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Students plan to bring TEDx to UMBC’s campus

For entrepreneurs, innovators and professionals, presenting a TED Talk is the height of one’s career. Although there is only one TED conference and it is both highly selective and pricey, over 50,000 TEDx talks have been organized independently in recent years. UMBC will add to that number of independent TEDx talks in the spring of 2020.

Shrijana Khanal, a sophomore economics student, became the co-president for this rising club after being approached by a friend. Khanal stated, “Tirzah Khan, who is a sophomore information systems major, went to STRiVE with me and she had the original idea. She knew I was sort of into this leadership initiative and just having good quality conversations, so she reached out and then we became co-presidents.”

Khanal notes that UMBC has already hosted two TEDx events in 2014 and 2017 but they were not well-known, so they decided to create the club “in hopes that people would create a talk every year.”

Neither Khanal nor Khan were students at UMBC during the time of the last TEDx talk on campus, so the inspiration came from the neighboring Johns Hopkins University. Khanal explains, “[Khan] got inspired because she went to a TEDx talk hosted by Johns Hopkins and there was actually a UMBC student who spoke there, and then she was thinking, ‘Oh, why isn’t this person speaking on our campus?’ So she wanted to create this with the hopes of just fostering the UMBC community and as a way for everyone to hear different stories.”

Khanal adds that the speakers at the event will be exclusively members of the UMBC community, stating, “we want students and faculty but we even want employees from d-hall to come and just everyone who is in the UMBC community to share their stories.” Khanal also revealed that the topic for the TEDx talk at UMBC in the spring of 2020 will be “uncertainty,” although they are still in the early stages of planning. 

UMBC currently offers other means of expression for students through events like URCAD, but Khanal maintains that TEDx talks provide a more personal setting for students to share their experiences. She says, “In URCAD, everyone is doing mind-blowing research but maybe people just want to give their minds a rest and regroup to think about who they are and the different challenges they’re facing in their identity… so this is a platform for people to just share their personal struggles and how they grew as a person.”

TEDx talks also differ from current events on campus in that they are taped and available online for viewers to watch in the future. Khanal comments, “TEDx talks are so universal… For me, I listen to them on YouTube whenever I’m going through stuff just to have hope, so I think my inspiration came from [Khan] and I working together and sharing a common vision of just letting college students know that they’re not alone in their struggles.”

Like any emerging organization on campus, Khanal and Khan have faced a number of struggles in working out the details. Khanal shares, “our challenge is that we don’t want people to share the same type of story, because for me when I think of uncertainty I just think of school and where I’m headed in life, but I want people to share different types of stories. One person can talk about uncertainty in academics… another person can talk about when they went through a bad breakup and having uncertainty about their identity… another topic could be losing someone in a family death or something like that, so just sharing unique stories which have a different sort of pain related to a different sort of growth.”

Although the club does not plan to hold meetings until the fall semester, Khanal says that there is “a lot of interest in members already” from friends of the two co-presidents and members of clubs they have reached out to with the idea. If successful with their event in the spring of 2020, the club may be able to establish a new tradition on campus for students to speak and be heard.