Wichita State professor to be featured speaker at Cambridge University TEDx conference

Intellectuals, artists, philosophers, scientists and techno wizards know that you’ve arrived on the world stage when you’re invited to give a TED talk.

Bill Gates has given a TED talk, the popular online talk available worldwide. Steven Hawking, the theoretical physicist, gave a TED talk. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” has spoken in one of the popular talks.

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, the founding director of Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking, will be a featured speaker at a TEDx event at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom on Thursday. She flew to England this week.

“I feel overwhelmingly grateful and blessed to have this opportunity,” she said. “It really is just a reflection of the fact that in this world, though we may face great hardships, there is a life of possibility ahead. I hope to represent our great community of Wichita well.”

TED, as TED founders say on their website, was founded to make sure the thoughts and performances of many of the world’s most thoughtful people became available to the world for free.

The theme of the Thursday TEDx conference is “The Power of Resilience.”

At TED conferences, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.

Other previous TED speakers include Robert Ebert, Bill Gates, Elizabeth Gilbert, Benoit Mandelbrot, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and many more, Wichita State University officials said on Tuesday.

Countryman-Roswurm is a former Wichita runaway who became a child rescuer for the Wichita Children’s Home and then a pioneer in the anti-trafficking movement. Now a WSU faculty member with a 2012 Ph.D., she will talk about her life on Wichita streets, her emancipation in the courts as a teen, and her career at the Wichita Children’s Home as a street outreach worker.

Countryman-Roswurm founded the Anti-Sexual Exploitation Roundtable for Community Action and serves as a assistant professor at the WSU School of Social Work.

In a statement released by the university on Tuesday, she said that all people, even human-trafficking survivors, have the capacity for resilience, for wholeness and prosperity, “regardless of the obstacles they face.

“No one can make it on pure grit alone,” she said.

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” The TED website states that it started as a conference in California 26 years ago.

WSU earlier this year established the Center for Combating Human Trafficking, with Countryman-Roswurm as executive director. The center will train police, prosecutors, medical providers, faith groups and others in how to combat trafficking. It will advocate for victims and tries to reshape public policy on a national scale.

By building the center entirely around Countryman-Roswurm’s expertise, WSU leaders think they can become not only a regional center to combat trafficking but eventually the strongest voice in the nation to fight the crime. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the center on Feb. 13. The start-up cost is estimated at $50,000 a year from the university, with the center also applying for grants.

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