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The coronavirus can’t stop our imaginations! Below we have compiled speaker videos from the last three years of IFBG according to discipline. Along with the videos, you will find

  • background on the speakers.
  • questions to ask yourself before and after you watch each talk.
  • links to resources to explore further the ideas discussed.                                                         

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For a PDF of all materials except the videos, click here.

Questions? Email erika.solberg@wku.edu.

Comments? Drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Special thanks to Vid Monster Productions, which produced all the videos.



Aria L. Byrd

PhD candidate in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology at the University of Kentucky: “The Measure of Intelligence” (IFBG 2019)


"Intelligence is the ability to change, the ability to adjust, to refocus — the ability to re-examine where you are right now and where you want to be in the future."

A native of Atlanta, Aria received her B.S. in biology with a concentration in biotechnology from Albany State University and her M.S. in biology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her growing fascination with understanding how the body responds to both voluntary and involuntary environmental exposures has led her to pursue a doctoral degree in toxicology at the University of Kentucky. Aria has a passion for science communication and aspires to play an integral role in influencing national and global health policy by serving as a liaison for scientists and nonscientists.

See 2019 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Aria.

Questions from Aria:

Before the talk

  • What is your ideal career and why?
  • What is your ideal journey to reaching this career goal?

After the talk

  • What are the possible challenges that could arise during your aforementioned journey? How would you overcome these challenges?
  • As one aspires for greatness, is the journey or the destination more important? Why?

Fun fact: Aria started playing the tenor saxophone in middle school and played in the marching band throughout high school and college.

Article about Aria: http://bit.ly/candidate-selected

Related websites:


Dr. Natalie Hinkel

Planetary astrophysicist, Vanderbilt University*: “Braving the Elements” (IFBG 2018)


Natalie is a planetary astrophysicist at Vanderbilt*, studying the composition of nearby stars and how that may affect the make-up of orbiting planets. She observes planets outside of the solar system, or exo-planets, and has studied exotic systems where planets orbit two stars (think Tatooine!) or what life would be like on an exo-moon (which has yet to be discovered!). She got her bachelors in physics at Oberlin College, where she rounded out her education by including dance, theater, and romantic lit so people would talk to her at parties. She enjoys rock climbing and hiking.

* Natalie is now a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and a co-investigator for the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research network at Arizona State University. 

See 2018 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Natalie.

Questions from Natalie:

Before the talk

  • In what ways does thinking about outer space inspire you?
  • Do you think there might be other life in the universe?

After the talk

  • What can faraway stars tell us about ourselves?
  • Why would other life in the universe probably be very different from our own?

Fun fact: Natalie once worked in an ice cream truck.

Natalie's Website: http://www.nataliehinkel.com/

Podcast with Natalie: http://www.dougarobinson.com/natalie-hinkel/

Article on Natalie: http://shedoesscience.wixsite.com/home/single-post/2015/09/04/Dr-Natalie-Hinkel-astrophysicist


Kellyn LaCour-Conant

Coastal resources scientist at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana: "Making Connections: How Are Goji Berries, Oysters, and KFC Related?" (IFBG 2020)


"Everything we do in life is not happening in this little bubble, like “this is me, this is what I do, nothing outside of me matters.” Everything's interconnected. When you think about solutions to challenges you might face in life, try to think expansively —imagine how you can go beyond those simple solutions and remember that we’re all connected — and that’s a really great thing."

Kellyn LaCour-Conant is a wetland scientist and a daughter of Isle Brevelle. Having worked in restoration ecology for over 10 years, she’s knowledgeable about many different ecosystems and traditional relationships with nature. Kellyn grew up learning about wildlife from her family and went on to earn a bachelor’s in biology from Amherst College and a master’s in marine and environmental biology from Nicholls State University. She now works for CPRA in Baton Rouge to advance Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

See 2020 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Kellyn.

Questions from Kellyn:

Before the talk

  • What is ecology, and what do ecologists do?
  • In what ways are people, wildlife, and the physical environment connected to each other?

