On January 15, 2022, ten speakers, an executive board of students, an eager audience and a band of volunteers entered the DeWitt Theater for an evening of brief, high-quality presentations on a variety of topics. Together they created Hope College’s second annual TEDxHopeCollege event, West Michigan’s official independently organized TEDx event dedicated to allowing the spread of diverse ideas. The executive board, the crew and the speakers were almost exclusively Hope College students from several different years. In the end, the event was a great success according to many who attended, and the talks given covered an array of topics from education to technology. This year’s theme was “Every Single Day.” Some may have questions: what is TEDxHopeCollege? Who is involved in making it? What impact has it had on campus and on the greater West Michigan community? This week, The Anchor addresses your curiosities.
TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global nonprofit organization most well-known for hosting conferences that contain many short presentations (all under 20 minutes) on varying subjects from business to psychology to the natural sciences to social issues. The goal of a TED Talk is for an expert to share their research or experience on a particular subject, creating a wide variety of ideas for the audience to appreciate and evaluate. TED Talks have been translated into dozens of languages and used in all kinds of educational materials. Most readers have undoubtedly encountered them in classrooms, training material or even extra instructional hours. But what is TEDx? Because the format of a TED Talk is so compelling to so many, communities around the world have organized their own events to share ideas on a smaller, independent scale. TEDxHopeCollege is West Michigan’s regional answer to this phenomenon, a recent but still widely influential addition to the roster of yearly events at Hope.
Lizzy Bassett, the current TEDxHopeCollege Executive Board director, began the program in 2021. It originated from the belief that the Hope community could benefit from an event that prioritized open discussion of ideas and that it could be a valuable touchstone of communication for people across campus. While it is impossible to say whether this is the reason, the event has been exceedingly well-received in spite of the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on audience members, speakers and the production team. Within a day of going on sale, in-person tickets to the event sold out, and many more viewers joined in on watch parties or on streaming platforms. The executive board plans to continue TEDxHopeCollege as an annual event, considering its popularity with faculty, students and the broader West Michigan community.
The speakers at TEDxHopeCollege 2022 were Jane Altevogt (’24), Brooke Bennett (’24), Aubrey Brolsma (’23), Caroline Daniels (’23), Payton Johnson (’22), Gabriel Kimball (’23), Ali Koehl (’23), Jairus Meer (’24), Leah Reinardy (’23) and Matthew Summerfield (’22). Each of these speakers gave a talk following the TED format (a speech under twenty minutes in length accompanied by a digital slideshow presentation) on a topic of their choice, offering insights into a wide range of disciplines, social issues, and perspectives. Bennett, Reinardy and Summerfield addressed the challenges that people with disabilities and differences face in a society that is often hostile to them; Brolsma spoke about the harm that anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments can cause in Christian religious communities; Daniels called for attention to the ways that support systems often fail survivors of sexual assault and Koehl encouraged listeners to move beyond people-pleasing and into changing the world for the better. Johnson and Meer focused on their own experiences (as a member of a blended family and an international student respectively) to enter a conversation with greater ideas of belonging and identity within their communities at Hope and beyond. At the last TEDxHopeCollege event, topics ranged from these to research into climate change and urban planning or broad life view statements that encouraged people to change their lifestyles. The diversity of thought that TED encourages is certainly evident in the topics presented.
TEDxHopeCollege speakers and production crew prepared extensively for their presentations beforehand, rehearsing together regularly and refining their speeches to better express their ideas and match the TED format. It would seem their efforts were not in vain–after the event, many audience members professed themselves moved or inspired at the speeches they heard. “One of the most interesting things [about attending TEDxHopeCollege] was being exposed to experiences and voices dissimilar to mine, such as Leah’s on autistic masking or Payton’s on growing up in a mixed family,” said TEDxHopeCollege attendee Madelyn Smith (’23), “TEDx was a really powerful event that showcased some of the most passionate and interesting voices at Hope. It’s important that we have more access than ever to perspectives that usually don’t get time in the spotlight.” Most of the speakers cited wanting to communicate and connect with people in their community who might not relate to their experiences when asked why they chose to put in the effort to speak at TEDxHopeCollege, and they can rest assured that their messages were heard by a full audience.
TEDxHopeCollege is founded on the willingness of community members and students to communicate their ideas to the broader community. If you feel that you have something to share with the world–be it research, personal experiences or cultural knowledge–now might be the time to start thinking about TEDxHopeCollege 2023. For more information on past and future events, visit https://www.tedxhopecollege.com/ and check out some of last year’s talks on YouTube.