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TEDxBrownU stories inspire, invigorate

Talks by students, alum, researcher center around theme of EDGE: Explore, Discover, Grow, Engage

“Who has to have a soapbox when all you’ve ever needed is your voice?” asked Clint Smith in a video projected across the Martinos Auditorium at TedxBrownU.

Brown University held its own TEDx event March 19, hosting 12 speakers and 100 audience members in the Granoff Center for Creative Arts. With topics ranging from the nature of startups to branching out after college, the event encompassed the broad theme of EDGE: Explore, Discover, Grow, Engage.

“We picked this theme from a list of potential TEDx ideas because we felt that it covered the wide range of speeches people were giving,” said event coordinator Loren Dowd ’16, a former design editor for The Herald.

Some talks dealt with interesting ideas, such as Jackson Crook’s ’17 belief that all forms of fun are remnants from human evolution. With audience participation, Crook explained in his talk “Just for Fun: An Evolutionary Perspective” how playing with Legos and basketball were derived from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering, much to the laughter of the audience.

A few other presentations were more serious and offered insight on difficult choices. Aderonke Ilegbusi GS talked about her experience with disadvantaged students as well as overcoming the urge to quit while facing adversity in her speech “Making Connections: Seeking Similarities and Celebrating Differences.” In his presentation “Breaking the Mirage,” Adi Melamed ’19 discussed stories he heard from friends regarding the college admission process and also finding yourself in your concentration.

“I connected with each of the talks in my own way,” Dowd said, adding that the variety of topics contributed to the strength of the event.

The TEDx talks are independent events hosted outside of TED’s direct control, Dowd said. TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, is an international organization with the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” that aims to share stories and information through talks.

TEDxBrownU is allowed to use TED’s logo and required to record all the speeches for online publishing. As per regulation from the international organization, a variety of official TED videos were also screened between live presentations during the event. With topics such as the history of the variable x and the nature of silence, the videos help enliven the presentations, Dowd said.

The event was organized for the second time with an entirely student-run group, said marketing chair Elaine Cheung ’18. With eight people on the leadership team and approximately 20 volunteers, the club sold out all 100 tickets before the event, she added.

Yuna Hur ’18 came to the event in part to see her fellow colleague Julia Xu ’17, who was speaking about her experience founding the non-profit Tink Knit, which helps single mothers support themselves through knitting. Nevertheless, Hur was thoroughly impressed by the other speakers that she saw. “Everyone’s (talks) really resounded with me,” she said. “Listening to their stories really brings the Providence community together in general,” she added.

It wasn’t just friends supporting friends, as alums and curious members of the public also attended the event. Jennifer Stearns ’83 P’18 came with her daughter and found the combination of personal stories and general reflections riveting. “The learning culture here (at this event) is much different than when I went to school,” she said.

During breaks, audience members mingled in the lobby outside of the auditorium. People were asked to stick encouraging post-it notes onto taped pictures of the presenters along the wall, while conversations struck up around deep questions posted around the venue such as “What inspires you?” and “What’s your EDGE?”

The scene seemed to parallel the environment mentioned in Max Song’s ’15.5 talk, “Lighting a Fire in Plato’s Cave,” in which he urged students to strive for a college feel long after leaving campus. It’s important to be “surrounded by people you care about, always learning and growing,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that this year's TEDxBrownU conference was the first entirely student-run conference. In fact, it was the second. The Herald regrets the error. 


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