The Daily Gamecock

USC students, professors speak at local TED event

Mizzell, 'Boombox Guy' among Columbia presenters


TEDxColumbiaSC brought together speakers, performers and audience members from across the state in the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College Monday for a day of “ideas worth spreading.”

TEDx events are independently organized conferences licensed by TED Talks, the popular collection of online video lectures on every topic from biohacking to dung beetles. 

This year’s event was Columbia’s second. Speakers last year included Julius Fridricksson, the director of USC’s Aphasia Laboratory who studies speech and language impediments, and Eric McClam, co-founder of City Roots, a local farm whose sprouts can be found at the farmers market Greene Street in the fall.

“We set such a high bar last year and we wanted to meet that,” said John Wilkinson, the event’s chair. “I think we were successful.”

The TEDxColumbiaSC team interviewed more than 60 people to fill the 20 performing and speaking slots for this year’s event. According to host Katie Fox, USC Student Body Vice President Chase Mizzell had the first of those interviews.

“I think the most interesting part of this is that we get to tell our story,” said Mizzell, a third-year international business and finance student who opened up the presenter portion of Monday’s event with a talk on the Second Servings program he launched at the university.

Second Servings donates Carolina Dining leftovers to area families in need. Before Mizzell, discussions of such a program stalled with worries that the donations could be a liability for Sodexo, which provides the food to USC dining halls. Mizzell’s talk focused on his stumbling blocks to starting the organization.

“I think Second Servings has been a passion of mine for years,” he said. “I think it was a simple problem, simple solution, and I wanted something that people could identify with. I wanted to share some experiences.”

Mizzell wasn’t the only USC student to get involved in the event. Second-year public relations student Nicole Hornung volunteered to gain experience with the complexity of organizing a TEDx event. She shadowed interviews and volunteered in many roles through TEDxColumbiaSC’s planning and execution with thoughts of a TEDx conference for USC on her mind. 

“I really got to see just how much it takes to put something like this on,” Hornung said. “You need a great team of people.”

Hornung said biotechnology graduate student Eric Robinson has the license for a TEDx conference at the university. Robinson plans on holding an interest meeting in the next few weeks and hosting the USC conference in mid-April. Students who would like more information about the interest meeting and plans for the conference can email

Other students who spoke Monday included computer science graduate student J.J. Shephard, more commonly known by USC students as “Boombox Guy,” who talked about positive aspects of playing video games, and third-year economics, management and organizational leadership student Pedro De Abreu, who discussed the benefits of chess programs in elementary schools.


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