Shaping Utopia: TEDxAUBG Comes Back to Campus
In a series of articles, we look back at the events that brought our community together after two years of hybrid life.
For the first time in two years, TEDxAUBG hosted their annual conference fully on-ground on April 9, 2022. True to its slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading,” the conference invited 11 speakers coming from six countries and from fields spanning from astronomy to artificial intelligence, cooking, sports, entrepreneurship, and productivity. This year's event was particularly special, as the student club is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
TEDxAUBG was established in 2012 with the goal to contribute not only to the AUBG community but to anyone interested in innovative ideas. A team of 30 AUBGers in six departments (Speakers, Sponsorship, Logistics, Design, PR, and IT), work towards creating the annual conference. TEDxAUBG is an independently organized TED event that reaches thousands of people outside of the university online thanks to the worldwide TEDx platform. Apart from their big event, the student club prepares workshops on the art of storytelling and presenting ideas throughout the school year.
This year's hosts, Viktoria Ivanova ('22) and the fourth-year student Ivaylo Todorov, led the audience through the immersive experience of Shaping Utopia, the theme of this year's conference which explored the notion of perfection, the path to achieving one's dreams, and the steps towards human evolution.
“The immersive experience of the event made you feel like you’re living in the utopia itself," said TEDxAUBG club member Dimitar Slavov. "The 10th anniversary of TEDxAUBG did not disappoint; moreover, it once again showcased the magic the TEDxAUBG conference brings to people.”
Some of the speakers were well-known AUBG faces: business professor Elena Radeva and AUBG students Viktor Kharyton ('22) from Ukraine and Svetozara Saykova ('22) from Bulgaria. Others came to speak in front of the AUBG audience from all corners of the globe.
Among the speakers was Gioia Arieti, who specializes in design thinking and human-centered design. She spoke about the importance of focusing on our own perception for a more meaningful future filled with new experiences.
“Our behavior is influenced by the weather, the context, the society we live in but what if we looked at how we perceived time by the experiences we’ve had?" -- that was the tagline of her though-provoking speech, during which Arieti presented a calendar she had constructed based on the human perception of time.
Stoyan Yankov is a former movie producer who now specializes in productivity coaching. He presented the PERFORM framework on strong and successful team culture.
“Today is the time to start making an impact so that we can have not only companies focused on being productive but also companies that care for their people,” he said.
Mariya Jekova is a winner of the culinary show MasterChef 2021 (Bulgaria) who chose rural life over the noisy streets of the city. In her talk, she presented the importance of the local farmers' markets and ways to combine gourmet and seasonal foods.
“I am a firm believer in human potential and I believe that it can be used to do so much good for ourselves and others,” she said.
The TEDxAUBG team strictly follows the global rules of TED when it comes to choosing speakers, fact-checking speeches, and of course, assuring an atmosphere that allows for the ideas to spread. “As an organizer, I find that the power of a TEDx event lies in its ability to bring people together, as a community, to hear stories, insights, and ideas that will travel with us and we can further share," said club member Anjali Avatapalli. "And it’s safe to say this year’s conference successfully did just that yet again! We brought on speakers this year that truly reflected diversity, innovation, and inspiration, three elements I believe are at the core of our theme Shaping Utopia. TEDxAUBG 2022 has been an enriching experience, not just for the audience, but for organizers like myself to help bring this event, and new ideas worth spreading, to life on stage.”
Next on stage was Iva Gumnishka, a Bulgarian social entrepreneur and founder of Humans in the Loop who was featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list and named European Young Leader. In her talk, she broke down the stereotypes about AI and explained why artificial intelligence needed humans to be able to deal with the complexity of the world.
TEDxAUBG speaker Khaleda Popal helped find the Afghan National Women’s Soccer Team and made it her mission to empower women through sports. As a former soccer captain, an immigrant, an activist, and a woman, she shared what drives her mission for female rights.
“We are all pieces of the puzzle," she said. "What if all of us play our part and do it in the best way? Then we will witness a world more peaceful, more inclusive, where everyone feels welcome and included.”
Dalina Buzi from Albania is a founder of the fashion and lifestyle magazine Anabel, who has over 15 years of experience in television, is the producer of the first-ever web-series show Hostel by Anabel, creator and co-producer of $NOB. “The truth that you make for yourself is what really matters,” she said during her talk.
Viktor Kharyton ('22) is a two-time Supermoto Champion of Ukraine with a strong passion for motorsport and academia. Throughout his academic career, Viktor learned to combine his knowledge in motorsport with academics that led him to many A-graded assignments and ultimately resulted in a Capstone Project for his JMC major: a 25-minute documentary coupled with a multimedia digital story "Motorgrad. The Story of Blagoevgrad Motorsport" that he did together with fellow student Yenlik O'Neill.
“Your passion for a hobby does not [mean] you will [be] irresponsible towards the assignment you got," he said. "Instead, it becomes a chance for you to learn more about something you love using the dedicated study time. It becomes a chance for you to spread the word and maybe even bring change.”
During her fourth year of studies, Svetozara Saykova ('22), who majored in Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science, worked on an independent study on domestic violence. That was also the topic of her thought-provoking TEDxAUBG talk. “Education empowers you to raise your voice when something is wrong, and this voice can help you stop the silence in domestic violence,” she said.
Elena Radeva has learned many things from her father, including focus, drive, work ethic, and a passion for what life has to offer. That passion has led her to become a management consultant, a social entrepreneurship supporter, a traveler, a volunteer, and a beloved AUBG professor. In her talk, she shared the 10 lessons her father taught her.
“Be the change you want to see in the world and don’t wait. Start today,” she said.
Jay Richards is a Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur who established the startup company Imagen Insights. Richards’s talk shed a light on how we can uplift each other by standing up and leading change in society for our mutual success.
“If one of us wins, we all win," he said. "If one of us takes that step to help somebody else, then it helps us all to win.”
“I am so happy that all our efforts came to life," said Margarita Arsova, a TEDxAUBG team member. "It is so exciting to be shaping utopia with a team of so many inspiring individuals. The positive feedback from the audience is what we do this for.”