The College of William and Mary will welcome seven speakers and hundreds of students, faculty and community members to the Commonwealth Auditorium for the third annual TEDxCollegeofWilliam&Mary conference March 29.
TEDx — the “x” stands for independently organized — is an offshoot of TED, the group known for producing TED Talks on topics ranging from entertainment to design. The College’s chapter was founded in 2012.
“[TEDx] was started by two students, who have since graduated, that realized the compatibility between TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading and the intellectual curiosity of the William and Mary community,” TedxCollegeofWilliam&Mary Steering Committee Co-President Lewam Kefela ’15 said in an email.
Since its founding, the College’s event has grown into one of the largest college TEDx conferences in the country.
“We have, each year, doubled or tripled in size, which is a very exciting energy to continue,” TedxCollegeofWilliam&Mary Steering Committee Co-President Chase Jordan ’15 said. “Originally, TEDx was very much about [College] alumni coming back and sharing their ideas and now we’re looking at professional industries and industry groups, bringing in people outside academia, and people within academia but outside the [College] community.”
Previously, the College’s TEDx event hosted alumni, professors, and entrepreneurs, such as the vice president of Adobe Systems.
This year, the conference’s seven speakers are award-winning Composer Mark Wood, NYC-based sex researcher Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Dr. David Casarett, Director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate Colonel Michael Coolican, associate professor of biology at the College Dr. John Swaddle, Dr. Sean Tarter, an economics professor at the College, and Pulitzer Center Journalist Stephanie Hanes.
“[TEDx’s] mission is simple: spread ideas,” Logistics Committee member Ryan Kelley ’18 said in an email. “In other words, we want to get people thinking about subjects they may not spend much time thinking about.”
In order to accomplish this goal, 2015’s conference will focus on the theme “Beyond.” According to Kelley, this theme will discuss topics that go beyond the parameters of normal conversation, such as near-death experiences and casual sex. The organizers have also focused on publicity and fundraising efforts.
“We’ve designed a series of flyers, only the first has been released so far, the tickets, t-shirts for the volunteers, and videos that will also be released are consistent in the clean and futuristic aesthetic,” Head of Marketing and Media Austen Dunn ’15 said in an email. “This year, we also want to be more transparent about the topics and the speakers coming in order to grab the attention of a greater net of people at W&M. For example, one flyer in each series will represent a speaker and their respective topic to give a little more insight into what we mean by ‘beyond.’”
In terms of funding, TEDx has received $13,250 from the Student Assembly for speaker travel and lodging. It has also received donations from the Department of Student Affairs, the Mason School of Business and alumni.
Overall, Kelley said that he hopes conference attendees will leave the event with new, valuable information.
“The mission of TED is spread ideas, and we feel we have ideas worth spreading,” Kelley said. “We hope that some people will take a new perspective on a belief they hold or think more deeply about an issue they had never spent much time thinking about before. We’re looking for some ‘wows’ at this event, and we don’t think we’ll have much trouble getting any.”
Dunn said that TEDx also aligns well with the academic-centered College community.
“I think that specifically at William and Mary, TEDx certainly can have a powerful place among our collective love of academia, of learning, and of ideas,” she said. “I read an interview about why a transfer student came to William and Mary, and he mentioned how he noticed that everyone here has a drive for something, regardless of what that is, and I think that this can contribute to the success of TEDx at William and Mary as well. TEDx is an outlet for us — our community of driven individuals — to celebrate in what drives others and then to be inspired by their ideas ourselves.”