Unwinding with Ward Lyles: Compassionate Urban Planner

The College Blog - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 14:32

What’s the foundation of a city? For urban planner Ward Lyles, the spaces we inhabit are defined as much by an approach to life, and the people we encounter, as they are by the systems and physical structures that make up a sound infrastructure. The way he sees it, the true bedrock of a strong community lies in a simple, yet immensely powerful, guiding principle: compassion

With compassion at the center of our framework in the ways we think about life’s biggest problems, Ward says, we stand a better chance of solving them, creatively and collaboratively. And he’s applying this humanist approach in his work addressing some of the major issues facing society today, ranging from climate change and natural disasters, to diversity and social justice work, in the interest of building a network of caring and compassionate communities. 

In this episode we sat with Ward Lyles, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration’s Urban Planning Program, at The Commons at KU. Tune in and follow along as we join Ward in a conversation about his work with the KU Center for Teacher Excellence‘s Diversity Scholars Program, his research on resilience in planning, which recently earned him a National Science Foundation CAREER award, as well as the inaugural ACSP/Lincoln Institute Curriculum Innovation Award, and the fundamental question of not just how, but why we plan.

It’s Unwinding with Ward Lyles:

Unwinding is a podcast that tells the human stories driving the minds and talents of the University of Kansas. In each episode we sit down with KU researchers in a favorite or familiar setting to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. You may find us on campus, running the trails, on a farm, at a coffee shop or down at the pub. Wherever the location, the conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a collaboration between The Commons at KU and KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The Commons is a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. It’s home to more than 50 departments, programs and centers, offering more than 100 majors, minors and certificates. A collaborative and creative community, the College is committed to making the world better through inquiry and research.

Music: Lee Rosevere‘s “Let’s Start at the Beginning

Hawks to Watch: David Toland, Kansas Secretary of Commerce

The College Blog - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:49

Why David’s a Hawk to Watch:

Serious issues call for serious action. And David Toland has long been guided by the philosophy that real-world results are best achieved through a willingness to roll up one’s sleeves and work together to put concrete plans in motion, or as he aptly put it, “stop talking about it — get up from behind your desk and make it happen.”

A seventh-generation Kansan and fourth-generation Jayhawk, David has devoted his career to improving communities at both local and national levels, serving in nonprofits and government in Kansas and in Washington, D.C. Now as Acting Secretary of Commerce for Kansas, David is at home leading the state’s economic development agency for Governor Laura Kelly, working to expand employment opportunities within Kansas communities.

As an undergraduate at KU, faculty mentorship together with the hands-on experience he gained as a student in the Political Science program opened David’s eyes to a world of possibilities, setting him on a path to explore what would become the major focus of his life’s work: diving deep into areas and problems that many would be happy to turn away from. And since earning his M.P.A. in City Management & Urban Policy from KU in 2001, he’s continued to tackle issues including economic development, urban policy, and affordable housing. It’s no wonder that David was named one of Ingram’s 50 Kansans you should know in 2018!

Meet David, and see what he had to say about family and lifelong friendships forged at KU, his passion for Kansas communities, bouncing back in the face of unexpected tragedy, the inexplicable power of everyday kindness, and his love of David Bowie. Discover why David’s a Hawk to Watch.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

As Secretary of Commerce I lead Kansas’ economic development agency for Governor Laura Kelly. At Commerce we work to recruit and retain jobs; connect job-seekers and employers; and administer federal grant programs that help build libraries, water systems, and roads across our state.

How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey?

Throughout my career I’ve sought opportunities to join turnaround efforts — to go to places that needed help and where oftentimes other people didn’t want to go. That’s what drew me to the District of Columbia when it was under federal receivership; back to rural Kansas, where most metrics of well-being have been in decline for a century; and to state government, which has been badly damaged by ideology and mismanagement for most of the last decade. To the extent I’ve had a career plan it’s been about pursuing opportunities that were intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling rather than taking whatever was considered the safe or “right” path. 

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Allen County, Kansas’ recognition as a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize winner in 2017 was a personal and professional high point when I was CEO at Thrive Allen County. All my life I’ve been proud of my home county, but having our community’s efforts recognized by one of the largest foundations in the world elevated that pride to a new level. 

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
In 2015 our grant writer, thought partner and friend at Thrive Allen County, John Robertson, died unexpectedly. When you run a non-profit that is 90% funded by grants, the death of the grant writer creates an existential crisis for your organization. It also takes a human toll — the five of us remaining at Thrive were incredibly sad to have lost our friend and colleague… but we had no time to mourn him because we had to focus on keeping the Thrive ship afloat. If Thrive was to survive — and if our staff were to keep their jobs — we had no choice but keep writing grants, submitting reports, and designing and running great programs. There’s no silver bullet or special sauce that can help your organization survive something like that; the only response is to grind it out. Being mentally and emotionally tough, and working nonstop, was the key to our survival.

The lesson for others enduring similar situations is that someday — when you’re out of the woods — you can take time to mourn the loss and be thankful that you survived, but if you pause to catch your breath too soon you can quickly lose everything you’ve worked for. I’m thankful every day for the lessons of that experience, but I’d never want to endure it again. 

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I’ve never been one to make long-term plans like that. 

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

I don’t know how or why this works, but I’ve learned that if you’re having a bad day, the best way to feel better is to help someone else. Don’t focus on your own problems — focus on people you sense or know are struggling. By trying to improve their day, you improve your own. So pay the compliment, even if you don’t think they’ll care; write the note, even if you don’t have nice stationery; hold the door, even if you’re in a hurry; and give a smile, even if it might feel fake. The return on investment is incredible. 

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Action removes doubt.  Stop talking about it — get up from behind your desk and make it happen.

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job? 

As an undergraduate in the Political Science program at KU I had amazing professors — Burdett Loomis and the late Allan Cigler in particular — who opened up a world of possibilities for me. As a sophomore I was one of Bird Loomis’ Washington interns, where I served subpoenas and photographed crime scenes as an intern at the DC Public Defender Service. It was quite an eye-opener for a kid from small-town Kansas. That experience helped clarify what I really wanted to do: fix broken communities. Ultimately that led me to the KU MPA program where professors like John Nalbandian, Steven Maynard-Moody and Chuck Epp (among many others) presented a blend of academic theory and real-life case studies that enabled me to actually get things done when I started working in local government. I would also add that most of my closest friends to this day are people I met in the “3E” program at Ellsworth Hall as a freshman in 1995, and that I’m a FOURTH generation Jayhawk and very proud of it! 

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?  

My wife Beth (a KU School of Ed alumna) and I have two amazing kids, Caroline (age 12) and William (age 9), and we’re happy that they are growing up as “free range” kids in Iola.  The kids and I love to watch old episodes of the 1980s TV show Dallas; renovate old buildings; ride (and build) trails in Allen County; and travel abroad. We took an amazing trip to Iceland and Paris in November to celebrate Beth’s 40th birthday and made a lot of terrific memories. 

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I am a huge David Bowie fan. So much so that I dressed up as Ziggy Stardust for Halloween this year.

Be like David… For more information, see …. at the University of Kansas. Also, visit…

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.

Finding a creative outlet led Trevor Bashawk to KU’s Department of English

The College Blog - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:01

Trevor Bashaw has found an outlet for his creativity in KU’s Department of English. He’s the winner of the Spencer Museum Brosseau Creativity Award for his diverse media project that combines poetry, critical and philosophical writing, personal accounts and visual art. Committee members were impressed by his ability to “connect personal experience in such a complicated, multilayered work.” Learn more about Bashaw and his award winning project in our student spotlight.


Be like Trevor, here’s information on the English and Art History programs at the University of Kansas.

Aroog Khaliq examines human nature through writing, psychology, and medicine

The College Blog - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 14:19

Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?

My hometown is Overland Park, KS. I really ended up at KU in a miraculous way; I hadn’t even seen more than two buildings on campus before I committed to the University, and even during summer Orientation, I didn’t go on a full “tour.” My first and last interaction before enrollment with KU was through the Hall Center, where a group of students from my high school and I were invited to meet Krista Tippett, and a brief visit with some of the lovely honors faculty. Those few interactions were so warm and rich that it wasn’t too difficult thereafter for me to take the plunge and become a Jayhawk.

