BY JENNY DEVRIES
What happens when big thinkers from the Drake University and the surrounding Des Moines community are brought together to share their ideas? Juniors Kerstin Donat and Arti Patel decided to find out by creating the TEDxDrake Club.
TEDxDrake Club is a student- led program inspired by TED talks with the goal of moving students beyond surface-level introductions and hear unique ideas from their peers and other community members.
Originally, TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks are presented by well-known figures in a variety of fields who connect their audiences to “ideas worth spreading.”
The difference that TEDxDrake Club brings is a focus on the local community. As president of the organization, Donat strives to give locals the opportunity to share their ideas, rather than bringing in famous people.
“I believe that everyone has an idea worth spreading. There just isn’t always a platform to share those ideas,” Donat said. “I think that TEDxDrakeU can create a space for those ideas.”
TEDxDrakeU hosts an annual event that is essentially a mixture of live talks and pre- recorded TED talks, inspired by Patel and Donat’s experience at a TEDxDesMoines event.
“It was one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever attended,” Donat said. “The ideas presented by the speakers were so gripping and insightful. They instilled a feeling of ‘anything is possible’ in the audience. After that, Arti and I decided that we want more people to get that feeling.”
As TEDxDrake’s vice president, Patel was similarly motivated to bring his inspiration to Drake’s campus.
“We saw that there were a lot of interesting people in the community,” Patel said. “We wanted to be able to provide a platform through which they could share their unique ideas and perspectives with others.”
This semester, the group hosted the annual TEDxDrake event on April 15 in Cowles Library.
The process of selecting applicants with unique perspectives has become increasingly selective as each year passes, as noticed by previous speaker Sam Fathallah.
“My application was very general, but I enjoyed getting to share my thoughts,” Fathallah said. “It was definitely nerve- racking. Getting up and speaking in front of a huge group of your peers is not something you do all the time.”
Applicants this year were selected based on this year’s theme, ‘Transformation’. The event covered lectures exploring physical, mental and social transformations.
In order to find a good speaker, the club refers to TED’s official slogan — “Ideas worth spreading.”
“We are looking for speakers who have unique ideas or perspectives that could open people’s minds to different ways of looking at the world,” Patel said. “We want to be sure that the talks will cover a wide array of backgrounds, so that the event is widely relatable to the audience.”
With a total of five talks and six speakers representing students, professors and local community members, Patel considers this year’s event a success.
“We were able to bring together a great group of speakers and volunteers to put on the event,” Patel said.
Despite its happiness with turnout, the TEDxDrake Club is already looking to the future for ways to increase awareness of their event.
“I really hope that in the future, this TEDx event become an idea-sharing space – a space that allows for new ideas to be explored and old concepts to be challenged,” Donat said.