University Communications


President Robbyn Wacker speaking from the TEDxStCloud stage

President Robbyn Wacker encourages curiosity mindset at TEDxStCloud 2021

President Robbyn Wacker was one of eight speakers to take the stage at TEDxStCloud this October. Presenters shared insights on topics ranging from space exploration, to trauma and mental health, art and faith, and other topics. Among presenters were St. Cloud State emeriti faculty and alumni.

Dr. Wacker spoke of a concept of the curiosity mindset.

"Curiosity is desire to learn, to solve problems, to ask questions. Mindset is a way of thinking," she said. "Research has confirmed that adopting a curiosity mindset is one thing we can do to better ourselves, our relationships, our organizations and our society." 

Her speech encouraged staying curious past childhood by inviting curiosity back into your life. 

"The act of being curious is messy and unpredictable, yet the benefits are immense," Wacker said. "It enlightens us and teaches us in every aspect of our lives." 

A curiosity mindset can improve your relationships with others in work and in life by leading you to meaningful conversations spurred by questions and not assumptions. It helps you practice self-care by giving you an opportunity to explore effective ways of coping and problem solving, she said. 

"A curiosity mindset is so important because it provides us the moment we need to pause, to actively seek out more information — to fill an information gap," Wacker said. "Think of it as solving a mystery." 

As president at St. Cloud State University, Wacker encourages her employees to engage in creative thinking to spur more enjoyment in their work and attain better outcomes. 

"Institutions of higher education, like many organizations, face unprecedented challenges and the best response to finding solutions to those challenges is to pause and practice deep listening to others' perspectives and ideas – so we can ignite innovative solutions to the vexing challenges we face," she said. 

The need for a curiosity mindset in the broader society is also evidenced by the "us vs them" mentality seen in most interactions today, she said. 

"When we apply sociable curiosity with others in our community, we pause and seek to fill an information gap," she said. "When we do, genuine sociable curiosity will keep us from making incorrect conclusions about other we know little about. It will disrupt the negative assumptions we hold about concepts such as race, ethnicity, religion, age and sexual identities." 

The TEDxStCloud 2021 lineup included two former St. Cloud State professors and three alumni.

Along with President Wacker, former professors Dr. Niloufer Merchant and Dr. John Harlander and St. Cloud State alumni Mary Bruno ’97 Charles Eisenreich, ’87 ’93 ’98 and Pastor James Alberts spoke at the event. As a professor emeriti Harlander is continuing to do an active research grant on campus and spoke about his work researching with students. 

The remaining TEDxStCloud presenters were Pete Rogers, an expert in automation and robotic systems integration, and Annette Atkins, an historian who uses letters, photos, shoes, art, chairs, census records, maps and other artifacts as keys to unlock the past. 

Mass Communications students from UTVS did a production and broadcast of the event and professor Dr. Heidi Everett and her students studying in the Strategic Communications emphasis marketed the event.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At TEDxStCloud events, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. St. Cloud State has been a partner in supporting the event each year with speakers and planning board members.