After the talk

  • In what ways are coastal states, like Louisiana, and inland states, like Kentucky, connected?
  • How can we help restore broken ecological connections in our everyday lives?

Fun fact:. She has a B.A. in Russian language and culture from Amherst College in Amherst, MA.

Related websites: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana

Video interview with Kellyn: Explain Yourself by The Roving Naturalist: “‘Rely on the communities you can find’ with Kellyn”

Further resources


Dr. Shelby Rader

Assistant research scientist in geochemistry at Indiana University: “Looking Beyond: How Geology Can Shape Our Understanding of the World Around Us” (IFBG 2020)


"Rocks tell us a story of our earth's history through billions and billions of years, and from that information we’re able to make predictions about what our earth will look like billions of years into the future. I want you all to think as you move forward, and particularly today, what are rocks you’ve passed every single day? What are some of the stories they tell you?"

Dr. Shelby Rader is a geochemist who originally hails from Irvine, Kentucky. A graduate of The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, she received her bachelor’s degree in geology and chemistry from WKU before obtaining her doctorate in geochemistry from the University of Arizona. Afterwards, Shelby completed a postdoctoral researcher position at the University of Massachusetts–Lowell, then moved to Indiana University, where she currently works. Through her research, Shelby is able to observe how large-scale geologic processes, both from the past and currently, alter the geochemistry of our environment, ultimately impacting plant and animal life, our resources, and us.

See 2020 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Shelby.

Questions from Shelby:

Before the talk

  • When you think of geoscientists, what words would you use to describe them?
  • What are some uses or applications for rocks and geology?

After the talk

  • What are some things you have encountered before that you will now see differently or pay more attention to?
  • What geologic legacy do you think we will leave for those that come after us?

Fun fact: Shelby spent a summer term studying on a cruise ship with Semester at Sea, visiting ten ports where she explored geology and water resources.

Shelby's Website: shelbytrue.com

Further resources


Dr. Kristina Talbert-Slagle

Assistant Professor, Yale School of Medicine: “What is Global Health? Insights from the 2014-15 Ebola Outbreak and Recovery in West Africa” (IFBG 2018)


Kristina grew up in Kentucky and is a proud alum of the VAMPY program at The Center for Gifted Studies at WKU.  She was a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky, graduating in 2001 with degrees in Russian and Eastern Studies and Agricultural Biotechnology. She completed her Ph.D. at Yale in 2010 and has since been working in global health, where she unites her interests in interdisciplinary sciences, complex systems theory, and strengthening health systems. She is now an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

See 2018 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Kristina.

Questions from Kristina:

Before the talk:

  • What factors influence whether or not a person who is sick gets better?
  • Prior to the Ebola outbreak of 2014-15, relatively few people had died from Ebola outbreaks. What do you think was different about the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak?

After the talk:

  • If the world wants to work together to prevent another emerging infectious disease outbreak, what should we do?
  • What is the relationship between war, infectious disease, and global health? 

Fun fact: Kristina’s interest in global health traces back to the summer she spent traveling in Russia through a program sponsored by The Center for Gifted Studies at WKU.

Video with Kristina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP5OgMJ5vbQ

Articles on Kristina:




Sarah Bellos

President and founder of Stony Creek Colors: “Dreams to Reality: Creating a Better World Business through Collaboration” (IFBG 2019)


"It’s important that we look outside of ourselves and get away from a narrow view and one solution for a problem. We need to realize that problems have many solutions. No matter what you think about your solution, it will change because other people will collaborate with you and bring their ideas as well."

Sarah developed Stony Creek Colors to help lead the sustainable transformation of the textile dye industry and build the most transparent and profitable bio-based chemical company on earth. A recognized leader in efforts to bring bio-based colorant production to farmers in the southeastern U.S., she was given the Young Entrepreneur Award by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists in 2015 and named an Inc. 100 Female Founders in 2018. A 2004 graduate of the Cornell University Agriculture School, she has over ten years of leadership experience in the textile, agriculture, and sustainability industries.

