Camille Canon speaks at TEDxRoyalRoadsU 2023. Photo: Lars Paronen.
Camille Canon speaks at TEDxRoyalRoadsU 2023. Photo: Lars Paronen.

A dozen trailblazers shared their experiences and perspectives during Royal Roads University’s first annual TEDxRoyalRoadsU on February 25. 

Lara Mitchell, the event’s lead organizer, said “the vision of this TEDx event is to grow year-on-year under the ‘changemaking’ theme with an aim to foster innovation, develop clusters of community, and build a thriving ecosystem united around changemaking. We believe that gathering as changemakers to share, seed and amplify thought-provoking ideas can create a shift in thinking and make a meaningful difference in our world.” 

At the event, Kate Fagan Taylor and Dr. Zia Poonja introduced the idea of conversing with our 88-year-old selves. While conversations with our younger selves are often referenced, this approach encourages living today with greater accountability for future self. 

Fagan Taylor, a Management Consultant and Work Culture Strategist, focused her talk “Can the Way We Think About Time Help Us Navigate Change?” on how shifting their thinking and setting boundaries around time can grant people greater freedom and lead to a more balanced life. 

Oncologist Dr. Zia Poonja, whose work also focuses on preventative care, talked about “Your Mortality, Your Agency,” and suggested that being more intentional about wellbeing today can have a huge impact on health spans and mortality rates. 

In“Will AI Have to Be Able to Feel?” AI Thought Leader Peter Scott explored whether we can trust something that has not suffered, how AI will affect us all, and the possibilities of AI being limited only by our imagination. He discussed how in the future, rather than simply writing questions on the keyboard like today, it could be a rich auditory and visual experience where we’ll engage with super-human intelligence that has learnt the ability to respond with compassion. 

During her TEDx talk, “The Unexpected Power of Words,” Faith Doll, a Grade 12 student from Kamloops, reminisced about directing the documentary “Voices of Ukraine.” Through her work, Doll says she discovered the impact words have on shaping our perceptions of the world. She discussed the complex and inconsistent reaction that the word “refugee” elicited from interviewees who, despite theoretically fitting the definition, did not always resonate with the term. 

Doll urged attendees to recognize the personal lives of individuals who may be labeled as refugees and to explore the joy and pain in their stories. She emphasized the importance of acknowledging people as human beings rather than defined by labels that can perpetuate misunderstandings and misconceptions. 

Shauna Begley, a Technology Strategist and Educator, encouraged the audience to stay up-to-date with technology in her TEDx talk titled “Digital Literacy in the Modern World of Work.” Shauna’s key takeaways included getting curious about technology, and setting aside time each week to learn something new and reimagine how we get things done. Her talk inspired the audience to embrace digital literacy and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-changing world of technology. 

Dr. Kathy Bishop, Organizational Leadership consultant + Associate Professor at Royal Roads University, delivered “Going to nature to create healthier workplaces.” With one in three Canadians and three in four Americans experiencing burnout, Bishop suggested that nature can be the key to enhancing health and wellbeing solutions.

Candice Neveu’s“3 mindset shifts for academic success” posited that academic success is not just about intelligence, but also about mindset. Her advice was to allow for mistakes, stop comparing with others and practice self-compassion when facing challenges. She emphasized the importance of building a positive growth mindset in order to overcome perceived difficulties in our ability to learn, and ultimately unlock our full potential for success in any learning situation. 

Jared Qwustenuxun Williams, an Indigenous Foods Educator and Chef, included traditional drumming in his TEDx talk titled “Our Food Makes Our Culture, and Our Culture Makes Us Strong.” Williams highlighted the importance of traditional food production, despite its time-consuming nature. 

He shared the week-long process of smoking salmon the traditional way, and how smokehouses, once a common feature in many indigenous family homes, are now becoming rare even on reserves. Williams’ life mission is to revitalize indigenous food systems and he urged the audience to recognize the role of food in preserving culture and building strength. 

Camille Canon, the founder of Apiary and a systems designer, shared an optimistic view of the future of the internet in “How the Internet Is Changing and Why You Should Care.” Despite recent events that have caused some to question the direction of the web, Camille, who is based in Los Angeles, highlighted the positive community-driven innovation that is happening. She predicted a shift from the power of the few to the power of the many, resulting in a brighter, smarter, and more regenerative future for the internet. 

Ben Homer-Dixon, a Grade 12 student, delivered a thought-provoking talk on rethinking our approach to problem-solving. In “Saving the World isn’t ‘Someone Else’s Problem” he says people need to take ownership of the problems around us and consider themselves active participants in finding solutions. 

Homer-Dixon used relatable examples of everyday problems people tend to ignore, like litter on the street or overflowing garbage cans, to highlight the dangerous mindset of assuming that someone else will take care of it. By shifting our perspective and working collaboratively, he showed us how to positively impact and be part of the solution. 

During his TEDx talk, Trevor Koot, an innovative leader and CEO, shared how the perception of the business world has shifted since the pandemic. Trevor’s talk titled “Seeing Business Differently” highlighted a rare positive outcome of the pandemic – the emergence of greater empathy and respect for business owners. Trevor explained how the pandemic has led to a greater sense of vulnerability among businesspeople, who are now being supported by their peers with less judgment than before.  

The closing speaker at TEDxRoyalRoadsU was Dr. Vishal Punwani, the CEO of SoWork which is based between Boston and Victoria. 

In search of a more effective and engaging way to work, Vish and his team built a highly engaging ‘virtual workplace’ that not only saved his company’s culture – but has also been adopted by thousands of other companies to enhance their own team cultures, bonding, and workplace productivity.  

Vish discussed the impact the pandemic had on team cultures around the world as many companies, including his own, became heavily reliant on communication tools like Zoom and Slack. 

Royal Roads University intends this to be the first of an annual series, with details of 2024’s event to come.