Student Challenge

Thank you to all of those who attended the first ever TEDxSwarthmore Student Challenge!

Following the final round of the TEDxSwarthmore Student Challenge, Mary Jean Chan ’12 was invited to join the 12-speaker lineup of the March 31 TEDxSwarthmore Conference.

The TEDxSwarthmore Student Challenge was a campaign to identify and select one Swarthmore student to speak at TEDxSwarthmore on March 31, 2012. This opportunity provided students with the opportunity of a TED platform to share their ideas (and efforts) on the theme of “What makes a good society?”  One student would be invited to join the eleven current speakers, consisting of faculty, parents, and alumni, who all will all be  challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less on March 31.

Students, faculty, and staff were able to nominate any current Swarthmore student with an ‘idea worth sharing.’ From the students who apply and/or are nominated to speak, five students were selected to participate in the final Student Challenge on February 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm, in Science Center 101. Each of the five students selected were challenged to give an abbreviated TED-like talk on an idea, project, or experience they would like to share with the world.  Finally, one student was chosen by a panel of judges to speak at the final TEDxSwarthmore on March 31, 2012. The student who won the challenge will have their talk recorded at TV production quality and posted to the TEDxSwarthmore website, accessible to anyone around the world.

The Student Challenge took place on Friday, February 24, 2012 at 7PM in Science Center 101.

We believe that the Swarthmore community is full of students with exciting ideas to contribute positively to society.


The five students selected to participate in the final Student Challenge were:

Adam Bortner ADAM BORTNER ’12 – a Sociology & Anthropology major at Swarthmore College, first discovered digital storytelling during a first-year French literature course at Swarthmore. He wrote and recorded a story, adding photographs and music to make it come alive. The creative activity had him hooked. With generous support from the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, he has since worked with several people living with HIV/AIDS in surrounding communities to make digital stories. Through this work, he witnessed the power of storytelling to change a room, to change lives, and most importantly, to change the world.
Mary Jean Chan MARY JEAN CHAN ’12 – A Political Science Honors Major and English Literature minor from Hong Kong, China. Passionate about heterodox economics, the intersection between politics and poetry, and other forms of literary expression. Mary Jean is a campus ambassador for the non-profit organization Teach for China, and also works as the international recruitment intern for the Admissions Office. She is currently collaboratively working on organizing a conference entitled: “The Progress Paradox: Critical Perspectives on Development”, to be held at Swarthmore College from 8-16 April this year.
Jennifer Koch JENNIFER KOCH ’13 – a double major in Music and Political Science. As co-President of Chester Youth Court Volunteers, she works with her peers to help high school students in Chester facilitate youth courts and become involved community members. Jenny also serves as President of the Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society, and is a member of the Swarthmore Chorus and Ladies Soirée Society. A two-time recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, Jenny believes that being involved in one’s community is both a duty and an honor – one she is happy to undertake.
Tarit RC TARIT RAO-CHAKRAVORTI ’12 – A senior from Boston, MA, with a double major in Economics and Honors Peace and Conflict Studies. With work and research experience on West African civil conflict, he is currently writing a thesis on the role of foreign investment in post-conflict reconstruction, examining cases in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Iraq. Outside the classroom, Tarit is a member of Swarthmore Squash, and enjoys traveling and eating different animals.
Riana Shah RIANA SHAH ’14 – As a high school freshman, Riana Shah moved to the US from Ahmedabad, India attending Bard High School Early College in New York City. Inspired by how education can be different and empowering, she co-founded Independent Thought & Social Action in India (ITSA) an education reform organization that creates socially responsible youth leaders through critical thinking and social action. ITSA empowers youth to start community-based social action projects by providing youth with social action training, funding and mentorship.


Congratulations, Mary Jean!
Stay tuned for videos of the student talks to be uploaded to the website soon.