people working in Memphis will bring their innovations to a global audience at the upcoming TEDxMemphis conference.

TEDx is an independent spin-off of the popular TEDTalks series, where thought leaders in the technology, entertainment and design sectors share their work and vision with a live audience.

At last year’s inaugural TEDxMemphis event, the sold-out conference drew 1,000 attendants to the University of Memphis’ Rose Theater. With only a few tickets remaining for the Aug. 27 conference, this year will also boast a strong attendance.

Anna Mullins, executive director of TEDxMemphis, said her motivation behind hosting the event is to elevate Memphis voices in a greater forum. The talks will be screened online at TEDxMemphis.com and across the greater TED network.

“The core motivation behind hosting these talks and putting this production together is the ability to export these local ideas and demonstrate the vibrancy of thought in our city, the diversity of talent and just the fact that we have really powerful, innovative ideas that are being fostered here in Memphis and have broad application to our city and others,” Mullins said.

The theme of this year’s conference is “The Value of X.” Some of the scheduled lectures listed include “The Value of People,” “The Value of Education” and “The Value of Adventure.”

One of the speakers is Ron Garrison, CEO of the Memphis Area Transit Authority. The date of TEDxMemphis marks the two-year anniversary of Garrison moving to Memphis to take on the struggling public transit authority. In that time, he’s restructured MATA’s routes to improve on-time performance and efficiency and sent his staff through customer service training, something that has never been done before at MATA. In his talk, he’ll reveal his grand plan for how technology can improve transportation equity.

“It's going to have far-reaching impact, and what this will do is truly create equitable transportation for many people who don’t have access to transportation now,” Garrison said. He said Memphis has only seen a fraction of his plan for transportation improvement, and within the next two to four years MATA will be completely unrecognizable compared to how it operates today.

“You lay the groundwork sometimes before you can see the building, and that's what we're doing here in MATA, and I think across Memphis,” he added.

Garrison and a host of other speakers will reveal how they’re working to improve Memphis in areas ranging from urban development to education reform.

The Commercial Appeal sports columnist Geoff Calkins will return this year to serve as the master of ceremonies. Mullins said Calkins will be allotted more time to interview speakers after their presentations and open up their ideas to the larger audience.

With a goal of highlighting the diversity of Memphis’ voices, Mullins cultivated a fresh lineup of people working across multiple sectors, so Calkins is the only returning participant from last year’s conference.

“I'm very proud of the group we put together, and while a lot of these folks are Memphis rock stars, they are unsung voices across the nation, so it’s a pleasure for us to give them the stage,” she said.

The other live presenters include:

• Jen Andrews, executive director Shelby Farms Park

• Dr. Mario Brown, manager for leader assessment and development at First Horizon National Corp.

• Ned Canty, general director of Opera Memphis

• Tosha Downey, director of advocacy at Teacher Town Memphis

Jason Jackson, lead design architect for brg3s architects

• Kyler and Kody McCormick, founders of The Outbound Life

• Philip Mudd, counterterrorism analyst and former deputy director at the CIA and FBI

• Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director of The Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County

• Emily Neff, executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Terence Patterson, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission

Tamara Sawyer, director of diversity and cultural competence at Teach For America Memphis

Ryan Sellers, classical scholar and Latin teacher at Memphis University School

Leslie Lynn Smith, president and CEO of EPIcenter

• Darius Wallace, local actor, author and filmmaker

David Waters, religion reporter and columnist for The Commercial Appeal

• Anne Zachry, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at University of Tennessee Health Science Center

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