This March was the first TEDxJacobsUniversity event since 2018, thanks to the hard work of head organisers Luna Miskevich and Luisa Lühdorff and their team. Luna is a second-year Psychology student with a minor in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Luisa is a second-year Global Economics and Management student with a minor in Psychology. Luna is from Belarus and Luisa is from Germany. Through this article, you’ll get to learn a bit about Luisa and Luna, the TEDx event, and the behind-the-scenes process of organising a large-scale event on campus.
Luna discovered Jacobs University through her mother, who thought it would be a good fit as she wanted to study in English in an international environment and live on a campus. Serendipity played a big role in her decision - she had many German friends, had fun visiting Germany for her sister’s birthday, and even was planning on learning German just for fun.
“It was like a match. Before she actually brought me to this decision, it was like destiny. I started getting closer and closer to this country absolutely incidentally and it wasn’t on purpose,” Luna said.
Jacobs University appealed to Luisa because she was already in the United States and she wanted to continue studying in English in an international environment.
“I think Jacobs is the #1 because it’s the most international university and it’s taught in English and you live on campus. It’s not only that there are only Germans studying in English, but I think the great thing is, this is the only university in Germany that does this, but you study with international people,” Luisa said.
The two of them met because they were assigned to be roommates in their first year on campus. They’ve been best friends ever since and decided to undertake the project of becoming main organisers of TEDx in 2021. They “had to start from scratch,” as all the previous organisers of TEDx had graduated already. TED is also a unique event in that you need to get permission and a licence from TED to hold the event.
“I think we both really liked the idea of TED and we really wanted to organise this event. As Luna just said, this is a great event for a university and we felt like it was missing on campus.” Luisa said.
They began organising TEDx nine months in advance by applying to the university and giving a presentation about their vision and why their group was the most dedicated to making this event successful. They then had to apply to TED for the licence. Finally, when the event was approved, they began forming a team of about 30 people. The response from students was overwhelmingly positive - they unfortunately had to decline about three or four times the number of applications they were looking for.
“When we announced that we were looking for a TEDX team, people were really willing to be a part of it. I think the reason for that is because TED is a name that people know. We felt so bad [about turning people down] but we were already so full with like three people per position. It was a great pleasure to know that people were willing to be a part of TED so much,” Luna said.
This enthusiasm was matched by the speakers. There was a speaker team deliberately comprised of students from different departments to search for people in their respective fields. They reached out to a combination of representatives from the university like professors, alumni to bring in the perspective of what happens post-graduation, and people completely unrelated to Jacobs.
“I was surprised how many people said yes. I don’t think there was a single speaker who said no. This was really impressive. The problem in the end was that we had to decline speakers, not the other way around. Or, it wasn’t possible because we wanted to have everyone in person and some people said they could only join online,” Luisa said.
The theme of TEDx was “Incrementum: Growth in Collaboration.” Luisa and Luna chose this as it was broad enough to be relevant for professionals in fields like business, politics, or medicine.
“We wanted something relevant, up-to-date, and going on right now. So, obviously there was the Corona pandemic, which is showing us that seemingly unrelated things are standing very, very close to each other. I study biology and for me, it’s very interesting to notice how medical fields are so closely linked and involved with politics now. Without doctors, these political decisions cannot be made, or they can be made and lead to terrible consequences. I thought we should make a whole conference about it and how it’s not happening only because of the pandemic. In the 21st century and in 2022, these fields are so interdisciplinary and there are so many people working on the line between two completely different fields. I think this is the spirit of TED, to bring people from different fields and spheres together to talk about their profession,” Luna said.
Luisa and Luna “complemented each other very well” as both roommates and working partners.
“It was natural and unplanned. You can spend years finding a perfect partner to work with but we just matched immediately with our energies and personalities. I think we have good leadership qualities but at the same time, we’re still different. The way I view things is very different from the way Luisa views things. Luisa is definitely more organised and logical but I am more emotional and considering how to impress. Because we are roommates, we get along well so when we became the main organisers, it was very balanced,” Luna said.
