Wright State scholars, experts to enrich Dayton event

Rewriting the formula for college success. Enhancing learning through brain stimulation. Bringing numbers to life. Examining racial identity. Learning leadership secrets.

These are the topics of talks that will be delivered at TEDxDayton by top thinkers and doers with Wright State University connections.

TEDxDayton is an independently organized event licensed by TED, a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas from the world’s most inspired people.

More than 30 speakers and performers will take the stage at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15. They will each have only a few minutes to give the talks of their lives.

Among the speakers will be Nathan Klingbeil, dean of the Wright State College of Engineering and Computer Science; neuroscientist Michael Weisend, a senior research scientist at the Wright State Research Institute; Shu Schiller, an associate professor at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business; Judith Ezekiel, Wright State professor in residence of women’s studies; and Todd Dewett, former Robert J. Kegerreis Distinguished Professor of Teaching at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business.

TED began in 1984 as a conference that brought together people from technology, entertainment and design. Since then, its scope has broadened and included speakers such as Bill Gates, Roger Ebert and Isabel Allende.

More than 16,000 TED Talks have been given at over 5,000 TEDx events in more than 130 countries. Videos of the talks are shared on TED.com.

“Infuse and Inspire” is the theme for TEDxDayton, which is designed to expand the cultural landscape with new stories, insights and discussion. Sponsors include Wright State University and the Wright State Research Institute.

“Our goal for TEDxDayton is to bring together this region’s innovators, early adopters and thought leaders for a shared experience that will inspire us all to take action,” said Kristy Rochon, co-chair.


Michael Weisend

Michael Weisend, senior research scientist at the Wright State Research Institute

Weisend is a pioneer in the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which applies electricity to specific areas of the brain in a non-invasive way to enhance learning.

The system is designed to increase focus and cognition without the use of stimulants such as caffeine and prescription drugs, which can have negative effects on other parts of the body.

“We can in multiple replications of the experiment double the rate of learning,” Weisend says. “And the potential for intervention into neurological diseases is huge.”

Weisend, accustomed to speaking at neuroscience conferences, admits to being a little nervous about speaking at TEDxDayton.

“When I was told I was selected, I immediately got scared to death,” he said. “It’s not your typical talk. You have to talk to a bunch of people who are outside your field and convince them what you’re doing is interesting.”

To explain a complex subject to a general audience and illustrate how the brain chooses a single response from multiple possibilities, Weisend has decided to use a well-known icon in popular culture as an animated visual aid—the Wheel of Fortune.


Shu Schiller

Shu Schiller, associate professor at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business

Schiller will be talking about data analytics and how to bring numbers to life.

Schiller says spreadsheets and statistics intimidate many people at a time when data is more important than ever.

“We need to find a more effective way to understand data so we can have the value out of it,” she said. “Can we make data beautiful in a way we can appreciate it? My theory is we can accomplish that by telling relevant and meaningful stories.”

During her talk, Schiller intends to show data visualizations such as a real-time capture tweets sent around the globe.

“I think everybody should walk away with at least one idea—that the next time I see a report filled with numbers, can I make it beautiful?” she said.

To prepare for her talk, Schiller has been attending workshops, doing research and working with speech coaches. She says it has been a self-improvement experience.

“Not only do you have to have an idea, but you need to make it better. It’s not very easy,” she said. “You have to say it clearly, convey that idea effectively and use strong visuals. At the end of the tunnel, I come out of this entire process and I believe I’m better.”


Nathan Klingbeil

Nathan Klingbeil, dean of the Wright State College of Engineering and Computer Science

Klingbeil has helped redesign the university’s engineering mathematics curriculum to increase retention and graduation, a model that is spreading across the country.

Wright State’s undergraduate enrollment in engineering and computer science has soared to over 2,200, up from around 1,500 just a few years ago. The college is currently retaining more than 77 percent of its undergraduate students and awarding as many as 295 bachelor’s degrees a year, up from around 160 a few years back.

Klingbeil sees his talk as an opportunity to shine a light on efforts to challenge many of the traditional ways higher education does business and the fundamental understanding of what kinds of students can be successful in college.

“We break down the barriers to people becoming engineers, but there are barriers to people doing everything in all walks of life,” Klingbeil said. “The biggest takeaway would be for people to go back to their own walks of life and think about where they can break down the barriers.”


Judith Ezekiel

Judith Ezekiel, Wright State professor in residence of women’s studies

Ezekiel teaches a class she developed called “Privilege: Race, Class, Gender and Nation.” She plans to share with the TEDxDayton audience her personal journey of thinking about her own race.

“I’ve often been aware and active against racism, but I’ve always thought of myself as a white person acting in solidarity with other people,” said Ezekiel, who spent much of her life in Paris. “But in my years—particularly traveling from one place to another in different places and times and cultures—I’ve discovered that I’ve not always been seen as white.”

Ezekiel hopes to get members of the audience thinking about the whole concept of race—what race people are and what that means to them. She intends to use her personal experience and scholarly knowledge and research to shake up the audience’s ideas about what race is.

“I hope that white people will realize that their whiteness isn’t an inherent, permanent state of being; it’s something that society creates and can give, but can also take away,” she said. “That insecurity and fluidity of race, I hope, will help people be more actively anti-racist.”


Todd Dewett

Todd Dewett, former Robert J. Kegerreis Distinguished Professor of Teaching at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business

Dewett is an author, speaker, consultant and retired professor of management. He has written The Little Black Book of Leadership, which offers management tips and advice on how to successfully lead others.

Dewett said it is an honor to be selected as a speaker for TEDxDayton because the talks are about quality ideas, knowledge and education.

He said his talk will focus on how knowledge alone does not guarantee that people will relate to you and listen to what you have to say.

“If people only see you for your IQ or your knowledge or your title, they are only seeing a limited part of you,” he said. “You need to help them see past your confidence and competence to see the full person—including your imperfections and personal interests.”

It is only under these conditions, he says, that the knowledge we all possess starts to move and add value.

“The more we get over ourselves, the more we see unique things in others and the more they see unique things in us,” he said. “That’s when knowledge is really shared and that’s when productive relationships and great teams emerge.”


Several Wright State alumna will also be speaking and performing at the talks.

Sharon Rab, who obtained her master’s degree in education at Wright State and is founder of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, will be discussing the prize. Pianist Steffin Johnson, who obtained his bachelor’s degree in music from Wright State in 2008, will be talking and performing. Also speaking will be professor and poet Jeneen Furaha Henry-Jones, who obtained her master’s degree in English from Wright State.


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