Students Organize TEDxWesleyanU, Host Distinguished Speakers

At left, Anthony Price '20, Zoe Reifel '21, Thafir Elzofri '19, Eunes Harun '20, Melisa Olgun '20 and Leo Merturi '20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan's TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7.

At left, Anthony Price ’20, Zoe Reifel ’21, Thafir Elzofri ’19, Eunes Harun ’20, Melisa Olgun ’20, and Leo Merturi ’20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan’s TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7. The entire event was organized by students.

Nationally known leaders and distinguished Wesleyan alumni and faculty presented short, powerful talks during the inaugural TEDxWesleyanU event April 7 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall.

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

Speakers included Maria Santana ’98, a correspondent for CNN en Español; Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser ’10; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew; National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71; national radio host Angela Yee ’97, and others. (View photos of the speakers below this article. View bios of all 13 speakers here.)

Melisa Olgun '20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

Melisa Olgun ’20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

“The current political climate is characterized by the lack of conversations taking place between people of opposing sides and viewpoints. TEDxWesleyanU is the launchpad we need to kickstart an unprecedented level of dialogue,” said Eunes Harun ’20, who spearheaded the event. “The TEDx mission and Wesleyan’s values align so heavily in the fostering of ideas and sparking dialogue. This event further emphasizes how Wesleyan is at the forefront of confronting current political and social issues in an effort to ultimately make the world a better place.”

Harun came up with the idea to host a TEDx event after tossing off ideas to his roommate, Alex Harold ’20, and neighbor Leo Merturi ’20. The tri-founders soon created a TEDxWesleyanU core team including Melisa Olgun ’20; Anthony Price ’20, and Thafir Elzofri ’19. Zoe Reifel ’21, who organized a TEDx event as a high school student, joined the team late to offer her experiences and input. Collaboratively, the group spent more than a year-and-a-half planning the inaugural event, which “has been one of the most impactful learning experiences of my life,” Harun said.

“The team was blown away by the response to TEDxWesleyanU. After sessions began to sell out minutes after going on sale, we were ecstatic to see nearly 1,000 people be inspired by the TEDx talks both in person as well as online (watching through live, streaming media) from 10 countries.”

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading” delivered by today’s leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and made available, free, on TED.com.

“None of this would’ve been possible if it weren’t for Wesleyan, so my message to individuals who believe that Wesleyan doesn’t teach valuable and real-life skills is this: They simply don’t know what Wes is really like,” said Harun. “It’s our vision that TEDxWesleyanU 2019 will be an even bigger, more inspiring, and exhilaratingly special, weaving it into the fabric of Wesleyan.”

Videos of the TEDxWesleyanU talks will be available soon at http://tedxwesleyanu.com/. Photos of the event are below:

 Leo Merturi '20

Leo Merturi ’20 introduced the first panel of speakers.

Angela Yee '97, host of "The Breakfast Club," spoke on "Hate Hurts."

Angela Yee ’97, a national radio host, spoke on “Hate Hurts.”

Dan Drew, mayor of the City of Middletown, spoke on "The Truth about Organ Donation."

Dan Drew, mayor of the City of Middletown, spoke on “The Truth about Organ Donation.”

Sharon Castonguay, director of the Wesleyan Gordon Career Center, discussed "The Psychology of Career Decisions."

Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of Wesleyan’s Gordon Career Center, discussed “The Psychology of Career Decisions.”

Anthony Price ’20 introduced the second panel of speakers.

Anand Kini '92, CFO of NBC Universal, discussed "Liberal Arts: End of the Line?"

Anand Kini ’92, CFO of NBCUniversal, discussed “Liberal Arts: End of the Line?”

Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser '10 spoke on "The Power of an Individual in a Democracy."

Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser ’10 spoke on “The Power of an Individual in
Democracy.”

Tony Hatch, assistant professor of sociology, spoke on "How Social Institutions Get Hooked on Drugs."

Wesleyan’s Tony Hatch spoke on “How Social Institutions Get Hooked on Drugs.” Hatch is associate professor of science in society, African American studies, and sociology.

Melisa Olgun '20;

Melisa Olgun ’20 introduced the third panel.

Mohamad Hafez, a Syrian artist and architect, discussed "Homeland inSecurity."

Mohamad Hafez, a Syrian artist and architect, discussed “Homeland inSecurity.”

Lucy Hutner '92, a reproductive mental health psychiatrist, spoke on "From Pregnant to Parent."

Dr. Lucy Hutner ’92, a reproductive mental health psychiatrist, spoke on “From Pregnant to
Parent.”

Lily Herman '16, a writer and activist for refinery 29 and Teen Vogue, spoke on "Don't Treat Your Work as Precious."

Lily Herman ’16, a writer and activist for refinery 29 and Teen Vogue, spoke on “Don’t Treat Your
Work as Precious.”

Eunes Harun '20 introduced the fourth panel of speakers

Eunes Harun ’20 introduced the fourth panel of speakers

National Geographic Photographer Michael Yamashita '71 discussed "Mastering Chance."

National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 discussed “Mastering Chance.”

Sallomé Hralima '02, director at The Future Project, spoke on "Workplaces Suffocate Human Potential."

Sallomé Hralima ’02, director at The Future Project, gave a talk titled “Workplaces Suffocate Human
Potential.”

Aaron Painter, vice president of Microsoft China, discussed "Listen to This! How Listening Can Transform Work (and the World)."

Aaron Painter, vice president of Microsoft China, discussed “Listen to This! How Listening Can Transform Work (and the World).”

Maria Santana '98, anchor/correspondent with CNN en Espanol, spoke on "Reporting in the Era of 'Fake News'."

Maria Santana ’98, a correspondent for CNN en Español, spoke on “Reporting in the Era of ‘Fake News.'”