Speakers selected for Northwestern’s first TEDx Conference

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

The lineup for TEDxNorthwesternU 2014 has been finalized. Though the event organizers initially planned to have nine speakers, the quantity and quality of the applications led them to select 12.

Co-director Nikita Ramanujam, a SESP junior, said the selection committee received 99 applications.  

“When we looked at the grand total, I was really astonished by how large that number was,” she said. “It was very difficult to narrow [it] down to nine, which is why we ended up picking 12 instead. We wouldn’t be doing justice to the Northwestern community by limiting only nine ideas.”

TEDx events are independently organized and dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” the mission of nonprofit TED. TEDxNorthwesternU, which will take place on April 12 in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, will have three sessions with four talks. The event will feature four students, four alumni and four faculty under the theme “Crossing Paths.” 

Marissa Jackson (Weinberg ’06) is one of four alumni selected to speak. Jackson, a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals, titled her presentation “Human Rights, Sankofa and the Power of Paradigms.” 

“I’m talking about human rights as the legal, social and political paradigm and specifically talking about the history of human rights in the U.S. and what happened in the 1940s and 50s and why we dismissed human rights for civil rights,” she said. “In the talk, I am going to argue that we should go back to human rights, and as an illustration, I’m going to use the Ashanti principle of Sankofa, which just means to go back and get it.”

Jackson said she applied to speak because of her admiration for Northwestern and TED.

“I’m a really proud alumna and I’ve always had this dream of participating in TED in some capacity,” she said. “I am an aspiring academic of human rights law, and the opportunity to share a central part of my research agenda with people from my undergraduate community was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.” 

She added that her talk will be dedicated to her favorite professor, the late Richard Iton. An African American studies professor, Iton died in April after battling leukemia for more than a decade. 

“He completely inspired me and helped me apply to law school,” she said. “He is one of my intellectual heroes.”

Weinberg freshman Jackson Walker will also be speaking at the conference. His talk is titled, “Finding Your Long Lost Twin.” 

“My talk is about a trip that I took back to India last winter,” he said. “I’m adopted from there and went back for the first time in December and kind of got a feel for what sorts of things I want to do with my life from that. It was kind of a culmination of a lot of things in my life.”

Walker said his unique perspective is the reason he applied to speak at the conference.

“I feel like I offer a perspective on how your past and who you were impacts your future and what you decide to make priorities in your life,” he said.

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