University of Florida students and members of the Gainesville community came together on March 24 at the Hippodrome Theatre to hear from nine speakers who shared their experiences on the duality of our own expectations throughout different sessions of the TEDxUF “Expectations” event.
TEDxUF is a local, independently organized event from TED, an international nonprofit organization that is dedicated to disseminating diverse viewpoints and stories. This year, the speakers’ stories of their sorrows, moments of triumph and aims to change societal norms resonated with the 300 attendees in the crowd.
“Be comfortable with the uncomfortable,” said Valeria Hernandez, fourth-year psychology and family, youth & community sciences dual degree student at UF. Hernandez was part of the first round of speakers. She gave her introspective take on mental health by discussing her own journey, including a suicide attempt, and focused on how students should fight the stigma on the illness.
Stripping the fear factors used to describe mental health issues, Hernandez said, is the first step to getting people to understand that these issues are defined by the illness itself and not a person’s characteristics. She added that when a person has depression, but seems to be functioning normally, the diagnosis of mental illness can be overlooked.
Yet, Hernandez serves as an example that it is not only possible to overcome depression, but also to thrive. Hernandez will be inducted into the UF Hall of Fame this semester. Each year, the Division of Student Affairs recognizes seniors and graduate students for their active commitment to improving the campus and community.
Willingness to change personal perspectives and adapt creatively in challenging environments was the enveloping theme of the TEDxUF event. Jared Feldman, a mechanical and aerospace engineering student, added to the conversation by discussing his involvement in Gatorloop, a revolutionary ground transportation system for SpaceX’s hyperloop team, and how it pushed him to rethink the blueprints of tomorrow.
“Dream of the next big things! But, as you work to reach those dreams, be willing to consider alternatives, gladly embrace constraints, and use both as your gateway to creative and resourceful solutions,” Feldman said.
The event also featured performances from the UF Sabor Latino dance team, The Sedoctaves, all-female acapella group from UF, spoken word poetry from UF freshman Veronica Mentor, Sooza Brass Band, and the Canes On Da Mic Poetry Club, from Gainesville High School.
(Caption: Sooza Brass Band, composed of students from the UF College of the Arts, performing at TEDxUF.)
Closing topics of the event included environmental awareness, restorative justice for sexual assault survivors and replicating the computational power of the human brain.
Giancarlo Tejeda, a third-year biomedical engineering student at UF, concluded the event by sharing his experiences as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) recipient in light of the backlash and threatened status his community is facing.
“I had once rejected the title of ‘undocumented,’ but to my surprise, it evolved into something that empowers me, and that I use to help my community,” Tejeda said. Today, he serves as an advocate for undocumented students as the vice president of external affairs for Chispas, the student organization dedicated to spreading awareness on immigrant rights and providing undocumented students with resources.
Other speakers included moderator Taylor Williams, advocate Gretchen Casey, environmentalist Anna Sampson, UF philosophy professor Jennifer Rothschild, Alachua theater teacher Rhonda Wilson, UF computer science professor Benjamin Lok, and UF engineer Jack Kendall.
Laura Uribe, a third-year political science student and speaker director of TEDxUF, has been with the organization since her freshman year. Uribe shared how she’s seen the event grow stronger throughout the years, essentially giving her a home on campus.
“TEDxUF is valuable to me and it’s important because of its ability to teach and touch the hearts and minds of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, from technology, entertainment and design to science, narratives and powerful idea-driven stories. It is able to make even astrophysics digestible for those who have never been exposed to it, and creates a bridge to connect the knowledge gap across disciplines,” Uribe said.
UF students can learn more about TEDxUF and volunteering for the club by visiting their official website. The 2018 event can be viewed through the following link: https://livestream.com/tedx/tedxuf2018