By MICHELLE NAMKOONG ’17
TEDxWellesley held its inaugural conference, an all-day event consisted of speakers discussing their work, ideas and dreams for the future, this past Saturday in the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre. The conference focused on the theme of consilience, defined as “the linking together of principles from different disciplines, especially when forming a comprehensive theory” by TEDxWellesleyCollege.com.
The influential nonprofit TED, devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” is especially famous for its annual TED talks. TED extended its reach by creating TEDx, with the x denoting an Independently Organized Event. From TEDxSinchon, in South Korea, to TEDxVienna, the TEDx events have allowed individuals across the globe to plan and participate in their own community TED talk conferences.
According to the TEDxWellesley event program, the local conference emphasized that society needs the consilience of the sciences, arts and humanities in order to solve the greatest challenges of today.
The TEDxWellesley planning team separated the event into four sessions: Reexamining Connections, Reimagining Design, Reenvisioning Society and Redefining Boundaries, with three speakers per topic. Each session began with a short TED video related to the specific topic, such as inventor Jay Silver’s talk on transforming ordinary objects into computer interfaces, which was paired with the Reimagining Design session.
Wellesley professors, including American studies professor Paul Fisher, acted as emcees for each session. The speakers each had 35 minutes to give their prepared talks. This year, nine guest speakers—including RISD president John Maeda and former NASA astronaut Story Musgrave—one current Wellesley student and two Wellesley alumnae participated in the event.
“I had such a fantastic time performing at TEDx. It was the perfect chance to showcase everything that I’ve been able to develop all through Wellesley and all of the skills and all the hard work and discipline that went into it. I’m just so excited to have gotten to share all of this with my Wellesley community,” Makenna Murray ’14 said after speaking at Reimagining Design about her work on historic preservation through CyArk.
Cicia Lee ’14 and Yong Wei “Hamster” Chong ’14, the head organizers of TEDx, started thinking of hosting the talks at Wellesley during their sophomore year, after meeting each other in a philosophy and religion class. They applied and received the TEDx license the following year, put together a team and started working toward the first conference.
The Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre has a maximum capacity of roughly 100 audience members. The planning team explained that they chose this specific venue in accordance with official TEDx guidelines, which limit the number of audience members TEDx conferences can host.
The team capped faculty seating at 15 and divided the conference into four sessions so that a maximum of 400 people could attend the conference. The event was open to the public and free to attend.
The College also provided a live simulcast in Alumnae Hall, so the actual number of viewers was greater than the expected 400 people. The video recordings of the sessions are now available on TEDxWellesleyCollege.com
“The simulcast is open to everyone, so we can really hold more than 400 people,” Chong said.
After the talks, people got the chance to meet the speakers and write answers to questions given on posters around the room, such as “What is one thing that inspired you at today’s TEDx?”
The informal atmosphere encouraged audience members to discuss the sessions they had just attended and to socialize with speakers and other attendees.
The computer science and English departments were among the 17 departments that helped sponsor TEDxWellesley. Private businesses, including Barnes & Noble and Zipcar, also provided some funding.
“We’ve gotten so much sponsorship and support from the administration and the faculty,” Lee said. “The Wellesley environment has been really great, because there are so many opportunities for leadership here, and there are so many people enthusiastic about being leaders here. There’s an infrastructure and resources to tap into, that made this possible.”