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On Sept. 19, 2019, NJIT held the sixth TEDx event, themed “Resilience,” in the Jim Wise Theater of Kupfrian Hall. This year, over 150 people attended in person with an additional 2,300 watching the livestream. 

Eleven speakers presented at the event, interspersed with two TED videos (Angela Lee Duckworth’s “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance” and Adam Grant’s “Are you a giver or taker?”), a brief intermission, and a performance by the NJIT Flute Trio. The event was co-organized by Judith Sheft, Associate Vice President of Strategic Relationships & External Affairs. Before introducing each speaker, Sheft recited expressive and uplifting quotes about resilience, such as the following haiku by Mizuta Masahide: “Barn’s burnt down—now I can see the moon.”

Speakers included high-school brother-sister duo Alexander and Celeste Huang, who discussed their project of addressing the global refuge crisis through photographic portraits in “The Power of Faces; Founder and CEO of SHE Wins Inc. A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, who discussed in “Rewriting Resiliency Radically” how her organization develops middle and high-school girls in Newark, particularly those who have lost a parent to homicide; and journalist Madison Jaye, who discussed how to utilize your ‘chakras’ in “Building Resiliency Through Spirituality.” 

“Resilience is the ability of one party to withstand attacks from another party,” said TEDxNJIT speaker Dr. Cesar Bandera when asked what resiliency meant to him. “The attacks may be intentional or unintentional; global warming is attacking anything and everybody.” 

Bandera is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at NJIT’s Martin Tuchman School of Management, and his talk was titled “Resilience and the Entrepreneur.”

Bandera continued, “When one speaks of resiliency and entrepreneurship, they typically speak of the resiliency of the business model—can the business model survive global warming, or a raise in interest rates, or competition from other companies, large and small? My talk [was] about the emotional and psychological resiliency of the entrepreneur and how can we help that.” 

Dr. Amy Hoover, Assistant Professor of Informatics at NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing, was another faculty member who spoke at the event. When asked about her definition of resiliency she said, “To me, resilience is to bounce back and navigate your adversity, to not let it define you, and to continue to keep moving.” Her talk was titled “Trial and Error – Actually What is Success?”

Other speakers at the event included Jasmine Wahi, founder of Project for Empty Spaces; Colette Santasieri, executive director, policy and planning innovation for civil infrastructure and environment NJIT; Grace Ibitamuno, Rutgers medical student; Donald Sebastian, president and CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute; Jason Vitug, author; and NJIT student-athlete Tomislavi Antoljak.

“I thought the event itself was a very cool experience, both in performing and watching the other speakers,” said Kristianna Gaw, a junior studying Computer Science who also performed as part of the Flute Trio. “It was fun listening to different personalities take the stage, all with the common goal in mind: to make a positive change in the world and build resilience.”

Allison Wong, a sophomore studying Digital Design, echoed similar sentiments. “I really enjoyed the different stories about resilience at the TEDxNJIT,” she said. “I left feeling more invigorated to face my own challenges and to work towards my goals.” She came to the event because she likes watching TEDx talks on YouTube and “thought it’d be cool to attend one in person.”

Varun Pai, a freshman studying Biology who volunteered at the event, also enjoyed the event. “With topics ranging from business to personal growth, each of the speakers at TEDxNJIT showcased the depth and breadth of the concept of resilience,” he said. 

“I was deeply impressed with the personal and social implications of the ideas being covered—not to mention the organization and execution of the event itself. This year’s TEDxNJIT was a wonderful opportunity for students to become acquainted with leaders in the local community and gain valuable perspectives.” 

TEDxNJIT is an inspiring and enriching experience that brought the Newark and NJIT community closer together. This year’s iteration reminded us about the importance of staying strong through hardships and how to recover after adversities. Although the date and theme for next year are not yet set, the organizers of TEDxNJIT welcome involvement by anyone.

Photo by Sandra Raju

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