TEDx speaker lineup provides fresh connections

Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business, interviews Jeff Orr during the TEDx preview event. (Photo by Blake Pitman, Scale Media)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

They sat there, mesmerized, as their peers talked about what it means to them to be part of TEDxGrandCanyonUniversity 2018.

That didn’t change afterward, either, when the featured speakers gathered for a preview of “Magnum Opus,” scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday in Ethington Theatre. They hung around and still were talking long after their individual interviews on stage with Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business.

Brett Pyle said the way the GCU students handled the preview event should be used as an example of best practices of TEDx. (Photo by Blake Pitman, Scale Media)

Clearly, they were enjoying each other’s company – the same feeling they hope their audience will have when they do their 18-minute presentations Friday.

“Listening to the other speakers has been rewarding in figuring out instantly that there’s a connection,” said Jeff Golner, who produces events in the Phoenix area. “I was really quick to know, ‘Oh, I want to talk to that person for whatever reason – and it’s not even related to business.’

“We’ve already talked about the bonds that we’ve created tonight and probably will down the road. A couple of us already LinkedIn before we even got here today, so that’s cool, and now seeing each other in the flesh – that’s cool, too.”

TEDx events are independently managed versions of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a non-profit organization that seeks to spread ideas on a variety of topics. What makes GCU’s version special is that it is entirely student-run and produced, which impressed one of the featured speakers, Jody McPhearson, to no end.

“I look at the students putting on the TEDx and I go, ‘Wow,’” he said. “They all had to come together. Our country could use more of that.”

Their teamwork has produced a lot of ideas, such as the TEDx Village that will be set up outside Ethington. There, the speakers and performers will be available to talk individually with attendees.

Jody McPhearson

That’s something they enjoy, just as they appreciated the opportunity to get to know each other last month.

“It’s like hanging out with other great artists,” said Jeff Orr, a Phoenix business coach. “You get inspired, and your creativity shoots through the roof. That’s what happened to me just sitting here listening to these people: ‘Wow, that’s encouraging. I can do this. I can think of that or I can try this.’

“In a few minutes’ time, they inspired me to redo LinkedIn and Facebook and shift over some of the marketing more toward that.”

Brett Pyle, also a business coach, said the preview event not only helped the speakers learn more about each other; it also solidified their working relationship with the GCU students who chose them.

“It has created a relationship between us and GCU,” he said. “When we’re staring into those bright lights and we can’t see anybody, we’ll know whom we’re talking to because we’ve already been there. They’re going to get the best out of us because they have taken this step to do this. File this is as a best practice for TEDx.”

Here’s the lineup of speakers and performers with a few nuggets about what makes them tick:


Area of expertise: Thought leader, youth and employee trainer, former youth pastor

Rachael Mann

Title of talk: “The Idea, the Growth and Great Works Begin with Inclusion”

Quotable: “You can sum it up in three words: Belong, believe, begin. I stole it from Jesus.”

Notable: He’s a big Chicago Cubs fan and was quick to remind the audience at the preview event that his Cubbies won the 2016 World Series.


Area of expertise: Speaker, author and education consultant

Title of talk: “The Martians in Your Classroom”

Dr. Suzana Flores (Photo by Blake Pitman, Scale Media)

Quotable: “The first person to walk on Mars probably already has been born.”

Notable: She’s very passionate about mentoring high school students and teaches people how to use TED principles.


Area of expertise: Clinical psychologist, best-selling author of “Facehooked,” psychological expert

Title of talk: “Untamed: The Psychology of Marvel’s ‘Wolverine’”

Quotable: “Comics are a form of modern mythology. ‘Wolverine’ found me and showed me it’s OK to be angry. Anger has its place within us.”

Jim Kellner (Photo by Blake Pitman, Scale Media)

Notable: Grew up in a violent neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago and said she’s “no stranger to suffering.” That also goes for her baseball allegiance – she’s a Chicago White Sox fan.


Area of expertise: Hypnotist and hypnotherapist

Title of performance: “If You Can’t Be Hypnotized, You Lose”

Quotable: “Hypnosis is a huge tool your competitors are using.”

Notable: An example of his work is helping people lose weight through hypnosis, and he knows what that’s like – eight years ago, he lost 70 pounds in six months. “Someone who’s heavy has the self-image of a heavy person. We change that,” he said.


Area of expertise: Business trainer and coach

Title of talk: “Conscience – Connecting to Purpose and Avoiding Evil”

Quotable: “No one can say they’re charting a perfect course.”

Jeff Golner

Notable: Like several other speakers, he has first-hand experience with what he tries to change – he said he once went 10 years without having clear goals except to try to be available to God. His mission now, he said, is to “steer people to their conscience and God will take it from there.”


Area of expertise: Marketing and event production, including stints with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks and as chairman of the Fiesta Bowl committee

Title of talk: “Disguised Learning”

Quotable: “I probably wouldn’t be sitting in this chair if I didn’t have the D-backs experience. It didn’t feel corporate, ever.”

Notable: Was with the D-backs when they won the World Series in 2001.


Area of expertise: Leadership coach, corporate trainer for Fortune 500 companies and author of “Succeed in The New Normal: Winning Strategies to Succeed in an Unfamiliar World.”

Title of talk: “Millennial Leadership: The Key to Your Organization’s Success”

Quotable: “Our culture has written off millennials. My hope is to change that state of mind.”

Notable: Grand Canyon graduate and current GCU master’s student



Area of expertise: Artists

Title of performance: “The Caged Bird” (interpretation of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”)

Quotable: “I’m hoping our performance brings attention to social issues.”

Notable: Sanna made it to the final in the third season of “American Idol.”

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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