Why did you choose your major(s)? And how do they complement each other? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?

English is something that has always been integral to my life. I read early and I read a lot, and that voraciousness made me a permanent fixture at my local library. First, I was just a patron, and then, I became a volunteer that helped with everything from shelving books to organizing outreach programs to interviewing visiting authors. The library also had a program where local teens could review advanced reader’s copies, and that was really my first foray into writing about writing, and learning what constituted “good writing.” I carried all of these experiences with me from middle school to high school, and my current interests in editing, poetry, and opinion writing can all be tied back to the library and the wonderful mentors who encouraged me there.

Psychology is linked more to my interest in medicine, and the ways in which the medical industry on a national level disconnects physical and mental illnesses. I’ve shadowed in cardiology clinics for several years now, and I’ve volunteered in neurology units in hospitals as well, and my time in both places has reinforced my belief in holistic treatment. Patients are people, not the area of their bodies that they have complaints with, and gaining a better, more scientific understanding of people is what psychology is all about. If more pre-med students took a moment to appreciate the linkage between physical and mental ailments beyond the errant case of phantom limb syndrome, I think the future of medicine would be much brighter, and more empathetic.

What is the most exciting part of your major(s) and/or minor(s)? What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?

I think in the English department, the most exciting part is getting to see how differently each faculty member approaches a different author or period or topic in teaching. The ability to quote authors at length, and in Old English to boot, is a great party trick, but more than that, it is an excellent demonstration of the depth and breadth of knowledge that these professors have. I am always adding to my reading list, thinking deeply and critically about texts that I used to snooze through in high school, and discovering the truly universal and timeless nature of literature, be it a poem or a novel or a play. None of those things would be possible without the dedication KU’s English professors have to their craft.

In the Psychology department, the professors are similarly awesome, but I think the value is most deeply ingrained in the material and the emphasis professors place in checking bias when it comes to not only the data but the way clinicians treat individuals with mental illness. The perception that individuals with mental illness are violent, for example, is refuted regularly, which makes this realm of the sciences most human and most humane, I think. In order to make KU grads the best clinicians they can be, the Psychology department ensures that we center empathy in our studies.

Is there a particular professor or mentor you’d like to give a shout out?

Mary Klayder! Her freshman honors seminar was the best thing that ever happened to me, and getting to come back my sophomore year as a teaching assistant was the brightest part of the fall semester. She is my rock, my guardian angel, and one of the best people on this campus and possibly this planet.

What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?

I know the word interdisciplinary gets thrown around at every opportunity, but truly, that mixture of areas of focus is what makes KU College so unique. Wescoe alone is a great example of a building where you can find a class from nearly every field in action. I once got lost on my way back from my poetry workshop class and ended up in a room where some kind of math was being taught! You don’t get that experience anywhere else, really, and at the end of the day, if we burrow into a singular area of focus we won’t come out of our undergraduate experience as multifaceted as we all have the capability to be, and a what a waste that is.

What has been your favorite class at KU? And why?

A tie between Dr. Kaminski’s poetry workshop and Dr. Barybin’s honors general chemistry II class. Every day in both classes was a gift, because I always walked out knowing more than I did walking in. Even when the material got tough or not entirely in my arena of interest, I felt confident that both professors would help me stay afloat.

What would you tell your freshman self?

When things get really tough, focus on putting one foot in front of the other and just finishing up the day. When you wake up, don’t just try doing things again, but try doing them differently, doing them better. Sleep more. Do the things you want to do, not the ones that everyone thinks are predestined for your track. Be as good a friend to yourself as you are to others. Embrace the athleisure look on 8 am lecture days. Microwave quesadillas are not a meal.

What can you tell us about being selected as a 2018-2019 Hall Center Scholar? What opportunities or interesting experiences have you had as a result of being selected by the Hall Center for the Humanities?

The Hall Center does many great things, but one of the most amazing things they do is bring in brilliant speakers. This semester, Maria Hinojosa and Neil Gaiman came to campus to discuss their new work, and Professor Marie Grace Brown presented her research on fashion and body politics in Sudan. Getting to discuss the work of these brilliant individuals either one on one with them or with faculty members is exciting, but even more exciting is getting to delve into these niche topics with the other Scholars, all of whom bring their unique outlook to the discussion. We get off topic quite a bit, but even our tangents leave me with something to pick apart further when we adjourn. No greater argument can be made for the humanities’ importance than this program and the Center’s tireless work.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Go to medical school, work with MSF, and publish another chapbook or two. Hopefully!

What motivates you?

Making Allah and my family and friends proud, foremost. Becoming a better poet, a better role model, a better person. Spreading empathy and happiness in a world of complacency.

Be like Aroog. Explore the ways that your interests compliment one another, and finds ways to spread empathy in all you do. For more information, visit the Department of English, the Department of Psychology, the University Honors Program, and the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas.

Sam Henkin Explores Concepts of Liberation, Justice, and Anti-Violence

The College Blog - Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:54

Program of study and year: Geography doctoral program, 5th and final year!

What are your research interests and why did you choose them? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?

My research of state power and security governance has drawn considerable attention to the political and spatial dynamics of social movements, demonstrations, and everyday mobilities whereby public spaces become contested spaces.  I am interested in exploring theoretical questions related to how technology, violence, and power intersect in these spaces, how the state is endowed with legitimacy to pursue violent security practices to stabilize social and political order, and how these practices impact direct community action and its possibilities. I focus on the ways that participation in community social action and security governance—from intervention in everyday spaces to the implementation of law—confront one another, reinforce, weaken, or otherwise relate to one another.  

I like to think that I did not choose my research, instead my research chose me.  At a time when social movements are spreading across the globe understanding why and how people engage in collective action in contested public spaces has become ever more vital.  I was drawn to the activism emanating out of places like Ferguson, Missouri and Bangkok, Thailand.  The all-too-familiar images of security/police forces facing off against protestors in the streets and plazas across the world echoed battlefields of war and imprinted themselves in my consciousness.  The decision to study security governance in contested space emerged from the inherently unstable, multiple, and contradictory militarized common-sense (b)ordering of public spaces that activists and everyday people chose to challenge and resist. 

Tell us what your PhD thesis is in under 200 characters:

It is intensive study that seeks to understand how non-lethal weapons change the dynamics of policing contested spaces and bodies in ways that preserve the legitimacy of state power and violence.   

What is one thing you think everyone should know about your research project or research interests? This might be a commonly held belief that your research questions or complicates.

My research broadly connects everyday experiences to larger systems of privilege, knowledge, and power that produce uneven social and spatial relations.  At its core, it confronts and disrupts dominating power relations that sustain systems of oppressions and amplifies legacies of injustice.  Rooted in possibility, I draw on critical concepts of liberation, justice, and anti-violence to imagine alternative futures addressing spatial politics and social justice.

Where are you conducting your research?

As a geographer, I am inclined to conduct my research “in the field”.  I spent a significant amount of time in Bangkok, Thailand while there was growing political instability that led to a noticeable increase in security forces deployment across the city.  It was indicative of the forthcoming political crises that led millions of Thai people into the streets in mass demonstrations. Over the past 4 years, my research has relied on engaging local activists, security infrastructures, and various official policy texts in Bangkok as well as a significant discourse analysis of archived materials and auxiliary sources.    

What advice would you give students applying for research funding opportunities?

Remember that your worth and intellectual growth lies far beyond the rejections you will receive.  Do not allow rejection to become the center of your research agenda as it will create an even more insidious effect—imposter syndrome.  Acknowledge rejection but do not accept it as enduring, embrace resiliency and work around rejection. Your moment (and funding) will come!      

Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?

The productive capacities of mentorship in my graduate experience cannot be overestimated.  Without the invaluable counsel and guidance of my advisor, Dr. Shannon O’Lear, I would not be on the path I am today.     

What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?

