rgo 2023


July 20, 2023

Fargo Civic Center

Going to the edge gives you experiences. Experiences give you ideas. Ideas change the world.

Why do some people thrive on the edge while it scares others?

At TEDxFargo EDGE, we will explore this question as we challenge your perception of the uncomfortable, the safe, the new, and the different and guide you to see ideas through other lenses.

TEDxFargo focuses on engaging attendees in a world-class experience by showcasing the best of our community. Everyone’s experiences and perceptions are unique but just as true as your own. Join us as we embark on a journey to embrace our differences and meet each other at the edge to share our experiences and ideas.


Gary Vernon

Transform your community with trails

Gary is the Director of Outdoor Recreation and Trail Innovation for Runway Group and is considered one of the leading experts in developing mountain bike trail systems. His work over the past decade has been supporting the vision of Steuart and Tom Walton by overseeing design and construction of over 600 miles of world class mountain bike trails and growing around the State of Arkansas and other locations. His work includes the Oz Trails region of Northwest Arkansas as well as the Arkansas State Parks Monument Trail projects. In 2019 he was the recipient of the American Trails Chairman award for advancing trail design and changing the landscape for trail systems. His role has recently expanded to include other forms of outdoor recreation that includes creating world class climbing, paddling and other outdoor recreation experiences.

Jake Joraanstad

Digitizing the Oldest Industry on the Planet

You need a doctor once a year maybe and a fireman once in a lifetime, if you’re unlucky. But you need a farmer three times a day. Wise words from Kaleb Cooper.

When we think about our food supply chain, it’s not from Point A to Point B. It’s perhaps A to B To DEFG. But it all starts by a farmer delivering a harvested crop to a local facility, but then seeing it being carried through a physical infrastructure that has been the focus on investment the past 100 years.

But, information is not flowing at the same speed. The processes that we think of yesteryear – paper receipts, mailing contracts, getting paid by check – are still the status quo. Learn the challenges and opportunities there are to help digitize the world’s oldest industry.” Jake Joraanstad is the CEO of Bushel, an independently owned and operated software company headquartered in Fargo, N.D. Bushel is focused on bringing innovative software products and solutions to the agriculture value chain. Since launching in 2017, Bushel’s software has powered 2,200+ grain facilities and reaches over 100,000 farmers across the U.S. and Canada with real-time business information for their producers. Jake is heavily involved in the entrepreneurial community and enjoys helping with local startup events.

Regina Louise

Embracing Vulnerability: Liberating the Soul through Sharing Our Shame

I will use a few images to explore the depths of what it is to be labeled severely emotionally disturbed, and how to not only survive deep wounding and a life chocked full of emotional dysfunction, but to also thrive by transforming the emotional poverty into emotional wealth, or one’s gold.

Regina Louise is the founder of Possibility HQRS: a boutique coaching agency. Regina’s newest work, Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love (New World Library, June 2021) is her first-ever personal growth offering. Her bestselling memoirs Somebody’s Someone and I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story, were nominated for numerous awards including a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Best Director, and a Christopher Award, which it won for “upholding the highest essence of triumph of the human spirit,” for a television film. A summa cum laud graduate of University of California Riverside with a Master of Fine Arts (terminal degree). Regina is a Hoffman Process teacher, a workshop facilitator and motivational speaker who resides in the San Francisco bay Area. Her story has been featured in media outlets such as Good Morning America, NPR’s All Things Considered, Lee Harris Podcast, San Francisco Chronicle, Essence Magazine, CNN and many more.

Sam Wei

Wine in Culture and Agriculture​

Going back to the foundation of wine as something rooted in culture, history, sense of place, vineyards, and people and families that grow it. Sam Wai has been in the FM area since the early 1970s. He was a financial executive and retired 7 years ago. Sam has been a wine educator for over 35 years. He has a wine cellar of about 2,500 bottles and grew wine grapes for 20 years. He also take guests to Greece for wine/food and history tours.

