City/State-Wide

Larger Impact of TEDx Arrival CUNY

A New Higher Education for Students and Faculty

By Clifford Michel

TEDx CUNY is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the exploration of accessing a different kind of higher education. It’s an atmosphere that, not too long ago, wasn’t conceivable in regards to penetrating the CUNY community.

Columbia and New York University have both held TEDx conferences and Jake Levin from the Macaulay Honors College strongly believed that it was time for CUNY to have a voice and share its mission of providing access to all.

Levin continued, “I hope that the theme of our inaugural conference, ‘Access’, will resonate with those in the CUNY and New York City communities, and that TEDxCUNY will be effective for provoking thoughtful discussion, creating change through the spreading of ideas.”

CUNY Chancellor J. B. Milliken, who addressed the audience and speakers at the start of the conference, heavily endorsed the idea of TEDxCUNY mirroring the efforts that the university emulates.

“Access is at the heart of what we do at CUNY and what CUNY does for New York,” Milliken said.

The theme of Access was broken up into four different subgroups: Access Your Mind, Community, World, and Future.

In between breaks, guests frequented the Access: Art showcase, which was curated by Savona Bailey-McClain, the Executive Director & Chief Curator of The West Harlem Art Fund.

The gallery was defined as an “interactive-light based” gallery, featuring art on several different platforms.

Hundreds attended and viewed the event online or at different CUNY campuses, with different attendees being granted different amounts of access.

Of the 16 speakers, nine were affiliated with a CUNY college, including CSI’s Professor Charles Liu and Brian Kateman, a CSI alumnus.

Professor Liu took an unconventional approach to his TEDx talk. He fielded questions about science from a nine year old girl to show the world that the field of observance and constant experimentation knows no bounds.

Kateman, who received a BS in Biology from CSI in 2011, explored the idea of being a “reducitarian,” which he defines as someone who makes a conscious decision to eat significantly less meat.

Kateman acknowledged issues in the meat industry and advocated for a middle ground between consuming meat without a second thought and making a conscious decision to eat less.

“Set manageable and therefore actionable goals to gradually eat less meat,” Kateman said. “…So yes, you can change the world by ordering a smaller steak.”

TEDxCUNY has already had a handful of videos published onto TEDx’s official website and YouTube channel, sparking debate and healthy discourse amongst commenters.

The group is also accepting speaker recommendations for TEDxCUNY 2015 and will be holding TEDxCUNY Salon events (mini conferences to further the conversations and ideas brought up in TED talks) in the near future.

Don Lemon, a CNN anchor and Brooklyn College ‘96 alumnus, was slated to attend the conference but had to unexpectedly fly to Ferguson, Missouri. Lemon instead recorded his TED talk from CNN’s newsroom and spoke about his work in Ferguson and background.

Lemon said his career as a journalist has forced him to change and receive new ideas at all times, no matter how much they diverged from his core beliefs; all in the effort to achieve journalism’s primary goal: truth.

He encouraged individuals that lack privilege to seek a greater amount of access, but at the same time to be open to receiving ideas that may be vastly different from their own.

“Through that process, invariably, I am made to reassess societal norms, to resist conformity, to buck groupthink, to evolve,” said Lemon.

His video resonated with audience members as he highlighted the complex and heightened state of race consciousness following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Lemon drew from his career and experiences when offering a solution for confronting these issues.

“If you are demanding access, you must be accessible,” Lemon said. “The first step to full and equal access to anything…starts in your mind. You can change your future, you can change the future of the world.”

“Become truly emancipated by accessing your mind,” he concluded.

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