Rather than focus on what “I plan to do” I focus on what I hope to achieve after graduating from KU.  I hope to achieve a life defined by my commitments to democratize knowledge, to disrupt and undo legacies of oppression, violence, and injustice systemic in society and embodied in everyday life, and to pursue greater mindfulness, content knowledge, and empathetic understanding of the vertiginous complexities of humanity.  

What motivates you?

I am motivated by everyday engagement with my students, peers, mentors, and the greater community that generates respect and a shared dignity providing opportunities for intellectual growth and participation in a diverse society. There is always a chance of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.         

Be like Sam. Seek out opportunities that pique your interest in your respective field and look for ways to apply and expand your knowledge. For more information about the KU Department of Geography, visit their web page and learn more about the opportunities they offer to students.

Hawks to Watch: Abbie Hodgson, Officer with the State Strategy Group at the Pew Charitable Trusts

The College Blog - Fri, 01/11/2019 - 11:41

Why Abbie’s a Hawk to Watch:

Abbie Hodgson is a problem solver. It’s fitting then that she’s built a career taking on some of the most pressing issues of the day, hopping back and forth between Kansas and Washington D.C. working in government, on the campaign trail, and for a non-profit. In all that she’s done professionally, she has put her KU degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies, and her impressive knack for political strategy, to work in ways that have far-reaching implications and make visible impacts in the lives of many.

Never one to sit still for long, her resume includes a run for Kansas Legislature, serving as a speechwriter for a governor, a role as Chief of Staff to the Kansas House Minority Leader, and currently, as Officer with the State Strategy Group at the Pew Charitable Trusts, an international nonprofit. In navigating the political sphere, and the whirlwind work schedules that often come as an occupational hazard, she’s learned to look ahead in the face of loss, and that solid relationships are as valuable as solid credentials. For Abbie, we’re all community members — locally, nationally, and globally. And she’s driven by a profound sense of duty to make those communities better and stronger.

Admittedly, the daily grind of policy and politics, campaigns and constituents, and the hustle and bustle of D.C. can make for some non-stop, around-the-clock days followed by long nights. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that this Jayhawk is a busy bee. But Abbie shows no signs of slowing down or running out of steam. In fact, we’d say she’s just getting started.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

I work for the Pew Charitable Trust, an international nonprofit that seeks to solve some of the most challenging problems facing our society today. I support our project teams in developing and executing strategies to inform and effect public policy at the state level.

How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey?

When I started college at KU, I could have never envisioned the career that I’ve had. Rather, professors such as Loomis, Cigler, Johnson in the Political Science Department piqued my interest in politics.

I’ve bounced back and forth between Kansas and Washington, D.C. several times – I’ve worked in government, on political campaigns, for a non-profit. I’ve been open to following opportunities when and where they have arisen.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Serving as the speechwriter for then Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was an early highlight of my career. The role I played as Chief of Staff to the House Minority Leader in electing 12 new Democrats to the Kansas House in 2016 is something I am profoundly proud of because it changed the course of our state’s history.

Recently, I worked to pass a bill in Ohio that reforms payday loans and will save citizens $75 million a year – that felt pretty good.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

I ran for the Kansas Legislature in 2014 and lost. While losing is never fun, the process of campaigning for elected office stretched me both personally and professionally. From that loss came the opportunity to serve as Chief of Staff to the House Minority Leader, a position that allowed me to be equally as involved in the legislative process.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I don’t know where I will be physically – on a farm in rural Kansas, in the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C., or somewhere else unknown, but I do know I will be working to make our community, state, nation, or world a better place for everyone.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Building relationships is important. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how hard you work, you will still need the help of other people to succeed.

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?

In pursuing my bachelor’s, I learned the basics of political theory and developed my passion for politics. In obtaining my master’s, I learned to look at issues from multiple perspectives. In earning my doctorate, I honed my analytical skills and developed confidence in my ability to produce solutions to problems well-grounded in research. Each of these skills are critical to engaging in the political process and working with lawmakers to develop public policy.   

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Be direct, honest, and forthcoming – people may not always like what you say, but they will appreciate knowing where you stand.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I’m not very good at clocking out. My brain is constantly thinking about project ideas and things I need to do. When I’m out with friends I’m likely talking politics, and even when I’m in bed I’m generally reading the news or checking Twitter. D.C. isn’t known for its healthy work-life balance.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I used to raise chickens!

Be like Abbie. Hone your skills, keep your eyes on the prize, and search for solutions to the problems that matter most to you. For more information, see the Pew Charitable Trusts, and explore the Department of Political Science and the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.

Sarah Wright: Depth of Field

The College Blog - Wed, 01/09/2019 - 11:50

Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?

I’m from Overland Park, Kansas. I decided to come to KU because I attended a summer camp here with Duke TiP in middle school, and I absolutely fell in love with campus. It’s also a nice mix of just close enough to home, but just far enough, too.

Describe your areas of study and academic interests in a couple of sentences that we can all understand, and tell us why these subjects are important to you:

I’ve always been a creatively oriented person with skills in math and science, so I feel like this is a good marriage of the two different areas I like- I enjoy my classes and they work well together.

Photo by Caleb Simpson

For example, if I ever wanted to do freelance photo or video work in the future, I have the skills to successfully run a business and the skills to create amazing video. It also provides a huge pool of potential careers, which is helpful to think about in the later years of college.

Why did you choose your major(s)? And how do they complement each other? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?

I actually came into KU as a Women’s Studies major and had been trying to decide on a second major (I had considered everything from Political Science to Religious Studies). I fell in love with FMS after taking FMS 177, the first-year seminar that also tied into a history class. I also made my closest friends in this class, and that’s when it hit me that I wanted to major in Film & Media Studies, doing the production track.

Getting into Business took a little longer, because the amount of prerequisite foundation courses and the credit hours was extremely daunting. When I discussed it with people close to me, they suggested it because it provides a lot of career opportunities and gives me better security should I decide to freelance- courses like Business Law would help me out in the nitty-gritty like drafting client contracts for a shoot.

What is the most exciting part of your major(s) and/or minor(s)? What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?

The most exciting part is learning concepts that are applicable to my life and experience, such as in business classes. The most exciting part of film is getting encouraged to be creative and to not be afraid of my abilities or what I can create.

It’s the best confidence boost, and it makes me feel at peace with confidence in my talent, which I know can be common among filmmakers, photographers, and all other kinds of artists. And I think experience in a social science, such as women’s studies, is beyond valuable in today’s ever-political world, because it encourages you to keep an open mind and observe the world around you and notice social/identity aspects you may have not even considered before. It’s eye-opening to realize there are issues other groups of people face that you didn’t even know about since you’re not part of that group.

How did you get into photography? What do you enjoy most about that? Are there any particular themes or subjects you like to explore?

My family has always been super connected to photography- my dad was a photographer for the student newspaper and yearbook at his high school (he still dabbles in it a bit).

I got to take a photography elective in high school, and my parents gave me the old Canon film camera they used on their honeymoon. Once I learned how to use it, I was given my first DSLR for Christmas, and I’ve been incredibly involved in photography ever since. During my freshman year, I applied to the University Daily Kansan as a photo correspondent, and then got promoted to a paid photographer after my first semester- now I’ve made it all the way to being the Photo Editor! It’s one big family and has helped me grow as a photographer in ways I didn’t know I could.

I love photography because I struggle with anxiety and a cramped schedule, so photography as a creative outlet is very relaxing and calming for me. Even in chaotic events, such as loud concerts or protests, I’m kind of “in the zone” and I’m in my own world.

I think my favorite theme or subject would be community. I love taking photos around the University and Lawrence as a whole. I also love when I get assigned to cover events for work that take place as a community gathering, because candids of people having fun without a care make me so happy, because sometimes it can be difficult to capture the pure, unadulterated happiness in someone’s face when they’re having fun.

Is there a particular professor or mentor you’d like to give a shout out?

