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‘Truth or Dare?’: TEDxBrownU conference spotlights open-mindedness, introspection

Speakers shared personal journeys with change, performances by Jabberwocks, IMPULSE

<p>Olympic figure skater Vincent Zhou ’25.5 recounted his skating journey, including the COVID-19 diagnosis that stopped him from competing in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.</p>

Olympic figure skater Vincent Zhou ’25.5 recounted his skating journey, including the COVID-19 diagnosis that stopped him from competing in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

At TEDxBrownU’s eighth annual conference Sunday evening, six presenters explored the theme “Truth or Dare?” through topics ranging from accessibility in the arts to the benefits of mindfulness and the power of ancestral lands. The conference also featured performances by the Jabberwocks and the hip-hop dance group IMPULSE.

According to TEDxBrownU co-President Vikas Rana ’24, roughly 1,000 people from Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design and the greater Providence community registered for the conference, which was held in the Salomon Center.

“‘Truth or Dare?’ as a theme … sets the tone of the entire conference and (encourages) the speakers to be very honest,” said Tiffany Chan ’23, co-president of TEDxBrownU.

Members of the club chose the theme and began accepting speaker nominations and applications in the fall, Rana said. The TEDx curation team interviewed applicants and worked with the final lineup of presenters on their speeches over the next few months.


Vulnerability, growth and open-mindedness were themes touched upon by several speakers throughout the event.

Team USA Olympic figure skater Vincent Zhou ’25.5 recounted the ups and downs of his skating journey, including the COVID-19 diagnosis that stopped him from competing in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“I thought, ‘There’s no better thing to talk about than this incredibly difficult experience that I’ve struggled to vocalize up to this point,’” Zhou told The Herald. “The journey of writing multiple drafts, getting comfortable with it and being vulnerable up there … helped me feel more complete.”

Zhou said he hoped his talk conveyed the message of “daring to think differently.”

Barbara Tannenbaum, distinguished senior lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies, gave a talk about adoptee rights and the stigma and lack of transparency around the U.S. adoption system, drawing on her experience as an adoptee and adoptive parent herself.

“The truth about adoption is not always known,” Tannenbaum told The Herald. “I think if we dare to examine all different kinds of bias, we can become stronger as a group of change agents.”

Tannenbaum, who teaches the popular public speaking course TAPS0220: “Persuasive Communication,” had coached past TEDxBrownU speakers before being invited to speak this year, she said.

“Presenting allowed me to understand my students who are anxious,” Tannenbaum said. “I was very frightened, and everyone was so quiet. But I could feel keen attention and respect. People were willing to not only listen but learn more about the issue.”

Other speakers included engineering master’s student Charlie Maitland GS, who spoke about the environmental potential of nuclear energy, daring audience members to consider a future with an energy source that is at times overlooked.

Rishika Kartik ’26 dared listeners to “view accessibility as an opportunity for creativity.” 


Kartik had worked with members of the blind community, leading them in tactile art classes. She explained that oftentimes, art is inaccessible to disabled people — she encouraged the audience, like her students, to “smell the art, hear the art, feel the art and yes — please touch the art.”

Director of the Mindfulness Center Eric Loucks, who is also an associate professor of epidemiology, medicine and behavioral and social sciences, spoke about his research on the benefits of mindfulness for young adult mental health, and Kalikoonāmaukūpuna Kalāhiki ’24 shared how reconnecting with their ancestral Native Hawaiian land helped them heal from intergenerational trauma.

By daring to return to their roots and anchor themselves through farming, Kalāhiki explored the transformative power of hands-on engagement with the land. “Most of us grow up learning how to survive, but through the land, we can truly learn how to thrive,” Kalāhiki said.

“TEDx gives a platform to people you might not otherwise encounter,” Rana said. “We’re channeling these voices to the greater community.”

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Rana added that the talks will be posted on TEDx’s YouTube channel, which has 37.8 million subscribers.

“TEDx is unique in that it’s educational, but also highly personal,” Chan said. “It’s really inspiring to hear what our community is made of.”

Anisha Kumar

Anisha Kumar is a senior staff writer covering Graduate Student Life. She is from From Menlo Park, California, and enjoys doing crossword puzzles in her free time.

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