May 14, 2015 |

Recap: TEDxPenn 2015


The TEDxPenn 2015 conference took place on Sunday, April 12, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and this year’s theme was “What Lies Ahead.” The day was filled with a wide range of eclectic and eye-opening speakers of all ages and from all facets of life and provided inspiration and motivation to students and conference-goers alike. The many presentations were especially eye-opening for me as a soon-to-be college graduate, and I think there was something thought-provoking and memorable to take away from the experience for any student who attended. For those who unfamiliar with TED Talks, TED is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, that has been devoted to spreading ideas through series of short talks and presentations since it began in 1984.

TEDx events have the same mission in mind, but are independently organized events in communities around the world.

This year’s TedxPenn Conference’s theme was “What Lies Ahead,” which was all about the exploration of where life and society are headed, some of the questions that the conference aimed to explore were “How can we create a ripple effect that will leave the world as a better place?” and “How would we think about our actions in retrospect?” P.R. and Marketing Director for TedxPenn, Osama Ahmed, described the conference in three words: “inspiring, ambitious, and transformative.”

The presentations were broken down into sessions each with its own unique focus.Although the day was filled with many charismatic and creative speakers, here were some of my favorites.

Jonathan Iwry

The University of Pennsylvania graduate and freestyle rapper started off with a twist by having the audience tweet random words that appeared on a projection screen and then performed an impromptu rap live, as the words appeared on the screen. His presentation was all about the importance of improvisation and how it applies to not just rap but all aspects of life, he called human beings “one big improv troupe.” His most memorable quote was his definition of improvisation as “the application of creativity to the present moment.”

Judy Gelles

Photographer and artist Judy Gelles put together a captivating photography project and a  moving TED talk by asking three simple questions: Who do you live with? What do you worry about? What do you wish for? In response to the school and violence crisis in Philadelphia, Gelles created a project in which she took photographs of the backs of fourth graders (she was not allowed to feature their faces), and asked each student those three questions, she included both inner city and private school students from around the globe and the results were enlightening and a bit heartbreaking. Read more about “The Fourth Grade Project” here.

Nic Hanson and the Ninth Floor Band

New York University student Nic Hanson and his 3-to-12 piece band the Ninth Floor used blues, hop-hop, funk and soul musical influences to perform original songs about social issues and a call to eliminate prejudice. Not only was the ensemble talented, but they managed to use the universal language of music to put social issues into a relatable context.

“Our goal was to highlight exceptional individuals with transformative ideas that deserve to be shared with everyone,” said Ahmed. ” Ultimately, through doing this, we hope that people can find their passion, find like-minded individuals to partner with and transform bright ideas into much more.”

This year’s TEDxPenn conference definitely accomplished this. Interest in seeing TED Talks? Check out videos of talks from around the world here.


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