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Theology prof will speak on relationship non-negotiables in Oct. 13 TEDxStCloud talk

Kari-Shane Davis Zimmerman, an associate professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, is well-known around either campus. For more than 18 years, her undergraduate courses in Catholic theology, Christian ethics, ethics regarding sex, economics and feminism and the thought of John Paul II have been quite popular among students. She has become the “relationship guru” to many Bennies and Johnnies.

Now she’s getting a chance to take her show on the road with an invitation to be one of seven speakers at the sixth TEDxStCloud. The event is Oct. 13 at the Paramount Center for the Arts and licensed by TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” TED conferences often feature short talks delivered by leading thinkers and doers. And for Zimmerman, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is such a bucket list item for me that I’m still in this moment thinking ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Zimmerman said. “I can’t even believe this is happening.”

Among her classes is an upper division theology course titled “Family, Church and Society.” Zimmerman, who is originally from Boston and maintains her blunt east coast personality, fearlessly addresses dating and hookup culture, contraception, marriage and all their influences. For the past decade, she also has been active with student development, producing an orientation program for incoming students on healthy personal relationships, consent and sexual assault.

“I have a reputation for being critical of hookup culture,” she said. “I’m adamant about students being able to identify and name what I call their non-negotiables. When I teach, I ask the students ‘What do you want in another person?’ They always start with the easy things. Like, ‘Oh, I want the person to be honest.’ But by the end of my course, I’m asking them to name five hard-core, super-important practices, habits, ideas or mindsets that mean something to them, that they refuse to compromise on. A lot of students, by the end of the course, will realize that these are like ‘I’m a Christian and I only want to date a Christian.’ Or ‘I believe this – you name it – from faith to sexual orientation to no divorce to no drugs or alcohol.’ They move away from the easy stuff.”

TEDxStCloud organizers heard of Zimmerman and asked her to expand her concept of non-negotiables beyond a college audience.

“I use TEDx talks in my classes all the time,” she said. “I was always amazed and I’m like ‘Who do you have to know to be one of those speakers?’ I feel like this is the culmination of years of hard work.”

Check-in is from 5-6:30 p.m. at The Regency, 913 West St. Germain Street, across from the Paramount in St. Cloud. Food is included with a $42 ticket and $3 processing fee. There also will be a cash bar with beer, wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages available. The program will go from 6:30-9 p.m., including a 30-minute intermission during which patrons can return to The Regency.

Annette Atkins, professor emerita of history at CSB and SJU, spoke at TEDxStCloud in 2021. Former CSB president Mary Dana Hinton was among those featured at the 2019 event. After this year’s event, videos of the speakers are expected to be posted at https://www.tedxstcloud.com/.

Kari-Shane Davis Zimmerman