The College brought the international sensation of the TED Talks experience of powerful, brief and enlightening discussions to campus on Sunday, May 3, with TEDxTCNJ — an event that celebrated spreading the “spirit of ideas” under the slogan #LightTheFlame.
"TED is a conference of ideas worth spreading,” said Theresa Soya, a junior communication studies major who founded and coordinated TEDxTCNJ. “Independent TEDx events help share ideas in the community, throughout the world.”
The day-long event, held in the Mayo Concert Hall, was organized independently of the traditional TED Talks known around the world. The added ‘x’ in the name simply means that the event was specially catered to the local community.
During the College’s TED event, a total of 14 speakers were able to zone-in on educating and entertaining the audience with specially-tailored discussions aimed for the millennial generation.
“Be an artist, regardless of what you want to do with your life,” said TC Nelson, owner and general manager of the Trenton Social restaurant. “Take the mundane routine and turn it into an art form.”
Nelson’s short speech was not only a motivational one consisting of tried-and-true bits of advice on following the heart, but it was also a crash course on running a successful business. The entrepreneur has been running Trenton Social since 2010, when the thriving watering hole for professionals, students and locals opened.
The event, however, did not just allow a platform for seasoned experts to give advice to college students. On the contrary, six of the speakers were current students at the College, and four others alumni. In addition, the student-run TrenTones a capella group performed a medley of songs.
“I encourage everyone to go out and become an everything bagel,” junior seven-year medical program member Ami Shah said during her talk, “Importance of Interdisciplinary Learning.”
Shah, however, was not talking about continental breakfast foods. Instead, the self-described enthusiast of all-things biology and mathematics was urging students at the College to embrace studies they love — even if the academic fields are totally unrelated.
Since high school, Shah has been fascinated by biology. When she applied to the College, her parents encouraged her to enroll as a biology major. But Shah had a secret: She loved the simplicity of studying mathematics, as much as the complexity of studying biology.
At a crossroads, Shah compromised and enrolled as a seven-year pre-medical student, and has made it a priority throw herself into studying mathematical oncology. Thus, becoming like an everything bagel: one person, with many interests.
“I think it was important to bring TEDx to TCNJ because many times in college we are so concerned with our major and clubs, that we do not get exposed to many different ideas and concepts,” said Becky Flores, a senior history and political science double major, who spoke at the lecture. “Through TEDx, TCNJ students were exposed to an array of ideas from prison reform to the merits of interdisciplinary studies to creating a successful business.”
The event also had a more somber, serious element when nursing professor Catrina Sparacio talked about her personal struggles and triumphs. The professor, who is both a lawyer and a registered nurse, held the audience captive as she told of surviving rape when she was a student at the College in 2000, how she triumphed over attempting to take her life and even how she had previously struggled financially due to a rare disease that prevented her to walk when she was 21.
Sparacio told the audience that she was telling her story truthfully and whole-heartedly so she could be an inspiration to others — and so that the idea rooted in TEDxTCNJ of #LightTheFlame could be spread to the community at large.
Sparacio concluded her talk by having the audience stand and repeat the words, “I swear to shine my light, my whole light and nothing but my light.”