TEDxYale arrives on campus

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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

Over 300 students, faculty and alumni attended the inaugural TEDxYale conference Saturday to hear the stories of 25 presenters affiliated with Yale.

In short, rapid-fire presentations throughout the day, the speakers shared their ideas with a packed crowd in the auditorium of Sheffield Sterling Strathcona Hall. The speakers at the conference, which is a culmination of months of reaching out to speakers and garnering student interest, included undergraduates, professors and alumni from across the world. Members of the audience interviewed said they appreciated the chance to hear new perspectives and learn about issues not often addressed in classrooms.

TED, which began in 1984 and stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” invites speakers and audiences to exclusive events, many of which are recorded and posted online. TEDx events, such as Saturday’s conference, are organized independently of TED with the intention of disseminating ideas from smaller communities.

With an illuminated “TEDxYale” banner behind them, many speakers began their presentations with a personal story. Sam Fox ’09 told of his experience running the entire Pacific Trail from Canada to Mexico, in honor of his mother who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Fox said while his journey involved “acute pain,” it was a story of “engaging your heart, mind and body.”

For Brad Hargreaves ’08 and Matt Brimer ’09, the word “failure” served as a focal point of their joint presentation. The pair discussed their love of entrepreneurship and the failure of their first venture, telling the crowd that failure can “open the door to wondrous things.”

A pair of sophomores garnered particularly enthusiastic responses from the crowd. Wazhma Sadat ’14 elicited a standing ovation from part of the audience with her account of her experiences in war-torn Afghanistan and the work she does to market and sell products made by Afghani women. In a more light-hearted presentation, magician Kenta Koga ’14 managed to add peanut butter and jelly to a piece of bread in a sealed paper bag held by a participant.

Gilad Tanay GRD ’12, who spoke about the disparities in economic opportunity around the world, told the News that as a graduate student, the event gave him a rare chance to share his work with people outside of academic settings.

“This is the first thing I’ve done my friends care about,” he said with a smile

Of ten attendees interviewed, four mentioned that the popular TED lectures online drew them to the event, and some said they were eager to see the talks in person.

Francisco Tamayo ’13, who helped organize the event, said for him the day was about “encouraging people, even strangers, to talk to each other.” Miles Grimshaw ’13, co-curator of TEDxYale, said he hopes to make the TEDxYale conference an annual event.

Though the event consisted primarily of speakers whose work is not widely known, two students interviewed said they were drawn by the group of presenters because of their connections to Yale.

TEDxYale was one of 12 TEDx events held on Saturday throughout the world.

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