TED talks have become a staple in modern education. Student Government thus brought to campus TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events created by TED. TEDxUND 2014: “Creating Knowledge Together” offered brilliant students and faculty a platform through which o present their passions and inspire our scholastic community.
TEDxUND began two years ago when Student Government’s Department of Academic Affairs initiated the conversation about how to bring a large scale academic forum to the Notre Dame community. Max Brown, student director of the Department of Academic Affairs, commented on the worth of organizing a TEDx event on campus.
“We wanted to stimulate discussions related to current innovation and ideas, especially with respect to the remarkable work that our community’s students, faculty, alumni, staff and friends engage in,” said Brown.
This past October, Academic Affairs invited students and faculty of the Notre Dame community to speak at TEDxUND 2014. Freshman Jake Makowski, a student speaker at the event, eagerly applied with the hope of satisfying his dream of delivering a TED talk.
“I had always wanted to do a TED talk. Ever since I saw my first one [during] freshman year of high school, I thought that TED was a fantastic representation of the human desire to communicate, and I do love to talk.,” Makowski explained. “After sharing this with my friends at the beginning of my first year, one told me that TEDx was coming to ND and sent me the email application. I applied, got called back for an interview, and then made it. Nothing else much to it.”
The event featured a morning and an afternoon session in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Live speakers presented in one auditorium, while another housed live streaming of the talks to allow for more viewers. Professor Candida R. Moss and Dean Hugh R. Page, Jr. served as emcees. Makowski described the elocution of his talk, A Means of Communication, as a great experience.
“It was exhilarating to deliver the talk to my peers and faculty members. Doing what I love for the entertainment and education for others….[W]ell, if I could do that as my job, I would never work a day in my life,” he said.
The talks addressed a wide variety of interests, spanning the sciences, the humanities, the arts and other contemporary topics. Student attendee Elicia Dennis, a freshman studying engineering, offered her personal insights on the effect of the diverse assortment of themes.
“It was enlightening. Even the talks I wasn’t really that interested in hearing were fascinating. They speak to people of a variety of interests,” she said.
During both sessions, a break in the talks allowed for dialoguing and networking with the presenters. Dennis related how this opportunity created a dynamic that contributed to the event’s theme: “It definitely lends to the concept of ‘creating knowledge together.’ It’s not that someone is just telling you something and leaving it at that. It allows you to ask questions and exchange ideas which allows for even more growth.”
Not only did TEDxUND 2014 inspire student and faculty in attendance, but it also provided the presenters with a unique setting in which to develop their own talents and engage in a high energy, high quality academic forum. Faculty speaker Marie Bourgeois, graphic designer for University Communications and assistant professor in the department of Art, Art History and Design, gave a talk titled Finding Your Visual Voice: How to Become an Empowered Consumer, which addressed the importance and universal accessibility of visual thinking.
“I gained so much from interacting and listening to the other speakers,” Bourgeois commented. “It was certainly a new experience to engage in this manner of public speaking, and it was an enriching experience to write and practice my talk, but the greatest value I took from the event came from the fantastic people I met and the inspiring conversations I had.”
TEDxUND 2014 made a significant impact upon both the faculty and student populations. Faculty speaker Tim Weninger, assistant professor of both Computer Science and Engineering, shared how his participation in the event granted both perspective and appreciation.
“From the faculty perspective it allowed us to step back and look at our research from a broader perspective,” he said. “Many times we focus on tiny pieces of a very specific problem, and we never take the time to step back and look at why it all matters. TEDx forced us to drop the lingo, dispense with the acronyms and actually talk about why our life’s work really matters.”
Perhaps most importantly, TEDxUND revealed the insight and the ability of every member of the Notre Dame community. Faculty or student, experienced sage or aspiring intellectual, members of the community experience the wonder and awe of knowledge.
“TEDxUND not only gave a voice to some of the brilliant minds and creative geniuses of Notre Dame, but also sent the message that really anyone can be amazing,” remarked Makowski. “I’m just a freshman fresh off the boat from Seattle. If I can do it, anyone and his mother can.”
Catriona Shaughnessy is a freshman living in Farley Hall. She plans to study psychology, and she enjoys dancing across North Quad and savoring her go-to dining hall treat of froyo mixed with her cereal of choice. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.