United by a desire to change the world, eight presenters drawn from across the Bryant community came together to share ideas, perspectives, and advice at TEDxBryantU 2020. Each drew from their own expertise across a variety of professions and disciplines and aimed to inspire innovation and spark conversations that would extend beyond the campus.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger and I wanted to create a difference on campus,” says the conference’s lead organizer Sarah DeSantis ’21. “It was a special experience to help create a platform for the Bryant community to share their perspectives and bring the community together.”
Ideas worth sharing
Speakers were selected not only for their passion and subject knowledge but also for their potential to generate discussions. “For every speaker, we asked ourselves, 'Why does Bryant University need to hear this?'” notes Alexander Morrow ’20, the marketing director.
“Bryant creates an atmosphere where you want to get involved and help make a difference. It’s important to all of us.”
“TEDx is such a respected organization; to be included is truly an honor,” says Don Wilson ’92, ’94 MBA, who spoke about building confidence and facing uncertainty in both life and business. “Especially when you can share something you truly care about and you think can help other people.”
Lauren Freidrich ’07, who urged the audience to “Be the Catalyst” and use their unique skills and knowledge to ignite change, says being part of a TED event had been a life goal. “It’s exciting to get up on stage and say, ‘This is my knowledge, this is my strength, this is what I have to share.’”
The event was a perfect fit for the University, the speakers agreed. “Bryant creates an atmosphere where you want to get involved and help make a difference,” says DeSantis. “It’s important to all of us.”
This event "embraces everyone. We can all bring something to the discussion no matter our age or field or where we are in our careers.”
A community event
TEDxBryant 2020 gave voice to a wide range of Bryant community members, including students, alumni, staff, and friends of the University. “We’re all united in that we care about the world. We care about learning and we care about being better as people. I think the best way to do that is with a diverse group,” notes presenter Jennifer Sahady ’05, who discussed the importance of honesty in managing finances in a relationship. “More than ever we need opportunities where we can share ideas and different perspectives.”
“This is an event that embraces everyone. We can all bring something to the discussion no matter our age or field or where we are in our careers,” points out event curator Luisa Martinez ’20.
The conference also helped the University know itself a little better. “A gathering like TEDx introduces you to new ideas and stories that you don’t hear everyday,” suggests Samantha Iacone ’20, whose talk focused on how dealing with a learning disability helped her open herself to a larger, more empathetic world. “It makes you think differently about all of the people around you because you realize they all have a story behind them and something to share.”
“TED is a powerful platform with a world-wide reach, so to be able share all of the ideas coming from little Smithfield, RI, was a great opportunity.”
For Carlos Meltz ’20, who spoke about overcoming disaster on his path to becoming a Bryant student, it was a chance to be heard. “Everyone deserves a voice, to be able to share their story and let others know what they have to offer. I’ve always had a story I wanted to tell, and TEDx has given me so much confidence going forward, in myself and in what I can do,” he says.
Making it happen
A student-run initiative, TEDxBryantU is independently organized and licensed by the TED media platform. Samantha Scoca ’18, inspired by Bryant’s culture of innovation, applied for a TEDx license in 2018 and brought the conference to campus. The 2020 committee was excited to continue her legacy.
“TED is a powerful platform with a world-wide reach, so to be able share all of the ideas coming from little Smithfield, RI, was a great opportunity,” says Martinez, a committee member for all three TEDxBryantU productions.
“The ideas and idealism we put forward ... can become real action in the future. We can create a better world.”
The group worked on the conference from September to February, handling everything from marketing to logistics and collaborating with many departments on campus. “In putting the event together, you use everything you learned both in and out of class,” says Desantis. “You also learn so much about yourself.”
Changing the world
By the end of the conference, both the audience and presenters left inspired. ”I hope everyone walked away with at least one talk that really meant something to them and that they can use to make a change in their lives,” says Morrow. “When you hear all of these amazing ideas and stories you think, 'I can do more, I can do better.'”
Michael Biskupic ’20, who spoke about the future of U.S. foreign policy, sees in TEDxBryantU a key to a better tomorrow. He spoke from his experience as a political/economic intern at U.S. Department of State. “The ideas and idealism we put forward in opportunities like this can become real action in the future," he says. "We can create a better world."