Behind the scenes of ‘Crushing the Comfort Zone’: The TEDxUConn 2019 conference  


TEDxUConn will be hosting their first fall conference, entitled “Crushing the Comfort Zone,” on October 6. Photos courtesy of The Daily Campus.

TEDxUConn will be hosting their first fall conference, entitled “Crushing the Comfort Zone,” on October 6. Photos courtesy of The Daily Campus.

TEDxUConn is having their first fall conference, “Crushing the Comfort Zone,” on Oct. 6, Himaja Nagireddy, president of TEDxUConn and seventh-semester molecular and cell biology, physiology and neurobiology and sociology triple major, said. 

TEDxUConn is an annual, independently organized TED event at the University of Connecticut solely organized by students. with a variety of speakers discussing a specific theme, Nagireddy said. For this conference’s theme, the speakers are going to be talking about either an innovative way to challenge comfort zones or a new take on conventional ideas.  

“The whole thing with these two categories is that it is they both emphasize innovation,” Nagireddy said. “The [goal] of the talk is what are the new innovative ideas they have to bring to inspire the audience.”   

Over two sessions, there will be 10 speakers, including UConn undergraduate students, the  director of Brain Imaging Research Center at UConn and Miss Connecticut 2018, who is  currently a UConn School of Medicine medical student, according to the TEDxUConn website.

“We have speakers coming from all over the country and one from India this year” Nagireddy said. “It is going to be a great event that brings together a lot of different people.”  

Students will learn if they were chosen to attend the upcoming TEDxUConn conference this upcoming week, Nagireddy said. If a student did not apply but now wishes to attend he conference, there is going to be a wait list application to be considered for an open spot. 

For students who are chosen to attend, all they must do is download their UConn Event Pass and keep an eye out for future emails about logistics, Avery Bikerman, curation chair, fifth-semester resource economics major and a Daily Campus photographer, said.  

Before the speakers can walk out onto the stage, the student-led team has to ensure everything is ready for the event. The student-led team is made up of 10 members, including Nagireddy and Bikerman. The team consists of vice-president Caroline Sekel, secretary Jillian Devine, treasurer Silvanna Moran-Vargas, co-chair of curation Ralph Rotondo, head of logistics Diante Felton, logistics chair Vincent Huang, social media chair Daniella Morel, design chair and website admin Serena Riback, as well as Nagireddy and Bikerman.  

The first step to plan the conference is to get funding, Nagireddy said. Once they have funding, they can start finding their speakers, making logos and doing everything necessary to get the conference ready. In addition to working with the Undergraduate Student Government, different department on campus donate funds to help make this event possible. The group specifically wanted to give credit to UConn’s School of Business, School of Engineering and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

All they need to do now is put together the last minute details and make sure everything is in place, Nagireddy said. One unique thing they like to do is work with the speakers to make sure they are prepared to talk in front of a big audience.  

“We like to rehearse with them and make sure they feel comfortable,” Nagireddy said. “[We like to see them] have their talks memorized to avoid a last minute panic.”  

Although it takes a lot of work to put the conference together, it is fulfilling and TEDxUConn is always looking for more students to join their team, Devine said.  

“[Being part of TEDxUConn] gives a lot but you have to give a lot to it too,” Devine said.  “If you are committed, there is so much you can benefit from being a part of it.”  

Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

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