Like many professors at Liberty University, Dr. Michelle Rickert, assistant professor at the Helms School of Government, has an educational philosophy that involves as much action as lecture.
Rickert teaches a class on human trafficking that fills up every semester and she has been mobilizing students to put their studies into practice.
Human trafficking — when adults and children are coerced into labor or sexual exploitation — is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
This week, Rickert has organized Liberty Abolishing Slavery Week at the Helms School of Government, with an impressive lineup of speakers who are the “’who’s who’ of the people in this movement,” she said.
“Each session deals with a different aspect of human trafficking and modern-day slavery,” she said.
As an expert in the field, Rickert has helped to advocate, and in some places write, some human trafficking legislation that recently passed in Virginia. (View a related story featuring Rickert here.) Rickert presented a paper on the subject at an Oxford Round Table in July 2009.
She has also been working with Polaris Project — a non-profit that fights domestic human trafficking. When she heard that the organization was competing for a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project in October, she encouraged Liberty students to place their votes online. In order to receive the grant, Polaris Project had to place in the top 10. Rickert’s students made announcements in their classes and hall meetings. An announcement was also made in Liberty University’s convocation. As a result, the organization moved to No. 6, earning the grant.
|Sharon Forbes, a Liberty University alumnus who did an internship with the International Justice Mission, spoke during Liberty Abolishing Slavery Week on Wednesday.|
Rickert has also brought students to visit the General Assembly in Virginia and to participate in the D.C. Stop Modern Day Slavery Walk.
Rickert said that the best way to fight human trafficking is to raise awareness, and to talk about it and talk about it often — it will take everyone’s involvement to make a difference.
“This is an issue that we all agree on,” said Rickert. “It doesn’t have to be left- or right-wing issue. If you’re an atheist or a Christian — everyone agrees on this issue.”
Christians at Liberty University should especially be involved, she added.
“To me, this is key in our mission — key on what we say we’re doing. We say we’re trying to reach the world where they are, and this [issue] is at the core.”