Featured is the TEDx banner in front of the room where the event was being held. The theme was “Creativity and Compassion.” (Photo courtesy of Alexis Koukos)
By Alexis Koukos and Kyle Venditti
One year ago, Kristina Otfinoski, sophomore, had the vision that a TED talk could take place at WCSU. On Saturday, she walked into the Science Building and transformed room 125 into a cradle of ideas. TEDx was here, and her vision had become a reality.
On November 16, 2013, the Science Building housed TEDxWCSU, an independently organized TED event. The event was organized by WCSU students and open to everyone on campus and the general public.
Otfinoski and co-organizer KathrynWichman, sophomore majoring in Elementary Education with a focus in Mathematics, have been planning this event for many months and their hard work finally paid off on Saturday.
“It definitely was work getting here,” Otfinoski said. “We basically had to make the event ourselves without the help of any club or outside organization. But it was well worth the stress.”
Wichman said she was so excited when Otfinoski told her about bringing a TEDx conference to campus.
“I became almost obsessed with TED talks my senior year of High School after seeing Ken Robinson’s ‘School Kills Creativity,’” Wichman said. “When Kristina mentioned doing a TEDx event at WCSU I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.”
Otfinoski first talked about her idea to hold a TED talk at WCSU to her Hon 100 class last autumn. Dr. Kukk, political science professor and Honors Program Director, helped spread the word about this event.
Dr. Kukk said he supported TEDx, “because it’s Inter-disciplinary in every sense of the word.”
The Honors Program quickly became a strong advocate of the event, with many students learning about it from their Hon 100 course. Hearing about this event in class and from friends, many students decided to volunteer.
Jenny VanVeen, sophomore majoring in Psychology, first learned about this event in her honors class and was one of the 20 student volunteers who helped with the planning and set-up for the event.
“I think it was really cool that an event like this was happening at our school – and I had to be a part of it,” VanVeen said.
Similarly, Colleen Mair, sophomore Justice, Law and Administration student, said she wanted to be involved when Otfinoski first described this event to her class last year. After researching TEDx videos, Mair fell in love with the idea and decided to be a volunteer.
Otfinoski began TEDxWCSU with welcoming remarks and introduced the first speaker, Matthew Dicks. Dicks spoke of the importance of nurturing the creative nature of students, stating that the current education system is too formulaic and that every student is different and should be treated as such, with a personalized education. Closing his talk, Dicks said, “Let a creative person do whatever they want, so long as they get to the finish line, that’s what counts.”
The next speaker was WCSU’s own Mike French, senior political philosophy major. His presentation was titled “An Atheist’s Guide to Compassion”, which discussed how compassion is a force that transcends religion and that all people, regardless of their religion, stand to benefit from actions that aid the whole of society.
The program then shifted to a pre-recorded poem written and performed by Shane Koyczan followed by a brief intermission. Food and refreshments were provided by Sodexo and free to all who attended.
The event started up again with an original composition by Dale Osterman, a junior majoring in Music and Audio Production, entitled “Around a Flame.”
Matthew Badger presented a short film about the nature of schooling and how the current system suppresses creative thinking through route memorization, a method by which students only memorize skills and facts instead of concepts behind them. He stated that every child has “multiple intelligences” which are not addressed by most school systems. Instead of route memorization, he suggested creating an art-infused education in which creativity is emphasized and learning is fun for children, allowing them to learn abstract concepts in their own way.
The final live speaker was Hasib Muhammad, a junior from Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. His discussed the errors of big business in the sense of practical, realistic trains of thought limiting their ability to innovate and change the world. He suggested a new bottom-up system in which the youth of the world would advise corporations and governments with new ideas, stating that children are not limited by reality and whether something is realistic or not, allowing them to innovate in ways unimaginable by adults.
Following Hasib’s presentation was a live Jazz performance by Western students and another prerecorded TED video by Ken Robinson titled “How Schools Kill Creativity.” With that final video, Oftinoski closed the conference and thanked the audience, speakers, volunteers and everyone who made the conference possible.
Wichman said planning the event took a lot of work from “finding speakers, financing the event and getting things as organized as possible,” but she was so pleased many WCSU students participated.
“It was also very exciting to see how many student volunteers we were able to gather,” Wichman said, adding: “My favorite part of the event was definitely meeting the speakers and hearing what they had to say.”
After the event, Oftinoski said she would like to hold another TEDx conference sometime in the future.
“Next time, we would like to get more help and plan this on a larger scale, but this was a good first step for Western and it was well worth the labors Kathryn and I went through to get it rolling,” she said. “[The topic] was something that had to be discussed here, and we’d like to do it again in a couple of years.”
WHAT IS TEDx?
“TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, ‘ideas worth spreading.’ The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. [. . .] At TEDx events, a screening of TED Talks videos — or a combination of live presenters and TED Talks videos — sparks deep conversation and connections. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.” – www.ted.com/tedx
For more information on TED talks, visit www.ted.com/tedx