For the first time in TEDxBinghamtonUniversity history, this past Sunday’s conference, titled “For Future Reference,” hosted more than one student speaker.
TED is a nonprofit organization with TEDx organizations acting as independent groups with TED licenses to create TEDx Talk events. TEDxBinghamtonUniversity has held 11 conferences since 2010, each featuring five to seven speakers. Traditionally, only one student speaker has been involved. This year, however, there were seven student speakers and one alumna who took the stage. The event is run by undergraduate student directors, student volunteers and designers.
The directors of TEDxBinghamtonUniversity 2021 were Sofia Fasullo, a junior double-majoring in geography and mathematics, Colleen Nugent, a sophomore double-majoring in philosophy, politics and law and French, Lorin Miller, a junior double-majoring in English and Italian, Ethan Stone, a junior majoring in business administration, and Jake West, a senior double-majoring in sociology and mathematics.
While COVID-19 may have thrown a wrench into the group’s original plans, Stone said they had fun adapting to the virtual platform.
“Planning this year’s event during the pandemic has been an incredible learning curve, and it has also been an amazing opportunity to try something totally different than what we have done in the past, like our lineup of mostly student speakers for this year’s conference,” Stone said.
This year, there were eight TEDx talks, seven of which were prerecorded in the Osterhout Concert Theater to comply with COVID-19 safety measures. Speakers included Michael Herceg, a senior majoring in business administration, Eitan Ezor, a senior majoring in computer science, Elisse Howard, a junior double-majoring in psychology and human development, Yiqing Lu, a junior majoring in linguistics, Ivo Kennedy, a second-year graduate student studying public health, Kaly Otero, a senior majoring in comparative literature, Humza Khan, a junior majoring in mathematics, Sara McCann, a sophomore majoring in nursing, and Rachel Murat, MA ‘01 and a teacher at Maine-Endwell Central School District.
Aiming to showcase new ideas, the conference included talks discussing various topics, including the normalization of Adderall in college life, women, sex and shame and the master narrative of white, cisgender educators.
Herceg, who gave a talk titled “Save the World, One Dad Joke At a Time,” said the main point of his TEDx talk was to show what a valuable skill humor was.
“Right now, the world is becoming a more tragic place every day,” Herceg said. “Ideas are the spark for a better future. So, how can anyone become the ‘idea person?’ I say that a great place to start is by working in your humor. Someone who is funny is often more creative and better at coming up with ideas. Humor is also a skill, something that if you intentionally work at, you will eventually improve on. So, if we all start actively working at being funny, more ideas are possible and we have a better chance at a brighter future.”
In her talk, “The Trinity of Blame: Women, Sex and Shame,” Otero discussed women, sex and tradition, as well as loneliness.
“It turns out that it’s not just men, but the human condition is one of agonizing loneliness, of wanting to be seen as who you are,” Otero said. “Shame is the drain of progress. Love is sweet labor. I did it for my daughter, and I‘ll do it for you too, because change is coming. If you can do it for your women.”
While the reasoning behind having numerous student speakers was to accommodate COVID-19 safety precautions, West said the directors saw it as an opportunity.
“This year’s event is mostly made up of students in order to accommodate the on-campus [COVID-19] restrictions,” West said. “Only able to bring BU students to the Anderson Center’s stage, we seized the opportunity to do our first multi-student conference.”
Fasullo agreed that embracing the opportunity for a multi-student conference was a success.
“Students will shape the future, and their ideas will be looked back on as markers of a time in which innovation and inspiration were essential,” Fasullo said. “For that reason we chose the theme of our event — ‘For Future Reference.’”
Nugent said she hoped attendees left the event feeling inspired.
“We hope that students take away a few things from our conference,” Nugent said. “Firstly, that their voices are important and should be heard. Second, that they can make significant changes in the community by taking action and speaking up.”
Miller, who hosted the livestream event on YouTube, said TEDxBinghamtonUniversity has grown significantly over the past two years in the face of COVID-19 health precautions and adapting to an online format.
“It feels great to have been able to pull off a second virtual conference,” Miller said. “It’s been very rewarding to bring these events to life, and I would definitely encourage people to apply for the TEDxBinghamtonUniversity directorship if they’re interested.”