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Students to Organize and Host Inaugural TEDx Event at Pepperdine University

Nine influential speakers, including four students, three alumni, and two innovators across diverse industries such as music, technology, branding, and leadership, will take the stage at Firestone Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 13, at 11:30 AM for the inaugural TEDx event at Pepperdine University.

The student-organized, student-run event was developed under the leadership of Ryan Groves, director of strategic employer partnerships at the Seaver College Career Center, and in partnership with the Seaver College Career Center and the Pepperdine chapter of the national business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. The event’s theme, Take the Leap, focuses on stories of bravery, culture, entrepreneurship, and innovation and was imagined by the student organizers to encourage those who need an extra push to step out of their comfort zone and do something exceptional.

“The planning and execution of this type of event is a great challenge that our students chose to undertake, but it’s exactly through that type of challenge that forms character, helps them to learn, and gives them those competencies that they need to succeed in the future,” says Groves. “Pepperdine offers students many opportunities to learn about great leaders and learn from great leaders. TEDxPepperdineUniversity is a chance for students to become great leaders by engaging them in the process.”

Last fall more than 120 applications were submitted in response to an open call for student speakers to be part of the first-ever event at Pepperdine. Each application was carefully considered by Groves and a team of student organizers, including Caitlin Fogg, partnerships/sponsorships; Daniel Kim, operations; Jacob Wolfe, curation; Kaung Khant Kyaw, marketing/communications; Russell Wijaya, production; Tak Chun Wong, operations; and sophomore Jerry Yang, who evaluated the content of the presentations, the diversity of thought presented therein, and how closely their messages aligned with the theme.

As the lead organizer, Yang applied for and received a license from the TED organization to facilitate a TEDx event on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus. His responsibilities included serving as the liaison between Pepperdine and TED Conferences, setting and executing a vision for the event while managing a team of more than 20 people, and making strategic connections to empower the planning team and enable the University to host the seminal event.

“It changed my life more than anything else ever has,” says Yang, who explains that he gained invaluable leadership, event planning, and cross-team communication skills as a result of his critical role. “This experience has shaped my understanding of what it means to be a leader and paying it forward to change the lives of others.”

Student speakers, including seniors Elijah Zoarski and Emma Johnson, junior Olivia Robinson, and sophomore Raymond Rider, will present on what they consider to be the endless possibilities of ideas within the realms of technology, entertainment, and design while examining how Pepperdine students fit into the bigger picture.

Other speakers include Clayton Blaha, global head of industry relations at Choon, the world’s largest blockchain-based music streaming platform; Irene Ashu (MBA 18), director, producer, writer, and creative strategist; Kim Perrell (’99), CEO at Amobee and award-winning entrepreneur, bestselling author, and angel investor; Matthew Helderman, CEO and cofounder of BondIt Media Capital and Buffalo 8; and Nathan Mellor (MDR ’05, EDD ’07), CEO of C3Brands and president of Strata Leadership.

“What TEDx and Pepperdine have in common is a similar pursuit of excellence,” says Groves. “The TEDx organization displays exactly the type of competency and character that we at Pepperdine are hoping to create in our students.”

TEDxPepperdineUniversity will be Groves’ fifth time participating in a TED event. His first experience was presenting “How to Save the World: Responding to Crisis with Creativity” during his senior year at Oklahoma Christian University, during which he represented the nonprofit organization Wishing Well: Water for the World, of which he is the cofounder and executive director.

“Pepperdine’s partnership with the TedX organization represents an investment in the future of our students,” says Groves. “It represents Pepperdine stepping onto the world stage and engaging in the global conversation and demonstrating thought leadership. Our hope and goal is to grow our capacity in this. It communicates to our students who they are and who they can become and communicates to our alumni and extended community what we can achieve.”

TEDxPepperdineUniversity will be broadcast live via Livestream the day of the event. 

Learn more about the inaugural TEDx event at Pepperdine University