Courage to Persist: TEDxUConn hosts first in-person event since onset of pandemic 

Pauline Batista delivers a speech during the TEDxUConn Salon event on Saturday, September 25th, 2021. Batista spoke on pedagogy within institutions and its effects on black and brown populations. (Photo Courtesy of: Grabs Photographer Campbell Karanian)

On Sept. 25, UConn students gathered in the Student Union Ballroom, intent on hearing the ideas of their peers and staff members presented in a formal setting. 

Saturday’s event was the first in-person TEDxUConn event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It featured talks from three speakers from the UConn community: one graduate student, one undergraduate and one staff member. The talks were connected by the theme of “the courage to persist.” 

“One of the great things about this event specifically is that all of these speakers are from the UConn community,” Serena Riback, a seventh-semester computer science and engineering major and president of the TEDxUConn chapter, said. “I think a lot of times, when you think about Ted talks, you think there’s these famous people that you’ve never heard of before, but often there are people in your own community that can give really great talks, have really interesting ideas and do really cool research.” 

The first talk was given by Pauline Batista, a Ph.D. student in the Neag School of Education. Batista conducts research on issues facing Afro-Latinx communities located in UNESCO heritage sites across Latin America, and she uses film to draw attention to these issues. Batista spoke about the failure of American universities to support their Black and Brown student populations, as well as their responsibility to reach out to these communities and ask what they can do differently. She mentioned several times throughout the talk the process of pedagogy — teaching and learning — and the importance of educating ourselves by communicating with those around us. 

The second speaker was Sumeet Kadian, a fifth-semester pre-medical student majoring in molecular and cell biology in addition to an individualized major in healthcare and society with a minor in healthcare management and insurance studies. He shared stories about his experience volunteering in various positions in the medical field. These experiences exposed Kadian to the traumatic incidents physicians face on a daily basis and the extreme pressure they undergo throughout their careers. He discussed the need for more programs that support the mental health of physicians and for the stigmatization of medical professionals and medical students seeking help for these issues. Kadian’s passion for these issues aid in his vice presidency of the UConn chapter of Medical Minds Matter, a UConn alum-founded nonprofit organization “that seeks to transform the narrative of mental health in the medical field through storytelling, community building, and grassroots advocacy organization,” according to the startup’s website

“As someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the healthcare field, it was really eye-opening to hear about the struggles that they face,” Sudiksha Mallick, a third-semester political science and public policy major said about Kadian’s talk. “It’s important to understand that [practicing physicians] are also human. They’re also facing struggles themselves.” 

Dr. Tamika Blackburn details her experience as a woman of color in the medical field at the TEDxUConn Salon event on Saturday, September 25th, 2021. Based on what she had gone through, Dr. Blackburn used this to inspire the audience to develop resilience in the face of challenges. (Photo Courtesy of: Grabs Photographer Campbell Karanian)

The final speaker was Tamika Blackburn, an attending physician at the UConn Student Health and Wellness Center. She has been a working medical professional for 13 years. She has experience in in-patient, out-patient and academic medicine. Dr. Blackburn spoke about the bias-related challenges she has faced as a woman of color in the medical field, as well as the implicit, institutional biases that can dismay or prevent women from pursuing careers in medicine. The main idea of Dr. Blackburn’s talk was the ways in which one can overcome obstacles and learn to view failure as an unavoidable aspect of the journey toward success. 

TEDx UConn is a student- run organization that hosts annual TEDx events at UConn’s Storrs campus. TED is a non-profit whose purpose is aptly summarized by its slogan: “Ideas worth spreading.” The organization hosts conferences which feature approximately 18-minute-long presentations – TED talks – given by speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. TEDx consists of over 3,000 independently-operated chapters worldwide. Each chapter is granted a free license by TED to host events which are modeled after their conferences. The TEDx UConn chapter was established in 2013. 

The three talks from this year’s TEDxUConn Salon will be available to view soon on the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. TEDxUConn talks from previous years can be found on the channel as well. The next TEDxUConn event is scheduled to take place on Nov. 14. 

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