Students Set New Horizons at TEDxGreenhill

After a year of planning and preparation, a group of students hosted the first TEDxGreenhillSchool on April 2.

The idea stemmed from a weekly tradition started by Greenhill upper school science teacher Chris Bigenho, who started emailing various TED Talks each Tuesday. These quickly became known as TEDTuesdays.

Last fall, senior Kevin Wei approached Bigenho with the idea of starting a TED club. When asked what that would entail, Wei proposed the group meet and watch their favorite talks … and host their own TEDx.

“At Greenhill we have a culture that’s very focused on learning and curiosity,” executive director Wei said. “A lot of students are familiar with TED and what they do and are curious about knowledge.”

It wasn’t long before the gears started to turn, and what was once an inkling became a full-steam-ahead machine. Students researched various speakers they were interested in featuring and ensured they were adhering to the TEDx regulations.

“What’s wonderful is the whole thing was student driven,” said Head of Upper School Laura Ross. “All [the administration] really did was secure the venue. [Wei] really helped us because TEDx has strict procedures.”

The event’s theme, New Horizons, reflected new takes on old ideas, said junior Cole Forson, who will take over as executive director for next year’s TEDx event.

Four speakers were featured, sharing their expertise on topics such as fracking, water on Mars, race and history. Speakers included Brian Stump, professor of earth sciences at SMU; Byron Sanders, vice president at U.S. Trust; and John Hoffman, physics department head and associate dean for undergraduate students for the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Senior Mansi Kumar was selected for the one slot reserved for a student speaker. In keeping with the theme, her talk “Musings of an Embarrassed Tween,” based on her experience, explained that while embarrassment may seem to be a cause for shame, it can be a catalyst to cultivating character.

“It evolved over time,” said Bigenho, the faculty advisor. “It was like a who’s who list of really powerful, connected people. For me, it was a joy to sit back and watch these kids pull it off.”

Along with the four speakers, the Greenhill Dance Company and Greenhill Improv Troupe performed a few pieces to create more student involvement.
According to Forson, the event went well, drawing around 150 attendees. However, the experience left much room for growth.

“We want to give more reasons for people to come,” he said. “Bringing in food trucks … and now that we have a reputation, get some really great speakers.”
The date for next year’s TEDxGreenhill School has already been set for March 25, 2017.

“This kind of thing is exactly what I think our students are great at,” Ross said. “I think this felt very organic to students, and very much in keeping with our mission and creating opportunities for students to lead.”

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