TEDxHopeCollege a profound success

This past weekend Hope College marked a historic moment as it held its first ever TEDxHopeCollege event. The one-night event ran from 6-10 p.m. on April 24, with ten hand-picked Hope students presenting 15-minute informative lectures on topics of their own choosing. Held in the Jack Miller Center, capacity was limited due to COVID restrictions, but the house was packed. The Anchor was able to watch the event virtually through one of two watch parties held in the BSC by volunteers.

The first presentation, given by Jacob VanderRoest, was entitled “How diet can combat the climate crisis.” Using his own background as a student athlete, VanderRoest highlighted how plant-based sources can fully meet the needs of even the most physically demanding diet. He concluded his presentation by urging his fellow students to consider a reduction of their meat intake, down to one meal a day if possible. 

VanderRoest was followed by Claire Moore, who presented “From Plan A to Plan Z: living beyond Loeys-Dietz.” Like many other students coming into college, Moore set huge expectations for herself for what she wanted to achieve. What she didn’t expect was that a rare genetic illness called Loeys-Dietz Syndrome (a connective tissue illness involving an enlarged aortic root and aneurysms) would threaten her development and college journey. Thankfully, she has learned not only how to live with the condition but has become an advocate for others, imploring them to become advocates themselves.

The next student to present was Mikayla Zobeck, who presented her piece entitled “Transracial adoptee voices of love and trauma.” She described her experiences of having been adopted from Vietnam and growing up in the U.S. In a quest to find her birth mother, her family had the unique opportunity to go to Vietnam and make contact with her biological family. This experience taught Zobeck about the need for adopted children to be heard and have their wishes respected, a lesson she shared with the TEDxHopeCollege audience.

After Zobeck came Garett Shrode, whose presentation entitled “Urban planning: A tool in our equity toolbox” described the injustices and poor execution involved in many historical urban planning projects. The example most starkly representing a massive waste of funds and resources, which also hurt minority livelihoods, was the I-75 in Black Bottom, Detroit. Shrode described how underground roads and other creative ways of meeting public transportation needs can be a tool for more equitable urban development.

Safia Hattab’s presentation was entitled “Why biases in healthcare are more deadly than illness itself.” Hattab shared details of her own struggle as a woman of color to receive proper healthcare and comprehensive diagnoses during her lifelong struggle with chronic illness. Her presentation largely discussed the privilege existing in the system that favors white people, as well as research on implicit biases, which suggests the medical field has a long way to go in becoming fully fair.

After a half-hour intermission, Michael Pineda began his presentation unusually, with a soulful saxophone introduction. Describing himself as a musician above all else, he described the tragedy that struck his family and his quest for meaning following the murder of his brother. Pineda used three elements of music (rhythm, harmony and melody) to describe his worldview and how life is arranged, and he suggested everyone start “a relationship with music.”

“Redefining masculinity” was the topic Garrett Borgman chose to share at TEDxHopeCollege. Borgman described in vivid detail his desire to meet the expectations of society through football at a young age only to realize how undeserving this standard of masculinity was. He wove a number of statistics into his presentation that demonstrated how dangerous the “bottle up your feelings” mentality is to men, and he encouraged his audience to develop a better culture towards how men ought to act and express themselves.

Father Nick Monco, Chaplain with the Saint Benedict Institute, gave an insightful speech about the role of religion in mental health. Monco discussed research which shows that while anti-depressant drugs are helpful, they are an incomplete form of treatment and are incapable of quelling the doubts and questions often at the root of depressive episodes. He called for “serious, direct and studied” investigation into questions of faith and implored the audience to consider reevaluating their faith walk. This was in light of statistics showing the stunningly positive impact religion can have on mental wellbeing.

Taylor Calloway followed with “Why you need a black friend: Shifting the way we socialize.” Calloway’s speech hinged upon the fact that people tend to look and act like their five closest friends, and she pointed out how shutting ourselves off socially from those unlike us can negatively impact our own growth and social wellbeing. Calloway’s advice was well-constructed with a clear takeaway: go make some new friends, especially with those who don’t look like you.

Finally, Chris Stamatopoulos finished with an overview of how technology is shaping and shifting communities around the world, highlighting the curve of technological development as well as the dangers of a “let’s just get through it” policy. Stammatopoulos implored the audience to seek out traditional community and not to rely on technology to solve all of our problems.

The Anchor spoke with sophomore Lizzy Bassett, the lead organizer and license-holder of TEDxHopeCollege. Bassett originally took charge and decided to organize the event back in summer 2020, communicating with Student Life and Student Development. After becoming licensed and putting together an executive team through the fall, students were selected over the winter of 2021.  “[I feel] amazing. It’s a really complicated sort of moment,” she said.. “I feel like I had this my whole last year leading up to this moment, and now here it is, and now it’s gone. So It’s been amazing, I could not be happier, but I also think it’s strange moving out of this . . . Seeing what opportunities there are for growth is where I’m at right now.”

Thank you to everyone involved, including those executive members not named above, for organizing this incredible event!

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