See 2019 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Sarah.

Questions from Sarah:

Before the talk

  • Why do you think clothing manufacturers have been using synthetic dyes that are harmful to the environment when a natural plant can do the same thing?
  • What are attributes that can go into making a crop sustainable?

After the talk

  • What ideas do you have for a business that could also improve the environment?
  • Why is it important to be able to increase the scale of production for indigo plant growth?

Fun fact: Before Stony Creek Colors, Sarah ran a business with her sister that was called Artisan Natural Dye Works.       

Video with Sarah: http://bit.ly/this-tenn-company

Articles on Sarah:    

Related website: stonycreekcolors.com


Robert Bowden III

Founder and CEO of Spartan 4x4 LLC: “Chasing the Dream” (IFBG 2019) Sponsored by Vid Monster Productions


"Maybe the chase and the hunt to accomplishing your dream is living it."

Originally from Atlanta, Robert is a student at WKU studying entrepreneurship. In 2015 he founded Spartan 4x4, a Bowling Green company involved in many areas of the automotive aftermarket industry. It offers a line of off-road lifestyle apparel, its own brand of off-road lighting and accessories, the online and physical retail and installation of automotive aftermarket parts, and personal-build consulting.

See 2019 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Robert.

Questions from Robert:

Before the talk:

  • What is a dream?
  • Why do we dream?

After the talk

  • Will you chase your dream, or will you always let it be a dream?
  • How will you focus your dreams going forward?

Fun fact: According to the WKU Herald, Robert’s career started when he “began using Instagram to market businesses in hopes of receiving free or discounted aftermarket car parts so he could transform his Jeep.” 

Articles on Robert: 

Related website: spartan4x4.com


Samantha Fore

Chef/owner of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites: “Work Hard and Be Nice to People: The Mantra of My Authenticity” (IFBG 2020)


"I looked for my place for years, and I finally found it by doing what I love to do. I love to share and to connect, especially over food. Food breaks boundaries."

A first-generation Sri Lankan-American from Lexington, Kentucky, Samantha Fore started her pop-up restaurant in 2016 after traditional Sri Lankan brunches in her home outgrew her dining room. One of the few representations of Sri Lankan cuisine in the country, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites reflects Sam’s Sri Lankan upbringing in the American South; its menus include her spins on southern classics and riffs on her mother's time-tested recipes. Her work has been featured in Food & Wine and Bon Appétit. She is a 2019 Smith Fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance and was selected as one of Plate Magazine’s 2018 Chefs to Watch.

See 2020 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Samantha.

Questions from Sam:

Before the talk:

  • How would you define authenticity?
  • What is one thing you would do if there were no obstacles in the way, and what obstacles would derail you from that path?

After the talk

  • How do we personally identify cultural similarities across the world? 
  • How do you adjust and adapt your views when presented with new, valid information? How do you filter out the noise?

Fun fact: When Padma Lakshmi was in Lexington to film an episode of Top Chef in 2018, Samantha cooked dinner for Padma and her crew at her house; Padma later tweeted to Samantha, “The best meal I’ve had in Kentucky!”

Related website: tuktuklex.com

Sam's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tuktuklex/?hl=en

Articles on Sam: 

Podcast with Sam: Molé Mama: Episode 72

Further resources:


Sarah Nuse

Founder and CEO, Tippi Toes Dance Company: “Dream Big” (IFBG 2018)


Sarah is the founder and CEO of Tippi Toes Dance Company, a nationally recognized business that focuses on health and nutrition for children and is franchised across the country. Nuse has been recognized in Entrepreneur Magazine and featured on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2012. She and her team have released four music CDs, and she is currently working on expanding the company and added a line of ballet slippers and dancewear in 2019.

See 2018 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Sarah.

