Tate grand hall

The 100 Days Until Graduation event will be held on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Tate Grand Hall. (Evan Stichler, evansan8@gmail.com)

In 1984, TED began as a conference that was formed to combine topics regarding technology, entertainment and design. Today, it's a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to presenting a multitude of topics in a unique format called TED Talks, which are brief 20 minute or less discussions.

TEDx is an independently coordinated program designed to provide the experience of TED Talks on a larger scale to communities. This happens by screening videos of TED Talks or by using a combination of videos and live presenters.

While 2013 was the inaugural year for TEDxUGA, with speakers that consisted of UGA alumni, faculty, and students, this year's conference proved to be much larger and not just because the location changed from the Special Collections Library to a sold-out Tate Grand Hall.

Months of preparation culminated in a spectacular showcase of presenters that presented a wide range of ideas across several topics that were both thought provoking and highly compelling.

Planning for the event began in June 2013 when the idea of this year's conference was decided upon: [insert your idea here].

"The theme is important to campus and the community because it unifies everyone and encourage them to share their ideas," said Megan Ward, the program manager for UGA's New Media Institute and TEDx organizer.

This year's conference began with a moving musical performance by UGA alum Kyshona Armstrong before an introduction by Scott Shamp, the New Media Institute director and master of ceremonies, brought forth the main point of the evening with the rhetorical question, "Why is there a UGA?"

Student presenter Narke Norton, a fourth year political science major from Tifton, presented those in attendance with an anecdote about the importance of communication. He discussed the importance of debate and oratory in modern times while pointing out the scarcity of literary societies in the South and noting UGA alone has two: Demosthenian Literary Society and the Phi Kappa Literary Society.

The main point Norton was making is that defending your ideas has an increasing importance in a point in time when so many people are beginning to challenge the norm. He left the audience with a powerful statement; "If you can't communicate, you deprive others of your thoughts."

A break followed the first session of presenters that allowed audience members to discuss the speeches they just heard and share their own ideas as written on their nametags.

For Alex Amalfitano, a second year majoring in biochemistry from Peachtree City, the event had far surpassed his expectations and the rest of the presenters hadn't even taken the stage yet.

"I had no idea what this year's TEDxUGA was about, but I had seen them before on YouTube," said Amalfitano, "I expected it to be mostly about technology."

Several members in the audience were discussing Norton's opening, citing it as their favorite speech.

"I came here to hear a variety of ideas," said Karina Scott, a UGA alumna who received her specialist degree in math education from the college in 2013. "Not only did he articulate the importance of communication, but he was funny and expressed his thoughts well."

The second session began with a performance by the UGA Ballroom Performance Group before Lora Smothers, a UGA alumna who graduated in 2011 with a master's degree in educational psychology with a focus on gifted education, spoke about disregarding constructs and being yourself.

She connected easily with the audience by beginning with an anecdote about natural black hair versus chemically processed hair. The connection came full circle when she talked about how we're forced to assimilate by shaming those who are different.

Smothers continued to discuss her experience with Freedom to Grow Unschool, an alternative form of childhood education. By allowing students to do whatever they want and act naturally without the pressure of social norms, the children learned concepts that would never be taught in a school that administers standardized testing.

The stories of the 13 presenters, while all different, carried a unifying theme that was consistent throughout each speech; communication and individuality aren't things that should be suppressed. Rather, your ideas deserve to be heard and you must do whatever possible to see that they are.