Does Pluto care if it’s labeled a “planet?” Is any child ever born bad? What insight can you gain from spending 12 years at a university? These were just a few of the issues addressed at TEDx NorthwesternU, a day dedicated to ideas worth spreading.


Attendees packed the McCormick Tribune Center Forum on the Evanston campus April 12 for three separate sessions featuring speakers from the Northwestern community. Students, faculty members and alumni presented polished 15-minute talks on a range of topics, from interdisciplinary teaching to tackling issues of human rights. Livestreaming of the sessions was viewed in nearby Fisk Hall by scores of registered guests.

“I thought of my talk as sort of a tribute to Northwestern,” said speaker Marissa Jackson '06, who spoke about how her family roots in Ghana inform her work as a human rights attorney. “For me to be able to come back, that speaks to the work the University has been doing. I think it should serve as an encouragement.”

Other presenters included: Northwestern faculty Eli Finkel (professor, psychology, Weinberg); Shane Larson (professor, astrophysics/CIERA, Weinberg); Linda Van Horn (professor, preventive medicine, Feinberg) and Xavier McElrath-Bey (recent researcher, public policy). NU alumni speakers included Ayesha Chowdhry '04; Zack Johnson '10; and Stephen Dowling '13. NU students included Parag Gupta (McCormick Ph.D candidate); Jackson Walker ‘17; Michael Silberblatt ‘14 and Neha Reddy ‘16.

Event organizers including 11 student members on the executive board selected the roster of 12 speakers from more than 100 submissions received earlier this year.

TED, a nonprofit devoted to Technology, Entertainment and Design, operates national conferences covering a wide scope of issues. The organization also encourages and licenses independent self-organized “TEDx” events around the country, combining video and live speakers to spark discussion and connection.

Contributions to Northwestern's event came from multiple corners of the campus community, further illustrating the day’s theme, “Crossing Paths.” Student volunteers from several academic schools pitched in. Performances punctuating each session highlighted student groups Thunk A Capella, Brownsugar, Treblemakers, Mee-Ow comedy group and Mariachi NU.

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