Students lead in TEDxSMU


Engineering major Mariah Cowley explains her Giant Origami interactive art project. Photo credit: Claire Kelley

When TEDxSMU presented Inside SMU last week to celebrate creative thought of campus leaders, professors and alumni weren’t alone on the stage. Students presented TED talks of their own, highlighting their innovation and originality.

Chris Carillo, Mariah Cowley, Brittany Harrington and Arnaud Zimmern presented on everything from water and Maslow’s Hierarchy, bassoons in pop music, origami and digital humanities. And how did they get this opportunity?

“As much as we complain about receiving too much SMU email garbage, this was one of those mass-invitations you’re actually happy to receive. The application process, which was linked to in the email, was simple and the rest was just a long wait,” said Zimmern, a senior studying French, English and mathematics.

Dean and Lyle professor of engineering innovation, Marc Christensen, said that the ideas the students presented in these applications belonged on the TED stage, which is known for its inspirational thinking.

“When you think about it the current students far outnumber everyone else on campus and they are in a mode of grabbling with ideas every day. It should be no surprise that some of the best ideas around area going to come from them,” Christensen said. “The TEDx format has the ability to inspire people to think bigger on how they can impact the world, but the students we had on stage were already there — that is why they were chosen to speak.”

Harrington, a Performer’s Diploma graduate student, said that her experience on stage speaking about her involvement in thinking outside the box with the bassoon was completely different from her past times on stage.

“Typically when I am in front of people, I am playing my instrument so to do a talk was a new and exciting endeavor,” Harrington said. “My talk was about the ways that my quartet has made the bassoon relevant to pop music…My hope is that people will look at what we have done and bring some creativity to their projects
and lives.”

Zimmern was not only impacted by his time on stage, saying his experience was “in one word: exhilarating,” but also as an audience member listening to his fellow students.

“I discovered a new favorite actually at the TEDxSMU event: it was Mariah Cowley’s,” Zimmern said. “Her talk [spoke] on the value of merging what one does with what one loves for the sake of those we love the most.

“[She showed us] that our projects, giant or small, can always be recycled and repurposed to bring greater joy and greater peace to those around us. It was, in the finest sense, a moving talk,” Zimmern said.

When given a stage for “Ideas Worth Sharing,” TED’s motto, student leaders like Zimmern, Harrington, Cowley and Carrillo surely stepped up to the task.

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