TEDx SyracuseUniversity inspires students

The inaugural conference featured 15 speakers, including Mayor Stephanie Miner, with ideas worth spreading.

The first TEDx Syracuse University conference, held on April 9 in the Newhouse School, left students feeling inspired and hopeful.

“It was awesome. I can’t think of another word for it,” said Brian Deaver, a first-year law student at SU. “It’s incredible.”

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading “ideas worth sharing.” Since 1984, the organization has hosted speaker events to encourage audience members to see the world differently.

Computer engineering senior Nathaniel Rose organized the TEDx Syracuse University inaugural event. He was inspired after he saw his first TED talk during his sophomore year, and decided to bring the TED experience to SU. The TEDx program was designed to help people in local communities start their own conversations to spread ideas.

Standing on a red circle-shaped carpet, speakers had 18 minutes or less to articulate their thoughts. In the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, the audience sat still and listened quietly to 15 speakers – except for one person who demanded everyone “grab their belly” or “someone else’s belly,” prompting laughter for 30 seconds.

The conference kicked off with business student Aidan Cuniffee as the first speaker. He asked listeners to imagine using digital technology as a means for managing currencies, and talked about how digital currencies is potentially the forefront of our future. David Haas, co-leader for Syracuse’s chapter of the National Stuttering Association and the second speaker of the night, shared his personal experiences. He described stuttering as a “hidden handicap” and said most of his challenges were handled internally. “Anytime I stuttered, I would have to go back and say again until I didn’t stutter,” Haas said.

Among the speakers was Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who touched on how harnessing creativity in governmental jobs can help solve problems. She talked about improving roads and overall infrastructure in urban areas, especially in Syracuse.

The crowd boomed with laughter as Yvonne Conte, founder and director of Day of Joy Women’s Conference, asked the audience to laugh loudly. She talked about how laughing is healthy because it releases endorphins and is a natural painkiller. She said her doctor told her that 30 seconds of laughter is equivalent to ten minutes of strenuous rowing, which made her happy because she hates exercising. Conte stands in front of a mirror naked everyday and laughs at herself. “The older I get, the easier it is,” she said. The crowd continued to laugh with her as she talked about the importance having a fun environment in the work place. “Go on out there and have fun at work, be silly. I think that is an idea worth sharing,” Conte said to end her talk.

Many people enjoyed her message, including advertising and psychology senior Reid Searls. “I really enjoyed the comedian, that was a nice refreshing break,” Searls said.

Political science junior Julia Spector found a sense of reassurance after listening to the speakers. “It was encouraging to hear them say some of the things that I thought,” Spector said. “So I think that gave me a little more sense of trust my gut.” Spector said she watches TED talks online a lot and was impressed by the 15 speakers. “I thought that they did a really good job, especially compared to a lot that I’ve seen,” she said.

Other students attended because they sought a spark of inspiration, as was the case for Deaver. “I figured a few weeks before finals it’d be a good thing to come see it and keep me going a few more weeks,” he said. “To not focus so much on structured goals like making a lot of money or getting a good job and more so just to do things that help other people and in return karma will favor you, essentially.”

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