John A. '87 and MaryGrace '84 Gleason Ambassador in Student Affairs
TEDx: In Pursuit of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’
As the John and MaryGrace Gleason Ambassador in Student Affairs, I had the opportunity to travel to the TEDWomen Conference in San Francisco. The purpose of this trip was two-fold: to expand our own TEDx event back at Geneseo through workshops and networking, and to experience firsthand a real TED event–not only the TED Talks themselves, but also the characteristics which make TED conferences so well known – the production, visuals, paraphernalia, and overall attendee experience.
On a practical level, attending TEDWomen gave our TEDx event the ability to host an audience greater than 100 people, something we’d been working towards over the past 3 years. On another level, though, attending the conference allowed me to understand the TED and TEDx culture more intimately, and opened my eyes to the vast potential that TEDx events hold in shaping their communities. While many TEDx events fall into the trap of following a ‘typical’ structure–present a couple talks and go home–the conference pushed the need for innovation and encouraged us as organizers to utilize the unique characteristics of our communities in shaping our event. In a twist of irony, TEDWomen was a demonstration of the fact that TED is about more than its talks.
I originally approached the conference with the hope of simply expanding our TEDx event attendance-wise. While this was certainly a goal that was accomplished, the Ambassadorship was truly so much more. Talking with other TEDx organizers at the conference, I learned that the ability of TEDx events to communicate ‘ideas worth spreading’ and share with the community is not defined by a budget or geographic location. Coming back to campus, I asked my team: how can we do more than just present people with talks? How can we encourage them to leave with something different stirring in their minds, with the seeds of new ideas beginning to take root? How could TEDxSUNYGeneseo be a celebration of our community?
These are questions that my team and I have answered imperfectly, and will continue to improve on in the years to come. But I know the Ambassadorship is just the beginning. The culmination of my Ambassadorship will be this year’s TEDxSUNYGeneseo event, held on March 4th. TEDx at Geneseo started with a simple question - what does education look like beyond the blackboard, outside of the classroom? Attending TEDWomen and meeting organizers from India, Bangladesh, Australia, Brazil, and Japan, I gained a greater vision for the purpose of our event. What’s more, I became part of a larger network of TEDx organizers who all share the same desire I do: to be agents of change in our communities.