x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Dare to Build

This event occurred on
November 4, 2016
Valparaiso, Indiana
United States

TEDxValparaisoUniversity is a forward–thinking, student–led event. Aiming to challenge convention with a constructive attitude, we hope to inspire change and innovation that spreads beyond the Northwest Indiana campus.

Visit the TEDxValparaisoUniversity website to learn more:

Duesenberg Recital Hall
1709 Chapel Drive
Valparaiso, Indiana, 46383
United States
Event type:
University (What is this?)
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Allison Schuette

Associate English Professor at Valparaiso University
Allison Schuette earned an MFA from Pennsylvania State University in creative nonfiction. She is a writer interested in documenting lives through text and audio in a variety of genres. Her written work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An associate professor in the English department at Valparaiso University, Professor Schuette also co-directs the Welcome Project,, an online, digital story collection used to foster conversations about community life and civic engagement. Their most recent initiative, Flight Paths, explores the history and unfolding of de-urbanization and the fracturing of neighborhoods, communities, and regions in post-industrial America through the specific example of Gary, Ind. Professor Schuette is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and a Ragdale residency, as well as a winner of Khaos Company Theatre’s Dionysian Festival.

Grace Koehn

High School Senior
Grace Koehn is a senior at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis. Her deep passion for service to others is evident in her involvement as the student body president, a student ambassador, a peer mentor, a blood drive coordinator, a small group devotion leader, and a member of the chapel drama team. Grace is also president of her school’s wind symphony and captain of the girls’ tennis team. In her spare time, she enjoys public speaking and performing in theatre productions. Grace plans to build on her passion for service by pursuing a career as a director of Christian education.

Joanna Witulski

American Sign Language Teacher
Joanna lives in Merrillville, Ind., with a husband, two kids, and two turtles. A lifelong Northwest Hoosier, she teaches American Sign Language at Purdue University Northwest and LaPorte High School. Joanna obtained her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Northwest and her master’s in sign language education from Gallaudet University. In her spare time, Joanna is involved in the community in different ways, always building her journey in life.

Katherine Bassett

Student at Valparaiso University
Katherine Bassett is a first-year student at Valparaiso University studying mechanical engineering and environmental science. She is passionate about educating others about the value of the environment and the impact each person can make in her or his day-to-day life. In her career, she plans to work toward creating sustainable technologies and continue advocating for the environment.

Kevin Gordon

Owner/Director of Camp Kupugani
Kevin Gordon is the owner/director of Camp Kupugani Multicultural Summer Camp in Leaf River, Ill. — the only black-owned private residential camp in the United States. Proud papa of a 10-year-old son and a husband of 17 years, Kevin is a published author, former attorney, and backpacker, having traveled to more than 50 countries throughout the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa, and Europe. A Harvard University graduate in psychology and the Canadian-born son of Jamaican immigrants, Kevin has worked with children for more than 30 years. He is a former vice president of the American Camp Association Illinois Section and regularly speaks at regional and national camp conferences and diversity conferences.

Lee Murphy

CEO of Inspera Health
Lee Murphy, CPA, Ph.D., has spent more than three decades innovating the health improvement and employee benefits industries. For the past 20 years, he has focused on building businesses that improve the health of those living with multiple chronic conditions. Lee believes in the human capacity for change, the innate desire for better health, and the power of intrinsic motivation. He is proud to lead Inspera Health as its CEO, an organization that encourages and enhances individual transformation. Lee has a Ph.D. in values-driven leadership from Benedictine University. He is a longtime triathlete and marathon runner. Lee and his wife share the belief that for-profit organizations need to be a catalyst for positive global benefit.

Mark Fisher

President of Dwyer Instruments
Mark is currently president of Dwyer Instruments Inc. in Michigan City, Ind., and has been working at Dwyer since he graduated from Valparaiso University in 1987. He continued his education, earning an MBA from Cleveland State University in 1995. Under Mark’s leadership, sales have nearly doubled, and Dwyer is now a multinational manufacturer for sensors, instruments, and controls that are used for the HVAC and process automation markets. Mark is a member of the Renaissance Executive Forums Group of Northern Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Society of Innovators, and the Valparaiso University National Council. Mark makes Valparaiso his home and is happily married to Janet. He has four children: Sarah, Stephanie, Steven, and Scottie.

