Dartmouth hosts TEDx event on Saturday

by Grayce Gibbs | 4/16/19 2:00am

The director of philanthropy for Beyoncé’s entertainment company, a neurosurgery professor at Stanford University, the founder of College Pulse and 11 others spoke at the TEDxDartmouth conference in Spaulding Auditorium this past Saturday. 

Around 650 students, faculty and community members gathered for the event. TED is a nonprofit that seeks to spread through talks given in under 18 minutes. The “x” denotes an independently organized event. 

According to TEDxDartmouth president and founder Arvind Suresh ’19, the entire event cost over $23,000. The event’s sponsors included the College — in honor of its 250th anniversary — the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and the Rassias Center, as well as all but one of the College’s residential housing communities. The speakers were selected from over 250 initial applications, according to Suresh. The TEDxDartmouth team, which includes Suresh, Heather Flokos ’19, Alice Hsu ’19, Josephine Kalshoven ’19, Brenda Miao ’19 and over 20 others, has been planning the conference since last spring. 

Hsu said that one of the first priorities in the planning process was coming up with the theme.

“Last year, our theme was paradigm shifts, which was really focused on the changes that were happening in society and how we saw that projecting into the future,” Hsu said. “We really wanted to focus more this year on the interconnectedness of societies and communities that support these changes.”

The conference’s theme was “Living Bridges: Connectivity and Community.” The master of ceremonies for the event, physics and astronomy professor Marcelo Gleiser, began the conference by introducing the speakers as a group of “bridge-makers” who “connect different worlds and different experiences.” 

The first speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur Ivy McGregor, focused on the power each person has as an individual to spark change. She challenged the audience to “return to your young fearless selves where you believed that anything was possible.”  

Suresh said that McGregor was chosen to speak first because the content of her talk fit well with the theme and set the stage for the other speakers. 

McGregor’s talk was followed by Staci Mannella ’18, a Paralympian who suffers from congenital vision impairment and is legally blind. A result of her lawsuit against Dartmouth for a lack of adequate accessibility services, Mannella helped create institutional change through the creation of a new protocol for students with disabilities. 

Rather than spending her allotted 18 minutes talking, Tyné Angela Freeman ’17 MALS ’19 sang three pieces from her album “Bridges,” a cross-cultural and multilingual collection of songs. 

Freeman’s performance was followed by a talk given by English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor Ivy Schweitzer, women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor Pati Hernandez and former inmate Charlotte Rankin, who discussed the stigma around “the prison industrial complex.”

The final two talks of the morning session were given by director of sustainability Rosi Kerr ’97 and College Pulse founder Terren Klein ’17.

During the hour-long lunch break, TEDxDartmouth partnered with the Hood Museum of Art to create a self-guided activity for participants. According to Hsu, this activity was one way in which the organizers attempted to make the conference interactive. 

The conference reconvened in Spaulding after the lunch break for Geisel School of Medicine professor and associate dean for global health Lisa Adams MED ’90’s talk on the need to decolonize the global health stage and move towards more equitable partnerships. Following Adams’ talk, English professor Donald Pease discussed Dartmouth’s history, beginning with Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the landmark 1819 Supreme Court case that preserved Dartmouth’s status as a private college.

In another unconventional presentation, Christiana Rose MA ’20 shared an interdisciplinary dance and acrobatic routine. Stanford neurosurgery professor Odette Harris ’91 reflected on a talk given by astronaut Mae Jemison that she attended during her senior year of college, as well as her own work as a doctor, professor and leader. 

“I was really looking forward to hearing Odette Harris’s talk, and I loved her presentation,” Woodstock Union High School senior Momo Biele said. “I’m hoping to go into neuroscience, so I found her really inspiring.”  

Jake Epstein ’21, a member of the Magnuson Center’s Student Leadership Board, was the only undergraduate speaker. He spoke about the fundamentals of blockchain and its potential to create fairer and more equitable data access. The last talk belonged to Pete McBride ’93, who discussed his time in Grand Canyon National Park, during which he spent over a year documenting the park and highlighting the challenges it faces as outside developers push for a mega resort and tramway into the canyon. 

The conference was the second iteration of what Hsu and Suresh hope will become a long-standing tradition. Prior to 2018, Dartmouth last held a TEDx conference in 2011. Due to the inexperience of new leaders and the lack of returning membership, the conference did not continue, according to Hsu.  

“It’s kind of the perennial Dartmouth problem because of the way the D-Plan works and the weird way that classes interact [with one another],” Hsu said. “If you don’t build up a strong succeeding class it dies off. I’ve seen it happen with many organizations. Part of being an organizer is finding great underclassmen to help us because we don’t want this to be the last time.”

Rachel Quist ’22, who was on this year’s TEDx team, said she hopes to stay involved and continue making future conferences a success.

“I hope that both the community members and the Dartmouth students felt like TEDx was something they would definitely want to come back to again, and that it was definitely worth their time,” she said.