BEN JOHNSON ’18 | STAFF WRITER • Two years ago, Indiana University and Purdue University was the only two universities in Indiana that ran TEDx events at a consis- tently high level. Other large universities, such as Valparaiso University, IUPUI, and The University of Notre Dame have also ran TEDx conferences on their respective campuses, but only ran sporadically throughout the years. But few liberal arts colleges, not only in the state but across the nation, have achieved success in operating the nationally syndicated event on a consistent basis. TEDxWabashCollege, in its two years of existence, are one of those few TEDx organizations on a liberal arts campus attempting to perform just that.
The TEDx conference, with the theme Reshaping Reality, premiered last Saturday,
bringing on ten speakers from diverse backgrounds and professions to provoke new thoughts and questions to the audience of
327 people. A sold out show, the event also featured experiential learning activities for all attendees to partake in. But even though the event appears straightforward from the viewer’s perspective, the effort behind the scenes was actually a months long process, starting with deciding who the ten speakers would be.
“We initially started the process eight months ago, trying to find people who had an interesting idea to share,” Joey Lenkey ‘19, Head Curator of TEDxWabashCollege, said. “We reached out to friends, family, anyone we knew who might know someone with an interesting idea. We would flip through newspaper and magazine articles hoping to find someone who could offer a unique perspective.”
Five curators were in charge of searching for and training the speakers on how to give “good TEDx Talks.” By the end of their search, the team contacted 60-70 people, even reaching out via Twitter to Jenna Fischer, who starred as Pam in The Office. By the end of their search, their group of speakers included a relationship counselor,
a pioneering photographer, a hydroponics entrepreneur, a professional violinist, and others of various occupations. The team then worked with the speakers to help refine their talks and help them convey ideas clearly to the audience. However, while speakers played a huge role in the event’s success, planning and preparation was also needed for the design of the event.
Unlike the inaugural TEDxWabashCollege conference
last year, this year offered more activities and experiences for attendees between speaking sessions. Some activities included writing a letter to your future self, standing before a humpback whale through the use of virtual reality, and trying out yoga poses in a dimly lit Salter Hall.
“From a design perspective, you can tell by the number of activities we offered how much we grew in just one year,” Sam Stewart ‘19, Director of TEDxWabashCollege, said. “It wasn’t just eating food and watching talks. You could do yoga, interact with art, watch March Madness, or whatever you like. There was something there for everybody. I think all those little activities helped people connect with the event and find their own meaning in ‘Reshaping Reality.’”
Along with the addition of new activities offered to attendees, the organization was also able to say they were completely student- runned as well, with the exception of a few outside contractors. From logistics to logo design to camera crew, all were handled by the students themselves, and Stewart plans to keep it that way for the long-haul.
But looking to the future of TEDxWabashCollege while Stewart and Lenkey are satisfied with the improvement, they believe there is still plenty of room to grow.
“One of the big changes this year was that there was a structure and a plan,” Stewart said. “It showed in how much smoother the event was, but I think in years to come the experiences and speakers will be even better. From my eyes, the event was definitely an improvement from last year but still not up to my standards.”
Already, the team is sharing possible improvements for next year, considering how to involve the community more and build up enthusiasm across campus.
“I want to increase demand next year, not only for the event itself, but to be a part of our team,” Lenkey said. “I would hope that people who attended are inspired by TEDx and want to get involved in some way. I think this is a great event to involve the community, both at Wabash and Crawfordsville.”
If you missed the chance to attend theTEDx conference this year, and want the opportunity to view and share some of these great talks and sessions for yourself, videos of the talks will be available online in May at https://www. tedxwabashcollege.com/