TEDxNortheasternU 2019 to explore personal growth and interdisciplinary collaboration

Co-organizers Becca Lafair and Scott Breece did most of the planning for their inaugural TEDxNortheasternU event last year online, while she spent a part of it on co-op in Bali and he was studying abroad in Rome. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Is it true that we value freedom from choice almost as much as we treasure the freedom to choose? Could a decentralized health care system actually work? How do we as a society benefit when girls in disadvantaged communities are provided mentoring and resources to succeed?

An assistant professor of marketing, a bioengineering student researcher, and a director of a local college mentoring organization are among the 10 speakers who have been invited to share these and other ideas with a Northeastern audience at the university’s second annual TEDx event on Saturday.

The theme of this year’s event, “Branches: Cultivating Connections,” is a reflection on personal growth as well as how an interdisciplinary approach can help a school community grow.

“We’re really trying to highlight the crossing of boundaries and also connecting dots within any sorts of ideas,” said Celine Au-Yeung, the event’s marketing director and a fourth-year business student. “We believe that all of the talks that we’ve prepared and the performers and all the interactive exhibits we have prepared will try to facilitate that growth.”

Northeastern’s TEDx event will offer interactive exhibits in the lobby that showcase the speakers’ ideas and work. Photo courtesy of TEDxNortheasternU

TEDx events are independently organized from the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) presentations, although both feature speakers who discuss scientific, cultural, political, and academic topics through storytelling. Northeastern’s event was organized by a team of 21 undergraduate students who share a passion for showcasing all the different disciplines across the university, and providing a platform for alumni, students, and faculty to share seemingly disparate ideas in one setting.

Mary Steffel, an assistant professor of marketing at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, said that she plans to talk about how delegating decisions can help people overcome decision paralysis, a topic that was inspired in part by research she has conducted with her colleague, Elanor Williams.

“The lesson that I hope people take away from my talk is that when you’re confronted with a difficult decision, making that choice or walking away empty-handed aren’t your only options,” she said. “You can delegate difficult decisions in order to avoid responsibility for choosing and still walk away from that choice with something rather than nothing.”

Fifth-year bioengineering student Victoria D’Agostino said she jumped at the opportunity to share her ideas for making health care more accessible to people around the world. She said she developed a passion for the topic as an intern at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“I’m going to address some disparities in health care and how they can be improved by decentralization and ways to expand access to health care to those that aren’t able to access it successfully,” she said.

Alicia Payne, a fifth-year political science and urban studies student is co-director of Strong Women, Strong Girls Inc., an organization that mentors third through fifth-graders in Boston Public Schools on feminism and female empowerment.

“My speech is talking about how joining my program really helped me learn about cycles of mutual empowerment, and how empowering others can help me empower myself,” she said. “By showing up for the girls that I mentor, and showing up for my co-mentors, I was able to empower myself in the process.”

Last year’s sold-out inaugural event featured a diversity of speakers and ideas, among them Rebecca Love, who discussed why nurses should be involved in the design of healthcare products, Kritika Singh, a student who started her own nonprofit to raise awareness of and support research for malaria, and James Doyle, a computer engineering student who is passionate about art history.

TEDxNortheasternU 2019 is open to the public and will be held Saturday, March 23, from 1 to 5 p.m., at the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC). For more information, visit TEDxNortheasternU.com.

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.