By Kate Dempsey
As students go about their hectic college lives, it may seem that the world is a chaotic web full of knots holding it together. To help students untangle that web and showcase the groundbreaking ideas from the CUNY community, TEDxCUNY will return to the stage to present “UNRAVEL” to be held on Wednesday, April 12 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.
Debuting in 2013, TEDxCUNY has held a yearly conference to create a platform for sharing ideas from the CUNY community and to advocate for inclusivity. Falling under the umbrella of TEDx talks, the creation of TEDxCUNY as an independently organized conference enables CUNY to have its personalized spotlight on ideas.
“CUNY campuses are doing such amazing work, and doing such amazing things and they deserve to be spotlighted on the TED stage,” Emily Madray, a lead organizer for TEDxCUNY told The Vanguard. “Oftentimes, TEDx talks can be geared towards specific demographics, but we know that CUNY, as diverse and as large as it is, has some amazing ideas happening on our campus and so we wanted to spotlight those people.”
In years past, themes of the conference have included “Who We Are” (2023), which examined individual identity and how we shape ourselves, “Borders and Belonging” (2015), which examined what divides people and places and ways to challenge those borders, and “Wild Card” (2018), that looked to challenge the status quo by being unpredictable. For the organizers of this year’s conference, the aim of “UNRAVEL” is to make complex topics simple, allowing for a greater understanding of our reality.
“Our world is composed of our individual differences and our collective experiences and sometimes they’re joined together in a way that can seem really, really complicated. And sometimes, with complexity people surrender and give up instead of trying to grasp them. So instead of surrendering, understanding our world really forces us to confront the knots that are in our everyday existence and detangle our reality,” Madray said.
Aside from following guidelines from TEDx, independently organized TEDx talks have the freedom to choose their topics and which speakers present. The team at TEDxCUNY keeps an eye out for someone who is passionate and doing something new, whether that be in the humanities, arts, technology, or other fields. While it is not required that a speaker is an alumni, professor, or student, they need to be pertinent to the CUNY community. BC students can take full advantage of this year’s conference through VIP seating by the Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) sponsorship of the conference.
“Our agreement to sponsor TEDxCUNY was that Brooklyn College students would get benefits like VIP seating and meeting the speakers to encourage students to show out and make the most of the event,” Dylan Karlowski, Events Director for USG, told The Vanguard.
As a CUNY student-led team at TEDxCUNY, it is important that whoever they pick for their team shares their passion for TEDx talks. Students who apply are selected in the early fall semester to a year-long commitment, and there are four main subteams students can join: speakers and programming, media and marketing, logistics and engagement team, budgeting and finance team.
The planning and organizing for a TEDxCUNY conference begins one year in advance, often right after the end of the last one. “As soon as our 2023 conference was over, we started for 2024. There wasn’t really much of a break…we gave the team like a week off and then we came back and were like ‘ok let’s pick our theme for 2024,’” Madray said.
While their schedules may be busy putting on the conference, they are excited knowing they are putting on something they love to do.
“It gets easier since we all love TEDx so much and it becomes such a big part of our lives that we are very eager to wait for these meetings and wait to work together to build this conference,” Saanavi Goyal, a lead organizer of TEDxCUNY, told The Vanguard. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to come and join us on this day of idea sharing.”
Interested CUNY students can attend “UNRAVEL” for free at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tedxcuny-2024-unravel-tickets-782207703297?aff=oddtdtcreator