Mercyhurst represented at TEDxErie event

Erin McGarrity, Staff writer

The Erie Art Museum will host TEDxErie 2015: The Rising Tide, an independently organized TED event, on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 1:30-5:30 p.m.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit meant to spread innovative ideas through short lectures and performances. Each “talk” lasts anywhere from five to 18 minutes. Local volunteer organizers helped organize and bring to life this year’s TEDxErie.

Three of the 15 talks and performances at this year’s event will feature Mercyhurst students, alumni and employees.

Brad McGarry, an Erie resident and the director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst, will speak at TEDxErie about the “rise in the tide” of adults on the autism spectrum applying to college.

“I heard that TEDx was coming through Erie, and I thought, ‘Hey I know that stuff,’” said McGarry. “I started thinking about what in my life I could share that would resemble that format of ‘The Rising Tide.’”

The Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst began in 2008, and it offers a number of support services for students on the autism spectrum, including specialized housing, peer mentoring, individualized models to help with social functioning and a career program to help with vocational employment.

To McGarry, whose own son is on the autism spectrum, the fact that his talk will take place on such a prominent stage is huge.

“I do a lot of motivational speaking about my son and his disabilities, and I also speak a lot about Mercyhurst and the work we do here with the Initiative, so to be able to tie both of them together in the same speech is such an exciting opportunity,” McGarry said.

As one of TEDxErie’s only three performances, four girls from the Mercyhurst Liturgical Dance Ensemble will dance three pieces at the conference. The group specializes in performing for masses on campus, as well as performing outreach at local community groups, churches and senior retirement homes.

The group’s faculty advisor is C. Noelle Partusch, an associate professor of Dance. She recalls being amazed at just how large the reach of this conference will be.

“They called me and asked if the girls could dance because they were short on performance pieces. I didn’t even know what TEDx was,” said Partusch. “But, I hope people see it. It’s really kinda cool – for the ensemble, for this kind of work in general – that it’s going to reach such a large audience.”

The three dances — two trios and one solo — each hold a special meaning to Patrusch, which adds even more value to this experience for her.

“The music is just beautiful and emotional. The meanings are close to my heart. You better believe I’m sending out the link to the livestream,” Partusch said.

TEDxErie will also feature Nick Cianci, a native of Greenville, Pa., and a Mercyhurst alumna. He will speak about the “rising tide” of opportunities for Erie and its residents.

“In my talk, I speak to the fact that the tide is already rising in many ways — we simply need to know how to catch the waves,” Cianci said.

Cianci received dual bachelor’s of arts degrees from Mercyhurst, and he gave to the Erie community through service and ministry during his time here. He will speak at TEDxErie about the necessary celebration of the many great aspects of Erie.

“I would like to see us reach a point in the Rust Belt where people no longer have to ask that question, ‘Why here?’” said Cianci. “It’s evident, it’s apparent that this is where people with skills and ambition come, work, learn, raise families, embrace culture and heritage, or whatever it may be. It’s a no-brainer.”

The event at the Erie Art Museum is sold out, but Mercyhurst will host a live screening of TEDxErie in the Student Union Great Room on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 1:30-5:30 p.m.