CMU-Q student club overcomes obstacles to host TEDx event
In October 2019, a group of students applied to host a TEDx event at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university. In order to meet the strict guidelines for an official TEDx talk, the students expected they would hold the event in the following spring semester.
Jawaria Abbas, the president of the TEDx student organizers, believes that CMU-Q is the perfect place to hold a TEDx talk: “In our building, we study four different fields. Among the students, there is a lot of interest in learning about new concepts, and we wanted to create a platform for discussion.”
The planning team hit their first obstacle in March 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions meant all in-person events at the university were cancelled and classes moved online.
“We could have decided to move the event online—that was the easiest thing to do,” said Abbas. “But it wouldn’t have been the same. We wanted to give students the experience of being at a TEDx event.”
In January 2021, after months of remote learning, the university was permitted to have limited people in the building, as long as everyone followed strict health and safety guidelines. The students resumed their planning with the help of Thanos Sardellis, student activities coordinator at CMU-Q.
Sardellis notes: “The students were very driven, despite many curveballs. They never stopped.”
The organizing team nominated community safety officers—student volunteers who were trained to ensure attendees were complying with the guidelines. They created detailed plans to manage the ebb and flow of people at the event: registration, lunch, seating, and a workshop station were meticulously planned to ensure the attendees maintained a safe social distance.
The event was a huge success, both from a logistical perspective and the experience of the attendees. Five speakers shared their insights: the talks of Tamara Albaja, Faten El Ayache, Joud Ghalayini, Gordon Rule, and Muhammad Hamza Sohail are now posted on the TEDx YouTube channel.
Sardellis reflected on the achievement of holding such a complex event in a time of shifting expectations.
“The theme for the event was ‘Accepting Anomalies,’ and I think this student group themselves accepted so many anomalies that came up. They are an inspiration for other students to see opportunities in challenging times.”
The team of student organizers and volunteers included: Jawaria Abbas, Rahaf Abutarbush, Hissa Al Fakhri, Yaqoob Ansari, Anas Elgammal, Maryam Fakhroo, Thamanna Hashir, Fadia Hussain, Sara Hussein, Aigerim Karatay, Omaia Khandaker, Talha Sabzwari, Mariam Syed, Uzair Umar, and Shreshtha Upadhyay. Students in the Carnigraphy Club and Art Club also contributed to the event.