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05/05/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

After three years of preparation and much anticipation, La Sierra University held its first TEDxLaSierraUniversity event on Thursday, April 24 attended by an audience of about 300. Held in the Troesh Conference Center of La Sierra’s Tom and Vi Zapara School Business, the landmark event inspired its audience with a broad range of topics spanning healthcare, social injustice, international politics, advertising, analytics, artistic and musical expression and other subjects.

Jeff Rosenblum, digital marketing innovator, talks about "Can Advertising Save the World?" during TEDxLaSierraUniversity. (All photos by Natan Vigna)
Dr. Warren Peters discusses the modern environment's connection with obesity.
International politics and war expert Dr. Jacek Kugler discusses the Ukrainian crisis during TEDxLaSierraUniversity.
La Sierra art dept. Chair Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein discusses her life and artistic journeys during TEDxLaSierraUniversity.
Folk band The Coyote Bandits, led by La Sierra alum and social entrepreneur Sterling Spence.
Upcoming classical crossover trio Simply Three performs during TEDxLaSierraUniversity.
TEDxLaSierraUniversity organizer and event emcee John Razzouk speaks to the audience.
Audience members enjoying TEDxLaSierraUniversity presentations at the Troesh Conference Center.

Under a primary theme of “The Possible,” the daylong event involved speakers from varieties of backgrounds and career paths generally categorized within three sections: “Imagine the Possible,” “Design the Possible,” and “Prove the Possible.”

The lineup of 10 speakers included digital marketing innovator Jeff Rosenblum who recently completed a documentary on the future of advertising; surgeon and obesity researcher Warren Peters; Jacek Kugler, world politics professor, international conflict analyst and consultant; La Sierra's Leslie Martin, psychology professor, researcher and acclaimed author; Steelcase Education Solutions General Manager Sean Corcorran; music educator and La Sierra alum Czarina Kaye Francisco; economics professor, analytics expert and chief executive officer Mark Abdollahian; global anti-poverty nonprofit founder Eric Rajah; artist and La Sierra art department Chair Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein; and Afghanistan education nonprofit founder Azalea Lehndorff. 

The fast-rising classical crossover trio Simply Three comprised of three award-winning, classically trained musicians, and folk music group The Coyote Bandits, led by La Sierra alum and social entrepreneur Sterling Spence, gave performances and presentations that brought audience members to their feet.

Highlights from the TEDx talks included Rosenblum’s presentation “Can Advertising Save the World?” in which he addressed the historically duplicitous and interruptive nature of advertising, and how it is rapidly becoming more transparent through the ubiquitous use of technology and social media. He recalled poor-performing products sold through eye-catching yet misleading ads that were ultimately slammed on the Internet through negative consumer reviews, specifically the Crayola colored bubble launcher that apparently also makes thick, colorful, hard-to-clean messes.

By contrast he cited companies such as Patagonia whose outdoor clothing and gear, company values and advertising continuously address the needs of its targeted consumers as well as social concerns and have thus inspired a loyal customer base, including Rosenblum. “The right kind of branding can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives,” Rosenblum said. “It’s about brands authentically improving people’s lives,” a strategy that leads to incredible financial results, he said.

In his talk, Peters focused on the issue of global obesity and told the audience that the reasons for the problem, particularly acute in America and Mexico, is not the result of gluttony, but of a human biology that has remained the same over thousands of years in the face of a dramatically changed environment that began with the industrial revolution. “The environment has massively, massively changed. How many of you carried buckets of water out of the creek this morning?” he asked.

He stated that modern industry produces 88,000 individual processed foods, 82 percent of which have added sugar. This has created a “system overload” in humans and a sugar addiction, which studies have shown to be more addictive than cocaine. “You did not create this environment, it is not your fault, but it is your responsibility,” Peters said. He encouraged those struggling with obesity and sugar addiction to avoid foods with corn, wheat, rice, potatoes and sugar four days each month, and instead to focus on protein, vegetables and fruits. He also suggested considering medication or in some cases bariatric surgery.

