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TEDx KPU comes to Richmond's Melville Centre for Dialogue

Kwantlen Polytechnic University will host its first ever TEDx conference on Sep. 27 at the Melville Centre for Dialogue. The event aims to engage students and Richmond residents alike in academic discussions on a wide range of subjects.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University will host its first ever TEDx conference on Sep. 27 at the Melville Centre for Dialogue.

The event aims to engage students and Richmond residents alike in academic discussions on a wide range of subjects.

Among the list of speakers not featured here are: Amit Sandhu, a real estate developer who will speak to community involvement and collaboration; Dr. Dorothy Barenscott, an art historian who will discuss harnessing “the power of genius” and question the characteristics of intelligence; singer Mark Donnelly, who will speak about overcoming obesity and setting goals; entrepreneur Lisa von Sturmer of the Growing City composting company, who will address how to successfully run a start-up; and Dr. Ross Laird, an acclaimed educator, who will explore shifting ideas in the education system.

Tickets are $80 or you can watch online at

Lisa von Sturmer

Compost Queen a model of perseverance 

She is the Compost Queen and she’s slayed a few dragons.

Lisa von Sturmer is a spitting image of young entrepreneurship in Canada and she’s sending a message to others: If you have a good idea, go with it, and find the help you need to get started.

Von Sturmer currently runs a growing start-up company, Growing City, which primarily picks up compost at corporate offices. It’s currently expanding to deal with recyclables and is now starting to service condominium units in dense urban areas of Metro Vancouver.

Growing City started in 2010 after von Sturmer left her job as an editor. It took about a year to really get going; she worked at a nightclub while still putting in more than a full day at Growing City.

Her talk at TEDxKPU will address avenues that she took to get her company up and running.

“I’ve met a lot of young people who want to become entrepreneurs and I want to share my story to help them,” she said.

Von Sturmer said there are several hurdles to overcome, however, starting a business need not be so overwhelming with an effective game plan.

“A lot of people struggle to start off and move their ideas into actions,” she said.

However, she notes people need to be confident and as long as they can develop a plan, success is bound to follow.

One of the biggest things she advises others to do is find organizations and programs that help entrepreneurs.

"A lot of people don't recognize the resources that are there available to help them,” she said, noting how the non-profit Futurpreneur Canada helps anyone under the age of 40 obtain a bank loan for their start-up.

"I would say I haphazardly found these organizations," she said, adding that in her experience banks themselves were rather unaware of such programs.

She also credits Small Business BC for helping her develop a business plan.

Von Sturmer believes private non-profit and government agencies can be better organized to help people, especially young entrepreneurs. But until that happens, word of mouth will have to do.

"It’s like they're hidden you have to find them," she said.

Along the way she’s learned neat, new tricks, like online, real-time waste saving stats for her customers.

An opportunistic person and a tireless promoter of herself and her business, von Sturmer was an official delegate for the G20 Youth Entrepreneurship Summit and has won many business awards.

With over 100 clients and growing von Sturmer’s plan of targeting dense urban areas allows her company, which relies on quantity, to be more effective. It doesn’t hurt to cash in on the green craze in the city.

"It’s been an exciting few years for the company, especially with the new Vancouver bylaw that bans organics,” she said.

Her ability to market Growing City spans from an appearance on Dragon’s Den on CBC (she declined their offer) to being a good corporate citizen in helping raise money for breast cancer research.

It didn’t come easy, but the humble von Sturmer believes it’s within anyone to succeed given the right idea.

“I learned a lot by making mistakes for my business. I’d like to share what I learned so others don’t make the same mistakes. And I’d like to inspire more people to take the leap. I'm confident if I can start a business many other people can do it too."


Jenn Clark

Gender roles reassessed

Jenn Clark, a graduate of the psychology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and researcher of gender roles, sexual orientation and stereotyping, will address TEDxKPU on the current state of homophobia and gender classifications of homosexuals in modern society.

Clark, who is gay as well, is presently collecting quantitative data on various social issues related to gender and sexuality. Gay people are still expected to act a certain way on the gender scale, and this is simply wrong, said Clark.

