Every year, Indiana State University brings in notable speakers from around the world. For students, these speakers provided various insights into many aspects of life – aspects that many students today probably wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise. 

Notable people who have spoken at ISU in the past include: Ralph Nader, Nancy Grace, and Dinesh D’Souza.  Though many students look up to their professors and recognize their insight, professors can only recreate so much of the real world in the classroom.  This is where outside speakers come in.  They are usually still closely involved with the subjects on which they speak, and they can add to what professors teach.


The Lacks Family

Henrietta Lacks’ cells are immortal, though she died of cancer more than 60 years ago.  Before she died, these cells – called HeLa cells – were removed from her body without her knowledge.  These cells were used in developing the polio vaccine, studying cancer, analyzing the atom bomb’s effects, as well as in vitro fertilization and gene mapping.

Veronica Spencer and Shirley Lacks spoke on the topic of these HeLa cells, acknowledging the benefit to humanity in terms of the advancement in medical knowledge, but also debating the ethical means of removing these cells without Henrietta’s consent.  Spencer and Lacks discussed this, along with the other forms of human experimentation that have taken place in the past.

Spencer and Lacks showed students that the end doesn’t always justify the means. For students, this is a lesson in ethics that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.


Neal Barnard

Dr. Neal Barnard is best known for his medical research in healthy living – more specifically, how to lose weight.  His book, “21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart,” was the main topic of his presentation.  This diet is based off the premise that anyone can change the way they eat for just 21 days, and, after 21 days, anyone can begin to see the benefits of their diet to stick with it. Barnard’s diet is unique because it is a vegan diet.

Barnard was a great speaker for ISU students because college stress is notorious for packing on a few pounds.  Though some students may not be trying to lose weight, the tips that he provides can be used by students to live healthier lives, and prevent them from being in a position where they need to lose weight. Barnard helped students learn about ways to develop good eating habits.


Kathleen Welch

Kathleen Welch, a native of Indiana, works in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as a streetside pediatrician.  When she attended school, she simply wanted to be an international pediatrician, but after learning about the negative effects of human trafficking and realizing that she could help, she chose to pursue streetside pediatric care.

Welch tried to educate students about human trafficking and opportunities that are out there for people wanting to make a difference. She noted that human trafficking is made up of much more than just the sex trade. 

Human trafficking, as she defined it, “Is a faceless crime.  It takes away a person’s face, and replaces it with a barcode.”  She also shared that there are options out there for anyone who wishes to follow in her footsteps.


James Gibbs

James Gibbs is a professor who focuses his research on conservation biology, though his team of biologists are more generalists than specialists.  He works all over the world, studying a variety of endangered species.  As a conservation biologist, his goal is keeping these endangered species from becoming extinct.  One particular species that he has focused on recently is the giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands.

Gibbs is definitely passionate about what he does.  For biology majors, he served as an example of what they can hope to become someday.  Also, because biology is so hard to replicate in the classroom, Gibbs served as an extension to the classroom.  He has been out in the field and has seen what many students learn in class.  He shared his experiences with students, helping connect the classroom knowledge to a real world example.


Lilly Ledbetter

     Lilly Ledbetter is best known for the case she tried against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.  She was hired by the company is 1979 and retired in 1998.  When she retired, she sued the company for paying her significantly less than her male counterparts during the time she worked there.  She lost the case because she didn’t file the lawsuit within 180 days of her first paycheck, but after the trial, she became a prominent advocate for women’s equality.  Since her trial, she has helped to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – a law that loosens the timeliness requirements for filing of a discrimination suit.

Ledbetter afforded students the opportunity to view a level of oppression that students typically never notice.  In listening to Ledbetter speak about her experiences watching men receive higher wages for the same level of work she did, ISU students learned about discrimination in the workplace.


Josh Green

Josh Green graduated from Indiana State University in 2002 as an English major and a creative writing minor.  Shortly after, he began working in journalism in Atlanta.  He continued writing and recently published his first book of short stories, entitled, “Dirtyville Rhapsodies.”  He visited ISU to read from his collection of short stories, and also to answer questions for aspiring writers in a creative writing class.

Green was an example of what someone can do with an Indiana State University degree.  He graduated from the same school that the audience members were currently attending and is now a published author.  For students, he serves as a success story that helps to motivate our aspirations.  Also, with his recent endorsement from Men’s Health magazine, students, especially English majors and creative writing minors, can see someone who has conquered the harsh world of book publishing.


Ernest Green

Ernest Green was one of the Little Rock Nine.  Following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, segregated schools were no longer allowed.  In 1957, nine African-American students, including Ernest Green, attended a historically all-white school.  Of the nine students, Green was the only senior, and the first African-American to graduate from Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.  His success in graduating from Central High proved African-Americans were equally capable of succeeding at the school.

Green demonstrated that despite all the ridicule, harassment, and violence he was forced to endure, he was still successful academically.  As college students, hearing what this man persevered through showed us how grateful we should be for our freedoms