Student organization TEDxUTK hosted their first event of the semester this Tuesday night, aptly titled "Amid the Pandemic."
As an entirely student-run organization, TEDxUTK provides a space for Vols to inspire new conversations that focus on issues affecting the UT community.
Organization co-director Cat Trieu said that the purpose of TEDxUTK is “spreading diverse ideas that need to be heard.”
In the past, TEDxUTK has organized live TEDx events for the community. In light of the pandemic, they have decided to now conduct virtual events called “salons.” These are not typical TEDx conferences, but collaborative discussions between students.
After a brief introduction to the organization’s leadership, the group of virtual attendees was shown a clip from Susan David’s 2017 TEDWomen conference presentation titled “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage.”
Speaking on her own experiences with social and political unrest, David offered her perspective on the unexpected events life can throw our way. “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” David added as her poignant closing advice.
The group of virtual attendees then indulged in thoughtful conversation about their own COVID-19 experiences, and how the virus has affected their lives. There were many discussion questions proposed over the evening, but the conversation seemed to stay on the topics of mental health, emotions and how people are dealing with these in their day to day lives.
A few attendees mentioned their respective majors and fields of interests, and how these have been affected by COVID-19. It appeared that some individuals had been caused to change the plans they initially had for themselves before the pandemic, such as choosing to attend grad school upon graduation rather than heading straight into the job market.
“My plans have shifted. I’m trying to re-orient myself and find the best path for me now,” Sreya Kumpatla, an aerospace engineering major, said.
For some, this re-orientation seemed to include graduate school, a venture that they may not have otherwise considered. “The safest bet is to keep investing in my education,” Kumpatia said.
TEDxUTK co-director Varun Rangnekar said that he has found silver linings in new hobbies.
“I have learned to use cooking as a de-stressor,” said Rangekar.
Though there were many different points of view regarding the pandemic’s effect on people, one thing is certain: every student that attended the salon Tuesday evening had suffered some academic or professional loss due to the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the evening did not close on a bad note. The mutual experiences created an open atmosphere for a constructive conversation that ultimately united all participants.
You can attend TEDxUTK’s next virtual salon, or learn more about their organization on Instagram @tedxutk or on their website.
This article has been updated since its original publication.