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Doctoral student is 'Oprah' featured guest

Oct. 2, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Tererai Trent, a doctoral student in Western Michigan University's interdisciplinary Ph.D. in evaluation has won the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who is celebrating Trent as "the woman who went 10,000 miles to make her dreams come true."

Trent, a featured guest on the Oct. 1 "Oprah" show, is from Zimbabwe and her story of achievement was first featured in an Aug. 24 New York Times story by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.

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Tererai Trent's story

Born to a poor cattle-herding family in rural Zimbabwe, Trent secretly began her education by helping her brother, who was allowed to go to school, with his homework. She was married at a young age to a husband who beat her when she tried to advance her education, but she never gave up on her dreams.

In her village, she met and shared her dreams with Jo Luck, the president of international aid agency Heifer International. Luck encouraged her to reach out to achieve her goals, and Trent took the message to heart, writing each of her goals down and burying them in a sealed box. As each goal was achieved, she dug up that box and crossed the item off her list.

Trent earned a high school certificate in Zimbabwe, then traveled to the United States to earn bachelor's and master's degrees at Oklahoma State University. Since 2007, she has been enrolled in WMU's celebrated doctoral program in evaluation. Her doctoral research focuses on a systematic evaluation of HIV/AIDS in developing nations.

Trent has remained close to Heifer International throughout her struggle, and today she serves as deputy director of planning and evaluation for that Arkansas-based organization. She will be on the WMU campus in October for her doctoral dissertation defense and expects to receive her degree in December.

The New York Times article brought Trent to the attention of Winfrey staffers. Trent and another woman featured in the article were invited to be guests on "Oprah," along with the Times writers who also are the authors of a new book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide."

Oprah calls Trent's story "the most incredible story of manifesting a dream I have ever heard." Promotional materials for the show revolved around the message, "You'll never give up on a dream after seeing this woman."

Related article
Celebrated Zimbabwean woman earns doctoral degree

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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