When Martina Garabedian ’22 was learning English, she turned to TED Talks. The Bulgaria native hoped to attend college abroad, and she watched Sheryl Sandberg talk about leaning in and Amy Cuddy explain the power pose as she grew her language skills.
The impact on her was so great that she wrote her college essay about it.
Almost four years later, Garabedian had a new outlet for her love of TED Talks: as co-chair of TEDxBabsonCollege, the College’s version of the popular speaker series. In March, the Babson Global Scholar found herself power posing to pump herself up before going on stage to introduce the event.
“I could never imagine in all my life that I could get up on a stage and speak in a language that is not my mother tongue,” Garabedian said. “Absolutely mind-boggling.”
Garabedian and co-chair Riya Pandhare MSEL’22 not only brought the program back in person this spring, but they also propelled it into the future—just as they are about to embark on their own next adventures.
An Event for the Future
Pandhare, who was born in India and grew up in Dubai, also wrote about her interest in TEDxBabsonCollege in her graduate school essay after being inspired by the program’s ethos from watching past events on YouTube. But when she saw the table for it at the graduate clubs fair in September 2021, she couldn’t help but second-guess herself.
“There were all these wonderful clubs with their own booths but TEDxBabsonCollege was the one booth that was immensely crowded,” she said. “To walk into Knight Auditorium and see that crowd, it was extremely intimidating—especially for someone who would be organizing a TEDx event for the first time.”
Before coming to Babson, Pandhare had studied design and worked in creative strategy, business development, and digital marketing in the luxury beauty and wellness space. While she had never organized an event of this scale, she took a leap and applied directly for the co-chair seat. It paid off.
“Once I was in the co-chair seat, I knew that I made the right decision because I could exercise my skill sets across different avenues,” she said. “The role was very much like that of an entrepreneur, and that’s what clicked for me.”
Both co-chairs also say they clicked personally, with Garabedian bringing a brain for logistics and finance and Pandhare bringing her professional experience, communication skills, and creative thinking to the partnership. “I never believed in my life I would click so well with someone,” Garabedian said. “We were always side by side, always on the same page, and that was really felt by the team.”
The theme of this year’s TEDxBabsonCollege event was “Ad Meliora: Toward Better Things.” As hosts, Garabedian and Pandhare wanted a theme that would inspire the audience after more than two years of the pandemic. Each Monday, the 17-person team of students and staff advisor Tamara Lamenzo would meet to plan various elements of the event: speakers, finances, logistics (such as location and food), marketing, and sponsorships.
The co-chairs tried to keep the energy light. “Not everyone is fond of Mondays, but we would really look forward to those 3 p.m. meetings as a team,” Pandhare said.
“Once I was in the co-chair seat, I knew that I made the right decision because I could exercise my skill sets across different avenues. The role was very much like that of an entrepreneur, and that’s what clicked for me.”
Riya Pandhare MSEL’22
The optimism worked. It was the biggest event in TEDxBabsonCollege’s six-year history, with more than 200 attendees in Carling-Sorenson Theater and more watching on the livestream. Lamenzo describes it as a “real TEDx,” where “everyone stayed until the end.” It featured 11 speakers, including Senior Lecturer in Management Jack McCarthy, undergraduate student Hardik Pandey ’23, graduate student David Kerr MBA ’23, and alum John Hargrave MBA ’04, and talks from CEOs, leadership coaches, and people with business acumen and general positivity to spread.
“The TEDx speakers can be everyday people. The best ideas come from people who have just found something on their own in their everyday life,” Garabedian said. “That’s the beauty of TEDx because it gives a platform for people to express their ideas.”
A Whole Babson Effort
TEDxBabsonCollege started out as a club in the Master of Science in Management in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MSEL) program in 2017, and Lamenzo has fostered its growth across campus. Garabedian was the first undergraduate to join, and the event benefits from having both undergraduates who can nurture the group over a few years and graduate students who draw from their academic and professional experiences.
It’s also a labor of love that lives off support from the entire Babson community. Not only has it evolved into a collaboration between undergraduate and graduate students, but it also involves many avenues of campus. The event’s speakers attended workshops with the Babson Speech Center to practice their talks, and the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership sponsored the event and helped find speakers. Two speakers, Precious Williams and Jennifer Smith, are part of the Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program.
“It was heartwarming to see so many different Babson entities show that kind of support,” Pandhare said.
One of their biggest campus supporters was the Weissman Foundry, which they used mostly to support their marketing efforts. The team used the 3-D printer to make branded paperweights and laser-printed awards to give to speakers.
“We really appreciated the hand (the Foundry) extended to us, especially in those last few days when stress levels were building up,” Pandhare said. She added that the Foundry’s leadership is already planning how they can help for the 2023 event.
Garabedian and Pandhare leave a blueprint that Lamenzo and future Babson students can use to spread awareness and excitement about TEDxBabsonCollege. Lamenzo wants to grow the event by increasing the financial and institutional support and visibility so that there is a waitlist to attend. “Every year, we try to make it better, to make it more streamlined,” Lamenzo said.
As for the co-chairs’ futures, Pandhare plans to stay in the United States after graduation to pursue the next phase of her career. Garabedian hasn’t formalized her plans yet but knows the TEDxBabson experience is just the beginning of her future.
“If you asked me to do this in my freshman or sophomore year or even junior year, I would’ve said no. Because I needed those years to build my English-speaking skills, to build my awareness, to grow up,” Garabedian said. “This experience is the culmination of all my learning experiences at Babson.”
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