Hannah Stelter

The Middle Finger Method

Have you ever been told, “Just be yourself, and everyone will love you”? As someone who was completely lost and unsure of their own identity, I could never find solace in this well-meaning advice. Join me in this talk as I reveal my journey of self-discovery and how I managed to embrace imperfection while I was in the process of figuring out who I truly was and am. Let my story inspire and encourage you to do the same. Hannah Stelter is a 24-year-old artist and entrepreneur. Starting her social media journey in 2020, she quickly gained a large following for her relatable art content. Her fine art focuses on body positive portraits, with a goal to help people embrace themselves and celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. She started an art supply company in 2022 that makes art more approachable for beginners, to spread the message of embracing imperfection past oneself and into ones art.

Michelle Berg

The Misnomer of Rare [Disease]

Many hear the word rare and think unique or very few, perhaps even extraordinary. While each person with a rare disease is unique and the number of individuals affected by each rare disease are few, the totality and enormity of rare disease is tremendous. The summation of rare diseases is something that we all must comprehend as it affects everyone in some manner as one of the most significant public health issues and financial burdens, not to mention the humanitarian call for action. There is also great reason for hope in medicine brought about by learnings from research driven by the rare disease community. Michelle Berg has over 20 years of experience and leadership in the biotechnology sector. Most recently she served as President, GMP Nucleic Acids for Aldevron. Before that she served as Vice President of Patient Affairs and Community Engagement for Abeona Therapeutics, a company focused on developing novel gene and cell therapy approaches for treatment of people affected by rare diseases including Epidermolysis Bullosa, Sanfilippo syndrome, and Batten disease. Prior to that, Berg held a variety of roles with increasing reach and responsibility at Aldevron for 16 years, seeing it through several pivotal growth and expansion cycles.

John Absey

I did it my way! Investing in people and acts of kindness.

Jon Absey is in a class all his own. Dating back to his first season in Utah, he performed as a mascot at over 900 NBA games, has donated 16,000-plus hours of assistance in the community for more than 300 community organizations, and raised more than one million dollars for charity in the process. Jon has taken home more than 40 community and national awards, including eight mascot leadership awards, keys to two cities, been honored by three individual governors with his very own “Day in Utah”, been named Mascot of the Year in the NBA five times and Best Mascot out of all sports nationwide twice and, just recently was given an award for the best video by a mascot out of all sports nationwide. He has been inducted into the YMCA Hall of Fame, the Utah Summer Games Hall of Fame, and the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006.

President Theodore Roosevelt as portrayed by Joe Wiegand​

Going Over the Edge

Joe Wiegand, the nation’s leading Theodore Roosevelt reprisor, comes from Medora, North Dakota to challenge TEDXFargo attendees to be men and women in the arena! Joe Wiegand is the world’s premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor, and as an actor and historian, his portrayals of Theodore Roosevelt have been enjoyed by audiences in all fifty states and internationally. Joe Wiegand is a political science graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Twice elected to head Sewanee’s student government, Joe had earlier been elected Governor of the American Legion Illinois Boys State and President of the American Legion Boys Nation programs. Joe served as a graduate assistant at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, before launching his own business as a political campaign consultant and public policy expert. Joe has been named a Wilkins Scholar, a Harry S. Truman Scholar, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Joe was working in public policy and running election campaigns when he began performing as Theodore Roosevelt in 2002.

Christie Hefner

Why does the 1st Amendment Matter? ​

The 1st Amendment isn’t a Democratic or a Republican value, but an American one. So, why is Americans’ collective faith in free speech being shaken? 

Christie Hefner is seasoned professional with more than thirty years’ experience at executive levels in both public and private companies, as well as multiple company directorships. She’s on the board of the RDO Company and is a strategic advisor to Forum Communications Company, both based in Fargo. She also serves on several other boards and is a strategic advisor to CEOs. Previously, Christie served in a variety of executive positions with Playboy Enterprises, a NYSE listed company, culminating in 20 years as Chairman and CEO. She was widely credited with developing and leading the execution of strategies that repositioned the company from its legacy domestic magazine business to a global multi-media and lifestyle company and building its institutional shareholder base.