I’d like to shout out the professor of the class that convinced me to switch my major- Professor Germaine Halegoua from the FMS department. Even though the last class of hers I took was online and I took FMS 177 in freshman year, we still catch up whenever we see each other on campus and she has been beyond uplifting and encouraging when I mention any of my accomplishments from work!

What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?

I’d say being in the College allowed me to experiment with what kinds of classes I like taking, and a lot of the courses I was experimenting with ended up fulfilling KU Core requirements! I also love how I meet people outside of my majors when I take CLAS classes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my classmates (and you’ll see a lot of the same people semester after semester in FMS), but it’s still cool to meet new people! I’ve made cool friends in those classes who I probably never would’ve even met otherwise. Also, free t-shirts!

What has been your favorite class at KU? And why?

I’d have to say one of my favorite classes is one I took this semester: Cinematography (FMS 376). I’ve always had an admiration for good cinematography, and it was incredible to be able to learn it a little more in-depth for the whole semester. We learned the fundamentals at first, and then in the second half of the semesters we acted as directors of photography on our own individual projects, where we could play with any element of cinematography- some people used cranes, some used handheld camera techniques, and some worked with unique lighting setups. In my project, I experimented with how light colors affect the emotion of a scene. Plus, Professor Jacobson made the class a total blast.

Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share? If so, what was that like?

I got super lucky to find an internship the summer after my freshman year that I really liked- I was a photography intern for the City of Olathe. I will say, it was extremely difficult to balance an internship (even if it wasn’t full-time) and being in accounting classes or 3 hours a day all summer, but I love how it kept me busy and it definitely made me capable of staying sane when I have a lot on my plate. While I don’t think it’s ideal to overload yourself every summer with both internships and classes, it’s not the end of the world if that’s what happens!

What would you tell your freshman self?

“Always shoot your shot and never be afraid to ask for help with anything.”

Photo by Caleb Simpson

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Ah, every college student’s favorite question. I’m still trying to take in all the options ahead of me, but ideally, I’d really like to do photography or videography work or an esports organization! I find the industry super fascinating (and fun!), and it’s also growing at a rapid pace with job opportunities popping up left and right.

This other one is a long shot, but I’d love to make a career out of doing BTS photography on film sets. I’ve done a bit of BTS for my cinematography class, and it was really fun on top of providing me memories of the class to look back at.

What motivates you?

I think that what motivates me is that I want to be proud of myself (even if that sounds a little narcissistic). Sometimes I get so busy I wonder why I’m pursuing two full degrees and a minor, but it’s because I want to accomplish as much as possible so I can look at those pieces of paper and say “hey, I did that!” because persevering and finishing something successfully makes me, well, super proud of myself. I think as humans in general, we all love seeing the results of our hard work and want to show it off, and that feeling specifically is what encourages me to persevere through all the work it takes to get there.

Be like Sarah. Find your fit, and seize opportunities to “shoot your shot.” For more information, see the Department of Film and Media Studies, the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the School of Business, and the University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas. Also, check out some of Sarah’s incredible photography on her Instagram profile.

Hawks to Watch: Crystle Lampitt, TV Host and Producer

The College Blog - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 11:51

Why Crystle’s a Hawk to Watch:

Crystle Lampitt’s road to hosting and producing for television was not without a few twists and turns. After years spent overseas, traveling across the globe from South Africa to Hong Kong and Australia, pursuing modelling jobs, bartending, editing documentaries, and teaching pre-school, she returned to Kansas City with scarce finances and an inconsistent work schedule. Trying to make ends meet, she took a chance on a part-time gig hosting for KMCI. It payed off. And in that opportunity, and the individuals she crossed paths with, Crystle found inspiration to make a difference in her community by giving voice to its people through news and storytelling.

Go behind the scenes with Crystle and see how her career in media allows her to tell stories of community and compassion, leading to connections on and off the air.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

I am a TV Host and Producer. I host a daily, live morning show called “Kansas City Live” on channel 41 (KSHB or 41 Action News), and I host and produce a weekly music series called “Behind the Spotlight,” that airs on channel 38 (KMCI or 38 the Spot).

How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey?

In my first year of undergrad I was offered a modeling contract in Singapore for 3 months, so I sped through that first year to take it. From that point forward, I attended regular classes in Lawrence during the school year, then spent my summers overseas wherever I could score a contract while taking online classes. I graduated early so I could pursue a full-time modeling career that took me to South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Australia. The work wasn’t always consistent, so I took side jobs wherever I could—I bartended, and I edited TV pitch reels remotely for a documentary filmmaker—and I also ended up finding full time work as a preschool teacher in Sydney, Australia, due to my previous experience nannying and working as a teacher aide while a student at KU. It was a fun and challenging job, but I eventually had to come back to the States as my work visa was close to expiring.

When I came back to Kansas City after years overseas, it felt like a totally different city. I had little money to my name and I needed some consistency in my life. Thus, I moved into my parents’ basement and took on more hours editing TV show pitch reels and freelancing as a videographer. Around this same time, there was an open casting call for a hosting position at channel 38. I went on a limb and showed up to the casting along with 1,000 others, and, after 3 months of interviews, writing tests, screen tests, and more, the job was mine! It was part-time, but it was something. So, I continued working in production, modeling, and nannying, while hosting for 38 to make ends meet.

Eventually, the job at 38 expanded to full time, and I also became a fill-in host for the morning show on channel 41, a fill-in digital reporter for the 4pm newscast, and the entertainment reporter for the 7am newscast. Now, I host the 10am morning show daily and I host and produce a weekly series featuring local and national music artists. I get to interview so many interesting artists, entrepreneurs, authors, athletes, and more. One of my favorite things about my job now is getting to spotlight nonprofit organizations and individuals in Kansas City who are truly making the world a better place. I am inspired by other people’s enthusiasm and I love sharing positive stories with our viewers each day.

I am also currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at KU to expand on my work in media and the community.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

She felt I was a positive influence in her children’s lives. That really touched me. I will never claim to be a perfect paragon of virtue, but to hear that a complete stranger thought of me as a role model for her daughters made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

There was a time that I was working day and night while going through some health issues, and just barely sleeping or taking care of myself. I had volunteered to take on more than I should have at work, while trying to keep up with my community volunteer activities on my own time and it was all wearing me down. After one particularly difficult taping of our music show, Behind the Spotlight, some of my colleagues gave me a harsh critique. I simply had no free time to focus on my growth and creativity and I was struggling to come up with original content ideas at that time. The pressure to appear perfectly put together while juggling all my behind-the-scenes work with my on-camera work, and community appearances was just too much. My personal life and health were suffering greatly because I wanted to “do it all.” I remember saying out loud to a manager, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” I thought my TV days were coming to an end. It was a reality check. Improving my situation necessitated some difficult talks about my job responsibilities and where I could cut back. I had to learn to say NO to many obligations and opportunities, because I simply could not be everywhere at once.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I would love to continue working in television as a host and producer, spotlighting the important stories that affect our community.

I love people and all their passions and idiosyncrasies, so I hope to continue learning about others while becoming a more tolerant individual myself.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

“Try your best to enjoy the journey. You will not wake up one morning feeling like you’ve just ‘figured it all out,’ so you may as well make time for joy and gratitude every day.”

Also, “You’re literally allergic to everything in the air except for dog dander and that is why you’re sick most of the time. Start getting allergy shots stat!”

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Even if it seems unlikely that you’ll get a job, a promotion, etc., it never hurts to try. Plus, you never know where a seemingly unconnected opportunity or connection will take you later.

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?

Whether that was in the form of writing a research paper or a script, or just forming cohesive ideas to pitch as a story, it was important for me to practice my writing skills in school to be able to do what I do now.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

My favorite thing to do is eat. Indonesian food and American comfort food (mac and cheese!) make me happiest. I also love being outdoors and doing yoga, and watching “Friends” reruns with my dog, Kira. I’m close with my family, and we regularly get together to eat and play with my nephews. When I’m near a body of water, I enjoy scuba diving (not very often given my present geographic location)!

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I was born in Cairo, Egypt, and raised mostly in Indonesia before moving to the States in middle school. I speak Indonesian and English and still visit my family overseas frequently.

