A Tribute to TEDxUF: Welcome Home

On Maria Estrada, TEDxUF Club Host

For me, TEDxUF is my baby. The notoriety it’s starting to have on campus and the impact on students and the community… well, that’s what we were dreaming about…”

Maria Estrada is an graduate student in accounting at the University of Florida. Four seemingly short years ago she began a journey which not only led to finding a piece of herself, but also introduced her to a family that would accompany her throughout her college career. This year she is the TEDxUF Club Host.

“TEDxUF Club meets every other Tuesday in Heavener 140. Every meeting is organized around a theme; we watch two talks and share thoughts and perspectives. I like that it’s a fun way to get to know people better, even friends I have known for years. Hopefully, TEDx Club leads people to watch talks they may not have necessarily clicked on on their own, but actually opens their minds up to something new.”

Q: Tell me about your love story with TEDxUF:

A: “I discovered the club probably my first or second week of my freshman year. I loved it instantly; I loved being inspired every week by these talks, and I loved having discussions with people and learning from their point of view. I was an active member of the club for two years, during which time I begged and pleaded for an opportunity to help plan the event. At the end of the 2014 conference I met Claud (Bell), who would be the 2015 conference’s curator, along with Alex (Touchton), this year’s curator. We quickly determined we wanted to work together and started making plans.”

Q: How has TEDxUF transformed over these last few years?

A: “I think 2015 was the year that changed TEDxUF to what it is today. We were originally seven people, and all of us stayed on at least one more year after that. We revived the event and built a bigger and stronger team. After the 2015 conference, we talked a lot about continuity, about not giving up the ground we had gained through so much hard work. We talked about what we had learned and the direction we wanted TEDxUF to take. We had grown the event from 800 to 1,400 attendees and even had one of our talks featured on the TED website. TEDxUF is my baby. The notoriety it’s starting to have on campus and the impact on students and the community… well, that’s what we were dreaming about those late nights squeezed onto Claud’s couch, making to-do lists and drafting emails.”

Q: What have you personally learned from working with the TEDxUF speakers and team?

A: “One of the biggest things I learned from our speakers is just how diverse our campus is. There are so many fascinating things going on at UF, from research to design to civic duty and social justice. Everyone I came in contact with was incredibly passionate about a very specific topic, most I generally knew very little about.

The first year on the team I was Director of Finance, and I started to build the framework for sponsorship that I think Sarah (Winter) has improved… and I would say perfected. Last year I was co-curator; my goal was to do everything I could to facilitate Erin (Peace)’s vision of ‘Identity.’

After spending a lot of time with the budget and feeling comfortable with the logistical end of the event, I got a chance last year to see a lot more of the creative side. Our event really married together the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of Identity. It was an amazing experience, especially learning how to coach speakers from our license holder, Tiphanie (Raffageau), who is one of the people I’ve looked up to most in my college career. TEDxUF definitely changed my life. It’s been really empowering to see what a group of undergraduates can accomplish. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I can achieve when I have a goal. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts.”

Q: What does TEDxUF Club mean to you?

A: “I think everyone has had this experience at least once in their life: you watch a talk, it changes your worldview completely, and no one is around to share that moment with or be witness to this life-changing moment. Of course, then you have to sit your friends down to watch the talk so that you have someone to talk about it with, which ends in varied results. TEDx Club gives you that friend and that venue to share ideas that are meaningful to our club members. I love it when club members message me with their favorite talks, and I always end up sharing them with the rest of the group.

For me this year is about getting back to my roots. It’s my last year at UF, so I want to enjoy it as much as I can. In thinking about all the amazing experiences I have had here, TEDx club really stands out. I wanted to return to the thing that brought me the most joy when I was an eager freshman. It was the then-weekly activity that no matter what was going on, I would drop everything to go to. I wanted to bring back that sense of wonder that the club gave me. I hope I can do that for some enthusiastic freshman, who is looking to find herself and her safe place. TEDxUF has been that for me.”

Q: What do you consider to be your all time favorite TED talk?

A: “My favorite talk is Amy Cuddy’s talk, ‘Your Body Shapes Who You Are.’ She shares her research on the effect of body language on your perception of yourself. One tip she shares is that doing a ‘Superman’ pose can help you feel more confident. It works — I definitely have used it (I actually used it when I interviewed for my job), and I do it whenever I’m in a stressful situation. It totally helps.”

Come out to the first TEDxUF Club meeting of the semester tonight to meet Maria and be inspired by our exchange of ideas worth spreading!
Heavener 140 at 7 p.m.

Watch Maria’s favorite talk here:


Words by Kyley Hagan
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