Thomas Dambo

The fine art of dumpster diving

How I turned my love for dumpster diving into an international art career. Thomas Dambo’s journey is a real-life fairytale about how he roamed his home city of Copenhagen on a cargo bike dumpster diving materials for his first small installations to gaining international recognition as the world’s leading recycling artist. He now has over twenty full-time employees, has built over one hundred sculptures in seventeen countries, and his art is still made with the same philosophy of sustainability and recycling, truly highlighting how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

William Greenfield

Attain & Maintain

The whole world talks about the grit it takes to attain your dreams. What happens when you discover maintaining those same goals becomes even more challenging than the journey you took to achieve them? Will Greenfield was born and raised just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and became the first in his family to receive a college education. His first position, as a production assistant, brought him to New York, Louisiana, and eventually Georgia. Greenfield steadily climbed the ranks from production assistant to his current position as executive producer. Greenfield recently completed the second season of HBO’s Emmy nominated series, Euphoria; created by Sam Levinson and stars Emmy winner Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi, Sydney Sweeney, Eric Dane and Storm Reid. Euphoria has broken multiple records, including a viewership of over 16.3 million per episode, along with becoming the most tweeted about show in over a decade. Greenfield is currently in pre-production and post production on several upcoming independent feature films. Greenfield resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his beautiful wife and daughter. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Alissa Adams

Beyond Malls: The secret to vibrancy and success

What is the difference between vibrancy and vacancy? Discover how directing energy beyond oneself, with a focus on community, unlocks new possibilities and lays the foundation for long-term success. Alissa Adams serves as the Chief Operating Officer at West Acres Development in Fargo, ND, where she has been instrumental in driving the organization’s continued success and vibrancy. Her belief in the transformative power of creativity is at the heart of everything she does. She is passionate about incorporating art, imagination, and beautiful aesthetics into all aspects of her work to create engaging and inspiring spaces that bring people together and spark joy. In addition to her role at West Acres, Alissa is also the Chief Strategy Officer at the Center for Plastic Surgery, where she works alongside her husband, Nick. She finds personal fulfillment in creative expression through cooking, floral arrangement, outdoor activities, yoga, playing with her two daughters, and engaging with her community. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Samata Pattinson

The Thread That Binds Us

Sustainable design trailblazer Samata Pattinson takes us on a journey in search of connection through the intertwining of sustainability, culture and design. Rooted in the questions of what, how, and why we wear our clothes across the globe, this narrative unfolds through the eyes of the British-born Ghanaian entrepreneur with a diverse background spanning fashion, film, education, and media. ‘The Thread That Binds Us’ artfully weaves the connections between apparel and a range of vital topics, including health, the environment, and even children’s curricula. Presenting an opportunity for collective introspection, Pattinson encourages us to scrutinise the impact of our clothing on both people and the planet. Her insights inspire profound reflection, foster meaningful conversations, and drive impactful decisions. Samata Pattinson is an entrepreneur working across fashion, film, and media and the CEO of Black Pearl. She is passionate about cultural sustainability and educating to connect the dots between people, communities, and the planet. Samata has delivered design initiatives at the Oscars, collaborated and connected with design businesses from across the world, and most recently, wrote and delivered the first Sustainable Style Guide for the 95th Annual Academy Awards known as the Oscars. She has been invited to address the UN for COP26 and COP27 on Designing for Sustainability. She holds mentor roles at Cambridge University’s Institute of Sustainability Leadership alongside having spoken at Yale School of the Environment, and has been invited to Number 10 Downing Street to address two British Prime Ministers on the subject of apparel, design and entrepreneurism.