Kugler, the Elisabeth Helm Rosecrans professor of world politics at Claremont Graduate University and a former professor at numerous leading universities, has served as consultant to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the U.S. State Department and other public and private organizations. An expert on the causes and consequences of war and a pioneer of innovative formal modeling and empirical analysis, Kugler anticipated stability following the collapse of the Soviet empire and forecasted the ongoing challenge led by China and India. During TEDxLaSierraUniversity, Kugler addressed the international importance of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March.

First he addressed the rising power of Brazil, Russia, India and China and predicted these nations will economically overtake the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, the seven wealthiest developed nations on earth. “When that happens, we will have substantial demands on us,” he said.

He stated that a necessary precondition for serious conflict is equality with a balance of power. “The reason we don’t have troops in Crimea is because the Russians have superiority in that region,” he stated, and while a relatively small country, they are in possession of large weapons. “It’s sort of unusual that we keep talking about a balance of power leading to peace.”

“Crimea is a lukewarm global issue because it is on the third page of the New York Times,” Kugler continued. All major conflicts have been over Eurasia, he continued, and a possible invasion of Ukraine will draw a division between the United States and Russia. Also at stake are the possible future choices of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the potential impact on the global order, whether he chooses to accommodate the European Union, putting Russia on scale with France, Germany and other members, or join forces with the much larger China. “The Ukrainian crisis will give the future of the international system,” Kugler said.

“Art is my passion and art is my daily companion,” began Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, artist and chair of La Sierra’s art department in her presentation. “We are making an artistic decision when we choose what to wear. The principles of design help us to understand our life, to understand our space. Art encourages us to make decisions, take risks and find wholeness.” Mejia-Krumbein outlined her life, which began in Colombia, and traced her migratory route through several countries and difficult experiences, beginning with the national unrest and violence in her native land, and the rigid expectations of female roles. 

She used art as a means of expressing her observations and reactions to the world around her, in particular the impacts of social injustice and violence against women, and years later as a means of expressing her life as a serial immigrant living in Colombia, Germany, Mexico and the United States, a period of feeling displaced and broken. “I became a silent observer,” she said. “I read between the lines and came to my own conclusions. I found comfort in drawing. It helped me to understand my experiences. 

I was looking everywhere for opportunities for my development and growth,” she continued. “By making decisions and taking risks, today I feel whole.”

Doug Hegstad, a physician and chair of the Department of Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center was among the audience members attending TEDx. “This was a wonderful example of how a university can enrich our experience and create bridges,” he said. “One of the things that really struck me besides the content was the way La Sierra’s students were used to greet me and welcome me.”

He likened many of the talks to the mainstream global video presentations shown on, specifically referencing Kugler’s presentation on the crisis in Ukraine. “That gave me a lot of insights [beyond] just reading the paper, and it helped me to analyze the dynamics and things that are happening in healthcare. …I’ve organized a number of events. What people don’t understand is that the value of this event is $300 to $500. One hundred dollars [registration fee] is just a small contribution. I have a real gratitude and appreciation for the school of business.”

Dawn Hibbard, station manager for Christian radio 89.7 KSGN said she found the event to be “totally refreshing, innovative and inspiring. An extraordinary mix of topics and presenters.” She added that the notion of social entrepreneurship, “of doing good work, work that one is passionate about, work that makes a difference was mind-opening.”

A team of La Sierra students planned and organized TEDxLaSierraUniversity over many months. John Thomas, dean of the Zapara School of Business described the event as one of the best at the university and in the Inland Empire, and a means of “empowering students to do wonderful things. It’s another venue to show that our students have the ability to excel.”

View photos of TEDxLaSierraUniversity on Flickr at


About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California almost 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes on a diverse mix of topics. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The TED2014 Conference will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with the TEDActive simulcast in neighboring Whistler. TEDGlobal 2014 will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

TED's media initiatives include, where new TED Talks are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed; and TEDBooks, short e-books on powerful ideas. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world get help translating their wishes into action; TEDx, which supports individuals or groups in hosting local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.