“Open doors. Access opportunity, knowledge, and CHANGE”.
Saturday, March 23 University of Redlands students hosted their very first TEDx Conference. The program was split into two sessions. The first sold out, while the second session was five tickets shy from doing the same—an immense success for those working behind the scenes.
But what is TEDx? The acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design—three uniquely diverse subject areas that each play a major role in shaping the world. The “x” in TEDx represents an individual entity that chooses to operate under the platform that TED offers, though it is distinctly independent of the TED organization. One of the student coordinators of the conference, Elaine Liu, explained the motive of the program,
“TED is meant to get you thinking in a new kind of way.”
Liu and her fellow coordinator, Dominick Sullivan, are both sophomore students this year at Redlands. While Liu and Sullivan worked day and night to get the program up and running, both students refused to take full credit for their work. Liu and Sullivan found rather quickly that the workload required of them in order to host a TEDx conference was far more than the two of them could handle alone. After briefly advertising for some aid, Liu and Sullivan kickstarted an application process and interviewed 30 students, resulting in a team of 14 new members for their committees.
“I was shocked…I didn’t think that many people would even be interested.” Liu said.
Now able to delegate jobs and tasks, the two students could focus on specific roles. Sullivan settled into his position as head of the Marketing Committee and Liu as head of Curation Committee; later, fellow sophomore student Noel Kendrick was called in as head of Productions Lead to help during the day of the conference.
Sullivan explained that his role homed in on marketing to the targeted audience (Redlands students). He also worked directly with the administration on campus in order to get funds and create an advertisement campaign. Liu dedicated her time to interviewing speakers for the sessions, helping them to identify and foster their own topics of interest. The other students that were part of the TEDx Redlands committees worked hard to complete tasks that Liu and Sullivan did not have the time to do, such as editing speeches.
The idea to bring TEDx to the University originally stemmed from Sullivan in the 2017/18 academic year. Soon, the hindrance of inexperience caused Sullivan to seek out Liu, whose past experiences in hosting TED programs came in handy (Lui was on two TED program committees during her time in high school). The two met during their freshman year and had discovered a mutual joy for TED. After consulting Liu, the two got straight to work with proposals and licensing.
Liu and Sullivan aspire to have TEDx Redlands become an annual, student-led event with the goal to foster an expansion of academic horizons. The theme of this year’s two-session conference was “Open Doors.” Liu, Sullivan and the committee members felt that in order to launch their first program on campus, it was best to open speaker positions up to the students, faculty and community members of the University. After being asked what TEDx offers to the Redlands community, Sullivan stated:
“This opportunity is special for Redlands students because it’s their University of Redlands professors and peers speaking.”
By restricting the speakers to solely University faculty/students, the TEDx Redlands committee members have truly begun to foster new relationships, networks and discourses within the University community. Their “Ideas Worth Spreading,” a slogan used by TED, have pulled the diverse groups of students on campus together, as well as put Redlands on the map to those outside the community.
Liu and Sullivan plan to continue with their roles for the remainder of their times at Redlands. The two have created an impact on campus with their story—demonstrating, rather successfully, the importance of taking initiative and creating a space on campus to share ideas for change.
Both sessions of the University of Redlands TEDx 2019 Conference have been filmed and will be posted on the TEDx YouTube page. The event was also live-streamed and can be accessed on the University of Redlands Facebook page.
Photo submitted by Brenna Phillips, a recent graduate of the University.
A correction has been run on this story modifying the mispelling of the last name Liu, it was published as Lui.