Elizabeth Smart to speak at Iowa State

Nationally-known victim turned activist to visit as campus reels from loss of student athlete

Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart

Just days after the early release of one of two people who abducted 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in a 2002 crime that captivated the nation, Iowa State University on Tuesday announced the now 30-year-old Smart will visit campus next week.

Elizabeth Smart, who spent nine months in captivity before her rescue in 2003, has become an activist — traveling the country “to educate, inspire, and advocate for change related to child abduction, recovery programs, and legislation,” according to Iowa State.

Her ISU lecture, “From Adversity to Empowerment” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 5 in Stephens Auditorium. The event is free, and tickets are not required. Doors will open at 6 p.m., as representatives from ISU police, student health and wellness, and other community programs participate in a “safety awareness resources fair” on Stephens’ lower level.

They will, at that time, share information related to trauma, recovery, and personal safety resources. Smart will sign books in the Celebrity Café on the lower level in Stephens after her lecture.

Her appearance comes just a week after Wanda Barzee, now 72, was released early from a Utah prison. She had been serving a 15-year sentence when the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole gave her credit for time served and moved up her release date from its original 2024, according to media outlets.

Smart, upon learning of the prospect of early release, publicly urged authorities to reconsider – recounting how Barzee assisted in her kidnapping and rape. She released a statement in response to the decision, published by national news outlets, calling it “incomprehensible how someone who has not cooperated with her mental health evaluations or risk assessments and someone who did not show up to her own parole hearing can be released into our community.”

“I appreciate the support, love and concern that has already been expressed and will work diligently to address the issue of Barzee's release as well as to ensure changes are made moving forward to ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future,” according to her statement.

As part of her advocacy work, Smart has created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation aimed at preventing crimes against children. She also has worked with the Department of Justice to create a survivors’ guide for children who’ve been through similar experiences.

She has written about her experiences in a book titled, “My Story.” And her most recent book, Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up,” also tackles the issue of overcoming trauma.

Her visit comes as Iowa State is reeling from a violent attack of a star female athlete — Celia Barquin Arozamena, 2018 Big 12 champion and ISU Female Athlete of the Year, was found dead Sept. 17 at the Coldwater Links golf course.

She died of multiple stab wounds, and 22-year-old Collin Daniel Richards has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.

The Ames Police Department is sponsoring the Smart visit, along with Ames Public Library Friends Foundation, Ames United Church of Christ, COBRA Self-Defense Iowa, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, ISU Athletics Department, ISU Department of Public Safety, Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, Martial Arts Club @ ISU, Thielen Student Health Center, YMCA Ames at ISU, and the Committee on Lectures.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158;