During her speech she will deconstruct where the stereotypes have come from, where they are now and her hope for eliminating them in the future.

She has intently studied the role of television and notes how it’s still one of the most pervasive conduits of these new (yet old) gender stereotypes, despite the fact there are more gay characters on television these days, particularly sitcoms. 

For example, on Seinfeld , Clark notes various male characters are made fun of for so-called feminine behavior. And on Modern Family, while homosexuality is celebrated to an extent, it’s done so in a very stereotypical manner.

Clark believes people still expect gay people to be “different.”

As such, homophobia persists, said Clark.

“I have short hair and wear ties and everyone seems to interact with me in a very masculine way and I find that a bit insulting because I’m not masculine or aggressive. But apparently the tie and short hair makes it okay,” said Clark.

“So my intention is to highlight how a lot of this is still based on gender roles — and that’s what a lot of homophobia is — it’s how we as homosexuals apparently break outside the gender roles (of society),” she said.

Joking about gender roles helps take on a different form of stereotyping people, she added.

“This humour is used to make us act in accordance with the femininity or masculinity that we’re ‘supposed’ to portray,” said Clark.

Clark believes there’s still a lot of colloquial language that remains derogatory toward homosexuals.

“I feel like it’s taken this new form; so the words ‘fag’ and ‘homo’ have become wrong to say but it’s still fine to say you’re acting like a ‘pansy’ or a ‘pussy.’ It happens on a lot of television shows,” said Clark.

She likens much of the gay-related stereotyping to the sexism and racism of yesteryear.

“So comments like ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘how gay is that?’ have become regular words in our vocabulary that people don’t understand the meaning behind them.,” said Clark.

As such, homophobia is much more institutionalized and that can often be more difficult than the in-your-face kind.

“We still face a lot of judgment but it’s behind closed doors,” said Clark.

The Richmond resident hopes to reinvigorate the conversation toward eliminating these subtle stereotypes. Without doing so, she says many of the achievements the gay community has attained may be lost.

She added that Richmond could show better community acceptance for gay people

“We just don’t quite know how to support our gay community in Richmond, said Clark.”


Kent Mullinix

Sowing the sustainable seeds in Richmond's backyard

What we eat has massive consequences, both locally and globally, and it’s high time we reassess the industrial food system.

That’s the thesis of the TEDxKPU speech of Kent Mullinix, director of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“I hope in this talk to be able to inspire and empower people to help bring about a new kind of food system and food thinking — one that is community focused, people focused and environment focused — that will exist to provide wholesome, nutritious food,” said Mullinix.

KPU, he says, is a leader in sustainable food research and programming.

“What we are doing here, in full partnership with the City of Richmond, is unique in North America,” he said.

“We have the potential to redefine how people think of food systems and how people feed themselves, and the relationship of food systems to ourselves and the economy,” he said.

The Richmond Farm School and future opportunities at the Garden City Lands park are two places this research is being carried out.

Industrial food systems include large manufacturers of food, as as well as factory-style farming. These systems are denigrating the environment and procuring wealth among a limited group of transnational corporations, Mullinix notes.

“It’s economically not viable for most farmers. The economic benefits of agriculture are increasingly accrued to very few people,” said Mullinix.

 “All of the world’s crop seeds are controlled by five corporations. The basis for feeding the entire world is held in the hands of for-profit corporations. Three corporations control 80 per cent of beef packing in North America, four corporations control 75 per cent of all pork,” said Mullinix, noting the list goes on.

Biodiversity and pollution from chemicals and greenhouse gas gases are out of control, he said.

“We’re also running out of fresh water,” he said.

Here in Richmond, he notes the Fraser River is likely to become saltier due to sea level rise and given agriculture accounts for about 15 per cent of all greenhouse gases, the issues are all connected to one another.

“You can probably kiss agriculture on the Delta goodbye in the next 50 years, just because of high water and storm surges,” he said.

He notes how while about one billion people don’t have enough nutrition in the world, yet about 50 per cent of all food is wasted.

“We’re only feeding people who can afford it,” he said.