“I think it brought us closer together because it was for us our main thing to bond over. For us, it was great to work together. It was our project that we did together and that will always be between us. We learned more about each other and we got to spend time and grow together,” Luisa said.
As TED was planned during the pandemic, the first time the whole team met in person was the TEDx event. Luisa and Luna as co-head organisers primarily created the vision for TED, represented the event externally, and delegated tasks to the various teams. The head organisers for each team maintained continuous communication throughout the process.
“We set out a very great and beautiful final picture of how the event should look and how it should be like. We always wanted to go one step further. It’s harder and we challenged ourselves, but we just wanted it to be as nice and unforgettable as possible,” Luna said.
There were also some challenges along the way, especially with working as a team during the pandemic.
“I think that being a main organiser, even for us for next year, means that you need to take into consideration that people are different in their understanding of responsibility and commitment. Sometimes you have to do it on your own or change how you manage things. Here, people are students in the first place and most of the students have jobs so they have a lot of stuff to do. Organising such a big event requires a lot of commitment, time, and will, so people have to dedicate a lot to this event, which is voluntary and not paid. I feel like the members of the team or the student body should understand that there is a lot of effort which comes with organising events. It maybe seems like it’s pretty easy but it’s very hard, especially if you are doing it on your own as students. I think that this has to be appreciated more.”
Aside from working together, they also loved the talks that were given and felt honoured to welcome such great guests to Jacobs.
“The speakers that we had are CEOs, they are representatives of big companies, they are big people. For me, it was a great privilege to just have them there. They decided to dedicate their time to this student-led event, it wasn’t something like a personal invitation from the head of the university. It was entirely organised by students… The great thing about the TED format is that you just have 20 minutes and these people are so great and excellent in their field and they share their experience with you. Sometimes you understand everything perfectly very well and other times you understand it less. But it’s equally interesting because whether it’s your field or not, it’s the insights of a professional,” Luna said.
“I was just amazed by how connected everything is, even if you don’t think it is. There’s so much everyone can learn from each other because I think even after the talks, everyone was talking and networking and sometimes you would think they are so unrelated. But if you really think about it, they are not, and they can learn so much from each other even if they are from different fields. This all goes back to our topic, which I think was well-chosen,” Luisa said.
The girls had such a good experience with TED that they are planning to be co-head organisers again next year.
“It was a lot of fun and we know that we work well together. We have one more chance to do it, absolutely yes! It will be much easier and we already know some things we need to focus on more and the things that are going smoothly for us. Now having this experience, it would be a great idea to just continue and do it again. If we have this opportunity, why not?” Luna said.
After graduation, both girls plan on doing a Master’s. Luna finds a graduate degree important as she continues with a degree in science. Luisa may go abroad for her Masters but if not, she will try to work in Germany while doing her Masters. She is also open to any opportunities that come up along the way.
For anyone interested in organising an event at Jacobs in the future, they advise that students find a team that works well together and are committed to the event planning process.
“I would also say it’s really important to get a good co-organiser and a good team. You can only make it work if you have a good team. Don’t underestimate how much time it takes. We did this on top of classes and a job,” Luisa said.
You can watch all of the TEDx talks on their YouTube here. For more information on TEDxJacobs and joining the team in the future, you can see their website here or follow them on LinkedIn here , Facebook here, and at the Instagram account @tedxjacobsuniversity.
Luna concluded by saying, “We really hope that you all will be interested in joining TED next year. It’s so important to have this educational entertainment because this is still a university. There is no limit to knowledge and there’s no limit to this constant learning process. It’s so important that events like TED are here on campus because they bring in people who have been working in this certain field for years. They can tell the students so much more than a book or a theory. This shouldn’t be underestimated. Even though students are very busy, we know that, they should still try to find time to attend such events. We hope to see them next year!”