Under the vision of A.J. Serlemitsos (COL ’17), the new organization Georgetown Talks aims to encourage students to talk about their personal experience at Georgetown and foster conversations on campus about diversity and students’ personal issues.
The organization’s first event will be a talk given by Serlemitsos on Wednesday about his experience growing up in Africa as white, followed by a brief discussion and forum.
Serlemitsos came up with the idea for Georgetown Talks based on a similar concept from his Connecticut boarding school, Choate Rosemary Hall.
“At Choate, it was really a TED Talks expansion, just giving people a chance to speak to the student body about an issue they felt passionate about, whether it be an issue worldwide, or even just a personal issue they were dealing with, like where they’re from and how it made them unique,” Serlemitsos said.
Another goal of Georgetown Talks is to create more student interaction that enriches the Georgetown student experience.
“We’re just trying to foster a greater sense of community awareness. We need people sharing their stories, their upbringings, their personal experiences — things that they’re passionate about — and engaging with one another, and Georgetown Talks will be a great way they can do that,” Jack Maher (COL ’17), the other Georgetown Talks team member, said.
Though the project was initially conceived in October as an evolution of GUSA’s Freshman Outreach Committee, the organization has yet to see a talk. Serlemitsos attributes the wait to administrative hurdles.
“[The administration] has a lot of rules about what it means to be an official group. They have a lot of limitations on what you can do if you’re not an official group,” he said.
With an abundance of speakers on campus, Maher still stressed the necessity of the organization, claiming that other groups did not focus on giving students a voice.
“Having some of the great minds the Lecture Fund brings in is nice, but ultimately, they’re talking about things on a global scale that might not be as pertinent to Georgetown, and so what we’re trying to do through Georgetown Talks is get something that’s more of a personal and intimate experience,” Maher said.
Serlemitsos pointed out free speech and diversity as major issues he hopes to see brought up in future talks. These issues served as prominent topics of discussion in this year’s new “What’s a Hoya?” program.
Megan Murday (SFS ’15) — one of the coordinators of “What’s a Hoya?” — was excited for the new organization.
“It sounds like a very interesting and worthwhile program. For the final session of ‘What’s a Hoya?’ we invited students to come and give a talk related to an aspect of diversity in their own lives and then lead a miniature discussion with the freshmen,” Murday said. “Many freshman participants remarked that it was their favorite session, so I hope there is continued enthusiasm for the new program.”
However, Murday addressed one of the major problems of the organization, admitting to having never heard of Georgetown Talks before. Serlemitsos agreed there had been some trouble in reaching out to people to build a strong community.
“It’s tough marketing to the people we don’t know that want Georgetown Talks to succeed but don’t know about it yet. We’re going to do some tabling over the next few days.”
The idea of continued conversations on topics such as diversity sparks student interest.
“On the surface level, I think it’s a very interesting idea. I have really enjoyed understanding that everyone on Georgetown has taken very different paths to the Hilltop,” Mike Gee (SFS ’15) said. “It matters how they fill the venue and that they make sure it’s a discussion and not just a talk. It’s important for them to build a community so people are comfortable expressing themselves and their true opinions.”
Other students, like Dylan Orshefsky (COL ’17), were less intrigued by the premise of the talks.
“Diversity is not something that I feel, to me, is something that needs to have a discussion about. I personally am just not that interested in it. But if the talks were something more along the lines of science, technology, culture, linguistics — I’d absolutely be interested in it,” Orshefsky said.