Another problem is the food system’s reliance on oil to expend energy on production and transportation.

The solution, which Mullinix will address, is a multi-faceted one.

“What I hope to do is not dwell on these challenges but simply note them and focus on how we and others are working to create a viable, robust, alternate system,” he said.

Mullinix will explain how food systems must regionalize themselves and promote biodiversity.

He’ll note how education will play a key role.

“People’s awareness of all this is growing,” said Mullinix, noting the growth and popularity of farmers’ markets in Canada – one being right in Steveston.

“All you have to do is increasingly support small-scale, community-focused farming,” he said.


Farhad Dastur

Brain's evolution means we need 'me time' in face of high-paced society

When psychology professor Farhad Dastur lost his partner a decade ago to a car accident he fell into a deep depression that brought him to suicidal thoughts.

Seeking a solution to heal, he went on what he says was “a pilgrimage to your core self” by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in his native country Uganda.

The KPU professor's feelings of loss and subsequent journey of self-healing made him re-assess many of his core beliefs. He didn’t know what to expect at first but by the end of his climb he came to a number of epiphanies that can be shared with others.

Today, Dastur is enthusiastically looking at the role evolutionary psychology can explain with regard to our rapidly expanding technological era. He is of the belief humans need to reflect on one’s self in order to obtain a modicum of inner peace.

“What we have today is this situation where we’re living in this very artificially constructed, fast, technologically modern lifestyle, but we still have bodies and brains that evolved to a different set of circumstances; to an ancient time when finding food and avoiding being eaten and raising kids; those were the primary types of concerns the body evolved to,” he said.

Dastur will describe several themes he learned from his seven-day journey.

For instance he describes a moment when he contemplated his own mortality when faced with a dangerous portion of his hike when he felt stuck on a steep cliff.

“I thought, well, I was born here and so I’ll die here. I’ve had a good life and let’s just review those happy moments because the next step could be the last one. So I came to peace with my own imminent demise. And there’s something I found very therapeutic about.”

He said he found from that moment that he had a lot to live for and he ultimately came to terms with his massive loss.

“Each day brought a new self awareness”

Now a father of a four year-old boy, Dastur will tell his story to TEDxKPU and hopes people can find their own way to self-healing by taking a moment in nature to reflect on the “elemental” things of existence.

“If you crave that space for yourself, remarkable things can happen,” said Dastur.

“How many times do we look up at the night sky? How many times do we focus on our breathing? Usually we just think of what’s an hour ahead. We need to take time for ourselves.”



Katie Warfield

Finding a girl's authentic self online

What does a selfie actually mean to people? And, specifically, what does it mean to young women and teenage girls, who take the mobile, self-photo more than their male counterparts?

That’s one thing Kwantlen Polytechnic University communications instructor Katie Warfield will discuss during her TEDxKPU presentation.

Warfield did an online survey of girls who took selfies and interviewed subjects who were asked to explain the photos they took over the course of the summer.

“I was mostly interested in what the girls are feeling and experiencing when they take these pictures. So my talk is on some of that research,” she said.

Warfield will contend that online identities are, in fact, authentic, despite mainstream criticisms of online personas.

“Online identities can be more authentic than any girl can experience offline,” she said.

Warfield will explore the etymology of the word “authentic,” which is closely related to authorship and having control over the creation of a product.

“That’s what authenticity, at its core, is all about,” said Warfield.

According to her research, girls get a sense of control and pleasure over having the last say of whether or not those images go out to the world.

“In online spaces they can author themselves the way they want. In the online environment there aren’t those inhibitions, which they otherwise would experience offline,” explained Warfield.

Warfield is a visual post-structuralist who incorporates feminist theory.

Structuralism defines things that shape what it means to be a person; fashion shapes how we dress, language shapes how we speak.

Post-structuralists critique these structures.

She breaks down the “structure” of digital visualization and looks at how women take selfies and what that may mean.

“Women tend to hold the camera up high, putting them in a diminutive position, while guys tend to hold the camera very face-on or from below, so they’re presented in a position of authority,” she said.

Warfield hopes to expand her research to men and ethnic groups.