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TEDx brings big ideas to campus

University of Toronto professor Dr. Sarah Kleeb spoke at the recent TEDxUTSC event. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Dare to know, or, as speaker and University of Toronto professor Dr. Sarah Kleeb put it, dare to un-know.

The fourth TEDxUTSC conference explored these themes with daring tales about the quest for knowledge and self-discovery, encouraging audiences to reevaluate the way they think.

U of T Scarborough alum, lawyer and professor Valerie Visani started the day off with her presentation about what it’s like to be a student in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she teaches. She discussed the obstacles and depths of corruption students have to combat in order to receive an education.

 “I hope that you start the conversation for education...across Africa and the globe for students who are just fighting for their fair chance at a basic human right,” Visani said.

Continuing with the topic of education, U of T Scarborough student and Oneida woman Diane Hill explored ideas of “What it means to be a university student as well as being a native woman.” When she started her tenure at the university she found that she was the only native woman on campus, and realized the burning need to get in touch with her heritage. She also urged that education about the native community to become a mandatory in the Canadian post-secondary education system.

Education was also at the heart of University of Toronto Professors Dr. Shafique Virani, and Dr.Maria Assif's presentations. They both discussed the consequences of stereotypes citing Reel Bad Arabs, the work of Jack Shaheen. They delved into ideologies that surround stereotypes, establishing education as the key to deal with these societal issues.

“When you construct stereotypes about others you are reducing the whole group to one particular instance in history,” Assif said. Assif is a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto Scarborough where she takes the opportunity to explore topics such as racism, colonialism and Arab women literature.

“When we are presented with only a certain subset of a story we are liable to make errors of judgement and wrong decisions,” Virani echoed the sentiments. Virani is an Islamic studies professor, who has given lectures about the subject matter, and helped open schools in disadvantaged communities world-wide.

Keeping the audience on their toes, a presenter came with more than just a speech and a slide show.

Admirers call him the father of wearable technology, and his presentation was packed with gadgets from the future. Only the future was now, and Dr.Steve Mann brought it to the audience. He discussed augmented reality, and demonstrated how the newest wearable technology works, to the fascination of the audience.   

Education and technology weren’t the only subjects; Several of the speakers challenged the audience to discover more about themselves.

Melanie Blackman, U of T Scarborough’s community development coordinator, urged the audience to find the rhythm of their life, even if it requires stepping out of their comfort zone. 

UTSC alum Hamza Khan’s presentation was a cautionary tale about his honest account of burning out due to his competitiveness and desire to constantly over achieve. “Burn bright, not out,” Khan said.

The conference concluded with U of T alumnus and Professor Dr. Maliha Chishti reminding the audience “To do good, you have to be good.” 

© University of Toronto Scarborough