Questions from Sarah:

Before the talk:

  • What is your dream when you think about your future and its possibilities?
  • What do you see preventing you from reaching this goal?

After the talk:

  • What do you want, what’s blocking your view, and how can you take action?
  • Think about the endless possibilities that are in front of you: which one would be challenging but the most satisfying to conquer?

Fun fact: Sarah and her husband, Adam, wrote a self-published children's book, Pink Ballet Shoes.

Video of Sarah: https://www.tippitoesdance.com/executive-team/

Articles on Sarah:

Related website: http://www.tippitoesdance.com/


Muamer Razic

Founder, Level Lacrosse: “What Defines Success? The Surprising Beauty of Being Wrong, Being Right, and Finding Your Own Way” (IFBG 2018)


Muamer is an entrepreneur and an innovator. As the Founder of Level Lacrosse, he was able to use his passion for the sport to truly change the game. Competing at Idea State U, Bucks for Bright Ideas, e-Fest, and TopperTank not only gave Muamer capital to start his business, but provided him the knowledge and experience needed to be successful. He holds a BA in organizational leadership and minors in entrepreneurship and eales from WKU, where he spent his academic career developing his product and business acumen, as well utilizing the resources that the university environment provided.

See 2018 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Muamer.

Questions from Muamer:

Before the talk:

  • What does success mean to you?
  • Have you ever had an idea that you wanted to pursue but didn’t? If so, what made you not pursue it?

After the talk:

  • How has your definition of success changed? Are you willing to take a risk with your career and comfort zone?
  • Does thinking about starting something on your own excite you? Are you more inclined to pursue that idea now? 

Fun fact: He speaks four languages: Bosnian, Croatian, English, and Serbian.

Articles On Muamer:


Phillip Ashley Rix

Founder/co-owner, Phillip Ashley Chocolates: "Chasing Willy Wonka" (IFBG 2018) Sponsored by the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce


Considered the preeminent chef of luxury chocolate, award-winning designer chocolatier and chef Phillip Ashley is founder and co-owner of Phillip Ashley Chocolates, which has an international following and is sought out by high-profile clients, major events, and top corporations. He has been listed as one of the Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America by TasteTV, hailed by Forbes Magazine as the “Real Life Willy Wonka,” and had his brand selected as a Top Pick by Vogue Magazine. A self-taught chocolatier, he has been a featured executive chef at the James Beard House in New York City and the official chocolatier of the 58th Grammy Celebration and 69th Primetime Emmy Governors Ball.

See 2018 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Phillip Ashley.

Questions from Phillip Ashley:

Before the talk:

  • What are some definitions of a relationship?
  • How important is it to work well with others?

After the talk:

  • Who are the three most important people to your success today?
  • How can you cultivate relationships that not only benefit you but have a positive impact on others? 

Fun fact: Phillip Ashley worked as a corporate marketing and sales executive for FedEx and Apple before becoming a chocolatier.

Related website: https://phillipashleychocolates.com/

Articles on Phillip Ashley:


Art, Music, and Design


Jessica Bellamy

Infographic designer, Adobe Creative Resident, and social entrepreneur: “Accessing Freedom” (IFBG 2018) Sponsored by Vid Monster Productions 


A designer and activist from Louisville, Jessica tells visual stories using data and personal narratives. In her work driving social change through design, she partners with nonprofits and community groups to creating compelling materials that break down complex service and policy information. She was an Adobe Creative Resident and spent the year trying new approaches in her creative process and execution of her designs as well as encouraging the creative community to support nonprofits and work with them on creative projects. Prior to the Creative Residency she founded and ran GRIDS: The Grassroots Information Design Studio in Louisville working with local and national non-profits, community groups, and social change initiatives.

See 2018 Q&A Two at bottom of page or more from Jessica.            

Questions from Jessica:

Before the talk

  • What if you and your peers reformed the educational system and managed your school:
    • What would change? 
    • How would the changes you’d make positively affect the quality of education that students would receive?

