Sears influential in sharing ideas, forming communities

When Cale Sears came to Columbia from Dallas, Texas, he brought his passion for generating ideas and connecting people with him.

Back in Dallas, Sears helped with one of the first ever TEDx events, TEDxSMU, at Southern Methodist University. Sears was inspired by the power of ideas and wanted to share that idea with his classmates.

“Through the TEDx event I saw how one day could have the potential to transform people’s lives,” Sears said. “I realized that small actions can really make an impact, and just trying to have a more positive mindset really affects your day."

Sears began his first year at MU with the goal of bringing another TEDx event to campus. Months later, the first TEDxMU event was held, and Sears’ passion for TEDx continued when he became TEDxCoMo Curator.

At first DSA and the Speakers Committee, who helped Sears with TEDxMU, were a means to accomplish his goal, but by the end of Sears’s involvement with them the group and its mission had grown on him. The thought of MU and DSA have even kept Sears from transferring to other schools or leaving Columbia when homesickness hits.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Sears, whose dream job is to work for the TED organization. “I really love talking to people, connecting people, sharing ideas…the innovative spirit at MU and Columbia is great for that.”

Sears, the senior chairman of the Student Affairs Speakers Committee, has led the Missouri Students Association in selecting the right thinkers, artists and public figures to visit MU and speak to the student body.

Speakers Sears has brought to campus include former Navy SEAL Rorke Denver, Matt Roloff of TLC’s “Little People, Big World,” Adrian Greneir from HBO’s “Entourage,” Maya Angelou, Tony LaRussa and Cindy Gallop.

Sears said the speakers he looks for are those who interact with and engage students.

“It doesn’t matter who a speaker is,” Sears said. “They can be in the same tier of celebrity but have entirely different personalities. In today’s world, we’re more connected than ever before, but for our generation, if we’re watching a TED talk on our small iPhone screen, we’re not going to keep watching if that person is standing still. Plain old lectures don’t translate anymore.”

Sears’s laptop is frequented by emails of correspondence with speakers he’s trying to bring to campus. The Speakers Committee has attempted to reach out to prominent figures like Michelle Obama, Anderson Cooper and Melinda Gates – a long shot, but DSA is closer than ever before to getting such high-profile visits, Sears said.

“It’s a continuous process,” he said. “As soon as we book speakers for a season, we’re thinking of the next one. We try to stay on top of trends, and people pitch ideas everyday, but in event planning nothing is easy.”

The demands of his work keep Sears busy. He regrets that his schedule kept him from knowing his residence hall freshman year, and his frequent meetings are often the butt of jokes among his friends.

In the end, the constant demands make Sears happy.

“I’m lucky to have found something I enjoy that keeps me moving,” Sears said. “It’s been a fun adventure. I never though I’d end up in CoMo but now it’s my second home. Ideas and connections are real, and with events like TEDxCoMo you actually hear and see the connections as they’re formed. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

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