Jocelyn Hadden knows what it’s like to have a seemingly small change upend your life completely.
For her, it was a tick bite. She didn’t recognize the bull’s-eye rash, a telltale sign of Lyme disease.
Hadden calls this her “butterfly effect” story, because that bite changed the course of her entire life, though she didn’t know it then. Instead of going to the United States to dance competitively after high school, as she’d planned for years, she landed in a treatment facility in Arizona in December 2020, unable to walk and struggling with her short-term memory.
“I wasn’t sure if Lyme was going to kill me, or if I was ever going to be able to speak or have a conversation with another person,” said Hadden, now in her third year studying business at Huron University College.
But she believes everyone has such a moment, a turning point to push past the comfort zone and into something bigger.
It’s why she wanted to lead a team of Western students to create a TEDxWesternU conference on Jan. 27, a day full of inspiring speakers on topics that range from climate change to eating disorders to stem cell transplants. The theme is “the butterfly effect,” from the chaos theory coined by meteorologist Edward Lorenz, to describe how the tiniest changes can trigger profound impacts.
While battling Lyme disease, Hadden wasn’t always sure it would be possible to learn and share new ideas. Now recovered and back in Canada – walking, talking and even teaching dance to youngsters in London – Hadden became enamoured with the idea of hosting a TEDx conference, as she had in high school.
Hadden sees the theme as a symbol of hope for her generation, struggling with the impacts of COVID-19, growing mental health challenges and war in Ukraine, among other major world events.
There are 10 speakers lined up for the conference, including Western students, faculty and alumni, all sharing their own powerful messages. The event will mostly be virtual, with the opportunity for 100 attendees to experience it in person.
Jennifer Slay, BA’97, BSW’99, director of equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization at King’s University College, said giving a TED Talk has been on her bucket list since she was inspired to create a list of big life goals during the pandemic.
“I really talk about adversity and how society kind of trains us to try to avoid it at all costs,” Slay said. “When I made the decision to make some changes in my life, everything just flowed after that. The universe just opened up.”
It’s especially meaningful to be able to give a TED Talk in her hometown, Slay said.
Podcaster and former varsity athlete Angelica Galluzzo, BA’21, is looking forward to returning to Western and sharing what she has learned since her time as a student.
“It’s definitely hard to talk about these things that are so complex and complicated, but to me it just gives a good opportunity to shed some light on what mental illness can really look like. If that means being vulnerable and sharing my story on a public platform, if that will help someone, that’s worth it.”
Galluzzo is one of several speakers who will touch on mental health.
Chloë Grande, MMJC’16, will speak about her recovery from an eating disorder, a topic she says isn’t frequently discussed.
“We all eat, we all have bodies, and I think most of us have had bad body image days. It really is baked in shame and stigma,” she said.
Working to battle and dismantle the stigma helps her feel like she’s making a difference for students like her younger self, Grande said.
Other speakers include Marjorie Aunos, Jason Fonger, Demo Kaltabanis, Lauren Sano, Aaryan Paul, John Spencer and Georgette Zinaty.
It took months to nail down the licence for the TEDxWesternU event, starting with a lengthy application, complete with a hypothetical program for the conference and a theme that’s broad but clever enough to support a slew of speakers. After approval from TED, it took hundreds of hours for Hadden and a team of seven other student organizers to set up the front- and back-end requirements, from the website to a bank account to choosing speakers.
Now the final stage approaches for Hadden and a team of student organizers.
“TED conferences are life changing. There are such incredible ideas that apply to everyone,” she said. “They have had the power to change the trajectory of people’s lives.”