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TEDxLAU: Lively Event Sheds Light on Innovative Ideas

The annual event draws crowds interested in thought-provoking talks and valuable recommendations.

By Hoda Hilal

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Jomana Elaridi spoke about one of the major challenges women face every day, that of balancing family and career.

Human resources, philosophy, art, mental health and education were among the topics discussed on June 30 during TEDxLAU’s Winds of Change. The one-day event featured 13 speakers, four screened TED talks – two of which were set to music – and one performance, each met with raucous applause from the packed audience.

“Every single one of our speakers is trying to share a part of themselves with you on stage, and that’s the beauty of our event,” said Reine Azzi, LAU instructor of English and the event licensee. Azzi has been involved since the first TEDxLAU in 2011. Now, seven years later, TEDxLAU is an annual event and a student club headed by political science and international affairs major Narin Atamian.

TED – technology, entertainment and design – events are popular worldwide and have a mission of covering “ideas worth spreading” with short and engaging talks. LAU’s event is categorized as TEDx, meaning it was independently organized but follows the same mission and standards as the larger organization.

The event was divided into two sessions: the first aimed to identify current problems Lebanon and the world are facing, while the second session was future-oriented. In his talk, artist Jad El Khoury described how Beirut is not yet ready to evolve and overcome its history of war, while writer, researcher and LAU alumna Bayan Itani went over ways she said Lebanese society still resisted change. Pharmacist and LAU alumnus Mahmoud Majed Kebbe El Halabi aimed in his talk to prove that change is always possible, recounting his struggle with anxiety and the way he turned it into a mission to fight the stigma related to mental illnesses in Lebanon. “That voice that was haunting me, it’s mine,” he said. “I own that voice. I control that voice.”

On the topic of women’s rights, political science/international affairs student Noor Tofailli shared her story of sexual violence, urging everyone to speak up against abuse. In her speech, LAU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jomana Elaridi shed light on one of the major challenges women face every day – balancing family and career – and encouraged women to aim high without feeling guilty for their ambition.

As for education, LAU alumna and consultant Mira Alameddine spoke about gifted children, stressing the importance of upgrading the educational system to meet their needs. Mechanical engineer and LAU alumnus Ibrahim Ezzeddine echoed that in his talk: “School doesn’t end when you graduate,” he said. “We’re going to keep learning all our lives.”

The environment was the focus of three speakers at the event. Renewable energy expert and LAU alumnus George Abboud encouraged the audience to “treat the planet as if it is the most valuable thing you have… because it is.” Next, Architect Nizar Haddad highlighted the importance of engineers being environmentally conscious while designing and constructing buildings. Finally, fashion researcher, writer, stylist and LAU alumna Joelle Firzli discussed how fashion can be used to drive change toward a more sustainable way of living. “Instead of throwing your unwanted clothes away, reuse them, fix them, repurpose them and recycle them,” she told the audience.

On the topic of inclusion, HR professional Sylvie Koshkarian raised the issue of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community in the workplace, saying, “If we don’t know how to deal with the situation, it can cloud our judgment and we might turn a blind eye,” which was unacceptable, she noted. In his talk, Assistant Professor Rami El Ali tackled the topic of philosophy as a necessary path to the future, while School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Jad Abdallah discussed health and the human body.

The sessions were full to capacity the entire day, with attendees excitedly discussing what they learned between talks. As the day wrapped up, event co-organizer Sally Beydoun remarked, “The audience takes with them a message from each of the speakers. There’s always something to be learned.”

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