May 08, 2017, BY Jake Malavsky '19

TEDx speakers
Marissa Calhoun '10, Professor Philip Asare, Professor John Hunter, Kirsten Young '17, Ella Tazuana Johnson '17, Dwyer Haney '10 and Nick Gilson

From a Hollywood view of the future to freedom of sexual expression to learning through failure, TEDxBucknellUniversity 2017 explored what it means to wade into uncharted waters.

That was the theme of the third annual event, which was dedicated to the exploration of the unknown and held April 8 at the Campus Theater. Inside the 1940s art deco movie theater, more than 250 people — nearly twice as many as last year — gathered to hear seven speakers share ideas that challenged attendees to reflect on concepts of innovation and imagination.

The speakers included Professor John Hunter, comparative humanities; Professor Philip Asare, electrical & computer engineering; Nick Gilson, founder and CEO of Gilson Boards, Marissa Calhoun '10, field producer for CNN; Dwyer Haney '10, renewable product manager at Renewable NRG Systems; Kirsten Young '17, cell biology & biochemistry; and Ella Tazuana Johnson '17, linguistics.

Young, a proponent of sex education and women's health care, gave a talk called "Let's Talk About Sex, Baby." She humorously described how conversations about sex can be uncomfortable, but emphasized the importance of discussing these types of subjects.

"I felt privileged to have the opportunity to share my ideas with others and hopefully spark change in those who attended the event, as well as those who will view the talk once it goes online," said Young.

Gilson came up with the idea for his snowboard company while teaching middle school science in Nashville, Tenn. His talk, "Failing to Learn," explored the role of failure in the learning process.

"Our culture and education system teach us to fear failure, and to avoid it at all costs," Gilson explained. "The reality is that failure is the most valuable time to learn, and while painful, those moments should be squeezed for every last drop of insight." Gilson Boards is based in nearby Winfield, Pa., and has worked closely with the Small Business Development Center at Bucknell to establish itself as a major competitor in the winter sports market.

Ideas worth spreading 
TEDx is an opportunity for independent event organizers to hold local conferences. Each conference is centered around the TED Foundation's mission of "ideas worth spreading." In a TEDx talk, a topic expert is allotted 18 minutes or less to discuss how their area of expertise can be applied to the guiding theme of the conference.  

TEDx was first brought to Bucknell in spring 2015 by Alejandro Ramirez '17 and Peter Puleo '17 as a part of their involvement in the University Innovation Fellows program.

"TEDxBucknellUniversity was conceived as an opportunity for ordinary Bucknellians to share extraordinary stories and ideas, regardless of major or department," Puleo said.

This year's TEDx event was orchestrated by two lead organizers, Anthony Scrima '18 and Andrane Nelson '17, who managed a team of 15 students. "We've been working, since last semester, in terms of the speaker process, marketing, event planning, stage design and the list goes on," said Nelson. "I have appreciated working with talented individuals from various fields across campus who are truly devoted to the TEDx spirit of spreading ideas." 

Deepshikha Parmessur '19, a member of the organizing team, had the opportunity to work as a speaker coach. "Being a speaker coach for Professor John Hunter was a truly humbling experience. Being a professor, he is already a great speaker, but he was always ready to listen and would appreciate any constructive feedback that I would give him during our coaching sessions. I think this speaks for the quality of the faculty here at Bucknell," said Parmessur, an international relations major.

Hunter, who directs the film & media studies program and spoke about the insight he has gained from trends in media consumption, said that speaking at TEDx was unlike anything he had done before.

"My experience as a TEDx speaker was pleasurably terrifying," Hunter said. "In the humanities, we typically deliver our conference papers from a prepared text. When I was told that I had to speak for 15 minutes without notes of any kind, I was very nervous. Working with Deepshikha was wonderful. My talk would not have been half as good as it was without her work, and her fellow team members' too. I hope this event keeps going for years to come."

Jake Malavsky '19, who majors in markets, innovation & design, is an undergraduate executive intern in the Division of Communications.