Arcadia University TEDx Event, April 14: Beyond the Mask

By Julia Stephens | March 30, 2022

by Julia Stephens ’24

Combined TEDx and Arcadia University logos with statements "x=independently organized TED event" and "Beyond the Mask"

The final TEDx Arcadia University conference – an event where speakers share “ideas worth spreading” – will be Thursday, April 14, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Following the theme “Beyond the Mask,” the conference will explore topics including societal norms and criminal and social justice. 

TEDx Arcadia University is a course open to Honors Program students in which the students help to plan and organize the public event. The course offers opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and teamwork while also providing them with new perspectives from conference speakers. Students find speakers interested in performing a TED talk, create marketing tools, raise funds, and administer the event itself. Arcadia’s Honors Program has organized six TEDx events over the past 10 years.

“I’ve been so blown away by the students’ TED talks,” says Helene S. Klein, assistant dean for Honors & Accelerated Programs, Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. “They’re really inspirational.” 

Celeste Walker, adjunct professor of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, is the organizer and “mastermind” behind TEDx Arcadia University. She spoke at the feeling she received from seeing presenters overcome fears and shine at TEDx events. 

“It always gave me goosebumps to see them up there in their TEDx t-shirts and knowing how nervous they were ahead of time and then seeing them take the stage and spread ideas worth spreading and just living in that moment,” said Professor Walker. 

TEDx conferences are independently run events similar to those of TED, a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks of 18 minutes or less. TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. More than 3000 TEDx events are held annually.

Other TEDx participants over the years shared their thoughts and feelings about the event with Julia Stephens ’24 and Ryan Bealer ‘22, who helped to organize this year’s event. 

“Everyone goes through life with different lenses. And has a different journey than you. Each experiencing life and learning and growing from it—and now they are able to share that through a TED talk with us.” 
–Jordana McCourt (2012 TEDx Arcadia University: “Creativity in Leadership”)

“Little did I know what an adventure I was getting involved in; as the course challenged me in new ways and pushed me far out of my comfort zone….The concept of a TEDx talk was different than anything I had done before: It wasn’t a speech to be memorized or a lesson to be taught.”
–Olivia Bates ’18 (2017 TEDx Arcadia University: “The Big Idea”)

“My thought process was something like: “TED Talks? WE CAN DO THOSE? HERE??”… My favorite ‘moment’ was the experience of being together in the classroom late at night with laptops and coffees, all brainstorming about cool things to incorporate into the conference, how to actually get those things to happen, and how to overcome the hundreds of challenges for the plans we already had in motion.”
–Kristen Stedman ’19 (2017 TEDx Arcadia University: “The Big Idea”)

“When planning this event, we learned how to put a lot of trust in our peers to make sure that everyone fulfilled their role…. I loved seeing everyone’s passions and hobbies that shined through their talks…. I spoke in 2019, and still today, in 2022, my TED talk comes up in conversations and even interviews. It was an experience I will always cherish and will never forget.”
–Nicole Adler ’19 (2019 TEDx Arcadia University: “What’s Next?”)

“My favorite moment was meeting with and listening to the individual experiences of others in the midst of the pandemic. I feel like it fostered connection — something we were all missing for so long…. I learned that everyone has their own lens that they see life in.” 
–Melissa Sweeney (2020 TEDx Arcadia University: “20/20 Vision”)

“With our event being virtual, we definitely had a lot more creative power, in my opinion. We were able to have poets as well as speakers perform their work. And we were able to seek out speakers from all over the country.” 
–Audrey Suwarno ’21 (2020 TEDx Arcadia University: “20/20 Vision”)

“It was just really cool to see the pieces all come together….Celeste Walker is so much fun, and while the environment could be stressful at times considering all that we had to do, we seemed to always make time to laugh with each other and get excited about what we were doing.”
–Leigh Ferrier ’22 (2020 TEDx Arcadia University: “20/20 Vision”)

“Overall, I just learned about the power of perseverance in the face of adversity from these speakers. They all had really inspiring stories and talks and just demonstrated their strength and resilience.” 
–Kelsey Mashinski ’20 (2020 TEDx Arcadia University: “20/20 Vision”)

“There is a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye….Sitting there listening to all of these wonderful speakers, and knowing that I had a part in putting it all together, is not a feeling that is easily replicated.” 
–Michael Soroka ’21 (2020 TEDx Arcadia University: “20/20 Vision”)