TEDx Lineup Adds Faculty Speaker

By Viviana Altamirano

TEDxMiddlebury event takes the mic this weekend on Saturday, Nov. 9, featuring 11 speakers presenting ideas and stories on the subject of “Research, Rethink, Rebuild.” The annual event will again feature a student speaker, and will be introducing a new tradition of a faculty speaker.

Amanda Wiggans ’14.5, one of seven student organizers of TEDxMiddlebury, said that choosing speakers is the most challenging element of the event.

“We try to bring a wide variety from local Vermonters to people who might not be brought to campus otherwise, from all different fields,” Wiggans said. “This year’s lineup is the most diverse lineup that we’ve had. We had complaints in the past so this year we made a diligent effort to get people from the food industry, a slam poet, scientists, social entrepreneurs. It’s diverse and very awesome.”

Professor of Environmental and Biosphere Studies Steve Trombulak will be the first faculty member to speak at TEDxMiddlebury.

“We wanted to make an effort to bring community members into the event,” Wiggans said. “Trombulak is a biology professor, and I’m not in any way involved with the biology department, but I would love to hear him speak. It’s a great way to not only get faculty engaged with the program, but to also give students the idea that you don’t have to bring speakers from halfway across the country to give good talks.”

Trombulak cited TED talks as a major pathway for the exchange of ideas on a wide array of topics. He plans to speak about standards of higher education in his own TED talk.

“Everyone needs to see education as being about much more than preparing for a job market or becoming a well-rounded citizen,” he said. “Education is the platform on which people learn how to become effect agents for positive social transformation, but that won’t happen unless everyone involved in the educational enterprise — student, teacher, family and institution — recognizes the importance of nurturing in each person the skills for leadership and creativity.”

A student at the College will also be speaking at the event, a tradition which began last year. Applicants pitched their talk to a panel of judges that included former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, Dean of Faculty Andi Lloyd and Director of the Project on Innovation in the Liberal Arts Elizabeth Robinson.

Alec MacMillen ’14 was chosen as this year’s student speaker.

“It was all on a whim,” he said. “I read the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain this past summer, a book about introversion, extroversion, science of personality and social norms and how to interact with each other. I never had the words to describe the way that I am, but watching Susan Cain’s TED talk on introversion and how introverts draw energy from having a very rich internal life and spending time on their own really resonated with me. I started to think of this TED talk because I felt like I could add on her ideas by applying them to the setting of college.”

MacMillen’s main idea is to first define introverts and extroverts because “people throw those words around without knowing what they really mean.”

“The basic distinctions are that introverts generate energy by turning inwards — spending time alone, thinking, processing, reading, writing — all solitary activities where introverts tend to feel more alive, whereas extroverts generate energy from being outwardly focused engaged with the world around them, so engaged with other people, new experiences, new places, new things, where they feel most alive,” MacMillen said.

MacMillen will also be talking about the extrovert ideal.

“I’ll be particularly applying it to undergraduate colleges, [which] celebrates the value of extroversion while undervaluing introversion,” he explained. “If you ask people if they would rather be an extrovert or an introvert, most people would say extrovert because we have this idea that having lots of friends and always being busy and engaged is what will make you happy.”

MacMillen will touch upon the ways in which college life, such as class discussions, parties, job hunting and athletic events, cater toward extroverts.

“Living in that place makes introverts feel that there’s something wrong with them or that they have to change themselves in order to fit in or be happy, and it’s a shame, because a lot of time people will sacrifice their natural temperament,” MacMillen said. “I just hope it makes people aware of forces at work around us on a daily basis, and help be more understanding of people who are different from them.”

TEDxMiddlebury will be held on Nov. 9 in the Concert Hall of the Mahaney Center for the Arts from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tickets are available at go/boxoffice. All-audience discussions will take place following each speaker.

 [CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article, as well as that in print, stated that TEDx will be held from 9-11 a.m. on Nov. 9. This is incorrect; it will be held from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Further, the audience will participate in discussions after each speaker, not at the “conclusion of the event.” We apologize for these errors.]

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