After the talk

  • With your current amount of time, talents, and resources name two things that you could do this year that would break a barrier for yourself or someone else.
  • How will you create freedom this year?

Fun fact: Jessica’s grandmother opened the well-known Shirley Mae’s Café in Louisville two months before Jessica was born. 


Article on Jessica: The Art of the Infographic: Designer and Activist Jessica Bellamy


Brianna Harlan

Multidisciplinary artist & activist from Louisville: "Space Makers, Change Makers” (IFBG 2019)


"The energy we give, the things that we say, and the things that we don’t say are all affecting the people around us. We're already making space. We're already using your space. So with that type of power, how can we be more intentional so that we are using our space to shape the future in ways that we want, in ways that we need, and in ways that other people need?"

Brianna uses creativity and radical vulnerability for good. She works to engage and support community at Center for Neighborhoods and uses visual art as a tool to create reflective and constructive experience. Recently she has been part of the Creative Capital-affiliated CFL Hadley Creatives, served as the artist-in-residence at Ox-Bow School of Art, and received a Great Meadows Foundation grant and the Kentucky Foundation for Women's FireStarter Award for art and social change. The first step of her work is always to break down the barriers of performative culture to reach a place that serves collective healing.

See 2019 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Brianna.

Questions from Brianna:

Before the talk

  • What do you wish you had more space for in your life?
  • What’s the biggest impact on a person or an event that you’ve ever made?

After the talk

  • Pick your favorite anything. Now, why do you enjoy it so much? Be specific.
  • If you could do a project with anyone that you know or have access to, whom would you choose?

Fun fact: Her grandmother, Mattie Jones, was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.


Related websites: 


Larah Helayne

Singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and activist: “Roots: Reckoning with my Home and Finding Belonging Through Traditional Appalachian Music” (IFBG 2020)


"Hearing the music of my region has always been like hearing the inside of my own heart, full of love and admiration and concern for the mountains that I call home."

Larah Helayne is an 18-year-old singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and activist from Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Larah grew up in the foothills of the Appalachias, and the magnificence of the mountains have greatly impacted her life and music. Her work reflects both the beauty and struggles of living in Eastern Kentucky and weaves in the story of her own wild and wonderful life. Her songs possess a startling honesty and an unfaltering hope and captivated the audience at TEDxCorbin in March 2019.

See 2020 Q&A Two at bottom of page for more from Larah.

Questions from Larah:

Before the talk

  • What is my relationship with my home? How has where I was raised shaped and affected me?
  • What do I know about my cultural and family heritage? What traditions do I come from?

After the talk

  • What can I do to learn about and/or preserve the culture and traditions of my home, community, and family?
  • How can I improve my relationship with my home, and how can I give back to the places and people who have shaped me?

Fun fact: She loves Waffle House.

Video of Larah: TEDx Corbin: “How Appalachian Music Helped Me to Plant Roots and Learn to Love My Home”

Podcast with Larah: Closesound: January 31, 2019

Larah's website: Facebook: @larahhelayne

Further resources


Social Entrepreneurship/Public Service


Gerry Seavo James

Founder of The Explore Kentucky Initiative and the Waterman Series: “Don’t Do It For the Clout” (2020)


"Online, we can curate this awesome image of ourselves, but I think it's important to always be authentic in everything that we do."

Gerry Seavo James promotes adventure tourism, environmental protection, and community and cultural exploration across Kentucky and beyond. Through the Explore Kentucky Initiative and The Waterman Series, and through his past service as a steering committee member for the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, he has worked with communities on outdoor recreational events, branding initiatives, conservation projects, and more. An avid paddler, he was given a National Leadership Award by the American Canoe Association. He also uses photography, cinematography, and journalism to tell stories about the landscapes and people he encounters; in 2017, Lexonomics named him the most impactful artist in the Bluegrass.

See 2020 Q&A Two at bottom of page or more from Gerry.

Questions from Gerry:

Before the talk

  • Can you think of a viral moment that has passed and is now gone?
  • Can you think of a viral moment that has passed but is still relevant? 

