In a lineup composed of musicians, scientists and even a nun, several University alumni and employees took on the Union Theater stage for this year’s TEDxLSU event.

Ginger Guttner, director of public relations for the School of Veterinary Medicine, explained to the sold-out audience why she pretends to be a tiger on the Internet.

For the past six years, Guttner has given a voice to Mike the Tiger. Assuming the personality of the beloved mascot, Guttner injects humor into the vet school’s social media accounts.

Following “a trifecta of bad Facebook posts” written about Mike, Guttner decided to speak on his behalf when a sick child asked Mike a question on the social media platform. At first, she said her greatest obstacles were knowing what to say and how to say it.

“I don’t know if he’s excited that the football team beat Florida or if he thinks Nick Saban is the devil,” Guttner said.

Her first post as Mike included a picture of the tiger, with the caption: “Do these stripes make me look fat?” After a tremendous response from the University community, Guttner said she realized “it’s okay to be a little silly” when it comes to social media branding.

She said so many people felt like they grew up with Mike or one of his predecessors, and she felt honored to be his voice.

“I am proud to be a Tiger,” Guttner said.

Fellow Tiger Amanda Staiano, a College of Human Sciences and Education graduate, studies childhood obesity at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. With 5.3 million people dying each year because “they aren’t active enough,” she said today’s children are projected to have lower life expectancies than their parents.

In a world dominated by technology, she said children are not as inclined to move, increasing their chances of gaining weight. Combining 21st century technology with exercise regimes, Staiano looks to “exergames” like Wii Fit as the future of combatting obesity in children.

Some video game consoles encourage “active play,” she said, allowing children to reach their necessary daily level of physical intensity.

“Rather than blame those screens ... let’s play to a child’s interests and join them on their virtual playing field,” Staiano said.

After implementing a series of experiments with exercise games, she discovered children who played tennis with a video game console burned more calories when they played against another gamer. However, the video gamers burned the most calories when they played on teams with other children.

Staiano concluded parents should promote exercise through a teamwork environment, making the most of the video games their children are already playing. However, she said fitness requires consistency and routine.

“We cannot afford to become complacent,” she said. “We can and we must do better for our children.”

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