About 500 people gathered Wednesday night to listen to student finalists compete for the chance to present at “Assembly Required,” the 2015 TEDxUNC conference, an independently organized event associated with the global TED — technology, entertainment and design — conference series.
The event, which took place in the Great Hall of the Student Union, featured seven UNC students who spoke on a variety of topics.
Some of the speakers relied on science to support their arguments. Junior Morgan Freese spoke about her experience working to restore oyster reef ecosystems.
Senior Michael Gu illuminated “The Faces of Marijuana” and the potential for cannabis to be used to treat cancer patients.
“(Unlike other substances,) marijuana is unique in the fact that if you do too much, not only do you not die, but it brings you closer to homeostasis. You feel more relaxed, more at peace, more at ease ... and hungry,” Gu said.
The mood was often serious. Junior Sowmya Mangipudi spoke about the role of relationships in stories of life and death. Junior Anisha Padma evaluated how “anti-black racism” affects South Asian-Americans.
“Communities believe that they need to assimilate with their oppressors to gain access to institutional power, but this actually perpetuates a system of oppression and structural violence,” Padma said.
Others offered advice.
Senior Jonathan Hebert drew on his own experience of performing improv with the Chapel Hill Players to suggest that improvisation is an important skill that allows anyone to solve problems creatively.
Senior Bill Collette discussed authenticity and urged the audience to be unafraid of not fitting in.
Senior Ahmad Saad spoke about the role of media in shaping the way the public thinks about conflicts like the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
“What is the purpose of masterpieces if we can’t manage to master peace?” he asked the audience.
After all the speakers finished, the audience was invited to vote for their favorite presentation via text message or Twitter.
Based on the vote, one of the seven student speaker finalists will be invited to speak at the 2015 TEDxUNC conference, which will take place Feb. 7. The results will be announced today.
Shannon Coy, a co-curator of the TEDxUNC conference, said events like the conference allow students to learn from the experience and passion of their peers.
“It’s a great way to showcase things that are going on in the world, in the community and even on campus,” she said.
“We can take a speaker who is doing great things in the world and be able to pull it back and reflect on what’s going on at UNC.”