Campus comes together to put on TEDxUNC

Jan. 21, 2012 5:24 pm

Did you watch our livestream of TEDxUNC? Check back later this week for clips of the individual talks, and check out our Tweets from the event at @reesenews.

The idea to hold a TEDx conference at UNC came to Rachel Myrick while she was visiting Cambodia during the summer.

“I had a lot of free time,” she said with a laugh. “So to occupy my time I’d watch a lot of TED talks. I just started thinking about how cool it would be to have something like that at UNC.”

And with that, Myrick, a junior Morehead-Cain scholar, once again proved herself to be a go-getter. She partnered with junior MacKenzie Thomas and together the girls contacted organizations and individuals on campus. A planning committee was formed through Carolina Creates and fundraising began by September.

Two faculty members in particular, she said – Dennis Whittle and Niklaus Steiner – have been key to the planning process.

Steiner, director of the Center for Global Initiatives, had both Myrick and Thomas in a class last fall and said he jumped on board more than confident in their ability to pull off the event.

“TEDx-UNC is exactly the kind of global initiative that UNC needs to be supporting,” he said. “It’s just so impressive that it has really been entirely student-driven; Dennis Whittle and I just acted as sounding boards.

“I hope they’ll do it again next year and CGI will be an eager partner.”

The theme for the conference is “Global Initiative.”

“TED wants you to come up with a short, distinct theme,” Myrick said. “And it’s not just about the individual talks themselves, but combining them all together.”

Working through the TEDx program was neat, she said, even though it presented  a number of limitations.

“We had to do a lot of going back and forth,” Myrick said. “They have all these requirements for documents and forms, how you handle the photos and videos, you have to apply for a license, provide certain things to the speakers, and so on.”

However, she said that simply the TED name attracted free speakers and helped them keep costs low. Cost estimates totaled at $12,054.72.

Myrick said none of the funds came from Student Congress or even the Carolina Union Activities Board. Instead, the money came from a wide variety of sources, she said. Student organizations, the Campus Y’s Social Innovation Incubator and even local families contributed support.

Treasurer Alex Almeter said that most donors gave to a specific aspect of the event, such as sponsoring one speaker or meal.

Even before the conference began, Myrick already has a plan for next year in the back of her mind. Another TEDx conference for sure, she said, but bigger.

“Next year we’re going to do the same kind of event, but get a bigger license,” she said. “What we were going for in the first year was a small, clean, intimate event.”

Granted, Myrick said she vastly underestimated the potential interest. Tickets sold out in a matter of seconds.

“I thought I was an anomily for being really excited about this, but that hasn’t been the case at all,” she said. “The response has been phenomenal.

“And now that people know about it, we’ll probably involve the public as much as possible.”

Myrick said that in addition to a number of contests for tickets like they had this year, students may be able to submit ideas for themes and even compete to speak at next year’s event.

“Now I think we know that people respond well to this and have a better idea for next year of how to do it all,” she said.