TEDx Conference Draws Inspiration for Change From Across Campus

The student-organized event invited College students and faculty, as well as members of the community, to discuss topics that focused on ways of improving the world and your sense of self.

Each of the eight speakers at this month’s TEDxManhattanCollege conference may have come to campus the evening of Friday, March 4 with different backgrounds and experiences, but together they had something in common. From their respective platforms, they reminded audiences that the road to success isn’t always smooth, but that the challenges we face are what help us grow and change for the better.

The Speakers

Themed “A Year in Change,” the student-run event included talks from a number of College figures, including marketing and management professor Carolyn Predmore, Ph.D., Andrew Skotnicki, Ph.D. professor of religious studies, and Lois Harr, assistant vice president for Student Life and director of Campus Ministry & Social Action (CMSA).

Their talks, along with one by River Castelonia ’17, who co-founded a nonprofit that designs custom 3D printed prosthetics for disabled veterans in and around New York, engaged listeners in discussions about new discoveries and offered ways to improve our world.  

TEDxManhattanCollege was the latest installment of an initiative that’s designed to inspire these sorts of conversations on university campuses. TEDx is a spinoff of TED, (Technology, Entertainment, Design), an international group that sponsors similar meetups around the world.



The Conversation

The event’s first presentation from a College affiliate came from Castelonia, who opened with a question to his fellow students. “How many people in here have ever had to retake a class? How about three times?” he asked, before admitting to the personal struggles he faced before transferring to Manhattan from another institution.

It took a change of major—Castelonia is now planning to pursue a career in mechanical engineering—for him to find his calling. It also took an idea. Driven by stories his grandfather would tell him about the injuries he’d seen while serving in the military, Castelonia began developing the business plan for Havenlabs, a company he launched last year that’s led him to create a prototype for prosthetic limbs that may one day be utilized by veterans.   

Harr spoke similarly in her speech about ways people can use their intelligence to help others.

“My vocation is to help students come to some wisdom, which doesn’t come from accumulated data. It comes from encounters and dialogue from other people and from self-examination,” said Harr, who also teaches in the religious studies department.

Predmore later took the stage with a few words about “The Project,” a consulting agency she’s in the beginning stages of creating with College students who will work on international projects with others in the Middle East. The goal is to increase the number of jobs for people in Palestine and other nearby countries affected by violence, a mission she hopes will partner Manhattan with campuses around the world.

The Partners

TEDxManhattanCollege collaborated with several campus organizations, as well as others from the nearby community who displayed products at the event. Among them were the College’s Fair Trade Committee and Castelonia’s company, Havenlabs. A number of outside organizations, including the Fashion Foundation and Whole Foods, were also represented.

The Aftermath

Michael Cocce ’16, a double major in finance and business analytics who helped spearhead the event, reflected later on its success.

"Planning this with the help of the entire TEDxManhattanCollege team was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From curating the speakers to our endless conversations within TED's global community platform, it turned out to be something truly special and an experience all of us will never forget,” he said.

After Cocce and his co-organizer, Jason Kroeger ’16, both graduate in May, they hope others will continue the tradition of hosting more TEDx events at Manhattan.