Student voices of TEDxUCDavis

TEDxUCDAVIS / COURTESY
TEDxUCDAVIS / COURTESY

TEDx student speakers on the their time in the limelight

Every spring, thousands of guests fill up the Mondavi Center to witness performers and speakers step onto the stage for their time in the limelight. In the case of TEDxUCDavis on May 1, the speakers did so “in the spirit of ideas worth spreading” — the motto that drives TEDx forward.

The TEDx event does not only give speaking positions to high standing professionals, postdoctoral students and researchers, but also students.

Most students who come work for TED, including myself, are mainly interested due to TED talks they see online,” said Kevin Yu, speaker relations director for TEDxUCDavis. “It’s a really unique and amazing experience. Student-speakers come to TED because they have an idea they want to share. The team is all student-run so the environment is pretty fun and easy going.”

Students are often drawn to the notion of “ideas worth spreading,” and look to it as a chance to improve the world around them. This year’s theme, “Igniting X,” furthered the concept that novel ideas and interests are fostered and strengthened through spreading them.

For Rylan Schaeffer, a fifth-year computer science engineering and statistics double major, becoming a student-speaker was something that involved serious consideration, even with his previous experience in public speaking.

“I had previously volunteered for TED, but never thought to participate myself as I didn’t think I had a sufficiently far-reaching, nontrivial idea,” Schaeffer said. “This year, I realized that I was wrong, that I did have an idea other undergraduates could benefit from, and I wanted to tell them about the idea that their educational tracks aren’t static, that they can work with the Academic Senate and Administration to improve UC Davis’ educational programs for themselves and for others.”

Others, like fourth-year communication major Ellen Davis, spoke on behalf of a topic she felt passionate about — philanthropy.

“I have spoken in front of crowds since I was in elementary school, so I’m very used to [public] speaking,” Davis said. “I really enjoy talking about what I care about. So talking about philanthropy for my talk just made sense.”

Both Davis and Schaeffer have been able to expand their interests and passions as a result of becoming TEDx speakers. Something that TEDx strives for is the ability to talk about ideas that revitalize, encourage and inspire others to keep pushing new boundaries.

“I generally choose a topic, fixate on it for a while, and then move onto another,” Schaeffer said. “Recently I saw Ex Machina and read Murray Shanahan’s Embodiment and the Inner Life and couldn’t stop talking about what artificial intelligence is and how social systems would influence how artificial intelligence evolves.”

Whatever the case may be, the voices of UC Davis students added a new blend of ideas for audience members to consider. No matter the interest, person or background, TEDx students have made it clear that everyone has a story worth sharing.

Written by: Alan Castillo — features@theaggie.org