State College

TEDxPSU brings big ideas to Schwab Auditorium

The TEDxPSU event was live streamed from the Schwab Auditorium on Penn State’s main campus on Sunday.
The TEDxPSU event was live streamed from the Schwab Auditorium on Penn State’s main campus on Sunday. For the Centre Daily Times

You can fit a lot of big ideas into little old Schwab Auditorium.

TEDxPSU filled the house on Sunday, packing scientists, innovators and historians together under one roof, where an audience — yep, there was one of those too — listened to musings on everything from technology to mental health.

Good ears are a vital component of TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas simply by allowing some of the world’s great thinkers to get up on stage and talk for an 18-minute stretch.

The annual conference will be hosted this April in Vancouver, but TEDx allows other parties to put together similar local events.

Sunday’s TEDxPSU brought the action —OK, passionate discourse — to State College.

Zach Lonsinger is an instructional designer at Penn State. Until Sunday, he had done most of his TED watching online and seemed pleased to have finally found his way into the crowd.

“I’ve always been inspired or intrigued,” Lonsinger said.

He had just emerged from a talk by Cecilia McGough, an astronomer, activist and writer.

McGough could have probably spent have of her allotted time on Sunday morning listing her accomplishments — competitor in the International Space Olympics, president of the Penn State Pulsar Search Collaboratory — but instead she opted to share something a little more personal than her resume.

Her talk, “I Am Not a Monster,” was a candid discussion of a life lived in the shadow of schizophrenia, terrifying clown hallucinations and all.

“I’m just someone who can’t turn off my nightmares, even when I’m awake,” McGough said.

Her core message was one of advocacy. There was a time in her life when she hesitated to seek medical attention and she urged others not to do the same.

McGough also said that she was in the process of starting a nonprofit, Students with Schizophrenia, geared specifically toward college-aged youth.

“Here at Penn State, we have to make an example to the world,” McGough said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready