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Tufts Idea Exchange to host fifth idea symposium

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 06:02

The Tufts Idea Exchange (TEX), which will hold its fifth idea symposium on April 9, is currently accepting applications for potential student speakers.

The application deadline is Feb. 11, according to TEX co-president Kit McDonnell. She explained that the application is a google form that asks students to explain their ideas in creative ways.

“We have a written online application that asks a series of questions to kind of get people to formulate their idea because a lot of these can be very abstract,” McDonnell, a sophomore, said. “We have kind of quirky questions. One of them is ‘What’s the takeaway?’ and for one of them you have to pitch your idea in an elevator in 60 seconds.”

After the TEX applications are received, a committee of student organizers will then review them and interview the candidates with the most interesting proposals, according to Tony Cannistra, the other co-president of TEX.

“We read your application, we interview the ones we find interesting and then, once we select the speakers, we spend a month and a half coaching them on their idea,” Cannistra, a junior, said. “We walk them through their presentation [and] we walk them through their speaking skills, so we really devote a lot of time to these ideas and to the people who have them.”

The committee will ultimately select eight students to speak for 10-15 minutes on a topic of their choice, according to McDonnell. These students will join two additional speakers, a professor and either an alumni or a graduate student. McDonnell noted that previous presentations have been extremely diverse and wide-ranging.

“Tufts is turning out all of these different crazy ideas and interests,” she said. “We have people talking about colonizing Mars and the social implications to why you should reach out to someone you don’t really know ... to the implications of using silk in biomedical engineering. Tufts is such a wonderful amalgamation of these different types of people and opinions.”

Cannistra explained that each senior who presented last year spoke about a topic other than that on which they based their senior thesis.

“All of the seniors who spoke, of which there [was] a majority — none of them talked about their senior thesis topics,” he said. “They all wrote senior theses and they all had another thing they were really devoted [to] and passionate about. For me, it’s a showcase of the university’s diversity in ideas and sort of the way that students here and faculty here can really break out of their shells.”

The primary goal of TEX is to engage and inspire people with a new idea, Cannistra said.

“The goal is to be inspirational and to be thoughtful and engaging,” he said. “It’s less about delivering information and more about engaging people with an idea. And that’s why people are so drawn to them ... they are sort of easy bite-size things to chew on.”

According to Cannistra, TEX was first founded in 2011 to provide a forum for members of the Tufts community to share their unique ideas with one another. Cannistra said that TEX is funded by the Institute for Global Leadership’s (IGL) Synaptic Scholars Program as a night for sharing ideas.

McDonnell explained that TEX was styled after TEDx, a global series of inspiring and educational speeches. However, rather than bring TEDx to campus, organizers chose to keep the event more Tufts-focused, she said.

“It’s the Tufts version of TED talks,” she said. “The reason we don’t do a TEDx is you have to stream it from different places ... plus, we want to make it Tufts-centric.”

Senior Michael Grant, one of last year’s TEX participants, spoke about why students should listen to more Nickelback. He said the experience was rewarding and educational.

“I was interested in what shapes our music tastes and how we can sort of break out of certain cultural pressures to feel certain things about music,” Grant said. “It was a really great experience to be able to learn from my friends and peers ... It sort of opened up a whole new world for me in that people were generally interested in hearing each other’s ideas.”

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