Be like Crystle and “enjoy the journey” wherever it may lead. For more information, visit Kansas City Live, KSHB, and 38 the Spot. Also, explore the Department of Film and Media Studies and the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.

Habitat: Explore what makes Mary Klayder’s office a home away from home

The College Blog - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 13:25
Our habitat is about more than just spaces to learn, grow and work. So much of what makes the College unique is the people who inhabit our spaces. Throughout her time at KU, Director of Undergraduate Studies and University Honors Lecturer Mary Klayder has served as a mentor to her students with hundreds sitting in the wicker chair in her office to receive advice. See how Mary has turned her office into a welcoming space on campus for students.

 As the #HeartofKU, the College inhabits spaces across our campus. See where we learn, create and change the world. Explore our habitat.  

Nathan Bowman: Taking center stage

The College Blog - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 09:19

Program of study and year: 3rd year Ph.D. Student in Theatre

Hometown: Kansas City, MO

What are your research interests and why did you choose them? 

My primary area of study is Greek tragedy. As an undergrad, I studied both theatre and philosophy of religion and was drawn to the classic philosophers of both ancient Greece and early Christianity. At first, I considered my interests in theatre and religion as mutually exclusive, but overtime, the lines between the two blurred. The difference between “theatre” and “religious ritual” is a matter of perspective. Greek tragedy is considered the foundation of Western theatre, and yet it is often studied detached from its religious roots. It’s because Greek tragedy is so foundational to Western drama that I think it provides the opportunity to challenge our distinctions between “theatre” and “religion.”  Most of the productions of tragedy I enjoy really embrace the religious dimension of the work.

Tell us what your PhD thesis is in under 200 characters:

What is one thing you think everyone should know about your research project or research interests? This might be a commonly held belief that your research questions or complicates.

One thing my research hopes to show is that Greece is still place, and that these tragedies are an integral part of its modern culture as there are many festivals held in ancient amphitheaters to this day. Ancient Greek work is often studied as a monolith with little regard to a modern Greek world. This is most obvious in the fact that KU has a program in ancient Greek language but not Modern Greek. Ancient Greece is considered the foundation of Western civilization, yet it has very little in common with the modern West. Tragedy is not Western, it is Greek. It was then, and it still is.

What advice would you give students applying for research funding opportunities?

Be specific. Every time I have been turned down for a funding opportunity it is because I did not give enough detail. This lack of detail is generally a pretty good indicator that I have not fully thought out the research I am asking to be funded.

Have you pursued degrees from KU other than the program you are in now? If so, what was the focus of your research? How do your various areas of interest complement one another?

During my MA I wrote about the director and acting theorist Tadashi Suzuki, who adapted many works of Greek Tragedy using his unique acting method. Suzuki’s Greek tragedies are something that is still a large portion of my research.

Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?

Dennis Christilles is my advisor, and the absolute best. I am really happy to have gotten to work with him in a variety of capacities: I am his GTA for the department’s study abroad trip to Greece, I have collaborated on conference papers with him, he is currently working with me on the department’s production of Electra. His support is the reason I have gotten to do anything since being in the department.

What is the most valuable experience you have had while studying at KU?

Studying at KU is what allowed me to begin traveling to Greece for research. I am the GTA for the Summer Theatre in Greece program with Dennis Christilles and have traveled there on my own as well. Getting to travel there, learn the language, see shows, and make friends, has added a layer to my work that I could not have gained anywhere else.

Please tell us a bit about your work with Kansas City Public Theatre. What is its mission, and how did you get involved? Are you involved with any other performing arts groups?



Kansas City Public Theatre is a non-profit theatre company that I co-founded with my wife Elizabeth Bettendorf Bowman. Our mission is to provide access to the arts through year-round theatre entertainment free of charge to the public. By providing our work for free, we hope to use theatre (in various formats) to engage the community and increase civic awareness. We produce several shows a year, usually in non-traditional spaces, and have several community engagement programs. Our most recent production was my adaption of the Greek tragedy Medea. You can check us out at kcpublictheatre.org!

Prior to founding KCPublic, I worked for seven seasons at Kansas City Repertory Theatre in various capacities, first as a scenic carpenter, then as stage supervisor of their Copaken Stage, and most recently as the Assistant Director of their production of the musical Sweeney Todd. Aside from KCRep, I also participate in actor training exercises with New York based SITI Company.

What can you tell us about your band, Attic Light, and your experiences performing as a musician?

I am the singer, guitarist, and songwriter of the band Attic Light which I formed six years ago. Music and theatre have always gone hand-in-hand for me. I compose music for all the shows I direct, and theatricality is something I try to bring to Attic Light. With Attic Light, I have had the pleasure of traveling throughout the country to play shows and radio stations, recording in Nashville, and meeting a lot of talented musicians and new friends. You can check us out on most social media platforms @atticlightmusic including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, music videos on Youtube, and our website atticlightmusic.com.

What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?

After graduation, I hope to continue teaching theatre classes at an area university while working with Kansas City Public Theatre to produce accessible theatre in Kansas City.

Be like Nathan. Take a starring role in whatever you love to do. More more information, see Kansas City Public Theatre and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. For all things Attic Light, check out the band’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, music videos on Youtube, and website. Also, see more from the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas.

Film crew experience enriches Bailey Dickman’s time at KU

The College Blog - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 14:32

After her professor, Rob Hurst, recommended she apply for a position working on his documentary, third-year film & media studies student Bailey Dickman found herself on location in Garden City, Kan. There, she and the rest of the film crew worked together to put a spotlight on the city and its diverse populace. Learn more about her hands-on experience working side-by-side with the College’s faculty.

Be like Bailey, here’s information on the KU Film & Media Studies program at the University of Kansas.

Hawks to Watch: Patrick Woods, Manager of Regulator Affairs and Strategy

The College Blog - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 14:51

Why Patrick’s a Hawk to Watch:

Patrick Woods knows a thing or two about energy. A thoughtful strategist through and through, he brings a contagious sense of enthusiasm, and an ambitious vision, to his work as a manager of Regulatory Affairs and Strategy for the independent electric transmission company, International Transmission Corporation (ITC) – Great Plains, and in his service to Kansas’ communities. But what’s the force that energizes a successful career like Patrick’s? And what’s the electric spark that ignites newfound, and often unexpected, opportunity?

For Patrick, many of life’s highest honors and most impressive professional achievements are fueled by a mindset that he developed and refined through his liberal arts education at KU, one of openness to new experiences and an unrelenting hunger for knowledge.

In his professional life, Patrick has worn many hats — Education Policy Advisor, school board member, Director of Advancement, Director of Talent Management and Diversity. But in every capacity he serves in, one role that has remained constant is that of a lifelong learner. Whether he is focused on renewable energy resources, or resources to improve his community, Patrick is driven by an unwavering motivation to create and share opportunities for learning. Because, as he has demonstrated throughout his career, the initial spark of an idea or opportunity has the power to energize and lead to major change for the better.

Meet Patrick and learn about his service to education, leadership and dedication to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, one particularly harrowing episode swimming with tiger sharks in the Philippines (don’t worry — he made it out of the water just fine!), and life-changing discoveries made while pursuing his M.P.A. in Public Administration at KU.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

I manage Regulatory Affairs and Strategy for International Transmission Corporation (ITC) – Great Plains, an independent electric transmission company.

How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey? 

I began working in the electric utility industry through a circuitous, unplanned manner. I began employment out of undergraduate as a program advocate (a community organizer) at a community center in Oakland, CA, before returning to Kansas in 2003. I went on to serve as an aid to Governor Kathleen Sebelius, as the Education Policy Advisor and Legislative Liaison.

When the administration came to an end in 2011 (the Sebelius/Parkinson administrations departed from state government) I took a job at KU working for the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. There I served as the Director of Advancement, managing the Dean’s involvement in the university’s capital campaign, the College Advisory Board and serving as the liaison for the College with the Endowment Association, the Alumni Association, and many other external constituents.

