WKU’s Julia Roberts coordinating World Gifted Conference in Louisville

WKU's Julia Roberts coordinating World Gifted Conference in Louisville

Elliott Pratt

WKU will host the 20th Biennial World Conference for the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) in Louisville Aug. 10-14.

WKU became home to the world headquarters for WCGTC in 2011, with offices located in Gary Ransdell Hall.

Julia Roberts, executive director for The Center of Gifted Studies and the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, is coordinating the event for WKU. Roberts was re-elected in May as one of the seven members of the Executive Council  and serves as the treasurer of WCGTC.

Roberts said having the conference in Louisville is a big opportunity for WKU, who will be coordinating the event for the first time.

“We want to highlight Kentucky, and what Kentucky has done in terms of creating ideas and gifted education,” Roberts said. “We’re talking about the work we have done in gifted education right here at the Center for Gifted Studies.”

The biennial conference will be held at Galt House Hotel in Louisville. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Giftedness and Creativity”.

“We have approximately 350 proposals that have been accepted,” Roberts said. “We have keynote speakers coming in from countries across the globe, and we want to make it one of the best events that it could possibly be.”

Keynote speakers include guests from France, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand and Sweden. Others are Joseph Renzulli from the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, and Dr. Carol June Maker from the University of Arizona, who received her B.S. at WKU.

Executive administrator of WCGTC, Tracy Harkins, said Louisville was the perfect location for the event.

“It’s easy for international people to get in and out of Louisville,” Harkins said. “We have a good relationship with several groups in Louisville. People seem to be really excited about coming. Not many international people have been to this part of the country even if they’ve been to the United States before, so it seemed like the perfect place.”

WCGTC was founded over 35 years ago, and Harkins said the opportunity to host the conference in Louisville gives Kentucky adult residents who participated in their childhood a chance to share their experiences.

“When they saw the world council was coming, they offered to do things like volunteer and talk about how those programs had affected their lives,” Harkins said. “Many of these people are professionals all across the state, so it’s great that they can talk about the positive impacts those programs have had.”

Some of those programs that these adults went through years ago are still a significant part of the summer for WCGTC at WKU.

The Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS) runs June 9-21.

Tracy Harkins’ son, Owen, is a 14-year-old who has been through the SCATS program and said the camp was fun to be surrounded with other gifted kids and learn new things.

“It was just fun to be around people who were into the same things as myself,” Owen Harkins said. “The Lego projects teach kids about the skills they need and how to work well with a team.”

Tracy Harkins said programs like SCATS and The Summer Camp, designed for elementary school children, have been so successful that organizations from other countries want to see the models of these programs and will get that opportunity at the World Conference in August.

“We’ve had groups from Saudi Arabia, for example, come over that want to see what that model is and how it works,” Harkins said. “Hopefully we can share all of these programs with the conference participants as great models to showcase what we do really well here.”