TEDx conference to come to Northwestern

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

Nikita Ramanujam has always been inspired by the ideas of her classmates.

But Ramanujam never felt there was a proper platform for those ideas to be shared. So she took it upon herself to give not only students, but also faculty and alumni an opportunity to share their innovative ideas: TEDxNorthwesternU 2014.

Now Ramanujam, a SESP junior, and co-event organizer Michele Weldon, associate professor emerita of journalism, are looking for speakers to present at the conference. Prospective speakers have until Jan. 15 to submit a one-minute video with a 100-word description of their talk. The selected speakers — three students, three faculty and three alumni — will be announced Feb. 1.

TED, a nonprofit organization, holds two annual conferences where speakers have 18 minutes to share “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TEDx conferences are independently organized events that are dedicated to the same mission and often have a theme. NU previously hosted TEDx conferences in 2010 and 2012, but only faculty spoke.

Weldon, a self-proclaimed “TED geek,” said the conference will highlight the great ideas that exist at NU.

“It’s an attempt at unifying the Northwestern community around innovation and original ideas that matter,” she said. “Sharing the knowledge that is created here and found here within our community and a much wider world.”

She added that while NU’s format of having students, faculty and alumni speak is unusual, it is a “perfect collection” and fits well with the theme of “Crossing Paths.”

“We thought the theme of ‘Crossing Paths’ and the theme of these three different Northwestern communities would be a perfect display of all the ideas that are born here.”

Ramanujam said that she wants people to come to the event with an “open mind and open heart.”

“I think people get stuck in their own bubble sometimes and it’s a little bit hard to get out of it and I’m guilty of that myself, but once we realize how much potential we have on this campus, it’s truly impressive.”

Communication senior Michael Silberblatt has already applied to speak at the conference. In his application video, he titled his presentation, “Why Little Red Riding Hood Was Wrong.”

“It talks about the importance of exploring uncharted territories, exploring new directions, taking new paths and being open to breaking habits,” he said.

The connection to the fairy tale, Silberblatt said, lies in a moral of the story.

“One of the big lessons is that it teaches you to stay on the path that is paved for you ahead of time, don’t stray into the woods or else the proverbial wolf will come out to get to you,” he said. “Through this TED talk, I’m making the argument that while Little Red Riding Hood actually does have a number of great lessons … that particular notion of staying on the paved route ahead of you is not necessarily something that we should follow so literally — that there is value in exploration.”

The conference will be held April 12 in the McCormick Tribune Center from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

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