In my nightlife, I have served as a school board member for Topeka Public Schools, USD 501, for the past 11 years, and as President for the Kansas Association of School Boards.  It was through this activity that I developed a relationship with Westar Energy, providing career exploration opportunities for our students and providing the company with valuable workforce development opportunities. In 2014, I took a job at Westar Energy as the Director of Talent Management and Diversity, leading the company’s effort to expand and diversify its talent pool, develop its high potential employees and ensure and inclusive work environment for all employees. In this job, I had the opportunity to learn about many aspects of the electric utility industry, including the general function of energy markets, legislative and regulatory affairs, and investor relations. My opportunities for learning multiplied when Westar merged with Kansas City Power & Light to become Evergy, Inc., where I served as Sr. Manager for Workforce Planning and Diversity.

While I didn’t work in any of the aforementioned areas (energy trading, legislative and regulatory affairs, investor relations), I took advantage of every opportunity to learn about them through professional relationships and personal research.  This led me to my current employment, managing the Regulatory Affairs and Strategy for ITC-Great Plains, Inc.  In this role, I work closely with the operations, planning and development professionals in the company to comply with all regulatory requirements and to shepherd new greenfield projects, which enhance grid reliability and enable additional renewable resources onto the grid, through the regulatory process.

From then on, I’ve made it my practice to take advantage of every opportunity that I get to learn as much as I can about the organizations, institutions and practices that create value in people’s lives. I have found that following this path has put me in the position to always enjoy my work.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

I have been very blessed to be surrounded by incredibly talented and dedicated people, and to be a part of many significant team achievements. A few notable achievements are below. However, I can’t overstate the fact that all of them have been achieved with and through other people.

  1. 2006 School Finance Bill — As a member of the Governor’s senior staff and as the Education Policy Advisor and Legislative Liaison, I aided the Governor as she successfully worked with legislative leadership to pass and sign a 3-year school finance plan, injecting nearly $500 million of new funds into Kansas school.  Together with the $300 million bill that she signed during the Special Session of 2005, we had increased funding for Kansas schools by about $800 million, and it was targeted for the students who had the most need.  This was money that was badly needed to meet the needs of Kansas kids.
  2. Scott Dual Language Magnet — As a school board member, I had the opportunity to lead the board to create northeast Kansas’ first two-way, dual language immersion school, where the purpose is to produce bilingual, biliterate and interculturally competent children. This required not just winning the support of a majority of my fellow board members, but also engaging the community, state government and regulatory authorities, as well as teachers.
  3. Early Childhood Education —
  4. This is critical for us as early childhood education has been proven to be our most effective tool for eliminating the achievement gap.  One such partnership, the Pine Ridge Prep partnership, has gained national attention for its innovating and creative blending of forces to meet the needs of students (ask me about it and I’ll give you more).
  5. Topeka Public Schools, USD-501 — I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a member and president for one of the state’s largest school districts, TPS, USD-501. This district was the title-defendant in the landmark Board v. Board of Topeka case of 1954.  That case was the most consequential case in American history, opening up not just education, but multiple institutions to universal participation by all Americans. To see someone like me, an African American man, as the president of the title defendant in this landmark case, is an honor in itself for me. I have served for 11 years on the board and seven in leadership (5 years as president, 2 years as Vice President).
  6. Kansas Association of School Boards — Through my work as a board member for TPS, USD-501, I’ve had the privilege of being involved with KASB.  This year, I became the president for the association, which includes every school district in Kansas.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

My lowest career moment was during the gubernatorial transition of 2011, when I left state service.  I spent months looking for a job.  Unfortunately for me, due to the deep economic recession that had gripped the country, as well as the fact that my political party was out of power, there were none to be found.  I spent a few months worrying about how to feed my young family and desperately looking for work.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

A liberal arts education, akin to academic cross training, prepares you best for utilizing this skill because it integrates all of the world’s disciplines in the ways that make learning most meaningful. But even for those who don’t get a formal liberal arts degree, they should still strive to live a “liberal arts” life, where they are always learning.

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job? 

As I mentioned before, KU helped me realize what the real key to success is for me — the ability and the will to learn. By developing the mental dexterity to acquire any kind of knowledge (be it engineering, energy, corporate finance, etc.) and working to integrate it with other applicable knowledge based on people (sociohistorical, political, language, etc.), we can accomplish anything. KU was a critical part of this epiphany for me.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I hope to be serving in a position that allows me to make a significant difference in the lives of the folks in my community. That could be in government, philanthropy, or the private sector.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

While mastering technology is important and can lead to a lucrative career, it’s the ability to understand why and how our fellow humans use technology that makes one truly successful.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I spend time with my family. I have an amazing wife (a teacher) and two wonderful children (12 and 8 years old). We travel, read/learn, and play sports together. I help coach my 12 year-old son’s baseball team, I take violin lessons with my 8 year-old daughter, and I am active in my community. I’m passionate about the arts (I draw and I’m a mediocre guitar and violin player) and I’m fascinated by people all over the world, so I have a very diverse group of friends.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I think I have nine lives: I once accidentally swam in water with two large tiger sharks (in the sea of the Philippines). They apparently were circling before the beach authorities could get my attention and get me out of the water.

Be like Patrick. Seize life’s many learning opportunities, and find ways to use your skills to make a positive impact. For more information, explore ITC Great Plains, Westar Energy, Topeka Public Schools, Evergy, Inc., and the School of Public Affairs & Administration at the University of Kansas.

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.

Celebrating Lawrence’s communities at the Watkins Museum of History

The College Blog - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 08:49

The Watkins Museum of History, located on Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence, Kansas, has captured and portrayed Douglas County stories, with an emphasis on Lawrence, since 1975. Its three floors of exhibits tell of heroism, activism, tragedy, and survival among the diverse residents of the Douglas County community, using unique artifacts, photographs, computer programs, and compelling narration. Visitors to the Watkins gain an appreciation for the exciting history and community spirit that makes the Douglas County and Lawrence area unique. Not only does the Watkins boast impressive exhibits and public programs — it’s also where you can find several Jayhawk alumni from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at work as staff members. There, they continually find ways to apply their passion for history and storytelling in ways that engage and better the community. We spoke with five of these College alumni about the Watkins, their time at KU, and how they’re applying their liberal arts & sciences degrees on a daily basis.

I received an MA in History in 2013 and a PhD in History in 2017. My three concentrations were the American Civil War, 19th-century U.S. history, and public history.

I’ve been fascinated by history since age seven. At first, I enrolled in grad school planning to become a professor, but soon decided to work in the public history field. For my first Museum Studies class at KU, I was lucky enough to be part of a group that designed an exhibit for the Watkins. This was how I became familiar with the museum and its staff. It was this class that inspired my choice to pursue a career in public history.

Every day at the Watkins, we’re reminded of our great support network in town. Lawrence folks seem to value their history more than any other community I’ve seen! It’s vital for a community to know and document its own history, for studying history shows us where we’ve been and provides inspiration for a path forward.

My advice for current KU students is to engage with your professors, TAs, and fellow students in and out of the classroom: speak up, volunteer, and ask questions. Even if you don’t find the subject of a class interesting, the more you participate, the quicker and easier it will go, and the more likely you’ll be to find it fun and rewarding.

I graduated from KU with my Masters in Museum Studies in 2012. I plan to graduate with my PhD in History in 2019. I have always loved history and I thought pursuing a degree in Museum Studies would be a really unique and interesting way to apply my love of history.

One of the most memorable classes I took during my Masters was the Exhibits class. My group got to design and install an exhibit on The Day After at the Watkins, which is how I got to know the museum and the director, Steve Nowak. That experience taught me a new way of interacting with the public and it gave me the opportunity to learn how the Watkins engages the community with interesting exhibits.

Local history makes history seem more real and personal because the people, events, and places happened in your town. I really enjoy hearing people’s stories and connections to Lawrence, especially those families who have lived here for several generations. I think we are lucky to live in a town that places such a great value on its local history.

I recommend that KU students take advantage of all the great opportunities going on in our community. Lawrence has a lot of really awesome places to visit and things to do. Including the Watkins!

