A couple months ago, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a TEDx event — TEDxDuke! Having watched numerous TED talks online during the last couple of years, I really wanted to attend a TED event. I just didn’t think one of these events would happen in North Carolina, let alone in Durham or at the Duke campus.

The TEDxDuke event focused on “A Shrinking World.”

The event itself was fast paced with about a dozen different talks. There were breaks in between to allow interaction with the speakers and for refreshments. I specifically mention refreshments because MBA students have a reputation for liking events with food. And it’s not entirely untrue!

This year’s event focused on the theme, “A Shrinking World.” While it certainly seems like a fairly obvious notion, the opportunity to hear a lot of different perspectives on it was truly enlightening. The event also included student speakers, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of their talks.

While it’s difficult to list all talks and even more difficult to pick a few, I do want to highlight some speakers that I really enjoyed:

  1. Mike Schoenfeld: As Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke, Mike is the chief spokesperson of the university and he opened the conference. He introduced the idea that the world’s shrinking is a by-product of its expansion — expansion of human understanding of complex subjects including science and technology. He cited One Day at Duke as an example of the shrinking-expanding contradiction. Very fascinating!
  2. Brian OliverSmith: Brian is the founder of an education tech start-up called Urban Planet and spoke about what it takes to succeed in an inter-dependent world. He encouraged the audience to focus not on connections but on relationships (an important distinction in the LinkedIn age), to find courage to make things happen, and to expand their vision to make impact. If you have read my earlier posts, you would recall that one of the reasons I chose Fuqua was its focus on relationships. As you would expect, this talk resonated with me and was one of the factors that led me to spend my summer working with Urban Planet and Brian (more on that in a later post).
  3. Jia Jiang: Jia gained fame for his 100 Days of Rejection Therapy project/blog. Although it’s quite a popular project and made news almost everywhere, I had not heard about it before. Jia talked about how the entire world was part of his journey, getting inspired by him, and also holding him accountable because he chose to record his actions and experiences through a social network. Jia is actually a 2009 Daytime MBA grad, and the story of his meeting with Jackie at Krispy Kreme is way beyond awesome!
  4. Rachel Lichte: You know you are in good company when someone from your class is invited to speak at an event like this. Rachel, a student speaker, is a dual degree MEM/MBA candidate at Duke. She is a proud Section Fiver at Fuqua (just so you know, section five is hands-down the best section at Fuqua). Rachel spoke about the Clarity Project, a social enterprise she co-founded that works to ensure ethical supply of diamonds from Africa to the developed world (think of it as a solution to Blood Diamond).

I really learned some things at the event and gained some new perspectives. One of the good things that happens when you come back to school is that it broadens your horizons. You meet a lot of people who have amazing accomplishments and they share their perspectives — similar and dissimilar — with you. The even better thing about coming to business school is that the process of learning more (especially outside of class) is not restricted to a few days or a few weeks, but it’s a long journey. If you are up for it, there will always be more than adequate resources to facilitate the process.