TEDxNortheasternU holds first TED talk event with all female speakers


TEDxNortheasternU hosted a female-focused conference in the Northeastern Alumni Center Monday. / Photo by Brittany Mendez

Brittany Mendez, news staff

TEDxNortheasternU hosted their first female-focused conference in the Northeastern Alumni Center on Monday. The event featured fifth-year political science major Alicia Payne and Jaclyn Long, a fourth-year bioengineering major.

“This event definitely started with a lot of passion,” said club director Miranda Nimmer, an international business major. “We were like this is such an amazing opportunity and we should just go for it.”

Following a video outlining the goals of TEDx, the all-female a capella group Pitch, Please! performed empowering songs for the audience.

The a capella group turned the mic over to the night’s emcee, Celine Au-Yeung, a business administration major with a minor in theatre. Au-Yeung also serves as the director of marketing for TEDxNortheasternU. She declared the night’s theme – “Showing up.”

In her talk, Payne told her story of arriving at Northeastern while struggling to feel comfortable with her identity. As a class assignment, she had to join a club and she chose the nonprofit organization Strong Women and Strong Girls, or SWSG, because being female was the only identifier she felt strongly about at the time.

SWSG is a mentoring group that aims to empower young girls by building a connection with college women through various after-school activities. Not only did the group provide a community for Payne, but it also gave her the opportunity to inspire girls to make a difference.

TEDxNortheasternU reached out to Northeastern’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to invite Long to speak at the event. She said she was initially apprehensive about committing due to end of semester obligations.

“I’m so busy at the end of the semester, but I thought about it for a couple of days,” Long said in an interview. “But then I was like ‘You know, that’s really cool and I may never have the chance to do something like that again.’”

Long shared stories about her experiences as a female in STEM as a young girl, teenager and young adult in her speech. She highlighted that women are frequently underestimated because people don’t think they have the emotional strength to handle difficulties.

“I don’t talk about myself that much,” Long said. “Usually when I do presentations it’s about data or a project that I did, so this is different.”

Both women had immense support from the audience and Long’s friends even showed up in T-shirts with her face on them.

In addition to the speakers, the event had an intermission that showcased some interactive activities designed by the club coordinators.

Prior to the event, attendees completed a survey so the coordinators could create individualized cards that highlighted which segments would be most appealing to them. Each customized card also had an image of an animal, corresponding to posters around the room with the various animals on them where students could receive a horoscope.

The event resumed with a livestream of this year’s TEDWomen conference in California. The emcee emphasized that livestream was intended to connect the local voices of Northeastern to the global TED organization.

The coordinators organized the event in about one month.

“We couldn’t have done it without the entire team,” Au-Yeung said. “We are really lucky to have a high-functioning and passionate team this year.”

TEDxNortheasternU will host its flagship event on March 23, 2019. This larger-scale event will feature about 10 speakers and performers, and will be held in the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex.

“I hope people take away from [the event] to be empowered to show up and to go after what they want to do,” Long said.