Students host TEDxVCU

Students host TEDxVCU

Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days in the making, a team of eight undergraduates at Virginia Commonwealth University is less than a day away from seeing their hard work and dedication finally come to fruition.

The students are the organizers of TEDxVCU, the first TEDx conference hosted by VCU. Simplicity, the theme of this flagship event, is the result of work by an entirely student-led team passionate about instilling university pride and starting a new tradition at VCU.

The one-day event features students, faculty and alumni from both campuses and VCU Qatar gathering to highlight the ideas of those who push the boundaries, seek solutions to problems and constantly strive to understand the human condition.

“Simplicity was chosen as a method of discourse,” said Dylan Halpern, a graphic design major in the VCU School of the Arts and designer lead for TEDxVCU.

Halpern and the other student team members examined the different degrees and areas of study offered at VCU and concluded that the diverse fields and ideas must be boiled down to something simple, concepts that are easily explained or illustrated, in order to be widely used and understood.

However, hosting such a large community event has not been as simple as its name implies. Finding the right team, delegating work efficiently, creating a speaker selection process and applying for funding from the Student Government Association and other sponsors are but some of bumps the students faced along the way.

“We did not know the right questions to ask at the right times and had to learn on our feet and fix our mistakes rapidly,” said Grace Cummings, lead-up production coordinator and financial officer of TEDxVCU.

Cummings is a sophomore majoring in physics in the College of Humanities and Sciences. She was attracted to the passion and zeal of the planning team.

“The ambition of a group of eight students to plan this massive event was inspiring,” Cummings said.

Hours away from the kickoff, event management coordinator L. Viktoria Pretzman keeps trying to remind herself and others why they are doing this and to stay calm in the face of last-minute challenges.

“The reality is that we've done the work, things are set up to go smoothly, but things never go smoothly,” Pretzman said. “Some audience member will probably get into a fender-bender outside the parking deck, some speaker is going to get stage fright, a camel will somehow wander in and start accosting our foodtrucks – something always happens.”

The important part to her is to remember the big picture and hope the TEDx conference planning will be easier for those who come after them.

With funding from the Monroe Park Campus SGA, TEDx at VCU, a student organization, planned and produced the program for $33,000. Organizers expect approximately 1,000 attendees.

“TEDxVCU is only a time and a place,” Halpern wrote. “It is incumbent on the viewers to give our conference meaning, because it is the attendees that will take something away from Simplicity and apply it to their day to day lives.”

TEDxVCU takes place Saturday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the recently renovated Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St.

Speakers include:

·  Hannah Rumsey, an alumna who majored in music in the School of the Arts and psychology (with a minor in creative writing) in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Hong Yeo, assistant professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in the School of Engineering.

·  Jillian Stevens, political science major in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Jon DeShazo, assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Professions.

·  Kevin Ghaffari, a senior in the health science program in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, with minors in chemistry and psychology, College of Humanities and Sciences.

Kunal Kapoor, Fulbright Scholar and second-year student in the School of Medicine. Kapoor is an alumnus of the Honors College and the College of Humanities and Sciences with a degree in religious studies, with minors in chemistry and mathematics.

Robyn McDougle, associate professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

·  Sahil Aggarwhal, senior majoring in biology in the Honors College and the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Victor Haskins, alumnus of the Department of Music in the School of the Arts.

Wayne Slough, assistant professor of marketing in the School of Business.

Simone Muscolino, interim director of foundation at VCUQatar.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Attendees are encouraged to review the Anthem Richmond Marathon map of street closures and alternate routes prior to attending tomorrow’s event.


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