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Saturday, April 20, 2024
The Observer

University aspires to inspire through TED Talks

The most innovative members of the Notre Dame community will take center stage Tuesday at TEDxUND, an event coordinated by students and faculty to inspire conversation and examine critical questions through presentations by students, faculty, staff, alumni and local residents. The event will be held in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC).

“We really wanted to capture the spirit of innovation and creativity that we all love so much about a lot of stuff that’s going on at Notre Dame in a variety of senses,” junior Max Brown, director of student government’s department of academic affairs said.

Senior student body president Alex Coccia said Brown and senior Ben Eichler, department member at the department of academic affairs, successfully joined forces with DPAC, Hesburgh Libraries, the Office of the Provost and University Communications to bring what he called an “inspiring event” to campus.

“Nancy and I ran on a platform that stressed the passions of the student body,” Coccia said. “Our vision called for a student government that acts on student passions and advocates for student needs.

“We do not have to look far to be inspired by the work of students at our University. … We, the students, have passion that drives us to grow, understand and truly live during our time at Notre Dame.”

Paul Van Ness, marketing program manager at the DPAC, said he initially applied last February for a university license from the TED organization. The license allows Notre Dame to host a TEDx event in the style of TED Conferences and use the TEDx logo, but Van Ness said the committee on campus takes full responsibility for planning and sponsoring the event.

“I’ve always considered this to be a University-wide event,” Van Ness said. “I mean it is. It has the UND. It’s not TEDxDeBartolo.

“That was one of the reasons I was particularly excited to have students and the library and all these other parties involved because it truly is a university-wide event,” he said. “And so it increased the energy and the excitement and the enthusiasm and the capability of the event.”

TEDxUND’s 19 speakers underwent a selection process with a committee of students and staff from the DPAC and Hesburgh libraries, Van Ness said.

Sophomore and TEDxUND speaker Joel Ostdiek said he completed an initial application and follow-up interview before being selected. He said his talk will focus on the value of the arts and music education. According to the event website, the speakers will address topics ranging from the physics of the universe to foreign aid.

“I'm most excited about watching all of the speakers at the event,” Ostdiek said. “I think it'll be an awesome chance to hear what other members of the ND community are thinking about and hopefully ignite some meaningful discussions.”

Van Ness said 100 people won tickets to TEDxUND through a lottery. Additional tickets to an 800-person live-streaming event in the Leighton Concert Hall will be available at the door Tuesday. He said the presentations will be streamed and later posted online, but he hopes viewers will choose to watch the TEDxUND talks with each other instead of alone.

“It will be recorded, and we’ll post them on the web, and so it will live on beyond the event,” Van Ness said. “That’s exciting. I really expect there to be energy and ideas and new thoughts that come out of the event and hopefully it will lead to … more connections with people that will lead to new projects, new research, maybe an additional opportunity for a student speaker.”

Van Ness said the TED organization stipulated that TEDxUND seat only 100 audience members for the live presentations. He said the more intimate setting would better facilitate discussion and networking, in addition to making logistics easier. Brown said TEDxUND “definitely” has potential to become an annual fixture in the Notre Dame event calendar.

“If everything goes well here, we’ll be able to make it a lot larger,” he said. “We wanted to kind of work out all the kinks and find out how the whole process works.”

Brown said he hopes the “special connection” between students and their peers and mentors will make TEDxUND even more inspiring to the event’s live and virtual audiences.

“There’s a lot of really cool stuff that’s going on at Notre Dame that’s really engaging and new and creative not only for the Notre Dame community but for the world,” he said. “I think this kind of moves to the forefront those ideas which will most permeate the future and help us understand the past.”

Contact Lesley Stevenson at