Oprah's favorite guest Tererai Trent will speak at WMU

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Winfrey (center) and Trent (right) with Jo Luck, president of international aid agency Heifer International

KALAMAZOO--Dr. Tererai Trent, whose moving story of being "the woman who buried her dreams" earned her the designation last May as Oprah Winfrey's favorite guest of all times, will speak at Western Michigan University Wednesday, Jan. 25.

A WMU alumna, Trent is returning to Kalamazoo to speak at Southwest Michigan First's Catalyst University. Before her Catalyst University appearance, she will address a WMU campus audience to tell her inspirational story at 10 a.m. in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center. The WMU event is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending the talk are asked to reserve a spot by sending email to office-of-the-provost@wmich.edu.

Trent is also scheduled to meet with a WMU Evaluation Center group for a noontime discussion on cross-cultural evaluation techniques, her academic area of specialty.

Trent, who grew up in poverty in Zimbabwe, realized one of her goals in December 2009 when she earned a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary evaluation from WMU. She started her adult life as an impoverished cattle-herder who defied a culture that places little value on the contributions of women. She educated herself, setting a path and an example for her own five children and for other women in similar circumstances.

Trent's story was retold on Winfrey's highly anticipated May 20 episode in which the host identified her favorite guest among those she has interviewed in 25 years of broadcasts. Winfrey called Trent the guest whose story "epitomizes everything I've been trying to say on this show for 25 years."

Trent's story was first chronicled on the pages of the New York Times, and in a book, "Half the Sky," by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. An October 2009 episode of "Oprah" placed Trent on the national stage, where she became known as the woman who "buried her dreams."

Both the book and the "Oprah" show detailed how Trent developed a list of goals for herself as a very young woman living in a rural village. Her list was buried in a tin piece behind her home in a field where she herded cattle. Over the next 20 years, she accomplished each goal, retrieving the list each time to cross off the achieved goal and move on to the next one.

Trent plans to return to her nation in the future. Her dreams of building a school there will become a reality, thanks to a $1.5 million donation from Winfrey. The school and an initiative with Save the Children are expected to impact 4,000 children in Zimbabwe.