Rupak Gandhi

On the Edge of Conviction: Defining Your Standards Amidst Controversy

Rupak Gandhi, Superintendent of Fargo Public Schools, unveils his compelling approach to navigating challenging dilemmas. With each step, he emphasizes the importance of defining personal standards as the vital guideposts that determine whether to take the daring leap or hold back. Through a captivating blend of personal anecdotes, insightful leadership reflections, and a touch of humor, Gandhi shares how he has found the courage to stand firm on the cliff’s edge, examining the profound impact of upholding individual standards. As you listen, you’ll be inspired to embark on your own quest of self-discovery and introspection, reevaluating the significance of your principles when confronted with controversy. Dr. Rupak Gandhi completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science at Texas A&M University. He holds a master’s degree in special education from Grand Canyon University and holds his doctorate in educational leadership from Northwest Nazarene University. Dr. Gandhi began his career in education in the Houston Independent School District. After serving as a Special Education resource teacher through Teach For America, he served as a high school assistant principal, an elementary principal for a campus of 750 students, and the principal of a comprehensive 6A high school serving nearly 3,000 students. Dr. Gandhi then served as the Research, Data, and Accountability Officer (Assistant Superintendent) for Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, CO. In March 2018, the Board of Education of the City of Fargo hired Dr. Gandhi as the Superintendent of Schools. He officially assumed the position in July 2018. 

Patrick Thibaudeau

Ending the Syrup Syndrome: Making vs Taking

Pancakes on a platter represent business as usual. Syrup represents pouring on sustainability as an afterthought, optional condiment or throw away side dish. Ending the Syrup Syndrome means changing business as usual, creating an entirely new default way of thinking. As carbon footprint goes down, revenue and profits go up. Sustainability is a key ingredient for success and must be mixed in from the beginning. It’s good business and a great investment. The next century of conservation is circularity and carbon. This talk shows how big ambitions produce net positive outcomes and result in making rather than taking.

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (TRPL) is project case example. TRPL extends TR’s legacy and creates future impact for the next century by establishing a new global standard for the way we live, learn, work and move around the world. The human condition, positive performance and positive financial outcomes are demonstrated to show that we can achieve much more than we thought was possible. “We’re building an idea with powerful transformative impact.” We need to think BIG and get in the “arena of action” now! As we do the sun will rise on 2100 with positive impact. Patrick is an experienced executive and nationally recognized thought leader with keen foresight and unique ability to inspire individuals, groups and organizations to achieve something they did not know was possible. He has a proven history of developing inventive approaches and innovative solutions, leading organizations and teams to consistently achieve high performance results, and has accomplished many firsts, frequently charting new ground. He has pioneered an approach centered on human experience, positive performance and financial prosperity – yielding multiple human benefits and hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided cost and revenue. A project he led recently became the first in the world to achieve full Living Building Challenge certification for a renovation project and is now leading the sustainability work for Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library seeking to set a new global standard for the next century of conservation and circularity of carbon.

Nick Hall

At the Pulse

How listening connects us to the passion (and generation) that is changing the world. Nick Hall is the visionary of TOGETHER, author of the book Reset, and the President of Pulse. As an evangelistic voice to this generation, Nick Hall has shared the Gospel at hundreds of events to more than five million people and is regularly featured as a speaker for pastors gatherings, student conferences, training events, and festivals around the world. Nick is also the President and CEO of The Table Coalition and sits on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals. Nick is married to his best friend, Tiffany, and they are proud parents of Truett, Ruby, and Jude. They live in Minneapolis, MN. Nick has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from NDSU and a master’s in Leadership and Christian Thought from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Amber Buker

Decolonizing Wealth Through Native Visibility

Invisibility is a pernicious form of racism against Native Americans today. Amber Buker, founder of the only digital bank by and for Indigenous people, examines how engineered invisibility creates barriers to financial inclusion, and how those barriers can fall when technology and conscious capital allocation combine. Amber Buker is the Founder and CEO of Totem, the only digital built by and for Indigenous people. A recovering attorney, Amber spent recent years advising bank leaders on technology. She has interviewed hundreds of leaders in banking, fintech, and government, and regularly speaks, writes, and podcasts for national audiences about what she’s learned from their work. In 2022, she became the second indigenous woman in America to raise a multi-million dollar venture funding round.