After the talk

  • How do you use your digital presence?
  • Are you keeping it real online?

Fun fact: His mom and dad were in the Army, so he grew up on military bases all around the country and the world.

Article on Gerry: Lexington Herald Leader:UnCommonwealth: Explore Kentucky wants to help you experience the outdoors”

Gerry's website: The Explore Kentucky Initiative

Gerry's Instagram:@explorekentucky

Podcast with Gerry: Floor Seats: Episode One: First Day Out

Further resources


Timothy Kercheville

Farm manager at the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green: “Farming with Refugees: The Story of a Refugee Farmer Commercial Garden” (IFBG 2020)


"Think not so much about what you do as the heroic individual, but instead learn how to harmonize what your passions are with the structures of your community so you can build off that internal strength."

Timothy Kercheville is a full-time farmer and agriculture consultant who discovers cooperative and regenerative agricultural solutions for both urban and rural settings.  He contracts as a farmer/consultant with private properties, organizations, and public institutions across Kentucky and Tennessee to build new farms, improve existing farm systems, transform lawns to gardens, or serve as a farm manager. All the systems he designs are biodiverse and food-productive and combine agriculture with education.

See 2020 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Timothy.

Questions for audience:

Before the talk

  • Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were a refugee? What would it be like to have to flee your country, find a new home, community, and place to make a living?
  • What are some of the obstacles in establishing a new farm system, especially for refugees, or for any person or group of people who do not own farmland?

After the talk

  • How can working with an organization or institution help in overcoming the obstacles of establishing a new commercial farm, especially for people who do not own farmland?
  • How can you take the lessons learned from working with organizations and institutions and apply them to your life as you grow up and mature in your community?

Fun fact: Raised in Yorba Linda, CA, Timothy was always interested in living in Kentucky, where he had family. He moved here in 2010 and worked as a stonemason.

Articles on Timothy: 

Timothy's Instagram: @festinalentefarms

Video about Timothy: Returning What Comes by Skyler Ballard

Further resources:


Paige Halpin Smith

Director of development at Fayette Alliance*: We All Have a Stake in Outcome (IFBG 2019)


"It can be really hard to build consensus, to bring people together, to really listen to each other. But it has to be intentional, just like caring for the land has to be intentional. There has to be vulnerability, there has to be trust, and there has to be mutual respect."

Raised in the rural Midwest, Paige was actively involved in 4-H and loved following her grandfather’s local government career. Paige moved to Kentucky to work on political campaigns after earning a master’s degree in U.S. History at Loyola-Chicago. She previously served as the associate director of development for her beloved alma mater, Monmouth College. She has spent the past three years at the Fayette Alliance*, a coalition of citizens dedicated to achieving sustainable growth in Lexington-Fayette County through land-use advocacy, education, and research.

* Paige is now the development manager at the Lexington Public Library Foundation

See 2019 Q&A One at bottom of page for more from Paige.

Questions for audience:

Before the talk

  • What are your core values? How do you describe yourself?
  • Does how you define yourself reveal what you value? If yes, how so?

After the talk

  • How can you create space in your life to learn, grow, and build bridges?
  • What is one way you can invite someone to the conversation who might never have been included?

Quotation: “Growing up in the rural Midwest, I was taught to respect the land. Spending my twenties in Chicago, I learned to respect the diversity of all the people who called Chicago home. Now, making my home in Lexington, I value and am motivated to care for the land and all her people — that’s what makes our community extraordinary!”

Fun fact: In graduate school, she wrote a paper called “Caught in the Crossfire: Chicago Women’s Clubs, Public Health, and the Anti-Spitting Campaign in the Progressive Era.”

Related website: fayettealliance.com


Speaker Q&A Videos


2020 Q&A One


2020 Q&A Two


2019 Q&A One


2019 Q&A Two


2018 Q&A One


2018 Q&A Two

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February 15, 2024

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