As the TEDx conference at Wellesley approaches, the team of students organizing events works to raise funds and generate excitement on campus for the upcoming event with themed screenings and an increased online presence.
Aditi Jhaveri ’18, lead organizer of the team , was inspired to begin planning for TEDx Wellesley College last year because she had participated in TEDx Youth Conferences during high school. She applied for the license necessary to host an independent conference. To do so, she had to create a purposefully ambiguous theme, “To or Not To,” and reach out to the coordinators of TED Talks.
This is the second TEDx conference that Wellesley will host, the first being the conference last spring semester. Last year a group of students attempted to organize a second conference but could not secure the license.
Ye Eun Jeong ’16 had applied last year to assist in organizing the event, so when the applications came out this year, she was skeptical of the conference’s success. However, she is now sponsorship and budgets manager with Grace Hellstrom ’18. The group’s efforts to fundraise included taking photos on Flower Sunday, which created their initial pool of money. However, both Jhaveri and Jeong cite funding for the conference as a major obstacle.
One reason both believe that funding is a problem is because of the difficulty receiving the funding from the college itself. The organization is not constituted, making it more difficult to apply for funding. Also, much of the college’s funding is focused on other goals.
“Situations this year are kind of different for funding. There are a lot of expenditures on campus this year that prevent us from having as much money as we did two years ago like the Pendleton renovation and the campaign launching. So we weren’t allowed to reach out to alums because of the campaign — alums are supposed to donate to the school. The pool of money that is available to us is a little tighter this year” Jeong explained.
For the 2014 TEDx conference at Wellesley, the student organizers were successful in approaching the college president’s office for a substantial amount of funding. However, Jhaveri realized that this was not an option this year due to turnover in the office and the uncertainty that accompanies such an event.
“This year we were made very cautious of even approaching the president’s office because with all of these changes going on they cannot give their unconditional support and time. So you’d much rather dedicate that time and energy into planning the event on your own,” she said.
Despite the obstacles in funding, Jhaveri remains optimistic.
“That being said, because we have the TEDx name and the conference two years ago was so successful, we hope that we can reach out to different departments, different students through our fundraising activities that we can actually raise adequate money,” Jhaveri said.
Aside from funding, one of the organizing team’s main goals at this point is generating excitement on campus for the upcoming conference. Jeong, although she is a budget manager, suggested hosting themed screenings around campus and took initiative by organizing the first few Students attend the first screening event with the TEDx conference. screenings.
“Usually, I like to help out with whatever function I can, not just limited to my formal function,” Jeong said, referring to her formal role of budget managing. “What I was more interested in was how to creatively engage the campus community to get excited about this conference and the fact that it is actually taking off this year for the second time.”
Her idea was to have different members of the team host their own screenings, allowing them to have liberty in choosing which themes they enjoy and publicizing it themselves. Jeong held the first of the screenings in Tower Court West TV room on Friday Oct. 30. The theme was engineering because TED Talks was her first exposure to the subject.
“I think TED conferences are really great because they talk about pollination across disciplines a lot and creativity that’s not limited to one discipline. That’s why I wanted to promote the idea of celebrating creativity across disciplines.” Jeong expressed.
She will also be holding a themed screening in collaboration with Advocates for North Korean Human Rights (ANKHR), an organization she is a part of, in order to involve more groups in the excitement for the TEDx conference.
“I’m also trying to encourage both demographics to be interested in the other. It’s a way to engage multiple interest groups on campus,” Jeong explained.
The team hopes that with consistent screenings it can recreate or inspire a similar momentum that students had when Jhaveri first started promoting her idea of organizing the conference. Also, greater awareness of the conference may help in finding volunteers as the date approaches.
“I think that will make us more accessible to everyone so when we’re getting volunteers there are going to be a lot more people who’d be more comfortable volunteering because they know the kind of people we are. I also think, in terms of awareness about the event, it will start creating a buzz. Everyone’s going to know that this is leading up to something,” Jhaveri said.
The TEDx team is also planning to expand the online presence in order to reach out to more students and create hype. Danica Kim ’19 and Emily Zhao ’17 are the team members involved in communications and online marketing.
“The team is hoping to promote TEDxWC in an exciting and relevant way that stands out from more traditional ‘spam.’ This semester we’re launching a campaign that engages students by getting them to think about ‘to or not to’ as it relates to their own lives,” Zhao explained.
Zhao and Kim are working to find a way to have their promotions stand out from the flood of other spam that Wellesley students face daily. Kim also expressed some apprehension about standing out from other events in the area.
“I feel that because we are near so many bigger and more established TED Talks that happen in Boston, it’s hard to develop a presence on social media. Having so many events happening all the time, it’s hard to create a presence, especially since we aren’t in the heart of Boston like many colleges,” Kim said. “Also, because advertising is one of the last steps (speakers have to be confirmed, location, time, etc. all have to be set), it can be difficult to always have something new to provide since the entire process of selecting speakers and creating the event is happening at once.”
Although there are difficulties in funding and promoting a conference of this scale with a small group of 15 students, Kim believes that TEDxWC is worth the work of generating excitement for the student population.
“Anticipation creates a sense of unity, especially when big groups of people are excited about one event/topic. TEDx is so special in that people with vastly different interests can come together and be thrilled and passionate in one space, sharing their ideas with one another while also listening to people who have great stories to tell,” Kim said.