Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Student speakers and performers share big ideas and dazzle at second annual STUDENTx

Chrissy Dasco -

Chrissy Dasco - "Do Less, Be More." (Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)

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There was a buzz about the University of Massachusetts Campus Center auditorium when the lights dimmed and Smith College Student Government president Meghna Purkaystha took the stage to host the STUDENTx showcase Thursday evening.

And the buzz didn’t dissipate as student speakers and performers from the Five Colleges dazzled the audience of roughly 300 with big ideas, lively performances and a sense of humor.

Six student speakers – two from UMass and one apiece from Smith, Amherst College Mount Holyoke College and Hampshire College – shared their ideas, ranging from how bringing together prisoners and puppies is mutually beneficial to how “turning up” is creating a community among the youth generation at a forum inspired by the popular TEDx program.

Prior to the 7 p.m. start, students mingled and interacted with a handful of organizations, including student-run businesses Greeno Sub Shop and People’s Market, outside the doors of the auditorium.

Stella Elwood, a freshmen at Mount Holyoke kicked off the evening’s presentations with a call for students to support organizations who run programs to have prisoners train puppies, a process which she told the audience simultaneously better prepares inmates to live on the outside, saves a large number of dogs in shelters from euthanasia and trains dogs better than they are trained by non-imprisoned individuals.

Amherst College freshmen Kaelan McCone spoke about his bouts with racism growing up as a mixed-racial kid in the South. He spoke to racial insensitivity he experienced both in his youth and during his first semester of college, acknowledging the motivations behind the week’s events and protests at Amherst College as well as other personal experiences. He urged people to take responsibility for initiating conversations about race.

Liana Weeks, a senior at Smith, reflected on the intersection of anthropological theory with her experience studying abroad in South Korea, especially how youth can and are creating almost utopian communities of shared experience by clubbing, among other activities. In these communities, Weeks said, “we see each others as we really are rather than who society tells us we are.”

UMass student Chrissy Dasco, donning a shirt emblazoned with the title of her performance – “Do Less, Be More” – performed a slam poem focused on the issues with a society that emphasizes production, consumption and success and discourages people from living more simply.

Nirman Dave, a freshmen at Hampshire, talked about his experience with developing a 3D printer that made chocolate, a product that ultimately never got off the ground because it failed to do what he said all great products do: give people leverage by giving users control, incorporating ideas from a range of fields and blending into the users’ daily routine seamlessly.

UMass senior Sanah Rizvi rounded out the student speakers by advising people to be ordinary. Too big of a focus on maintain an extraordinary resume exists, she said, and people have lost their sense of self as they try to be successful.

Lively performances from the Zumbyes, an a capella group from Amherst College, UMass’ short form improv comedy troupe Mission:IMPROVable, and Mount Holyoke’s Raunak Bhangra, a group that does the traditional Indian folk dance Bhangra, broke up the roughly 10-minute long talks given by the students speakers.

TEDx Amherst will host its annual conference April.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.

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