TEDxGrinnell set to make a return to campus life

Zach Spindler-Krage, Staff Writer

Grinnell College promises to expose students to science, social studies and humanities over the course of four years. TEDxGrinnellCollege only needs three hours. After a one-year hiatus, TEDxGrinnellCollege is back with a large cast of speakers poised to nourish minds on the theme of “Food for Thought.”

The event, curated by the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership (Wilson Center), will be hosted in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 2 to 5:00 p.m.

Catered to students, faculty, staff and community members, this installment of TEDxGrinnellCollege will feature five local Grin- nell voices. The speakers bring a diverse array of experience in food activism and sovereignty, restaurant management, microbiome research and culinary sustainability.

Among the speakers are recent alumna Sarina Farb `16, creator of the Born Vegan organization, and Scott Turley, executive chef and chief culinary officer at Grinnell College. The full list of speakers can be found on the TEDxGrinnellCollege website.

TEDx is the independently organized companion of TED — the prominent nonprofit organization that gives speakers a platform to share “Ideas worth spreading.” TEDxGrinnellCollege speakers will follow the traditional TED presentation format, and video recordings will be posted on the official TED website after the event.

The independent nature of TEDx allowed the Grinnell TEDx committee, made up of both faculty and students, to select a theme that is timely and relevant to the College. “The ‘Food for Thought’ theme comes from the concept of nurturing your own experiences by implementing the speakers’ ideas and advice into your own life,” said Raj Jhanwar `25, a member of the TEDxGrinnellCollege media and publicity subcommittee.

Jhanwar said he encourages attendees to recognize the abundant opportunities the program affords. “TEDx can be an event where people come together to get new thoughts, improve themselves and learn from alumni and community leaders,” he said.

Due to COVID-19, the last chapter of the TEDxGrinnellCollege series took place virtually in Feb. 2021, and the most recent in-person version was in 2018. The extended time between in-person events and the complete turnover of student organizers have made it challenging to replicate the details of past events. However, Dayana Garcia `26 said that the situation has prompted new ideas and innovations that should elevate the program moving forward.

“I was really excited because we had a fresh slate. There wasn’t a strong expectation of what the event had to be like,” said Garcia. When she began her positions as student media specialist for the Wilson Center and chair of the TEDxGrinnellCollege media and publicity subcommittee in December, Garcia said the unique opportunity drove her to reimagine the orchestration of the program.

“A lot of students haven’t had the opportunity to experience the event before, so I think there is a lot of anticipation for it.” Garcia said that the student committee has been anxiously awaiting this year’s final product.

Nifemi Ogunmesa `25, student event coordinator for the Wilson Center, said she hopes that the event prompts people to reevaluate the ways in which they interact with food. “We want people to be able to consume food in a more ethically conscious way and have more consideration of the cultural dynamics and exploitative practices related to food production,” said Ogunmesa.

“There’s a lot of food production in Iowa, but we don’t always consider how that process brings in diverse points of views and cultures,” said Garcia.

On campus, recent composting and recycling initiatives have sought to engage students in more sustainable food consumption practices, but Jhanwar said he believes that there is more to be done. “One of the takeaways from this event will be learning the strategies for reducing our dining hall waste. We need to be more considerate of where our leftover food goes,” he said.

Past TEDxGrinnellCollege speakers have brought continued attention to the College through their video recordings. Jean Kummerow `71 spoke in 2016 about the professional use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, and she has received more than 997,000 views on the TEDx YouTube account. Adam Lange `11 recently broke 310,000 views on his “Think Like a Lawyer” presentation from 2018.

Ogunmesa said she believes this year can emulate prior installments and that increased program stability is attainable. “Before COVID, the event had a huge audience, and we’re trying to continue that theme. Ideally, it could be an event that happens every year,” said Ogunmesa.

Tickets for the event are available on the TEDxGrinnellCollege website through Feb 10. Seating is limited and likely to reach capacity. American Sign Language interpreters will be provided for the live talks.