Students organize first ever TEDx event at LC

Illustration by Miceal Munroe-Allsup

Lewis & Clark is hosting its first TEDx event on Oct. 9, themed “The Deconstruction of Everything We Know.” The event was organized by Tuse Mahenya ’21, an English major and political science minor. 

The event has been in the works since the spring semester of 2019 and has required a huge amount of planning on the part of Mahenya and her co-facilitators. 

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at all,” Mahenya said. “But I knew what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to create something amazing for people to watch and listen to, but also for people to know that their voices matter.”

TEDx events are required to follow a specific format in which the event is organized by volunteers, is not for profit, and follows the rules set forth by TED. Although the tickets cost money, all proceeds will go back into production costs. The event has been organized primarily by Mahenya, with the help of various departments around campus including the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership, the theatre department, the President’s office and Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB). 

“(The event) has just been building up and now this is everyone’s event,” Mahenya said. “Even with the challenges, there’s so much support that there’s no way we can fail.”

The event will be a campus-wide endeavor, with participation from students, faculty and alumni. 

“I’m excited about Tuse (Mahenya) creating a space for the community to come together in this particular way,” Rebecca Lingafelter, associate professor of theatre and one of the mentors for the event, said. “She’s done a really good job of engaging a lot of different parts of campus, not just students, but faculty and staff. So in terms of a campus community event, that feels like a really positive and great way to build community and culture on campus.”

The event will feature six speakers, including two current students, two recent alums, and two faculty members. Each speaker was paired with a mentor who they have worked with since their initial audition in April of last year. 

“I worked with (Assistant Professor of International Affairs) Laura Vinson,” Amaris Bouchard ’20, one of the speakers, said. “I would barrel into her office and say ‘I’ve deconstructed even further and everything I said was wrong.’ And she would sit down with me and listen to stories and listen to me spiral, and then she would help me reconstruct the whole talk.”

Bouchard’s talk was inspired by her time studying abroad in Tanzania, and is a reflection on power and power dynamics.

“Before I auditioned, I just wrote out a list of things that I wished people were talking about at Lewis & Clark and things that I wished I knew more about,” Bouchard said. “And then I tried out, and once I got in, I wrote upwards of 10 drafts of this TED talk.”

The process of writing her talk was a formative experience for Bouchard. 

“The process was super emotional because, in part, the entire TED talk is about deconstruction, and we’re all dealing with different ways of deconstructing ourselves and the world,” Bouchard said. “And the way I was deconstructing it meant that I had to face parts of my identity that I’m unhappy with because they hurt people, so it was sort of a process of self confrontation, and figuring out my motives and values.”

According to the TEDx website, the event is meant to “spark conversation, connection and community.”

“(Students’) voices matter,” Mahenya said. “And they have amazing ideas just within them and within their personal experiences that they can share with people. And that has been my anchor.”

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