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Student-Led TEDxAUP Conference Asks “What Next?”


On December 4, 2021, AUP held its second-ever TEDxAUP conference, a series of short lectures given by AUP community members and friends. This edition took the theme of “What next?” as a prompt, encouraging speakers to engage with forward-looking ideas for improving society in the wake of unprecedented global change. Talks were recorded in the Omid and Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center on the 8th floor of AUP’s Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons. The full lecture series is now available to view online.

TEDx is a grassroots initiative that encourages local communities across the globe to host their own speaker events that engage with TED’s mission to discover “ideas worth spreading.” These events aim to uncover new perspectives and communicate research that sparks conversations in the community and beyond. AUP’s global explorers are well placed to engage with liberal arts topics that have an impact on international issues.

The conference was a student-led initiative with speakers from across the AUP community. AUP senior Clark Marchese coordinated the event and acted as its producer. “My favorite part of organizing the conference was being able to provide a microphone to uplift the voices of the AUP community and the ideas of students, professors and alumni alike,” he said. Clark worked on everything from speakers' international travel arrangements to gathering filming equipment, even rescheduling the event, which had initially been planned for April 2020, after it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “I learned that being a producer requires keeping track of many moving pieces as well as the importance of assembling a reliable team to help me along the way.”

Professor Hall Gardner of the Department of History and Politics was among the chosen speakers. His lecture, “Not a New Cold War,” explored the historical balance of global power during the Cold War and contrasted it with modern interstate conflicts. He stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation, international diplomacy and sustainable development in maintaining peace. The full video, which has already been viewed over 5,000 times, is available to watch below.

Other speakers included:

  • alumna Aaliyah Heath G’18, who advised the audience on how to face fear with bravery in transitional life moments;
  • Professor Jonathan Shimony, who shared his artistic depictions of war, climate change and other global issues;
  • Kelsey Beltz, Head of Partnerships and Education and Manager at The Good Lobby, a Brussels-based nonprofit, who discussed how to turn caring into action;
  • MA student Erin Flanagan, who recounted her own journey through her 20s to empower listeners to avoid “the tyranny of the should”;
  • Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore, who invited listeners to explore four versions of themselves, their past, present, future and desired future selves, as to way to think about next steps; and
  • undergraduate Jacob Shropshire, who argued that Gen Z is best placed to tackle current global challenges through diversity, technology and political activism.