Sharon Sullivan: Consuming Children

Human trafficking happens here! In Kansas, in Shawnee county, in Topeka. According to the federal government, 1.5 million U.S. citizens are trafficked in the United States. Approximately half are children under the age of 16. American children’s lives are being consumed by men who buy them for sexual gratification, abuse them and throw them away. In this presentation, Dr. Sharon Sullivan discusses how human trafficking happens, and what we can do to find it and stop it in our own communities.

Dr. Sullivan is a Professor at Washburn University. Her research and activism focus on violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking, and rape as a weapon of war. Sharon is cofounder and director of STARS (Stop Trafficking and Reject Slavery), immediate past president of the Advisory Board for the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice, and Kansas Bureau Chief for the International Public Policy Institute. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 Sharon gave presentations about Human Trafficking at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She currently co-chairs the Topeka Shawnee County Human Trafficking Coalition.

Marie Myers: Growing Up Techie

The speech will highlight the effects that technology usage has on children as the use of technology in households is increasing with this generation of children. Many adverse effects are changing the ways in which children and youth interact with the world around them. Although technology can be considered a great advancement for educating children and allowing them to explore the world around them, it is important to consider the effects on extensive usage on the child’s development.


Marie Myers is a Licensed K-6 Educator and was a 4th and 5th Grade Teacher at Indian Hills Elementary from 2012-2017. She is also a Licensed School Counselor K-12, and has been a School Counselor at Farley Elementary School since 2017.

Marilyn Mendenhall Waugh: Adopted People Have TWO Birth Certificates?

Most people are unaware that all US adoptees have two different birth certificates. The original birth certificate (OBC) is issued at the time of birth, and when an adoption is completed, a new birth certificate is issued, called the amended birth certificate (ABC). Over half of the states do not allow adopted adults to obtain the OBC, which can create obstacles when trying to access government services. In this talk, Marily Mendenhall Waugh discusses why it is time to change the ABC to a Certificate of Adoption.

Marilyn is a reunited birth mother, Director of Adoption Concerns Triangle of Topeka, past American Adoption Congress (AAC) President and current AAC-KS State Representative. She volunteers on the Spokeo Search Angel Committee, is a AAC Presidential award winner, serves on the Missouri Birth Parent Communication Task Force, presents frequently at conferences on adoption search and reunion issues and is a Search Angel who, for the past 23 years, has reunited hundreds of family members separated by adoption.

Annette Hope Billings: Brava!

Annette Hope Billings is an award winning author and actress. After a four decade long career as a registered nurse, Billings took an early retirement in 2015 to pursue her dream of writing full time. In the ensuing 2 years, she has published two books of poetry with a third scheduled for release by Spartan Press this Fall. She is known for her engaging oral delivery of poetry and has been dubbed “Maya of the Midwest” by audiences. Her first book, “A Net Full of Hope,” was the recipient of Topeka’s ARTSConnect ARTY Award for Literature in 2015.

Combining poetry, prose and story-telling, Annette Hope Billings, will present how one woman, herself, overcame victimization to reach that point beyond surviving–the point of thriving.


Mary J. Martell: Vital Signs and Words: Inspiring a Culture and Community of Health

Mary J. Martell has been involved in health care for much of her career; for the past 14 years as the Director of Research Services for Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, KS. Mary is the Chairperson for the Stormont Vail Health Cultural Ambassadors, and along with a group of 16 organizational professionals, has worked to cultivate a successful organizational culture. Over the past three years,  the group has researched, developed and implemented programs and movements based on literature, evidence, and good old-fashioned creative thinking.

In this talk, Mary will discuss one of these programs, the “Words of the Moment” program, which examines the the power of a single guiding word in everyday life, in the healthcare community, and in the community at large.

Brian Thomas: In the Really Really Long Run: The Future of Humanity in the Cosmos

Dr. Brian C. Thomas is a Professor at Washburn University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  Since 2003, Dr. Thomas’s research has focused on how events in the cosmos affect life on Earth, resulting in over two dozen peer-reviewed publications and two major research grants from the Exobiology program at NASA. Along with researchers across the country and overseas, Dr. Thomas has done much of the pioneering work in understanding how explosions of massive stars in our Galaxy may have impacted life on Earth in the past and potentially in the future.

In his TEDxTopeka presentation, Dr. Thomas will discuss humanity’s future by looking more closely at the Fermi paradox and exploring both external and internal threats to humanity as a species.

Karl Fundenberger will discuss alternative travel in "You're Bored Because You Drive Too Much."

Karl Fundenberger: You’re Bored Because You Drive Too Much

What if the answer to boredom was always at your feet?

Karl Fundenberger argues that travel is the fastest way to beat boredom, but insists travel doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive. You can travel in your own town if you just choose a different way to get there. Walking is hard, the bike has flat tires, the weather is unpredictable, and the car is just. so. easy. to hop in and take out. But with some free time and a little planning, you can see a different slice of your city, and begin to cherish experience over accumulation. Just walk there. Or ride there.

Karl grew up in Topeka and got tired of complaining about it, so he got involved and started making change. He still has a lot to learn. He lives near Washburn and works for Topeka Metro, managing the city’s bikeshare program.

Artist Jancy Pettit will perform ArtLight.

Jancy Pettit: ArtLight

Energy artist Jancy Pettit was introduced in midlife to a meditative martial arts form call Qigong which transformed her approach to artmaking. She harnesses the energy from the Qigong movement and directs it into her art. This universal energy, called “chi,” moves her body in a spontaneous, free-flowing way to create images with no preplanning or preconceived ideas. The resulting mixed media pieces are nonfigurative, colorful and playful.

This process is demonstrated in the ArtLight performance, where Jancy will create an environment comprised of her own abstract, colorful, energy artwork by projecting it onto a large white background. Then, moving from the same inner wisdom with which the artwork was created, Jancy will perform in front of her art. Her body sometimes blends into the colorful environment; other times, interesting shadows are created. The result is a mysterious, beautiful and sometimes emotionally moving experience for the viewers.