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Speaker Sessions

 At the morning speaker sessions, IdeaFestival Bowling Green participants listen to innovators from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines as they talk about their big ideas, their passions, and their visions. Participants also have the chance to ask questions.

Briann Harlan


Here are highlights from our line-up for IdeaFestival Bowling Green 2019: The Future Is Now (click on speaker's name for more information):

Sarah Bellos, president and founder of Stony Creek Colors.

"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 BellosSarah 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.


Robert Bowden III, founder and CEO of Spartan 4x4.

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

Robert BowdenOriginally from Atlanta, Robert Bowden III is a sophomore 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.


Aria L. Byrd,PhD Candidate, Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology, University of Kentucky.

"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."

Aria Byrd

A native of Atlanta, Aria Byrd 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.


Brianna Harlan, multidisciplinary artist and activist from Louisville.

"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 Harlan

Brianna Harlan 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.



Josiah Nelson, co-Founder, Trolysis.

"As you build more confidence and more excitement about what you’re doing, people will see and feel that. When you’re sitting in meetings with different investors or companies or partners, learning how to project that excitement and confidence is huge."

Josiah NelsonJosiah is an engineer and entrepreneur specializing in renewable energy and emerging technologies. He studied at MIT and the Stanford Graduate School of Business before starting Trolysis, a company developing technologies to create renewable hydrogen from aluminum. He also serves as an advisor to Silicon Valley Bank and mentors founders from around the world.



Paige Halpin Smith, director of development, Fayette Alliance.

"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."

Paige Halpin Smith

Raised in the rural Midwest, Paige Halpin Smith 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.


Speaker Session 1 Q&A


Speaker Session 2 Q&A


For even more info on our 2019 speakers, go to the Speaker Packet page in our Student Engagement section!

Watch videos of previous speakers 
on our Past Festivals page!



IdeaFestival Bowling Green Just Imagine logo

February 11, 2020
Van Meter Hall & Downing Student Union
Western Kentucky University


Minds-on, Hands-on, Activities


Past Festivals







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 Last Modified 8/27/19