Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
PWer Maggie Hermanson Selected for TEDxMSU
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PWer Maggie Hermanson Selected for TEDxMSU 

Researched, written, and photo by Camille Douglas

Maggie @ TEDxMSU - PHOTO_small.jpg

Professional Writing senior Maggie Hermanson will be giving a presentation at this year’s TEDxMSU event on March 2.

TED Talks are a global phenomenon where leading thinkers from many different fields give short, inspirational presentations on many difference kinds of topics. TEDx events are based on this model but are independently organized.  TEDxMSU is a collaboration of MSU students, alumni, faculty, and members of the East Lansing community. Committee members of TEDxMSU host an annual conference that features interdisciplinary presenters who express their unique ideas to promote further discussion. 

“Everybody has their own story to tell and ideas worth sharing. That is what TED is about,” Hermanson said. “It’s about sharing ideas.” 

All 13 selected speakers, including Hermanson, will give short talks relating to their areas of expertise. Each talk will exemplify the event’s theme, “Möbius.” Inspired by a Möbius strip, a surface that has only one side and one edge, the theme challenges presenters to engage with ideas that may seem strange or unfamiliar at first glance.

Hermanson’s presentation will focus on museum exhibits as peacemaking spaces. The central idea of her talk will discuss how immersive design can allow people to make decisions about real world problems.

Hermanson is keeping most of the content about her presentation a secret, wanting to maintain an element of surprise for the audience. She has been working with the TEDxMSU committee on framing her final talk, and she figures her presentation will be about five minutes, with no visual elements.

As someone whose goal is to work in a museum designing the layout of exhibits, Hermanson found it easy to select a topic she was passionate about. Additionally, most of her ideas for her talk have come from her Professional Writing (PW) classes. In particular, her WRA 491 Social Justice as Rhetorical Practice class, taught by PW professor and advisor Jonathan Ritz, served as a significant influence to the development of her talk.  

“In the class [Maggie] shared some of the ideas she's been developing about museums as cultural contact zones, where people from different backgrounds and perspectives can engage contemporary issues together,” Ritz said. “As a PW student she's especially interested in the role words, images, and design play in creating those kinds of spaces.”

The timing to participate in TEDxMSU was perfect for Hermanson. A senior whose undergraduate career will end in a mere three months, she has been trying to use the time she has left at MSU to attempt new things, such as applying to TEDxMSU.

“This is something that I wanted to do, but never thought I would,” Hermanson said. “My senior year is kind of a slower year. I’ve been thinking that this is my free time and this is what I can do for people.”

This year TEDxMSU received about 60 applicants. About half of those applicants were selected for an interview with three of the organization’s committee members in early December. It was not until the week of January 11, when the second semester started, when the committee finalized their 13 speakers, including Hermanson.

Since she discovered she will be a presenter, Hermanson has enjoyed her experience working with members of the TEDxMSU committee and meeting the other speakers.

“It’s amazing to be surrounded by such wonderful people. That is the thing about TED; you come together with a creative and supportive group,” Hermanson said. “They are very excited about what you are talking about, which makes you very thrilled to talk about what you’re talking about.”

The TEDxMSU event will start at 7 p.m. in Wharton Center in the Cobb Great Hall. Tickets are $10 for MSU students and $20 for the public and are on sale via the TEDxMSU website, www.tedxmsu.org.

Hermanson encourages all to come and hopes the experience will be just as enriching for the audience as it is for the presenters.  “I hope that when people come to this, they gain new perspectives … and discuss these things further with friends and family,” she said.