TEDxSMU is Celebrating Its Tenth Anniversary This Week—And Its Farewell

The grand finale of TEDxSMU, held March 5-6, is shaking things up a bit: Fan favorites are returning, it's back at The Majestic Theatre, and excursions are being held (for the first time) around town with partner organizations.

TEDxSMU is once again returning to Dallas on March 5-6 for one of its largest installments yet. While this year’s event will be packed with performances, talks, and excursions, the excitement is two-fold: This is TEDxSMU’s tenth anniversary celebration, and its farewell.

“TEDxSMU has had an incredible run over the past decade,” Marc Christensen, dean of the Lyle School of Engineering, said in a statement.  “We’ve showcased more than 375 ‘ideas worth spreading’ throughout our various conferences and events, and created a terrific community of people who enjoy our programming. But conferences have a life cycle, and it’s time for TEDxSMU to evolve.”

TEDx is a program of self-organized events that bring TED-like experiences (x = independently organized TED event) to local communities. In 2009, TEDx formed a partnership with Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, specifically the Lyle School of Engineering, and for the past decade, TEDxSMU has presented more than 30 events, auditions, and salons. Spinoffs have formed—like TEDxSMUWomen and [email protected]—turning Dallas’ stint of TEDx into an entire season of events.

But now, it’s time for TEDxSMU to say goodbye.

“We realized that TEDxSMU had pretty much served its purpose. It has done what it came to do,” Sharon Lyle, founder and president of experiential design studio Ensemble, told Dallas Innovates. “But with that, we also realized that it was the 10th anniversary. And who wants to pass up the opportunity to go out with a bang?”

Lyle was instrumental in bringing TEDxSMU to Dallas back in the day, running point through 2012 before leaving to start her own company. But last spring, she was in the right place at the right time, and is now coincidentally back as the “show director” for its grand finale. Ensemble will serve as the event’s producer.

“We’re going to shake up the format a little bit this year. It’s going to be at The Majestic and we’re really, really excited about the move back downtown,” she says. “It’s just fun to do a big show again and kind of reengage the community around TEDxSMU and all its glory. We are going to open the conference this year with a session that is a retrospective of some TEDxSMU favorites, and bring back some speakers who have a new story to tell.”

The two-day TEDxSMU will kick off Thursday evening at The Majestic Theatre with David Gallo, Yulise Reaves Waters, José Bowen, Lewis Warren, Jr., Klaudia Oliver, and Andrés Ruzo. Lyle says each speaker has a new chapter of their lives to share with the community.

“It’s really, really fun and incredibly remarkable to me to look at the genuine wealth of knowledge and intellect and creativity that’s come across the stage over the years,” she says.”There’s so much that we could showcase. There’s so many brilliant people.”

On Friday, sessions will be held, per usual—but attendees also have the option to register for excursions and behind-the-scenes opportunities for the first time, which are taking place around the city.

There’s a kayak tour of the Trinity River, planting and harvesting at Paul Quinn College, painting Bike Harwood with Better Block Foundation, a tour of Bonton Farms and the Mavs Gaming Center, a Math Walk through the Arts District with walkSTEM, and more. The intent is to further push the experience of learning, connecting, and exploring (the full list of excursions is available here).

“Since this is on a weekday, we wanted to give people the opportunity to participate without having to take a bunch of time off work. So this way, you can fully participate in TEDxSMU, and only take Friday afternoon off. Our second and third sessions don’t start until after lunch on Friday,” Lyle says. You can check out the full schedule here.

Also on Friday is a rendition of [email protected], where middle school students will gather at The Majestic for their own experience.

The excursions, picnic lunch, and afternoon talks will be topped with an after-party at Pacific Deck. But, while that will culminate TEDx and SMU branded events, Lyle says the university’s role doesn’t stop there.

“There are plans in the works right now to launch a new community-focused, speaker-driven deep dive issue investigation series for the following academic year. But that’s as much as we’ve defined,” she says. “We know that something will be launched, but we just don’t know what it is yet. This won’t be the end of SMU’s position in the community as a convener around important conversations.”

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