TEDxTufts 2018: ‘re:Vision’ preview

Alyssa Rivas speaks at TEDxTufts on March 12, 2017. Courtesy Taylor Fasolo

Ten speakers will turn the Cohen Auditorium into a space of compassion and education by sharing private experiences and passions on March 11, when TEDxTufts hosts “re:Vision,” its fourth annual TED event since 2015.

From a 1984 conference that celebrated the the interdisciplinary nature of technology, entertainment and design, TED has developed into a non-profit organization that has sponsored over 2,000 TED Talks celebrating the sharing of knowledge in more than 100 languages. TEDxTufts operates with a license from TEDx, a special TED program that allows local communities to independently organize events that foster information exchange and empathy under the TED brand.

The organizing committee for “re:Vision” consists of 49 Tufts undergraduate students from all four class years, including one SMFA five-year combined-degree program student who will graduate in 2022. According to Amy Sokolow, the publicity director on the committee, the organizing team has been holding two-hour weekly meetings since September 2017, with one hour for only the core team, and the other for the entire TEDxTufts team.

Sokolow, a senior, explained that TEDxTufts is a friendly, intimate and accessible forum that allows the sharing of otherwise esoteric ideas.

“The importance of TED is that it’s a very easily digestible medium for people to understand complex ideas,” Sokolow said. “For example, we have a [speech] on multiverse, which is something I would have never thought to look up a paper on. The speaker coaching team does a very good job at making the speeches humanistic. And because [the speeches] are published on YouTube, they are really easily shared.”

According to Taylor Fasolo, the creative director for TEDxTufts 2018, the title for the event, “re:Vision,” is a wordplay in which the insertion of a colon in the word “revision” is meant to speak to the the event’s dual purposes.

“The first [purpose] is the word as a whole, ‘revision,’ so to look again,” Fasolo, a senior, said. “A lot of our speakers are asking [their audience] to reevaluate common understandings of basic principles, whether that’s about how we understand urban design or how we understand the multiverse theorem.”

Fasolo went on to explain that the usage of the colon serves to emphasize “vision” within the word “revision.”

“The second way that the theme can be understood is ‘regarding vision’ — understanding vision itself and how one’s own positionality toward a certain subject can affect their understanding of that idea,” Fasolo said.

The 10 speakers that will speak at TEDxTufts 2018 are diverse in both the themes of their talks and their affiliations with Tufts. The list of speakers includes four Tufts undergraduate students, four Tufts graduate students, one PostDoc fellow at the Tufts Institute for Cosmology and an alumna from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. And among the four Tufts graduate students, two are from The Fletcher School, one is from Tufts School of Medicine and the other is from the School of Museum of Fine Arts. The topics that these speakers will address also range widely, including the refugee crisis, the multiverse and the psychology and neuroscience behind advertisements.

The application process for prospective speakers at TEDxTufts 2018 was simple but competitive, reflecting the increasing popularity of TEDxTufts.

“We have tremendously grown not only in our own membership, but also in our applications,” Fasolo said. “This year, we have experienced an increase of over 100 percent in our application numbers, which is very exciting.”

He also explained that TEDxTufts 2018 received 108 applications, each of which included an application survey. Twenty-five percent of the applicants were then selected to be interviewed.

Sokolow described having diverse applications as one of the pillars that makes for a good TED talk.

“Something that we look for is not just the [amount of] information, but why does it matter?” she said. “And also something that might be transferable to larger themes. Even if you don’t necessarily connect with the content of the talk, the takeaway has to be very tangible.”

Maya Pace, the marketing director for TEDxTufts 2018, mentioned that the growing influence of TEDxTufts is also evident in people’s expanding participation in the organization’s community-based art project this year, which had people respond to the question, “Who shaped you?” in the campus center from Feb. 19 to March 2.

“I was very moved when I saw people pausing throughout their day for a moment to engage with this project about people who have inspired you,” Pace said.

According to Fasolo and Jake Moran, the head of speaker coaching, the organizing committee for TEDxTufts 2018 had improved in the ability to facilitate interdepartmental communication and reach out to alumni, which have been two large and enduring challenges for the organizing committee in the past.

“Both in previous years and the start of this year, there [have] generally been issues with communication across departments,” Fasolo said. “But at this point in the year, we have become very communicative with each other and have been able to run as smoothly as I have ever seen it in TEDxTufts.”

Moran, a senior, explained how TEDxTufts used communication with alumni to increase the number of applicants this year.

“This year, we were able to use different methods of communication with Tufts to reach out to a lot more alumni, and that gave us a really great pool of alumni applicants year,” Moran said. “The office of alumni relations at Tufts has been really great at helping us.”

TEDxTufts 2018 is March 11 from 12-4 p.m. in Cohen Auditorium. Tickets are on sale for $10 via Tufts Tickets.

An earlier version of this article misstated the question that was asked for the community-based art project. The question posed was, “Who shaped you?” not “What shaped you?” In addition, the article previously misrepresented the application process to become a speaker for TEDxTufts. Only 25 percent of applicants, not all applicants, were selected for interviews. The article also previously misstated the amount of time that the TEDxTufts team met each week. The team met for a total of two hours, not three, each week, and only the core team met for one of the hours, while the entire team came together for the other hour.