Matt Mattson

Entrepreneur focused on spreading human connection
Matt Mattson is a co-creator of The Social Excellence Project and co-author of the book “Social Excellence: We Dare You.” He and some great friends have spent more than a decade building four successful companies. All of Matt’s entrepreneurial efforts are focused on spreading human connection and helping cause-based groups grow. He grew up in Michigan, attended Grand Valley State University as an undergraduate, and has found his way to beautiful Colorado, where he lives with his wife and two adorable/brilliant daughters. Matt has a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s in advertising and public relations.

Melanie Trexler

Assistant professor of theology at Valparaiso University.
Melanie Trexler is an assistant professor of theology at Valparaiso University. Her area of expertise is in Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. She is particularly interested in the encounters between Mulims and Christians through history, examining the ways in which these encounters shape identity construction, religious ideas, political views, and interreligious engagement.

Nick Skytland

NASA explorer and pioneer
Nick is a NASA explorer and pioneer with a passion for human space exploration. During his time at NASA, he founded the Open Innovation Program, envisioned future space exploration missions, designed next-generation space suits, hosted galactic-sized hackathons, and trained space-bound astronauts. Nick’s experience spans from flight operations and hardware development to research in biomechanics and human physiology in microgravity. He has been a team member in numerous analog simulations, including the NBL, NEEMO, and Zero-G missions.

Sadie Newholm

Mechanical Engineering Senior at Valparaiso University
Sadie Newholm is a senior mechanical engineering major with a minor in electrical engineering at Valparaiso University and is from Milwaukee. She has been an involved member of Valpo Robotics for the past two years and is currently a project manager for the Midwest Robotics Design Competition. Sadie aspires to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and apply her abilities through project management and design.

Tim Shurr

Motivational sensation and thought leader
Motivational sensation and thought leader Tim Shurr provides power-packed keynotes and seminars that teach you how to “train your brain” for maximum confidence, productivity, and achievement. He is president of Shurr! Success, a personal development company based in Indianapolis, and founder of Indy Hypnosis Centers. He is an award-winning speaker, leadership consultant, success coach, hypnosis/NLP trainer, TV personality, and author of five books, including “The Power of Optimism” and “Get Out of Your Way!” Tim has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox News, and his clients have included Verizon, NCAA, Roche Diagnostics, Ameriprise Financial, and Kiwanis International. Visit for additional information.

Valerie Mrak

Documentary filmmaker, workshop leader, and storyteller
Valerie Mrak is a documentary filmmaker, workshop leader, and storyteller. She has interviewed Nobel Peace Laureates, heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs, gang leaders, and a host of “everyday” people. Her all-time favorite interviews were with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and with a Blackfoot medicine woman. Valerie believes all people have extraordinary stories. Her latest workshop is “Peace Inside/Out: Six Lessons from Nobel Laureates and Former Gang Leaders.”

William Yonker

Reverend Bill Yonker serves as the senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in East Dundee, Ill., a large suburban congregation with a large school. Before serving in suburban Illinois, Rev. Yonker served as pastor in several inner city ministries: Berea Lutheran Church in Detroit and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Chicago. Pastor Yonker is an avid coffee drinker, lover of stories and storytelling, and thinks ’60s bubblegum music is the pinnacle of rock and roll music. He is married to his college sweetheart, Joanne, and is father to Becca (married to Tyler), Abby (graduated last May from Texas Christian University) and Josh (sophomore at Valparaiso University). Recently, Rev. Yonker was named one of the 150 most influential alumni of Valparaiso University in the last 150 years.

Organizing team


Valparaiso, IN, United States

Whittier, Ph.D.

Valparaiso, IN, United States
  • Breanna Heilicher
    Team member
  • Emily Kunkle
  • Matt Janke
  • Matthew Smok