The Daily Gamecock

Student body VP to speak at TEDx event

6 of 12 speakers to represent USC at second annual conference


Chase Mizzell — third-year international business student, founder of USC’s food donation organization Second Servings and student body vice president — has been asked to give a speech.

Big deal, right?

Actually, it is.

Mizzell has been selected from a group of more than 100 nominated Columbia professionals and “movers and shakers” to speak at the second annual TEDxColumbiaSC conference.

TEDxColumbiaSC is an independently run branch of the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) organization that has devoted itself to “ideas worth spreading,” according to local event chair John Wilkinson. TED is comprised of the brightest minds sharing their personal ideas and knowledge on subjects spanning everything from science to philanthropy to entertainment.

The TEDTalks began in California about 20 years ago and have become very well-known online, Wilkinson said. All speeches are limited to 18 minutes to help hold the audience’s attention and to keep the topic matter on a level simple enough for novices to understand and enjoy.

“I started watching the TED videos online in high school and just became inspired,” Mizzell said. “I’ve seen and heard speeches that have changed the way I think.”

Though Mizzell has been a fan for several years, he missed last year’s TEDxColumbiaSC. Audience members must apply, interview and ultimately be selected for one of 400 seats at the daylong event. Even in its first year, the event was successful, according to Wilkinson, the event chair.

Last year, approximately 10 speakers and five performers made an appearance, but a lot of people Wilkinson spoke to prior to the event didn’t know about TEDx.

“I was making phone calls for speaker nominations, and I would say something like, ‘This is John with TEDx,’ and they would say, ‘FedEx? Why is FedEx calling me?’” Wilkinson said, laughing. “A lot more people know about us now. We’re pulling some of the most influential people in the Midlands.”

Six of the 12 speakers are affiliated with USC either as professors, researchers or students. Mizzell will be joined behind the lectern by fellow student, philanthropist and entrepreneur Pedro De Abreu, an undergraduate economics student.

“Our goal is to create a day of learning and new ideas,” Wilkinson said. “We want to expose people to something they may otherwise never have the opportunity to experience or learn about.”

Mizzell will focus his speech on his food donation program Second Servings and how people can combine entrepreneurship and philanthropy to create a successful business that lends a hand to those who are struggling. Interviews to speak at TEDx typically start with candidates outlining their speech, but Mizzell was in the dark on this when he sat down in the Vista over the summer for his interview.

“I had no idea what I’d be nominated for or what I was supposed to say,” Mizzell said. “I was sitting there thinking and trying to figure out what someone would want me to speak on. They told me to talk about the facet in my life that I would enjoy speaking on for the long, so I just started talking about how Second Servings was formed.”

Mizzell emphasized his belief in the importance of establishing every organization on a solid foundation of business principles before jumping in head-first. His goal is to create a bond between humanitarianism and entrepreneurship.

“We were very impressed with Chase,” Wilkinson said. “He’s an incredible individual, and we’re looking forward to hearing him speak in January.”

To those who wish to attend TEDxColumbiaSC on Jan. 21, applications are being accepted online until Nov. 25. The committee is looking for a wide variety of people of all backgrounds to promote a diverse, one-of-a-kind experience.

“Everyone will be really impressed with the range of work and good talent from the Midlands area,” Wilkinson said.


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