TEDxEvansville features university alumn, professor

Rhonda Wheeler, News Editor

Two USI alumni and an adjunct professor took the stage at the University of Evansville Nov. 8 for TEDxEvansville.

The event had several short presentations that averaged around 18 minutes each. The talks are packed with thought-provoking and powerful messages by a group of some of the community’s best speakers.

Adjunct Professor in Communications Ashley Sides Johnson gave her presentation titled “The Elephant in your Office has a Mental Illness.”

It’s based on her recently published book “There’s an Elephant in Your Office,” which uses the simple metaphor to explain the complexities of mental illness in the workplace.

“Knowing how to identify and support them, helps everybody, helps the business, helps finance, helps the employee, helps the manager,” Johnson said. 

She also said that there shouldn’t be any shame in having a mental illness while in the workplace.

“We should talk about it,” she said. “Let’s normalize it, let’s make it okay.”

Johnson teaches public speaking at the university.

“It was really a unique experience to be teaching public speaking while preparing for the biggest public speech of my life,” she said.

Josey Roth graduated from the university in 2015. She gave the presentation “What if Businesses Treated Employees like People?”

Roth said that one of the biggest takeaways from her talk was the leader of an organization or team can positively shape and influence the culture of a workplace.

“I would say we had a very diverse group of topics, which I thought was a really good idea because the audience was like an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “We had laughing, there were a couple of talks where people cried and really connected on a personal level.”

When Roth was first about to start her speech, she was nervous, but by the time it was over, she said that she was sad about it because of the amount of work the speakers put into their speeches to be over 15 minutes later.

“I just think the platform is such a wonderful way to help inspire people and help connect with other people,” she said.

Cindy Petrov Alfaro graduated from USI in 2013 with bachelor’s degree in English and History. She gave the presentation “Why Engaging Your Community in Your Struggle Story Can Change The World.”

After graduating from USI, she graduated from the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University and later founded Lawtina LLC. The purpose of the company is to empower Latinx in higher education and the legal field. 

One of the main takeaways for her speech was how social media can be toxic for a smaller community.

“You see people coming out with just huge ideas, huge talks about who they are,” she said. “First, all you see are their titles and they’re all over social media. A lot of social media blows up these big accomplishments, but sometimes it can be really toxic for a smaller community.”

Petrov said that as an immigrant, she thinks it would have helped her to have seen other people struggle to get to where they are themselves.

“If someone had said, ‘Hey, I see your struggle and these are my struggles, let me show you how I overcame them,” she said. “I think if some people would have been more open about who they are, then I think I would have found that easier way and have had less of a feeling of being alone.”