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Camels of the Week: Hannah Feeney and Ben Ballard

This week, HC Conn Coll was lucky enough to chat with Hannah Feeney and Ben Ballard, the dynamic seniors producing this year’s TEDx conference! We’re so excited to hear about how these two have been involved with TEDx and about the things we can expect from this Saturday’s (4/16) conference. If you’d like to buy a ticket, you can do so outside Harris from 5-7pm on 4/15 or online at http://tedxconnecticutcollege.ticketleap.com/2016/





How long have you been involved, and in what capacity, have you been involved with TEDx?

Hannah: I have been on the executive organizing team for TEDx since the beginning of my sophomore year. I went to the conference as a first-year and was so inspired by it, I wanted to get involved in planning it.

Ben: Just like Hannah, I got involved with TEDxCC my sophomore year after attending their 2013 conference. It was one of the most enrapturing experiences of that year and afterwards I wanted nothing more than to get involved.


How long does it take to prepare for the conference?

H: Planning never really ends. As soon as one conference is over, we need to start thinking about the next one. A lot of important steps like reserving space and contacting speakers happen over the summer, almost a year before the actual event.

B: It’s a constant presence throughout the year. The only variation is whether we’re losing sleep preparing for our events or not. Planning TEDx is a marathon that we start running the second we’re back from summer break. Coordinating speakers, arranging travel, marketing, and raising money takes months and months of prior planning.


What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of putting on such a large conference?

H: The challenges include that planning the conference is really a huge time commitment. If a speaker has a question, or we need to talk to a vendor, or anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Sunday morning or 11 pm on a weeknight, it has to be dealt with right away. The other night I stayed up until 6 am just answering TEDx emails… It’s a huge job. The rewards are seeing conference attendees get inspired by people and ideas that we have exposed them to. One of the speakers this year, Ella Dawson, is a writer who has been so influential and meaningful to me personally. Knowing that I am in a position to bring her here and share her message with others who might need to hear it makes me so grateful, and makes all of the crazy work worth it.

B: The journey to the conference can be really intense at times and we all have to adapt to new challenges as they present themselves. I was in charge of stage design for last year’s conference. I didn’t sleep for the two days prior to the conference. I was in the wood shop fusing 8 foot sheets of Plexiglas together. Yet, at the end of the day, TEDx has been an incredible learning experience where I have honed a huge range of professional skills, from graphic design to grant writing. At its core, TEDx is all about bringing people together, spreading ideas, and sharing stories. I love seeing people react to the speakers that we bring to campus and hearing people remembering talks from years past.


What can we expect from this year’s conference?

H: Explorations of identity, new perspectives on social justice, discussions about race. People who have done brave things and taken huge risks and are telling their stories, people who share their stories very day as part of their job, and some speakers who have never been on a stage like this before. Pictures of kittens (really). “What’s past is prologue” is a quotation from The Tempest, which to me means that even when we are forced to move on, our experiences are something we always carry. I’m excited to see how this year’s huge range of speakers interprets and interacts with this idea.

B: I second everything Hannah’s said. Each conference has its own soul. The speaker line up we’ve put together this year is going to generate some really provoking conversations on everything from gender right to our individual search for meaning and beauty. Our speakers come from around the world and from within our community, breaking the bubble that so often traps us here on campus. I can’t wait for this Saturday.

Susannah is a senior at Conn Coll finishing up her Psychology and English double major with her Religious Studies minor. Susannah loves finding new music on Spotify, watching romantic comedies, and practicing yoga. Fresh out of the oven cookies are her greatest weakness rivaled only by her love of online shopping.
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