TEDx directors encourage students to ‘Stray the Course’

Organizers use social media 'get the X around campus'

Directors organizing this year’s TEDx talk at Binghamton University are straying from the norm, and encouraging BU students to do the same.

Paige Nazinitsky/Managing Editor

Tickets went on sale Monday for the March 30 talk, titled “Stray the Course.” Organizers Steve Prosperi, Stephanie Izquieta and Gina Kim are hoping to do just that.

“All TED conferences are very different, but ours is very different from what the norm is starting to become,” said Prosperi, a junior majoring in finance and marketing of new media as part of the individualized major program.

Prosperi explained that at other campuses, like Rutgers University, students have to apply with a resume to attend TEDx talks, and admission could be hundreds of dollars, whereas BU’s TEDx talk costs $5 and is open to the public.

Rather than planning for an exclusive audience, Prosperi said organizers “decided to give it to the people,” bringing speakers from an array of backgrounds.

“If you look at the speakers, nothing really connects them,” said Izquieta, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

This year’s conference will include talks from Ben “Unidan” Eisenkop, Hannah Fry, Jeff Garzik, Anna Holmes, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Gabriel Sayegh and Sebastian Walker, with a performance from the Binghamton Crosbys.

This is the fourth year of TEDx talks at BU, which was the first SUNY to host its own TEDx conference. Organizers said they are looking for more student engagement this year leading up to the event.

“This year we’re trying to get the ‘X’ around campus,” Izquieta said, referring to the group’s Facebook page, which features students with the red “X” that symbolizes the independently organized conferences. “We, the organizers, challenge you: How are you going to stray the course?”

Connecting to students is important, Izquieta said, because of the potential students at BU have.

“It’s these things that we don’t always see on the surface of people when we sit next to them in class, but when you ask them the question — everyone’s passionate about something,” Izquieta said.

The directors said they may tap into those ideas in the future with a competition for one undergraduate speaker to give his or her own TED talk at next year’s event.

“You never know — anyone among us now could be a future TED speaker because they may have some idea that’s great that they just haven’t shared yet,” Izquieta said.

This year, organizers are holding a social media competition for students who like the TEDxBinghamtonUniversity Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Students can take a screenshot of their interaction on social media and send it to bingtedx@gmail.com for a chance to be picked to have dinner with this year’s speakers, the three directors, BU President Harvey Stenger and a handful of administrators.

Prosperi, who was also a TEDx director last year, said the transition from last year to this year has been mostly smooth.

“I thought there was going to be a huge learning curve, but Stephanie and Gina picked it up right away,” Prosperi said.

The first year of TEDxBinghamtonUniversity drew less than 100 students, with 600-700 attending in the second year and 1,200 students last year in the sold-out Osterhout Concert Theater, according to Prosperi.

With the TED slogan of “ideas worth spreading,” directors said they are looking forward to hosting speakers from an array of backgrounds, all of whom have made their mark by going against the grain.

“In two weeks’ time, we’re going to have seven speakers coming to the Osterhout Theater and 1,200 students come see them,” Prosperi said, “and all of the speakers up there … are about to be, in a sense, idolized by students because they strayed the course.”