I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in 2008, majoring in History. I graduated with my MA in Museum Studies in 2010.
I knew I wanted to do something with history from a young age. I love history and studying it has always helped me make sense of the world around me. I initially thought I would study history in an academic setting but the more I talked to people about history, the more I realized that what I enjoyed was sharing what I had learned or had researched with other people. Museums appealed to me because it combined working hands-on with historical objects with relaying information about the past to an audience unfamiliar with history.

My time at KU shaped not only the work I wanted to do but introduced me to hobbies and reinforced things I already loved. I took a film class taught by the great Kevin Wilmott that was so much fun I nearly changed my major to Film Studies, took women’s studies classes from Kathy Tuttle and Katheryn Rose Mockery that shaped my perspective of the world, and loved all of the history classes I took in undergrad.

This is especially true when we find events that have been forgotten such as the Citizen Diplomacy efforts the people of Lawrence made during the last years of the Cold War.

There are always exciting events going on at the Watkins! Families will want to take part in our Tails and Traditions event on December 1. Planned to coordinate with Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, the Watkins buzzes with activities: hobby horse building for the kids, family portraits in the museum’s antique surrey, and a great view of the parade as it makes its way down Massachusetts Street!

My advice for students at KU is to find an activity or club that interests you. Something you love and want to do more, or something you’ve never done and have always wanted to try – either way, use the opportunities a diverse campus can bring. Take part in activities wherever you can. The schoolwork won’t go away, but it’s always more fun when you know someone in your classes and when you have a chance to get out in your free time.

I graduated from Coe College, where I majored in American Studies and minored in History & Writing. Then, I did my MA in Museum Studies at KU, graduating in 2008. After college, I was unsure about what type of career to pursue. I was working an office job and learned about the Museum Studies program. I had an interest in teaching, but not in classrooms, and a strong interest in public history. I didn’t even know that such a program existed, but I quickly realized that it was the place for me.

I appreciated the opportunities to explore different fields of museum work while still focusing on education. I had several internships at museums during my time in the program, and one had nothing to do with either education or public history. I was happy to work at the KUNHM/Biodiversity Center in the herpetology lab tagging and cataloguing frogs, snakes, skinks, geckos, toads and their relatives, knowing that I was building a skill to enhance my understanding of how museums work…and that I could hold a collections job if this education thing didn’t pan out! I learned a ton about museums from John Simmons, who was my advisor, teacher and supervisor at KUNHM.

Working at the Watkins, I love getting to know people and figuring out ways to share local history with them. Classroom teachers have been a terrific and welcoming audience and I really enjoy coming up with ways to help them teach local history.

I would tell current students: Do multiple internships at a variety of museums! Work hard! Talk to your instructors! They know a lot–and they know people at other museums who might have internships or jobs available.

I graduated from KU in 2014 with a BA in History and a minor in Communication Studies.

I decided to study history because it was a subject I always enjoyed. Studying history at KU only enhanced my love of history. As soon as I was immersed in my studies, there was no doubt that I made the right decision on what I should be studying. I found the classes to be highly interesting and enjoyable and the coursework to be stimulating.

My time at KU helped my interest in history blossom. My degree helped me point into a direction that led to my career path. The classes that I still look back on today were all taught by the same professor. The Great Depression, Contemporary America, HIST: 616 Theses. All three taught and advised by Jonathan Hagel.

The best part of working in a local history museum is everything that I get to do to make other people love and have fun with history. Whether it’s his work with exhibits or social media, my job is to create an experience that is unforgettable! Make it so you will want to come back for more!

My words of advice to current KU students:

  1. It’s okay to feel like camping for KU basketball is your major.
  2. Study something you love, or you know that you will enjoy, is something you shouldn’t be afraid to explore. A Liberal Arts degree may not seem like it offers the brightest future, but what I have discovered is that it has led me to opportunities that I never would have considered for a career path. I have found. If you work hard and have a positive outlook on your future, there is no limit to success.

Be like these KU College alumni. Find ways to connect with your community and bring your skill set to work that excites you. For more information and the latest Watkins news, visit the Watkins Museum of History, as well as their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter social media accounts. Also see the Museum Studies Program, the Department of History, and the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.

I am the Heart of KU: Chemists with Chemistry

The College Blog - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:51

What is the formula that catalyzes bright sparks to win fountains of scholarships and discoveries that make our world a better place to live? Hard work, for sure. But the fundamental element is people. It’s all about having a supportive friendship group to help you laugh and to collaborate with when confronting challenging questions. Also, it’s about professors, those people who go above and beyond to give you opportunities to do hands-on research. How do we know this? Because we’ve met Emily Boyd, Joseph Loomis, Cara Davis, and Zachary Wood, four KU chemistry majors who scooped up countless prestigious awards last year.

Meet these Chemists with Chemistry and discover how they’re research projects will help efforts to develop cleaner more sustainable fuel, to create energy efficient wires for use in solar energy and beyond, to understand protein structures and dynamics, and to explore the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly for patients who’ve been through chemotherapy.

The Chemists with Chemistry and their scholarship awards:

Be like Zachary, Emily, Joseph and Cara, here’s information on studying Chemistry at KU.

Here’s another video featuring Joseph Loomis’ work on chemo brain.

Ben Clark goes to bat for the Kansas City T-Bones as a Social Media and PR intern

The College Blog - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 08:56

Hometown: Tonganoxie, Kansas

Major(s) / Minor(s): Communication Studies / Sport Management

Internship title and organization: 

Social Media and PR intern for the Kansas City T-Bones

What were your responsibilities during the internship?

I was responsible for running the team Snapchat account, and I helped out with the other social media accounts. I was also responsible for helping out with promotions and really just assisting my boss in any way she needed.

What was your favorite part(s) of the internship?

How had the classes you’d taken at KU prepared you for the internship?

Intro to Sport Management actually prepared me very well for this internship. I knew how to reach out to people about the team and how to be professional and make good connections. Journalism 300 with Dr. Holstead really prepared for it as well. I did a little work on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator for the team, and everything I know about those programs I learned from my J300 class!

What did you gain from the experience that will be valuable to you in the future?

The connections that I made are going to be very helpful for me. The T Bones is an organization that is focused on being fun and entertaining for everyone, whether that is families, big groups, or any group of people.

Why did you choose your majors/minors? 

I definitely had a eureka moment, it didn’t come until April of my junior year though. When I first started at KU in the fall of 2015, I was a pre-journalism student wanting to go into broadcast journalism. I enjoyed certain aspects of that major but in the end it just wasn’t for me. It took me longer than most students to finally decide on what I wanted to do. After journalism I changed my major to Secondary Education for a year, and then Sport Management for the first semester and most of the second semester of my junior year. I really wanted to go into sports marketing and work for a professional football or baseball team. I had an advising appointment to figure out my schedule for the fall of 2018, and my advisor talked to me about changing my major one more time to Communication Studies and minoring in Sport Management. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I could do all of the same stuff and even more with marketing and advertising if I was a Comm Studies major. Plus, I would graduate a lot sooner so that was a nice added bonus!

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I would love to go into creative marketing and advertising when I am done here at KU. My dream job is to work for either the Chiefs or Royals here in Kansas City!

What motivates you?

Being better than I was yesterday motivates me. What motivates me when it comes to a marketing and advertising sense though, is when you can connect with someone and make them remember why they love a sports team or an organization. When you can really attract someone to your product.

Be like Ben, and seek out an internship that will prepare you for that dream job! For more information, visit the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kansas. And for more about the Kansas City T-Bones, click here.

Habitat: Explore KU’s world-class herpetology collection

The College Blog - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 14:47
Dive into the depths of Dyche Hall to meet the snakes, frogs and 6,985 species from around the world housed in KU’s world-class herpetology collection, a resource that lets students and scholars get hands-on experience with these rare and slippery creatures.

 As the #HeartofKU, the College inhabits spaces across our campus. See where we learn, create and change the world. Explore our habitat.  

