TED Talks Coming to Campus

Following the example of other colleges, Whitman has recently begun planning to join the famous TED talk network, hoping to host talks on campus and screen others for members of the community.

The TED talk network, standing for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is known worldwide for its website featuring thousands of lectures on topics ranging from religion to science to computers and everything in between. These lectures are always under 20 minutes, and can feature just about anyone and anything.

Juli Dunn and Noah Leavitt at a TED talk planning meeting. Photos by Faith Bernstein.

Juli Dunn, director of academic resources, and Noah Leavitt, associate dean for student engagement, were inspired by an alum to bring TED talks to campus.

“Noah Leavitt and I were looking for a joint project to work on this year that would marry the missions of our offices (the Student Engagement Center and the Academic Resource Center). I’d seen alumna Aisha Fukushima ['09] do a TEDx Sitka talk and felt that this was something Whitman should be doing to showcase our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community at large,” she said in an email.

Dunn and Leavitt recently held a meeting with students interested in being involved in the talks, whether being featured as a speaker or helping with publicity or technology. Students are excited about what the talks could mean to raise awareness and feature student voices on the network.

“It’s a really incredible way to get student voices heard,” said first-year Shireen Nori, who attended the meeting. “The way you present the material and yourself is an opportunity for creativity.”

At the meeting, Dunn and Leavitt split the large group of interested students into specialized committees focusing on areas like publicity, social media, speaker selection and technology. The talks are projected to take place sometime in the late spring, and planning is beginning early.

Many attendees indicated their interest in being a speaker, though some wished to keep their potential topics confidential. Other Walla Walla community members also attended the interest meeting, forming a significant portion of the group tentatively delegated to choosing future speakers.

While the process for becoming a speaker has yet to be finalized, it is likely that it will be somewhat selective. Though Dunn and Leavitt are eagerly anticipating the event, there are worries about the highly specific requirements of the talks.

“The TED brand has some very specific regulations and conditions under which an institution or community can use the TED name,” said Dunn.

Complying with TED’s regulations will require hard work from interested participants, but both Dunn and Leavitt have faith that participating in TED will showcase community members’ unique experiences and ideas.

The innovative program will bring Whitman publicity and provide a vehicle for students and community members looking to creatively relay interesting and potentially offbeat topics.

“This is great because we all know we’ve got a lot of fantastic ideas coming out of this campus that should be shared widely,” said Leavitt.

Though other universities have hosted TED talks, Whitman will be among the first liberal arts colleges to do so.

“I think we will continue to put ourselves on the map as a leader among the liberal arts institutions,” said Dunn.




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