Charles D. Gorecki

We Need An Energy Transformation, Not An Energy Transition

Join Charles Gorecki, CEO of the UND Energy & Environmental Research Center, as he unveils an inspiring narrative of how his experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom propelled him toward a career in energy. Explore the visionary approach of the EERC, as it spearheads groundbreaking research to tackle the world’s most pressing energy challenges. Discover the imperative quest for practical energy solutions that integrate both reliability and sustainability. Charles D. Gorecki is CEO of the EERC, where he leads a multidisciplinary science, engineering, and support team of over 270 people who focus on research and development (R&D) leading to demonstration and commercialization of innovative energy and environmental technologies. The EERC, with its long tradition of fossil fuel-related R&D, has broadened its scope to include a wide array of strategic energy and environmental issues. Mr. Gorecki oversees efforts to address these issues through strategic initiatives focused on clean coal technologies; oil and gas industry technologies; carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS); energy and water sustainability; air toxics and fine particulate control; water management strategies; global climate change; waste utilization, hydrogen technologies; and contaminant cleanup. Mr. Gorecki holds an M.Eng. degree in Petroleum Engineering and a B.S. degree in Geological Engineering from UND.

Mary Snapp

Our New Frontier: Rural America and AI

The American Frontier is a story of hope and optimism—of forging opportunity in the face of heady challenges. That same innovative spirit endures in rural America today. As we enter a new frontier in artificial intelligence with the advent of “generative AI,” small and rural communities possess the mindset, ingenuity, and experience to help our world unlock an unprecedented era of economic and social prosperity. To do so, we need to continue investing in digital skills and broadband infrastructure, and we need to stay clear-eyed about keeping humans in control. We also need to cultivate a new generation of pioneers like Louisan Mamer—who spread the word about electricity to households in the 1930s—to teach and inspire our communities. Mary brings her experience and perspective from over 30 years at Microsoft to lead strategic initiatives in office of the president. She formerly led the team responsible for Microsoft’s philanthropic efforts. Prior to Microsoft Philanthropies, Mary was Deputy General Counsel leading legal support for engineering and services. She led legal support for Bing as a start up and Microsoft Windows as an established operating system. Mary is an active board leader and community volunteer for nonprofit organizations in Seattle and around the country. She currently serves on the board of directors YWCA of Seattle, King, and Snohomish County, The Seattle Art Museum, the National 4-H Council and The Farm Foundation. She also serves her alma mater, University of Michigan, on the President’s Advisory Group. Mary joined the company in 1988 as Microsoft’s fourth attorney, and its first female attorney.

Brian Murray

Addressing mental health in the C-suite

I hope by sharing my experience of battling severe depression that others, particularly men, may gain a better understanding that mental illness is real, that it is common, and most importantly that it is treatable. I hope by sharing my story as the CEO of a company that others may realize that mental illness does not discriminate; that they may seek professional help if needed; that they may become more willing to share their mental health stories; and that we can make headway to end the stigma around mental illness. Brian Murray is the Chief Executive Officer of Ryan Companies US, Inc., a national commercial real estate services company with expertise in designing, developing, constructing, financing, and managing commercial real estate properties. Before Ryan Companies he held financial roles at UnitedHealth Group and Arthur Andersen & Co. He has personally battled depression in his life. Sadly, he has friends and extended family members who have tried or been successful in ending their struggle with mental illness through suicide. He is a champion of ending the stigma of mental illness, particularly among men, and willingly shares his own personal depression story with the goal of creating hope for others. He is a proponent of creating greater awareness in corporations of the signs of depression and anxiety, and strongly advocates that mental illness is real, common, and treatable. He and his wife, Shelly, live in Minneapolis and have three adult children.

Megan Langley

Redefining Rural ROI

By contextualizing and redefining return on investment (ROI) in rural and remote places, grantmakers, foundations, and investors can steward forward renewed development and deepen the progress and impact being made by rural community doers.” Megan Langley is the Founder and Executive Director of Strengthen ND. Ms. Megan is a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, 2020 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy, and an alumnus of the Harvard-Kennedy School of Government’s Leadership in the 21st Century Program and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana State University. Ms. Laudenschlager currently holds several state-based and national positions related to rural placemaking and development, including positions on the North Dakota Council on the Arts Board of Directors, North Dakota Economic Development Foundation Board of Directors, North Dakota Rural Development Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts’ Steering Committee, which provides guidance to the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD).