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Harpur students help lead TEDxBinghamtonUniversity

by Katie Ellis

Seven speakers and the Binghamton Crosbys will take their turns on the Osterhout Concert Theater stage Sunday, March 30, for the fourth TEDxBinghamtonUniversity conference, which begins at 1 p.m. This year, no common thread links the speakers — hence the “Stray the Course” theme for the conference, which is one of hundreds held each year in the spirit of the TED “ideas worth spreading” mission.

Stephen Prosperi and Harpur College students Stephanie Izquieta and Gina Kim are the conference directors this year, and they have been working since last fall to contact and confirm speakers, fundraise for and promote the conference. They followed up on suggestions from last year’s audience and looked at what was trending to come up with a lineup of speakers talking about hot-button issues, estimating that for every 50 e-mails they sent, they received only two or three responses.

This year, the directors chose to have seven speakers instead of the usual eight, and it took all three of them sitting in a room for hours one day with sticky notes filling the wall with buzz words and themes to come up with the final theme.

“We were about to give up when Stephen had a stroke of genius and suggested to play on the words ‘stay the course’ and change it to ‘stray the course’,” said Izquieta, a senior majoring in philosophy and philosophy, politics and law, with a minor in education.

“All of our speakers have very different backgrounds and are speaking on a wide variety of topics,” said Prosperi, a junior majoring in finance and marketing of new media who is in his second year as a TEDx director. “That’s why our ‘Stray the Course’ theme is so appropriate — they’ve each carved their own niche and path to success in very different fields.

“Our conferences are different than many other TEDx conferences,” he added. “On some campuses, students actually have to apply and pay for the privilege to attend. At Binghamton, our intent is to be open and affordable.”

This year’s speakers and their topics:

The Binghamton Crosbys will perform as well.

With the help of several volunteers, Izquieta devised and implemented a social media plan to gain exposure for the conference.

“What has been most effective in getting people excited for the event is going around campus and taking pictures of students with the large, red X and posting the photos on Facebook,” Izquieta said. “We ask them how they have strayed the course or how they will stray the course and some of the responses given by fellow classmates make us really proud to be Binghamton students. There is so much talent and inspiration walking among the very halls we all grace. It’s really invigorating.

“The strategy for the pictures on Facebook is to use a Humans of New York (HONY) idea where we go around asking people our question and giving them the X and they give us their response,” she added. The promotion is working because the Facebook page already has more than 1,000 likes, surpassing the organizers’ goal.

Kim, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, is the driving force behind the stage design and has been focusing a great deal on logistics. “We’re adding some visual elements to the stage that support the theme,” she said, “and there won’t be a podium this year.”

“While each of us spearheads specific aspects of the conference, at the end of the day we all depend on each other and help each other out a lot,” Izquieta said. “It is only coming together because we are working as a team and because of the awesome volunteers who are helping us get the word out quickly.”

Tickets for the conference are $5 and are available online at

A contest to win a ticket to the conference as well as a TEDx t-shirt and dinner with the speakers is also under way. Complete information on the contest and ‘Stray the Course’ can be found at

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Last Updated: 3/25/14