UCLA TEDX: Ideas Worth Spreading in Higher Ed

Enter on stage is Dr. Tara Prescott, a Lecturer in Writing Programs and Faculty in Residence at UCLA, donning complete scuba gear with wetsuit, flippers, snorkel and all, to stress the importance for people toHike Their Own Hike,” and not be afraid to take adventurous chances in life. Videos that span across three large screens in the an auditorium at UCLA jump to life as she weaves the tales of her own personal risks she has taken to get the most out of life, and in the end, challenges us all to do the same.

Scott Hutchinson, Program Director, Visual Arts, UCLA Extension, is also a risk taker who possesses a robust desire to continually discover and adapt to new things along life’s journey. It was this passion that led him to his first TEDx in 1999 in Monterey and its impact inspired him to pursue more extended conversations, and eventually, future TED Talks planning of his own.

The concept of doing extended TED Talks via university campuses as locally produced “TEDx” events came about around the same time Scott was contemplating new ways to connect the university, its UCLA Extension lifelong learners and the surrounding community with TED-like concepts that would breed new ideas and inspiration for action.

He formally applied on behalf of UCLA in 2010, and it was a fairly straightforward process. The TED organization paid close attention to just exactly what the intent was being applied for, and what background and capabilities were possible to execute a university TEDx event.

Each TEDx events are 100% volunteer run and not paid for by the university, and they are held once a year. As of now, the only sponsors UCLA has secured have been those who supply services or products “in kind” such as donated furniture rentals supplied by Cort, plus beverages, Pre- and post-production, editing signage, parking, marketing and other expenses must all be covered by ticket sales.

Since the first UCLA TEDx in 2011, interest in the event has doubled in size each year.

“The first year we did a UCLA TEDx, my greatest fear was that wouldn’t be able to fill up even half of the room. Four years later in May 2016, the event sold out in 2 1/2 hours. We even had to turn faculty members away,” says Hutchinson.

The Spring TEDx event holds just enough seats to allow for one of the most endearing qualities of TEDx--the intimate sense of engagement the speakers on stage are able to have with the audience. If the event is enlarged to service a larger crowd, the power of the message could get lost.

To help alleviate some of the pressures of the growing demand, UCLA has recently begun experimenting with quarterly held TEDX Salons. Salons require a separate license by TED and limits attendance to 100 per event. The most recent UCLA Salon, “Gratitude,” was held on campus on July 22, 2016, and s