Mercer University will be hosting its own set of TED Talks this spring in order to showcase student research and education in all colleges and fields through the TEDx program.
Shruti Jha, executive director of TEDx Mercer, is a senior majoring in public health. Jha spearheaded the efforts that made the organization a reality. She said she wanted to give Mercer students an opportunity to participate in an event they grew up watching and learning from.
“I feel like all of us have been watching TED Talks since forever now. I can’t even remember the first time I watched it. We’re supposed to take away these meaningful messages from these TED Talks, and I always looked up to them,” Jha said.
Jha’s first step was finding out how to engage with TED Talks on a deeper level than just watching them.
“I knew that there was a way for universities to also have their own platform, to have their own TEDx, to show off their own talent that they have at the university. I thought that it would be a great idea to bring it here to Mercer,” Jha said.
Jha received her license to utilize TED branding in July 2020, which gave her a year to partner Mercer and TEDx.
“It was the first step of believing we were finally getting somewhere,” Jha said.
She quickly moved on to setting up her team and developing the event. This year’s speaker topic is “Embark.”
“When we were really talking about it, it was during quarantine 2020. A lot of things were changing, a lot of things were moving around and a lot of people were going through challenges,” Jha said. “We really wanted to see how people are embarking on those challenges that they’ve got through, not just in quarantine but in general, in their life.”
Jha said her team wants to encourage people to tell their stories through their research. However, the event is not limited to STEM or research-based majors; TED as a brand is not restricted to presentation of scientific research, and neither is TEDx Mercer.
“It doesn’t have to be STEM. The other day I watched this TED Talk about how this guy’s life was saved because of tea,” Jha said. “He had done an ample amount of research for him to give a TED Talk, but it wasn’t like he went to Mars, it wasn’t anything super sciency, it was a small experience he made a TEDx from.”
According to the TED website, the program is a “grassroots initiative” to show off “ideas worth spreading.” The TEDx movement hopes to initiate conversation in local communities about research, led and organized independently by a licensed TED organizer.
“These events are organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas and to share the latest research in their local areas that spark conversations in their communities,” according to a statement on the TEDx website.
The application process requires a proposal, asks for past examples and provides a space for you to present yourself as a speaker.
“We’ve also asked them why are you the best person to talk about this topic,” Jha said. “Because when you hear TED Talks, you think, this person knows a lot about what they’re talking about.”
TEDxMercer's first event is slated for Friday, April 23 in Willingham Hall from 6 - 9 p.m.
"For our inaugural event, we will explore the word 'Embark' with our speakers presenting their diverse perspectives and what 'Embark' means to them," the organization's website reads.
Speakers will include Bonzo Reddick, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and professor at Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah, as well as Ha Van Vo, distinguished university professor of biomedical engineering and head of Mercer on Mission Vietnam. Audiences will also hear from current medical student Stormy Orlin as well as Caleb Brown, an artist, speaker and former athlete who graduated from Mercer in 2016.