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STO Talks brings 'ideas worth spreading' to campus

By Catherine Monson '12
April 19, 2012

STO Talks posters — like this one featuring Charlotte Sivanich '12 — highlight some of the event's 15 speakers.

This weekend 15 members of the St. Olaf community will share their visions of social change and innovation as part of a new student-run event called STO Talks.

Inspired by the popular TED Talks, the St. Olaf conference will serve as a platform for five students, five faculty, and five alumni to deliver short, inspirational speeches about their insights on everything from modern dance to biomolecular science. TED Talks, deemed "ideas worth spreading," have been popularized online over the past several years. They built on the success of a conference in 1984 that brought together ideas from three areas (for which the talks are named): technology, entertainment, and design.

STO Talks will be held Saturday, April 21. The talks, lasting anywhere from five to 15 minutes, do not reflect any certain academic field or theme, but they all surround a common vision of positive social change. "STO Talks is about taking current ideas an extra step forward, stretching the minds of the audience, and encouraging thought and reflection to make the least possible ideas possible," says Nick Kang '12, chief director of STO Talks.

During his junior year, Kang and three other students came up with the idea for a St. Olaf version of TED Talks and began planning it last fall. The idea took hold, and the planning committee grew to nine students from a variety of backgrounds and majors. From the beginning, the group envisioned STO Talks as a very professional, fully student-run event. Kang says that the process of turning the initial idea into a reality came through synthesis of the committee's many talents — creativity, organization, energy, and media skills. Funding for the event came from several sources, including an entrepreneurship grant awarded through the St. Olaf Center for Experiential Learning and support from the Office of Student Activities and the Student Organization Committee.

Nick Kang '12

The planning committee is already looking ahead to next year's STO Talks. They hope it will become a biannual event, with an informal conference in the fall and a larger event in the spring. Some larger universities host TEDx, a licensed program that brings TED Talks to the local level. However, the planning committee felt that calling upon students, alumni, and faculty to speak would be more engaging and unique to the St. Olaf community. "We wanted to best fit the St. Olaf community in future years," says Kang.

All spots to attend Saturday's event have been filled, but STO Talks will be streamed live and archived online. The live stream will also be played in the Pause Jungle, Pause Lair, and Viking Theater.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or