On Saturday, February 28, 2015, TEDxEmory hosted its main annual conference in which 13 speakers, including one Emory College student, gave 18-minute talks that have the chance to be featured on the TED official website. This event was the largest TEDx conference in the southeast, estimated to have had over 800 attendees. It is the fifth annual conference that TEDxEmory has hosted.
Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) began as an annual four-day conference in California dedicated to spreading ideas worth spreading. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and many other influential thinkers. TEDx is an extension of TED which makes these ideas accessible to a larger audience. As an independent local chapter, TEDxEmory operates under TED guidelines. For example, TEDx events must be interdisciplinary in nature, must not exceed one day in duration, and may not be used to raise money.
[quote_box name=””]I think TEDxEmory brings a level of critical thinking and engagement to Emory’s campus. We work to facilitate the spread and development of new ideas between students, with faculty, and with the greater Atlanta community- Jane Singer, Co-President of TEDxEmory[/quote_box]
In the past, TEDxEmory has hosted many unique events. Earlier this year, the group collaborated with the Alpha Tao Omega (ATO) fraternity to create an event called Salon. At the event, a series of student speakers gave five-minute talks on topics of their choice. The talks ranged from matters of dance to Ferguson to child trafficking in Atlanta. According to Izzy Kornman, a member of the Internal Affairs for TEDxEmory and a College sophomore, the location of the event “prompted a lot more intellectual conversation than you usually find there.”
TEDxEmory also participates in nearly every Wonderful Wednesday and Student Activities Fair. The group aims to spread ideas year-round and encourages student involvement. At Wonderful Wednesdays, TEDxEmory asks thought-provoking questions and documents the student responses in photographs that are then posted on social media such as Facebook.
The organization is also planning Ideathon, a hackathon-style event featuring problem statements about Atlanta. Participants will have the opportunity to solve entrepreneurial problems in innovative ways in order to win a prize. Additionally, TEDxEmory hosts monthly Speaker Series, at which professors and other members of the Atlanta community give talks. According to Singer, the Speaker Series “highlights interesting work done by faculty or members of the Atlanta community.”
TEDx hosts a large range of events.
“One of my favorite events was in conjunction with the Atlanta Ballet,” said Erica Smearman, a member of the executive board and College graduate student.
The event, which took place in September, included talks by Parkinson’s researchers on movement, a panel discussion with researchers and patients and a dance performance by the Atlanta Ballet Fellowship Ensemble. “During the day, we also hosted a bounce house in the middle of campus to align with a theme of TEDMED talks about the importance of play.”
The TEDxEmory team meets regularly on Fridays.
“We work hard to get the funding necessary to make student tickets to our main event free so that everyone can attend and see speakers from all disciplines,” said Kornman.
When asked about the future of TEDxEmory, many members spoke about continuing to expand the main event and adding new collaborations throughout the year.
“I hope that we can continue to host events that are open to everyone on campus and spark new ideas,” Kornman said.
Amrutha Khrishnaraj, currently the director of finance of TEDxEmory and a College junior, will be co-president of the organization next year alongside Christine Brittain, College junior.
“We have already started brainstorming ideas for next year and are extremely eager for what we hope to accomplish,” Khrishnaraj said.
The future co-presidents are already discussing various themes for 2016’s conference and planning to collaborate with TED-Ed, an educational venue for teaching students and viewers about different subjects through short video lessons. TEDxEmory will continue to hold Salon and the Speaker Series as well.
“At the end of the day, a single story, idea or thought may be enough to inspire one to change the world,” Khrishnaraj said.
— Ana Ioachimescu, Staff Writer