TEDxBryantU 2019 provided an outlet for speakers with ideas about how to make our world a better place, supporting the event theme: Keys to the Future. Faculty, students, alumni, and friends of Bryant University shared those ideas with an audience of more than 200 members of the Bryant community eager to embrace the visions set forth by each speaker.
The conversation didn’t end with the February event. TEDxBryantU 2019, organized by Bryant University students and licensed by the TED media platform, sparked conversation and discussion throughout the Smithfield campus, and videos of the talks will be shared globally via the official TEDx Playlist.
For Lead Organizer Vanessa MacMillan ’19, that contagious spark of inspiration is what the event was all about. “I want people to think differently, to feel differently than they did when they came in, even if it’s just a small change,” says MacMillan. “If they can say, ‘Oh, that’s something I can use in my own life’ or 'That's a different way of thinking,’ or, even ‘I think I want to learn more,’ we’ll have done our job.”
TEDxBryantU 2019’s 10 speakers examined a range of topics, from fixing the ecological damage caused by the global fashion industry to coping with loss. “People all around the world use TED talks a way to better themselves and learn about really great stories,” notes Craig Stevens ’98, Head of Accounting and Reporting at Swiss Re, who proposed redefining the meaning of wealth in his talk. “To be able to share an idea that could potentially help people was important to me.”
"TEDxBryantU 2019 was really a cross-effort between every department in the University. Everyone came together to help make the event a success."
Jacob Lewtan ’18, MPAc ’18, who drew upon research he did on blockchain as a graduate student at Bryant, saw his talk as a chance to share his ideas with the wider community. “TEDx events like this one do a great job of bringing people together so they can connect with one another,” he says. “Getting to be part of that experience is very special.”
Communication major Amy Solov ’19 credited her Bryant education with helping make her TEDx talk, about embracing your truest self, possible. “The Communication Department here at Bryant helped me so much with my public speaking skills and finding the confidence to tell my story,” she says. “I can’t thank the school enough for that.”
Making it happen
For the 10 members of the TEDxBryantU 2019 committee, who have been working on the program since April of last year, running the event meant testing themselves and everything they’d learned at Bryant. “When you take a course, the syllabus is laid out for you. You know what you have to do,” says Event Curator Marlee O’Keefe '19. “With TEDx, we were all assigned our roles and then basically it was like, ok, now plan an event on your own – and then make it happen.”
It was a big job, involving everything from soliciting and choosing speakers to planning the event itself. Fortunately, committee members found they were more than up for the task. “Bryant prepares you to get things done,” explains O’Keefe. “We set goals, we made deadlines and we made the event happen.”
“I think one of the bigger things I’ve learned at Bryant is collaboration, working with people with different skill sets and personalities,” says Assistant Curator Mitch Greany ’21. “We all came together because we knew this was important to all of us and to the school.”
“TEDxBryantU 2019 was really a cross-effort between every department in the University. Everyone came together to help make the event a success,” agrees MacMillan.
The team sees the event itself as the reward for all of their hard work. “Two of the speakers told me this was a top bucket list item for them, and one of them had climbed Mount Everest,” says Greany with a laugh. “To be able to give them the opportunity to share these ideas, these unique, important ideas, on a global stage is awesome.”
“Being a part of something so meaningful to so many people is incredibly meaningful to me,” says O’Keefe. “It will be great to watch the finished videos of the talks after being involved in the whole process. I think I’m going to feel like a proud mom.”