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TEDx Comes to K

Tanush Jagdish with a TED Talks banner

Tanush Jagdish

Good ideas will be spread across (and via) Kalamazoo College this spring when a descendant of the popular TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks series comes to campus as TEDxKalamazooCollege.

First-year student Tanush Jagdish, of Bangalore, India, is the main organizer of the inaugural event, to be held May 16, and thereafter (hopefully) to occur annually. Jagdish says he came up with the idea after being impressed with the cooperation and collaboration he saw between students and faculty at the College, in everything from research to planning campus events.

Concentrating on biology and chemistry, he is already working on high-level research in the lab of Dr. Michael Wollenberg, assistant professor of biology.

“Even as a first-year, I am already learning fantastic things,” Jagdish says. “I have been so impressed with the College. I figured, why not showcase K? Holding an event like this that is known worldwide will help to build the image of the school. A TED event is a great way to go about doing that.”

There are still some small details to be worked out, but the tentative theme for the talk is “Breaking Borders,” Jagdish says. The talk is to have nine speakers: two students, one alumnus, and six K faculty. Shannon Haupt ’16 will speak on “Fossil fuel divestment campaign as a model for a multi-issue, dynamic, and collective force for change.” The title of senior Tibin John’s talk is “Implications of computational simulation and dynamical systems theory for biomedical research.” Liberal arts polymath and ArtPrize finalist Ladislav Hanka ’75 is “can’t miss” with “Collaborating with bees to produce works of art that explore and reflect the sublime quality of nature.”

Faculty presenters include:

Tim Kailing (Biology)—Biological Principles and philosophies of instruction and education

Jeanne Hess (Physical Education)—Sportuality: the transcendental power of blending sport, spirit, and education

Jan Tobochnik (Physics)—Using computational models to display and predict wealth distribution

Carol Anderson (Religion)—Exploring the relationship between religion, gender, and sexuality

Jim Langeland (Biology)—Constructing advanced modelling techniques for understanding aspects of genetics, including chromosomal recombination

Bob Batsell (Psychology)—Application of learning theories in helping cancer patients undergo chemotherapy

Jagdish saw that the College encouraged the cross-pollination of ideas between diverse academic disciplines, and he wanted to highlight this unique take on learning, he says. At K, he says, ideas are allowed to swirl and be discussed openly.

“The talk will focus on breaking the boundaries between the liberal arts and sciences,” he says. Speakers will discuss the environment, sustainability, the liberal arts, and other topics.

TEDx was created in the spirit of the mission of the popular TED Talk series, which is to promulgate ideas worth spreading.” TEDx supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community. Those interested in hosting a TEDx event must wade through a rigorous application process and climb a mountain of application material.

Jagdish submitted the application in December, and heard back in January with the go-ahead. It’s very rare for an institution of higher education to receive permission from the organization to host an event, he says.

“It usually takes long time to be granted a license to host a TEDx event. But I think they liked the idea of a small liberal arts college hosting a talk. It’s a very prestigious thing to be granted a license.”

Adding to Jagdish’s enthusiasm for the TEDx event is that the push to host it has been almost entirely student led. That autonomy, he says, highlights the faith and freedom College officials place in K students and is a testament to the culture of self-led learning that the College is so well-known for.

“It’s amazing, really,” he says. “I think it shows how the College is focused on building leadership skills in its students. I have already seen leadership develop among those students involved in organizing this event. Now, hopefully, the world can see what K is all about, too.” Text by Chris Killian