Courtesy of TEDxGeorgeMasonU

Exploring healthcare, education and more in a pandemic world


On Friday, April 16, TEDxGeorgeMasonU hosted their annual TEDx conference with the theme “The New Normal,” focusing on the ways the pandemic has changed our world.

TEDxGeorgeMasonU is an independently organized virtual TED event that helps bring together student and faculty speakers to spread their ideas related to the theme.

“As vice president [of TEDxGeorgeMasonU], I’ve witnessed how hard our board members have worked to have this event held in this past year. With the pandemic, our team has learned to pivot in a different direction to host this year’s event, and that’s exactly what this conference is based on this year,” said Azeen Bashir.

Speakers were invited to discuss the diverse research areas they come from, including higher education, computer game design, mental health and more. It was a wide-ranging and stimulating conversation.

The first speaker of the afternoon was Dr. Malda Kocache, a professor in the Biology department at Mason’s College of Science. Kocache’s panel, titled “What Went Wrong,” discussed the impact the human population had on the pandemic. 

“Many of us in the field have predicted this — we have known for a while that zoonotic infections that jump from [animals] to people have always happened,” she explained about the start of COVID-19. 

Kocache’s panel provided thought-provoking insight about resolving the current climate crisis, along with reassurances about our health impact on the earth and other people. 

The next speaker of the afternoon was Dr. Lila Fleming, a global health epidemiologist and certified health education specialist at the College of Human and Health Services. Fleming’s panel, “Teaching in the Time of COVID-19,” emphasized the pandemic’s impact on higher education. Her debriefing on the sudden change of course formats and academic integrity gave the audience insight on what it was really like to teach during the start of the pandemic.

“Even though I had extensive experience teaching online over the years, I felt like I was overwhelmed and I didn’t have everything I needed to prepare for this transition,” Fleming noted. “Mason faculty had a monumental task ahead of us for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.”

Other speakers for the remainder of the TEDx event covered different topics, including game design like Professor Robbie Dieterich, whose panel “Pandemic Life Lessons from a Latter-day NES Dev” taught the audience about his experience working on a Nintendo game system while in isolation during the beginning of the pandemic. 

This event gave audience members the opportunity to see different leaders of the Mason community come together to spread wisdom on a wide array of topics. The overarching theme served as a reminder about our current situation that we as humans have been able to adapt to our “new normal” in ways that previously seemed unimaginable.