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TEDxUMDearborn 2023: Unveiling the Power of Ideas and Connection

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Anika Raisa Chowdhury, Staff Writer

The set up for the TEDxUMDearborn “Behind Closed Doors” event. Photo// Anika Raisa Chowdhury

Imagine a day filled with inspiration, innovation and captivating ideas. That's precisely what one experienced on Friday, Sept. 29, at TEDxUMDearborn, an independently organized event that brought together 80 attendees from both within and outside the campus community. The theme, "Behind Closed Doors," set the stage for an unforgettable experience.

The driving force behind these events is the desire to share "ideas worth spreading."

After the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of TEDx to UM-Dearborn was motivated by a desire to rekindle the spirit of curiosity and learning within the local community. TEDx events aren't just gatherings; they're a global movement of local, self-organized celebrations of ideas.

While TED provides guidance, each TEDx event is independently organized. TEDxUMDearborn was no exception as it was driven by a passionate team led by TEDx President Eejoy Lim and Vice President Jaishree Jaikumar along with dedicated TEDx e-board members. Faculty advisor Kas Kasravi, a professor from the College of Engineering and Computer Science and Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, played a crucial role behind the scenes.

The organizing committee believed that TEDx could offer a unique opportunity for attendees to explore a wide array of topics beyond the confines of a traditional classroom, however, organizing an event of this magnitude involves adhering to the comprehensive guidelines set by TED, encompassing aspects from logistics to videography and beyond.

The event had to adhere to a strict attendee limit of 100 people. Moreover, every talk was recorded and subsequently uploaded to the TED website for review and approval, with the final step being publication on TED's YouTube channel.

The theme, "Behind Closed Doors," was chosen to emphasize the idea that there is always a hidden story of effort, struggle and determination behind every success. It challenges individuals to look beyond appearances and recognize the depth of what it takes to achieve extraordinary outcomes.

The Opening Act by the Campus Musician Club. Photo// Regan Maharjan

The September event kicked off with a captivating instrumental performance by the Campus Musician Club. Together, Vanessa Wojtalewicz on cello, Skyler Babbitt on bass, Max Ullrich on percussion and Kate Ullrich on guitar set the tone for an afternoon of exploration and discovery.

The heart of TEDxUMDearborn, while being moderated by Samuel Curaso, was its speakers. In just 18 minutes, each speaker ignited conversations that would resonate long after the event concluded.

The first speaker was Roop Raj, a weekday evening anchor at FOX 2 News. Raj defied expectations and spoke of "The Power of the Underdog." He shared his journey, breaking free from stereotypes to pursue a career path that defied traditional South Asian norms.

Roop Raj presenting his Ted Talk. Photo// Regan Maharjan

The second speaker was Julie Booksh, a counselor and spiritual guide. Booksh challenged imposter syndrome in her talk, "The Art of Losing Your Mind," inspiring attendees to embrace their authentic selves.

Julie presenting her Ted Talk. Photo// Regan Maharjan

The third speaker was Lynn Haliburton, an alumna of UM-Dearborn. Haliburton discussed "From Shelters to Service: My Detroit Unhoused Experience." She reflected on her personal journey and how it fueled her passion for helping others. She also talked about how she utilized the support resources available on campus.

Q&A session with Lynn. Photo// Regan Maharjan

After a short 20-minute break, the stage was taken by the fourth speaker of the day, David Derigiotis, the Chief Insurance Officer for Embroker. Derigiotis delved into "The Great Shift: Preparing for the Rise of Artificial Intelligence." He explored the pros and cons of AI and showcased its capabilities.

David Derigiotis at TedxUMDearborn. Photo// Regan Maharjan

The fifth impactful speaker, Pamela Aronson, Professor of Sociology and Affiliate in Women's and Gender Studies, explored "Gender Revolution." She shed light on the #MeToo movement's impact on society, discussing the importance of addressing unreported sexual harassment and abuse.

Pamela presenting her Ted Talk. Photo// Regan Maharjan

Following each talk, attendees engaged in lively Q&A sessions. These interactions not only enriched the event but also encouraged collaboration, intellectual curiosity and idea-sharing. The event was more than just a platform; it was a dynamic exchange of thoughts and perspectives.

"I was a volunteer for the TEDx event at UM-Dearborn. It was truly a great experience to be a part of such a team,” said Gajalakshmi Soundarrajan. “The speakers were an amazing inspiration for the audience. To hear about their personal experiences and their success stories was fascinating."

"Volunteering as a photographer for TEDx at the University of Michigan's Dearborn campus was a gratifying and inspiring experience,” said Regan Maharjan. “Contributing to the team's vision was an honor, capturing the event's spirit through my lens. Should the opportunity arise, I wouldn't hesitate to lend my skills again."

The speakers with the President and Vice-President at TedxUmDearborn. Photo// Regan Maharjan

Organizing TEDxUMDearborn was not without its share of challenges. The committee faced numerous speaker rejections before securing the final lineup, and venue selection also proved to be a hurdle. Requests for funding from the Chancellor's Office and all four college departments were ignored while others were rejected, leaving the President and Vice President to dip into their own pockets for essentials like food and beverages for volunteers. Despite these challenges, TEDxUMDearborn stands as its own testament to the power of community, resilience, and determination. Organizing an event of this magnitude is no small feat, but the team's dedication and unwavering commitment made it a reality.

Upon reflecting on TEDxUMDearborn 2023, it can be recognized that it's not just an event—it's a testament to the passion for ideas worth spreading. The journey of TEDxUMDearborn's return was one marked by challenges, triumphs, setbacks and determination. The TEDx event left attendees not only inspired by the speakers but also inspired by the incredible effort that went into making it happen. It serves as a testament to the idea that when a community comes together, incredible things can be achieved.

TEDxUMDearborn aims to become an annual event, offering a consistent source of inspiration and enlightenment. However, as the current President and Vice President are set to graduate soon, the committee is actively searching for new leaders who can carry the torch forward. Those interested in contributing to TEDxUMDearborn's legacy are encouraged to reach out via email.

Keep an eye on their Instagram page for future events.

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