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Annual TEDxUNC conference features talks by more than 15 speakers

The annual "TEDxUNC" featured 1 ted talks and performances from UNC students, faculty, and special guest speakers, all centered around the theme "Taking Flight." The event took place in Memorial Hall on February 15th, 2014. 

Bethania Bacigalupe and Josh Young, "Acro Yoga."
The annual "TEDxUNC" featured 1 ted talks and performances from UNC students, faculty, and special guest speakers, all centered around the theme "Taking Flight." The event took place in Memorial Hall on February 15th, 2014. Bethania Bacigalupe and Josh Young, "Acro Yoga."

Balloons, bees and space missions were among the topics discussed under the “Taking Flight” theme at Saturday’s TEDxUNC conference.

The annual conference took place at Memorial Hall Saturday and included 15 speeches and six performance groups.

The conference featured two student speakers: junior Safiyah Ismail and senior Bobby Mook. Both gained the opportunity to speak through a competition held earlier this school year. All those who competed were required to submit a one minute video proposal, and seven were then selected to compete with a five minute audition in January in front of almost 500 attendees.

TEDxUNC co-curator Julia Ramos said one of last year’s student speakers, Laura Rozo, a UNC junior who died a few weeks after her talk, set a precedent for this year’s speakers.

“She set the bar really high,” Ramos said.

Ismail spoke about the impact that learning sign language has had on her life and how it is different from spoken language. She also described the barriers that exist between users of sign language living in different geographical regions.

“My favorite thing about sign language is how it forces you to flesh out your emotions,” Ismail said during her talk.

Junior Shayna Purcell said that she appreciated Ismail’s message.

“I thought (her talk) was really amazing,” Purcell said. “She is very articulate. …It definitely made me think about language in a way that I haven’t before.”

Mook spoke about FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” and how it manifests itself in modern day society. He explained that the fear of missing out is something that deepens the attachment to technology.

“We experience the fear of missing out due to our disability to answer essential questions,” Mook said.

Mook explained further that the fear boils down to one main question: “Am I significant?”

Mook said the audience should look within and try to understand what fear is telling them.

“Understand this fear of missing out, and do what makes you happy,” Mook said in conclusion.

Mook’s talk garnered positive reviews from the audience as well.

“It was inspiring and hyper-relevant,” said senior Hannah Margaret Lindquist.

Beyond the topics of sign language and FOMO, other talks at the conference covered areas that students do not normally think about.

“I thought it was a great collection of ideas and perspectives … it had cool content I hadn’t thought of before,” said junior Jorian Hoover.

Some of the professions represented by the speakers at the conference included a beekeeper, an astronaut, an artist and a family nurse practitioner.

Last week’s winter storm led to lower attendance than expected as well as travel difficulty for speakers, though the conference went on as planned.

During the opening session, about 780 people were in attendance, though 1600 tickets had been released for the event.

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“We were thinking that we could fill the house, but I think the weather got the most of people,” Ramos said.

Ramos pointed out that the conference was available online via livestream, and she thought that many attendees opted to watch from home.

John Wood, the final speaker of the day, arrived at the conference by car roughly 45 minutes before his speech due to a flight delay. Flights were a problem for two other speakers as well, who ended up traveling by Amtrak and then by car with a teammate’s mother.

“We still made it happen,” Ramos said. “We are proud of our team, and everyone who worked on it with us.”

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