The fifth annual STO Talks conference took place on March 5-6 in The Pause. Similar to the popular TED Talks conferences, STO Talks gathers the St. Olaf community together for alumni, faculty, staff and students to share and articulate their ideas. A total of 13 speakers – nine were either current students or alumni and the remaining four were faculty or staff members – presented on topics ranging from psychopathy to the importance of meaningful work to the illusion of race.
The founder of STO Talks, Nick Kang ’12, mentioned that the goal of each speaker was not only to share his or her ideas, but for their “ideas to be challenged and debated by others.”
Throughout the talks, I found that not only did St. Olaf students attentively listen to the ideas presented, but we also pondered how their ideas might play a role in the the world we inhabit.
“It is always important to talk about these certain matters because they affect our world and how we think and how we find new ways to solve these matters,” Diane Vargas ’19 said.
Vargas also mentioned that the talk “Psychopathy as Contagion in American Culture” by Professor of English Carlos Gallego particularly stood out.
“We are mostly surrounded by a culture that influences us negatively and Professor Gallego repeatedly talked about how it is important to diagnose those with mental illnesses more carefully and not be quick to make assumptions,” she said.
Both Vargas and Gallego emphasized that oftentimes, the perceived problem is not necessarily the actual issue. The problem is how we, as a community or country, choose to approach and solve any particular challenge which immensely impacts the culture we live in.
STO Talks reminded students just how important it is to discuss socially-relevant topics. These presentations encouraged Oles to think critically about social issues and inspired students to build off of the concepts they learned about throughout the weekend.
One of the lecture push individuals to test their boundaries and accept failure. Failure ought to help individuals become more effective and efficient in their perpetual process of learning and sharing their ideas with others.
Speaker Yishu Dai ’18 emphasized the importance of community learning.
“Change never comes from a higher power,” she said, “but from the community.”
Within the St. Olaf community, there are individuals who will one day, as Professor of Biology Eric Cole put it, discover “the urge to create something of lasting meaning and beauty.” The STO Talks conference achieved this by having St. Olaf alumni, faculty, staff and students not only articulate their best, brightest and most deeply-held ideas, but create an environment in which these could be shared.