Hindle Auditorium overflows as Roosevelt Institute hosts fourth annual WheaTalks

On March 30, the Roosevelt Institute hosted the fourth annual WheaTalks in Hindle Auditorium.

The popular lecture series began in 2012 with former Roosevelt Institute President Adin Lechner ’12, who was inspired by similar events in other universities. This year, the ten speakers covered a broad array of topics and brought an exceptional audience turnout.

As it has for the past three WheaTalks, the Roosevelt Institute chose speakers to represent a wide range of Wheaton students.

“[When choosing speakers] we prioritize balance,” said Sarah Estrela ’15, President of the Roosevelt Institute at Wheaton. “We try to maintain as even a number of male and female speakers as possible, try to represent all class years, and try to make sure a diverse set of perspectives are heard,” said Estrela. “We keep one spot open for a faculty speaker if there is interest.”

Modeled after the format of the popular TedTalks series, WheaTalks gives each of the ten participants ten minutes to present a topic they are passionate about. The participants this year included nine students and one faculty member, all of whom spoke on diverse topics ranging from artificial intelligence and future humans to Saturday Night Live’s effect on satire.

The turnout this year was beyond expectations as the Hindle Auditorium was packed with students, many of them standing or sitting on steps due to a lack of empty seats.

“It was surreal to have such an incredible turnout,” Estrela said. “It exhibited the pride the Wheaton community has in its members and their ideas.”

“I was expecting a greater conversation to be sparked and for some light to be shed on some important topics, but this year’s talks certainly surpassed my expectations,” she added. “This year was one of the most energetic, engaging WheaTalks I’ve ever been a part of, and it was extremely gratifying.”

The process was very selective, as only nine of the 23 students who applied were chosen. Participants were very passionate about their topics and really hoped to deliver a message to their audience.

“With any subject you’re curious about, it was great fun to read up on, and even greater fun sharing it with an interested and open-minded audience,” said Professor of Biology Robert Morris, who presented on future humans and the effect technology will have on human biology.

For many of the speakers, the limited speaking timeframe of the talks made planning their presentations a daunting task. Among the speakers was Roosevelt Vice President Liam Grace-Flood ’17, who presented on the human experience and the examination of science’’s inability to accurately reflect it.

“It was really hard to present what is essentially my world view in such a brief format. These ideas are always swirling around my head,” Grace-Flood said.

Other speakers found their own unique ways of presenting, like Elizabeth Peterson ’15. In Peterson’s talk on teaching Shakespeare, she rapped in Middle English, accompanied by the beatboxing of Estrela. The originality of this event is something Peterson loves about WheaTalks.

“I love WheaTalks because it is such a unique venue for Wheaton students and faculty to voice different ideas,” she said. “All of us are talking about very different things, but we are all in the same space on the same night for the extended Wheaton community. This sort of opportunity is why I love being at Wheaton.”

The participants gave huge praise to Estrela, who helped everyone prepare for the event.

“The real MVP of the whole event was Sarah Estrela,” said Graham Johnson ’18, who presented on the benefits of unrealistic optimism. “She kept us organized and focused, while making the process incredibly enjoyable. WheaTalks 2015 definitely wouldn’t have been as big of a success if she wasn’t there to lead us through it.”