TEDx at Clark University inspires attendees to embrace passions, spread change

April 20, 2015
Hosts and organizers greet attendees at Clark University's first TEDx event, April 11 in Razzo Hall.

Hosts and organizers greet attendees at Clark University's first TEDx event, April 11 in Razzo Hall.

The Global Scholars Program at Clark University, in collaboration with administration, faculty and student volunteers, executed a daylong TEDx event on April 11 that brightened a long-awaited sunny spring day with a variety of talks, presentations, art installations, interaction, food and fun.

TEDx talks are independently organized TED events that are held around the world and designed to help communities, organizations and individuals spark conversation and connection through local, TED-like experiences.

* Click here to watch a video recap of TEDxClarkUniversity. (Full, TED-approved videos of the talks should be online in May.) *

TEDxClarkUniversity showcased the ideas of Clark University students who strive to transform their ideas into reality, engaged professors and staff who have shared years of expertise and knowledge, and alumni who have upheld Clark's motto, "Challenge convention. Change our world. "The theme for the event was "Inspired by YOU," encouraging speakers, audience and organizers to inspire each other to dream, share, learn and take action.

Students, faculty, staff, and other community members began arriving at Razzo Hall around 10 a.m. on Saturday and were treated to brunch and coffee provided by Crust and Revelry Coffee. Many had photos taken behind the artfully customized TEDxClarkUniversity "photo booth" cut-out. Several added personalized thoughts to a large "inspiration tree."

"I think the TEDxClarkUniversity conference was a testimony of the passion of the Clark community. I watched what was merely an idea in August 2014 manifest into much more," said the event's key organizer Delight Gavor '16.

The TEDx sessions were presented three parts. The first was "Be the Best YOU" and featured speakers Michino Hisabayashi '15, Jacob Steenwyk '15, Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Arnett, Amanda Canarios '17, and Clark librarian Rachael Shea. They spoke about transforming one's weaknesses into strengths and the importance of bringing back youthful mindsets in the times of confusion, fear, and stress that so often go hand in hand with growing up.

During a break following the first of three TEDx sessions, people were encouraged to relax and play -- including with  hula hoops.

During a break following the first of three TEDx sessions, people were encouraged to relax and play — including with hula hoops.

The second TEDx session, "Embrace the Passion in YOU," featured speakers who used slam poetry, music, magic, and other art forms that aimed to empower the audience to play a role in bringing about change — whether getting rid of stigmas surrounding disabilities, or ensuring that technology does not consume the face-to-face relationships that still exist in a media-driven society. The featured speakers for this second session were Jerry Maday, transport manager at the College of the Holy Cross, Clark students Mohamed Ali Elmaola '18, Jaime Lara '16, Ariel Rubin '16, and Rob Davis, who is a medical nurse and comic-magician.

The third and final session focused on "Spreading the Change in YOU." Speakers included Corey Dickinson '15, Clark Research Professor of Sociology Bob J.S. Ross, Florcy Romero '16, Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones '15, Olivia Rogine '14, Clark alumnus and creative director at Entertaining Diversity Inc., Teja Arboleda '85, and Ja-Naé Duane, founder of The Revolution Institute and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Clark's Innovation & Entrepreneurship program. Their talks raised awareness on societal issues, including racism, slave labor, unsustainable global practices and more. The speakers suggested simple ways to fight these issues on both small and large scales.

The TEDx "Inspired by YOU"  frame outside Razzo Hall, offered fun photo opps.

The TEDx "Inspired by YOU" frame outside Razzo Hall, offered fun photo opps.

The curator team for Clark's first ever TEDx worked hard to coordinate and schedule the speakers, topics and order of presentations, Gavor noted. The event was set up to not only inspire audience members through listening, but also through appealing to their other senses. Each attendee was given a tote bag that held five elements intended to engage five primary senses: for sight, a customized postcard to visually record their intellectual journey; for sound, a USB drive with the "soundtracks" of Clark; for smell, the organizers created air fresheners in the shape of a heart inspired by Esther Howland, a Worcester local who founded the American Valentine industry. For touch, a stress relief ball was included: and, finally, for taste, cuisines from Worcester establishments were provided throughout the day, ranging from fried chicken to plantains and fried rice to pizza and egg rolls.

Organizers also made sure to incorporate interactive games and hands-on activities during break periods. The official TEDxClarkUniversity hosts, Clark Dining Services' popular "Pizza-Maker Extraordinaire" Anthony (Tony) Dominguez, Jayce Bauer '18, and Mehr Gunawardena '18, encouraged everyone to stand and sing along with karaoke and play classic games like "Simon Says" in between the talks. Hula-hooping, charades and food tasting activities were set up all around Razzo Hall for audience members and speakers to enjoy.

TEDxClarkUniversity was an opportunity for the speakers to learn as well, Gavor added. She wrote: "To learn to transform the ideas they had wanted for so long to share with others, into words of power, words that moved the audience, to in return take these ideas and do something with them. For the organizers, it was their leap of faith. From the production, to the events, to the communication, to the curator to the sponsorship team, their determination and power to dream big was put to the test. Their one-year planning experience showed them that when obstacles arise, they, instead of backing down, would rise up to the occasion and find alternatives — better alternatives at that — to ensure their vision was still met. They learned the extensive power of teamwork and sharing strengths, realizing each committee had to rely on the prowess of the others for the conference to be successful. They had to learn to deal with conflict and pressure, but they did and that is a testimony of its own."

"For myself, it was a quote coming to life," Gavor continued. "A quote by Margaret Mead that reads: 'Never doubt that a group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.' Our worlds changed one way or the other through the conference. Whether it was learning to transform our worry into thinking on our feet, or learning to turn disappointment into opportunity, or speaking words of inspiration to others, we changed in our own little ways, our world and that of others."