TEDxCSUMontereyBay promoted 'ideas worth spreading'

TEDxCSUMB speakers

Speakers and organizers of TEDxCSUMontereyBay | Photo by Adrienn Mendonça-Jones

October 25, 2022

By Adrienn Mendonça-Jones

The TEDxCSUMontereyBay event on Friday, Oct. 21, brought together nine speakers from the university and community to explore “ideas worth spreading,” including the value of resilience, seizing every opportunity, and acquiring a sense of belonging.

Sponsored by CSUMB, the independently organized TEDx event was held in the Otter Student Union ballroom. A neon-red TEDx sign was lit up at foot level underneath cool blue spotlights. Participants stood on a large red dot, facing an audience of up to 100 people, while a red digital timer ticked off the minutes for each talk. 

Nevan Bell, a senior psychology major who will graduate with minors in humanities and communication as well as music, chose the healing value of community as the topic for a talk entitled “How Coffee Heals Communities.” 

Bell found it the perfect once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a message of making connections over coffee. 

“I chose to deliver a TEDx talk because I believe that there was a narrative to be shared about how we can better repair our communities,” said Bell. 

A former barista, Bell credits his time crafting coffee drinks at a local coffeehouse as the basis for an ethos which sees coffee as a nexus of interconnection between individuals. 

“To individualize means to separate yourself and really pursue the individual, but that creates a dividing force, where you’re focused on yourself, and not on the collective,” said Bell, who sees personalizing as a concerted effort to become a part of a community. 

Whether that’s drawing pictures on coffee cups or getting to know regulars’ names and typical orders, personalizing is all about pursuing connection. 

In a talk entitled “Of Mountains and Men: a Story of Summiting Resilience,” Varsha Punati, a first-year student, drew a connection between arriving at the 17,600-foot-high base camp for Mount Everest — itself a remarkable achievement, replete with views of the Khumbu Glacier — and developing an inner sense of resilience. 

“Two to three things kept me going,” Punati said about traversing cold, rocky terrain during monsoon season. “Beautiful views, beating my dad in a playful race to the camp, and (while descending) the promise of returning to a hot shower.”

At 19,300 feet high, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa required even more resilience to reach the top of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. 

Punati responded by channeling Dory from Finding Nemo. 

“Her mantra was ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming,’” Punati said. Dory’s catch phrase kept them going until they reached the top. “Coming down was a lot easier.” 

The experiences helped Punati realize they are a resilient human being with the capacity to recover quickly from setbacks. Preparation for the TEDx talk was just as valuable, though.

“There was a lot of collaboration and constructive feedback throughout the preparation process,” said Punati, who’s grateful for the friendship developed during three weeks of speech preparation, when the group met approximately 15 times. 
“I would genuinely love to thank all the other student speakers, Daisy and Dan, for helping me perfect my speech,” said Punati.

Others speakers addressed topics that ranged from "The Future of the Ocean is Intersectional" to "From Lonely to Worthy: A Perspective of College in Monterey." 
Over the past summer, Daisy Barrett, a student assistant, worked with Dan Burfeind, the senior coordinator of student engagement and leadership development in Student Affairs, to cultivate speakers, plan, and co-host the event.
“This is the first event from a student perspective where students get to share their stories, share their ideas,” said Barrett, a senior HCOM major. “It’s not just an open mic, it’s TEDx, it’s legit.”
Burfeind, who originally applied for a TEDx license last year and believes this to be CSUMB's first hosted TEDx event, agrees. 
“We use TED Talks all the time as educators,” said Burfeind, so it made sense for CSUMB to help sponsor the independent TEDx event in terms of donating staff time, facility use, materials, and service fees toward the process of applying and organizing for such an event. 
“The TED motto is ‘ideas worth spreading.’ How is that not core to our mission as well?” Burfeind asked.
Punati, who has six more mountains to conquer, counts this talk as yet another kind of mountain to summit. 

“I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime,” said Punati. “We all experienced something truly remarkable.”