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Undergraduate organizers pull off ‘wonderful’ TEDxDKU event

Students staged a TEDx conference at Duke Kunshan University bringing together a diverse set of speakers with inspiring messages for making the world a better place.

Seven original and engaging talks on the theme of “Tomorrow United?” were given to a live audience at the CCT Theater on Feb. 24 and will soon be posted online for everyone to watch. The conference was the first student-led TEDx event to be held at DKU.

Executive co-organizers Noah Caplan (far left) and Colden Johnson (far right) with event manager Abdullah Bin Javed (fifth from left) and the speakers

The wide-ranging TEDxDKU talks offered practicable advice for healthy living and seizing life’s opportunities, shared deeply personal experiences of war and conflict, and encouraged a philosophical reappraisal of our worldview. They also advocated education reform, explored the potential of technological innovation for bringing people together and even made the case for plants as agents of positive change.

Appearing on stage in front of the instantly recognizable TEDx lettering were two external speakers, three Duke Kunshan faculty and two DKU students from five countries across three continents. They were: James Miller, inaugural professor of humanities; Renee Richer, associate professor of biology; Luyao Zhang, assistant professor of economics; Davit Kavkasyan, Class of 2027; Dominika Wilczok, Class of 2026; Russell Cailey, managing director of THINK Learning Studio; and Rocco Li, campus recruiting director at KPMG China.

TEDx conferences are independently organized versions of TED conferences, a platform for short-form talks that typically seek to spread ideas or inspire others. Organizers must obtain prior approval from TEDx but are entirely responsible for holding their own event.

Luyao Zhang gave a colorful introduction to her talk

Richer described the TEDxDKU conference as an “amazing experience” and praised the efforts of the student organizing team.

“The students were so professional and supportive in helping the speakers to craft a story and do their best in delivery,” she said.

“I was awed by the quality of the conference that the students were able to achieve. There is so much work that goes on in the background to create such a wonderful event.”

TEDxDKU: Tomorrow United? was run by a core team of 10 undergraduate students: Noah Caplan and Colden Johnson, executive co-organizers; Mateja Bokan, lead videographer; Annie Tong, lead photographer; Gavin Huang, webmaster; Michael Cornell, director of design; Kamila Mejia Ley, marketing executive; Abdullah Bin Javed, event manager; Sue Wang, curator; and Fatima Kahn, speech architect.

The TEDxDKU 2024 student organizing team

“TEDxDKU was one of those projects that started in a small meeting room,” Caplan said.

“We progressively got more approvals, overcame challenges, and before we knew it the TEDx letters were on the stage with the speakers ready to go.

“This is a dream that I’ve had for five years now, and I feel inordinately lucky to have been able to share it with the DKU community. I sincerely hope we keep the flame of TEDxDKU alive and continue to platform ideas worth spreading.”

Videos of each talk will be published on TEDx and TEDx-DKU platforms. For updates and more information on TEDx-DKU 2024 visit the website and follow @tedxdku on Instagram.

Dominika Wilczok
Davit Kavkasyan
Renee Richer
James Miller
Luyao Zhang
Rocco Li
Russell Cailey

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