University’s First-Ever TED Talk Series Shares ‘Big Ideas’ With the World

Event Set for Friday, April 17

by LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator


MANKATO, Minn. – Big ideas will get real-world exposure this April as Minnesota State University, Mankato hosts its first day-long series of TED Talks spotlighting topics presented by students, faculty and staff.

Online tickets are expected to go on sale in early February as TEDxMNSU plans for the University’s independently organized series of 12 TED Talks spotlight topics set for Friday, April 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom.

Cost to attend for the event is still being determined.

Current plans for the day will group four TED Talks into each session. Following TED Talk format, presentations will be limited to a maximum of 18 minutes.

Each presentation will have a meet and greet opportunity outside CSU Ballroom immediately following their presentation. Entertainment and performances between sessions will be provided by Minnesota State Mankato students, faculty and staff.

Presentations will be recorded with online videos produced and released by TED for global viewing at a later date.

‘This program is a good way to draw attention to academic excellence within our campus community.’

DAN SACHAU, professor of psychology and OERG faculty advisor

Hannah Tilstra, second-year graduate student at Minnesota State Mankato and student organizer of the event, along with fellow graduate students Thomas Gisvold and Emily Beckman are leading the effort to bring a TEDx series to campus.

Guidance and major funding for the event are provided by the Organizational Effectiveness Research Group, a customized management consulting service managed by the University’s industrial/organizational psychology graduate program.

Dan Sachau, Ph.D., professor of psychology and OERG faculty advisor, said the idea for the local TED series came as the University seeks ways to recognize academic excellence on campus.

“In the last 15 years, Minnesota State Mankato has proven itself to be a national university,” Sachau. “This program is a good way to draw attention to academic excellence within our campus community.”

According to, TED started in 1984 as an ongoing series of presentations on global “ideas worth spreading.” In 2006, six online TED Talk presentations went viral resulting in the launching of the TED Talks website offering worldwide online video and audio access to presentations – usually 18 minutes or less – by “the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and teachers.”

In 2009, the organization created TEDx enabling and supporting independent organizers seeking to host events using the TED format. By 2012, TED Talk online viewing topped the one billion mark. Its continuing success draws from an ever-growing list of topics and speakers.

‘This program is so beneficial to the campus and the area.’


Tilstra said TEDxMNSU earned TED affiliation in 2019 as it pursued the University’s first TEDx series. Request for proposals from students, faculty and staff have generated at least 24 presentation ideas. Selection of April presenters will be determined in February.  

Sachau said the organizing committee considered two options for presentation proposals – selecting presentation themes or allowing presenters to submit their own TED Talk topic. The University’s tag – “Big ideas. Real-world thinking.” – helped decide the format.

“We chose the latter. (TED) says not to target speakers but to target ideas” Sachau said. “This certainly falls under the big ideas, real-world thinking philosophy.”

Sachau said a university such as Minnesota State Mankato provides the ideal site for TED Talks because it has all the needed support services. Tilstra added that the goal is for TEDxMNSU to host future TED Talks every two years.

“As we figure out how to do it, the next one will be a lot easier,” Tilstra said.

Both Tilstra and Beckman recently attended a TED women’s conference in Palm Springs to gain insight into hosting such an event. As a perk for attending the conference as TED organizers, they received 14 registrations for a TEDx Masters Class. The class with training on delivering TED Talks will be shared with selected presenters.

Tilstra added the experience is helping her branch outside of her field of study.

“You forget there are all these other ideas that are super-exciting,” she said.  “This program is so beneficial to the campus and the area.”

Beckman and Gisvold echoed that planning the University’s first-ever TED Talk series has enriched their academic experience and personal lives.

Gisvold said experience thus far brings him one step closer to a personal goal.

“It’s a bucket list item of mine to give my own TED Talk,” he said. “Bringing this to the University may be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. There is a certain aura about the event the brings people together.”

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