During the next academic year, Maryville College will host its first TEDx event. This event is being spearheaded by three Maryville College students, junior business analytics majors Ali Lawson, Caleb Underdown, and Ahmed Etman.
This a brand-new opportunity on campus, and it is still in the early stages of development. Lawson explained that TEDx is not a TED Talk itself but a branch of the nonprofit organization that allows colleges and universities to organize TED Talks of their own. TEDx conferences require an application process, and the school has to be accepted as an eligible school for the event.
Both Lawson and Underdown are passionate about the positive effects that the TEDx event will have on both Maryville College and the Blount County community.
“What we are trying to do is bring the TEDx conference to Maryville College to allow us to showcase some of the brightest minds of the community and really bring a lot more people together to discuss some of the larger issues that are impacting our community,” Lawson said.
Similarly, Underdown wants to see more community involvement between students at Maryville and Blount County.
“It’s kind of a bridge between the community and Maryville College itself,” Underdown said. “Maryville College kind of sits on an island in the city of Maryville, and we really have no contact with the outside world whatsoever for the most part.”
Lawson, Underdown, and Etman want this to be an opportunity for students not only for resume building but also for practicing skills and discovering new interests
“It’s a pretty fluid and mobile environment, and anything you feel you have a skill for or would be interested in learning how to do, those would be the things that you would be doing,” Underdown said.
The theme for the conference, which will be in the early fall of next year, is “Discovering Interconnections,” and it will focus on people with interdisciplinary backgrounds. When it comes to the speakers of the conference, there are six spots, five of which will be non-college students that the TEDx team will reach out to personally.
There will be one spot available for a student speaker that will involve an application process. That application will become available early next semester. With the theme of interconnectedness, both Lawson and Underdown stressed the importance of the speakers bringing new perspectives to the community.
“We’re looking for people who have an original story about what makes their background interdisciplinary in that regard, and we are looking for something that is very authentic,” Lawson said. Underdown embraces the broadness of such a topic.
“Our topic sounds kind of big and abstract and vague, but anyway that you can creatively fit a life experience, a story from your life, or a story you know of into that topic and present that in an applicable way — that would be something we would want,” Underdown said.
Despite an emphasis on “story,” the speakers do not have to be sharing life experiences strictly.
“The main goal of it is to present an interesting idea,” Lawson said. “So, that idea can come in the form of discussing your life experience or in the form of discussing scientific research or a business initiative you’ve done.”
These three team leaders exemplify “doing good on the largest possible scale,” with their earnest intent of connecting the Maryville College community with the rest of Blount County as well as showing initiative in their futures.