TEDTalks event showcases student innovation

Brandi Doyal, Staff Reporter

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Nine student and professional speakers spoke at TEDxTU on Tuesday in a lecture series that focused on the theme of unlearning; speakers told their own stories to deconstruct widely held stereotypes and assumptions. Three TEDTalk videos were also shown to promote the idea of unlearning.

TEDTalks is a global program in which speakers from a variety of disciplines share their ideas on a wide range of educational topics. This year was Tulane’s second time hosting a TEDx event. Mary Bryan, a student who helped organize the event, said the committee selected the speakers through a series of interviews. There were four speakers affiliated with Tulane University and five non-affiliates.

“We used an application process [to select the speakers],” Bryan said. “We had a running nomination [through which] people could send in nominations about who they thought would be good speakers. Then our team interviewed them and narrowed it down from there. We looked first at the Tulane population and then to New Orleans from there; sometimes we get speakers from out of state, as well.”

The speeches covered several topics that all tied back into the main theme of unlearning assumptions. One of the videos featured a TEDTalk by Derek Sivers , a successful entrepreneur. Sivers challenged the audience to let go of assumptions.

“Whatever brilliant ideas that you have or hear, the opposite may also be true,” Sivers said.

Senior Mwende Katwiwa, performing with the stage name FreeQuency, touched on the idea of assumptions by recounting her experience with the New Orleans public education system. Katwiwa recited a poem she wrote about her time volunteering at a New Orleans public school and said students should be aware of what is happening in the New Orleans education system.

“I think it is very necessary conversation here at Tulane, especially this concept of unlearning,” Katwiwa said. “We are situated in a city that is known for its struggling education system. Yet, we are all at this top-tier private institution. I think it is a really interesting dichotomy that is set up with this idea of learning and unlearning.”

Freshman Roxanne Heston talked about her experiences with community service and a movement called effective altruism. The idea of effective altruism is to think about community service as a whole.

Heston said students should think about the roots of problems that cause issues in society and use their service efforts to fix those problems, rather than patch them up. She discussed how current types of community service are not really cost effective and don’t actually solve the problems that a community faces.

Graduate student Jeffery Cho said he thought this TEDxTU was an appropriate program for Tulane to host.

“I think that it is necessary for Tulane to have programs like this, opening our minds to new ideas,” Cho said. “It is awesome hearing people from different views and different professionals sharing their viewpoints and experiences.”