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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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‘A Revival, A Rebirth, A Resurgence’: TEDxNortheasternU spotlights innovative ideas from students, faculty

Nicole+Alioto+poses+for+a+photo+in+ISEC.+Alioto+was+one+of+seven+speakers+at+TEDxNortheasternUs+Renaissance+flagship+event+Feb.+24.+Photo+courtesy+TEDxNortheasternU.
Nicole Alioto poses for a photo in ISEC. Alioto was one of seven speakers at TEDxNortheasternU’s “Renaissance” flagship event Feb. 24. Photo courtesy TEDxNortheasternU.

Conversations ranging topics from grief and AI to politics and education filled the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex Feb. 24 for TEDxNortheasternU’s flagship event titled “Renaissance.”

The event featured talks from seven individuals and performances from NU Sanskriti, the university’s Indian students association, and the Northeastern Acapella Association for Desi Music. Interactive exhibits and activities occupied attendees between speakers. 

This year’s theme was “Renaissance: A Revival, A Rebirth, A Resurgence,” celebrating “the rebirth of human potential” and embodying “the idea of pushing boundaries, breaking barriers and exploring new frontiers,” according to the TEDxNortheasternU website.

The student-run organization, established at Northeastern in 2018, is a subsection of the TEDx program. Similar to the format of traditional TED Talks, TEDxNortheasternU hosts speakers to share their ideas within the Northeastern community.

“TED’s mission of spreading powerful ideas resonates deeply with me, and I am thrilled about the potential of this event to ignite that spark of creativity and passion within the Northeastern community,” said Camila Gallardo, TEDxNortheasternU co-president and third-year computer science and business administration combined major. “Our speakers are at the forefront of their fields, not just for their expertise, but for the infectious enthusiasm they have for the messages they’re spreading.”

This year’s speakers ranged from current and former Northeastern students, faculty and Boston-area leaders.  

The event’s keynote speaker, Christie Chung, holds a doctorate in applied psychology and currently serves as the executive director of The Mills Institute in Oakland, California. Chung kicked off the day with a speech titled “Bridging Minds and Machines: Advancing AI Innovation through Cognitive Science.” 

Reflecting on the dynamic intricacies between human cognition and AI advancements, Chung shared the importance of taking on unique perspectives and approaching situations through different cultural lenses. 

Christie Chung speaks to the audience while presenting a slideshow. The keynote speaker spoke about cognitive psychology’s relationship with AI innovation. Photo courtesy TEDxNortheasternU.

William Cutler, a fourth-year computer science and physics combined major, spoke about the potential for the involvement of scientific thinking in political conversations in his talk “Debate Like a Scientist.” 

Cutler reflected on the current state of political communication and how he believes people don’t take advantage of free speech due to the fear of real-world retaliation. 

Cutler presented a new way to approach political conversations by integrating his computer science and physics background.

“While I don’t believe it will solve these deeply ingrained issues of polarization and disengagement, I do believe that we can have far more productive and enjoyable political conversations if we learn a thing or two about how scientists do research,” Cutler said in his speech.

Nicole Alioto, who holds a doctorate in social psychology and is the CEO of Alla Breve Consulting, spoke about her experience working with educational institutions to navigate the definition of student success.

In her talk titled “Measuring Success for Better Schools,” Alioto shared that data can intimidate educators, resulting in early limitations for analysis. Additionally, she emphasized the need to “identify the key performance indicators that align to definitions of success” in her talk, recognizing the necessity for people to stay on the same page when evaluating statistics. 

Other speakers included Cate Murphy, a P3 student in her fifth year of the Doctor of Pharmacy Program who shared her journey with grief in her talk, “Break the Silence: Let’s Talk about Grief”; Leeyan Redwood, the school and community engagement coordinator at Summer Search and a Northeastern alum with “Variety of Voice: The Power of Authenticity”; Debpriya Das, a recent graduate of Northeastern’s MBA program with “The Story of a 19-year-old High School Biology Teacher”; and Melody Liu, a 2023 Northeastern graduate with “Pixels and Principles: Ethics of AI Art.”

Cultivating a rich collection of ideas and perspectives, this year’s speakers embraced the “Renaissance” theme, pushing the boundaries of human thought and perception. 

When asked what he hoped people took away from his talk, Cutler noted the different types of people in the audience and his wish for them to partake in productive conversation.

Cutler said he hoped he “gave off the imparting notion that it’s up to everyone to be civically inclined, not just people studying history or humanities majors.”

“It is absolutely up to everyone, even if it’s STEM science, to be civically engaged, informed on issues, aware and having these discussions,” Cutler said.“The kinds of people who refuse, for whatever reason, to talk politics — they want to avoid the subject as much as possible, and I hope that I’ve given them a sense of what it could be like to have a real civil conversation and some realistic steps that could get them there.”

TEDxNortheasternNU hosts only one event a year, but the impact of the event is long-lasting, creating a stepping point for conversion and community engagement. 

“I hope that this event will not only spread innovative ideas but also foster a community that’s empowered to take these ideas forward,” Gallardo said. “We’re looking to make a lasting impact, where the conversations started here continue to resonate and grow beyond the event.”

William Cutler speaks during “Renaissance.” His talk was titled “Debate Like a Scientist”
and was about the potential for the involvement of scientific thinking in political conversations. Photo courtesy TEDxNortheasternU.
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