Hawks to Watch: Jenny Peck and Geoff Knight, non-profit directors

The College Blog - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 13:23
Why Jenny and Geoff are Hawks to Watch:

When Jenny Peck was placed in rural Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2006, the plan was to stay for a couple of years. Plans change.

Jenny’s partner Geoff Knight had followed shortly after Jenny arrived, and the couple felt so at home in Mufindi that two years became twelve. During this time, these KU College grad dedicated their energy and skills to directing Mufindi Orphans, a grassroots organization in rural Tanzania working with a community impacted by a very high prevalence of HIV to ensure care for all of its most vulnerable children and their families. Geoff and Jenny’s work has largely focused on developing long-term sustainable projects with the community. And they’ve also helped build bridges between Lawrence, Kansas and Mufindi, hosting KU researchers and students who want to learn more about the project, including a visit from scholars involved in KU’s ColLAB project in the summer of 2018. Now back in the States, Jenny is working for a non-profit called Global Health Corps in New York, and Geoff is working with the projects in Tanzania, as well as jobs as in education research, and as a Swahili Interpreter. 10 years from now they aim to continue working hard on projects that simultaneously bring them joy, but also help others.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

Now we are in New York where Jenny works for a non-profit called Global Health Corps, and Geoff still works with the projects in Tanzania, as well as jobs as in education research, and as a Swahili Interpreter.

How did you end up doing what you do? 

In 2006, Jenny was placed in rural Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and a few months later Geoff (always the romantic, and wanting to do something ‘different than Kansas’) followed Jenny half way across the world and took a job teaching English and music in the closest town. Neither of us thought we would be in Tanzania for more than two years, but the community was so warm and welcoming in Mufindi that we both just felt so at home. What we didn’t know, was that the community was going through a crisis. A combination of factors had created a very high HIV prevalence in the area, and the social fabric was ripping apart. When we were given an opportunity to stay on and work with the community on ways to repair this damage, we decided to do so, and over a decade later, we had four kids together, and we witnessed a community come out of a crisis period and on to the road to recovery.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

When we started work with a grassroots NGO in Tanzania, there was a lot of work to do, and it was difficult to even know where to start. The HIV pandemic had wiped out a generation of people and a community with a tremendous amount of agricultural/economic potential was buried under the burden of caring for sick family, or children orphaned by the virus. We knew that any initiative that was going to start to make a difference for this community needed a committed buy-in from motivated people. We were motivated to work with this amazing community and we decided to have two mantras: One, that we would stay at least until our oldest child was 5 (we didn’t have any kids at the time!); and two, that if we were doing our jobs right, we were working our way out of the job.

Often times wherever there is a crisis it can be tempting to dive in and do all we can, and longer-term impacts become lower priorities, but we knew that for any long-term sustainable project to work, Tanzanians would be the best advocates for their own people once given a voice.

In 2006 there were likely less than a dozen people getting treatment for HIV due to the fact that transport to the closest facility for treatment was too expensive, and too far away. Today, and after harnessing the good will of the community, and stakeholders from around the world, a Care and Treatment Clinic has been built in the community, life-saving equipment supplied, and over 5,000 patients have received treatment in their own community. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death-trap for this community, and more kids are in school than ever before; more farmers are creating food and income for their families; and more shops and services are open for business. The senior staff of the organization in Mufindi is now comprised of former students of Jenny’s from Peace Corps, and community members from Mufindi. When we look back this year on what has been achieved over the past 12 years, we believe we achieved success through staying true to our two mantras.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

In 2010 our projects had really started to make a difference as the community was getting back on its feet and real developments were happening for families. But then we had a devastating blow where four infants in our project area passed away inside of a three weeks. The problem was malnutrition as their Mothers had either passed away or could not produce breastmilk due to complications of living with HIV. Still, everyone pulled together and shared ideas on what to do based on what was needed and a new program was formed which helped new mothers with milk powder formula. All of us had to be sure this was done appropriately as research showed this type of project had failed in other communities in the past. So everyone in the organization contributed to producing a program that saved lives and kept babies healthy. To date, hundreds of kids have had a healthy start to their life from this program.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Ten years from now we would still like to be a part of something that makes a difference for the good of people. We are aiming to work hard on things that bring us joy, but also help others. It would be fantastic if we were in a position in career and life to be living part-time in the US/Canada and part time elsewhere in the world, working with a community again, building-out models and strategies to address individual community needs.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Jenny: There’s going to be people who might try to squash your dreams along the way- stay true to yourself and don’t listen to anything that doesn’t serve you!

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Also, when working with people, give them the benefit of the doubt. When working with someone, always enter with the assumption that they mean to do good, and let them prove you wrong before you shift to the attack.

Dream Big! A lot of people will tell you something is impossible, but the bigger you dream the more will become possible!

Finally, one of the best pieces of advice we’ve ever had from mentors of ours is “if it were easy, it would have already been done.”

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?

Jenny: I started out in chemical engineering with a pre-med emphasis, but after I met an amazing math Professor, I realized that someone’s passion for a subject can really influence my direction. In Tanzania my math students brought me to their homes and I met families struggling with their health, and the passion those kids had for their community, I believe, helped led me towards public health.

Geoff: I will be the first to admit that I made lots of mistakes as I was learning, and I like to think that Anthropology helped me to be aware of those mistakes, and to make amends in the best way possible. From a professional standpoint, being active in activities while at KU helped enormously as well. Being a leader in the KU Hockey club program, there was no way any one person could manage and run the whole organizing of that program. We all took pride in doing our part to make the whole experience better for everyone. I think I learned a lot about my leadership-style from that, and strangely enough, the same skills that I gleaned from being part of the team that set out the logistics of getting 20 or so knuckleheads to a set of road games in Pekin, Illinois, (where we all had a great time and stayed safe) actually also helped me being part of the team that got health care treatment for a community that was grossly underserved due to muddy roads and under-resourced medical systems.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

Jenny: I discovered yoga after the birth of our twins, and I really fell in love with everything about it. I even got yoga teacher certified at Om Tree in Lawrence, Kansas that was truly life-changing.

Geoff: I was born and spent most of my childhood in Canada, and therefore keep a stereotypical birthright to playing and loving hockey. There is not (yet) a big hockey scene in Tanzania, so my love of playing music as a way to unwind really increased there.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

In fact, in recent years, to find a way to have another focus other than the sometimes overwhelming nature of our work in Tanzania, we started a band! We are called the Mufindi Misfits and we have played a few shows, and we plan to one day embark on a world tour! You can tell by now that our music mantra is “our heads are bigger than our talent!”

Be like Geoff and Jenny. Here’s more information on studying anthropology and mathematics at the University of Kansas.

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts. 

Under the microscope: Haifa Alhadyian examines life from a molecular level

The College Blog - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 08:51

Program of study and year:​ Ph.D. candidate – Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology – 3​rd​ year

Hometown:​ Dammam City, Saudi Arabia

What are your research interests and why did you choose them? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?

My research interests are centered around developmental biology and genetics. While in high school, biology was the subject that I enjoyed the most, so I got my Bachelor’s degree in Zoology. A year later, I was awarded the King Abdullah Scholarship, which allowed me to come to the United States to pursue a degree in biology.

Tell us what your Ph.D. thesis is in under 200 characters:

I am using a combination of genetics and cell biology to investigate how cells and tissue change shape during development using the fruit fly as a model system.

What is one thing you think everyone should know about your research project or research interests? This might be a commonly held belief that your research questions or complicates.

Basic science, including the use of model organisms such as flies and worms, is vital in advancing the scientific knowledge of how living organisms develop and survive. In fact, ​many human diseases​, including neurodegenerative disorders and developmental abnormalities, have been studied in model organisms. Thus, the impact of answering fundamental biological questions is extremely crucial in advancing our knowledge about both diseases and normal cellular processes that occur in our bodies everyday.

Where are you conducting your research?
I am conducting my research in the lab of Dr. Robert Ward in the Department of Molecular Biosciences.

What advice would you give new grad students as they develop their professional networks?

Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you.
My shout-out goes to everyone who has helped me along the way from fellow graduate students to professors, especially my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Robert Ward, for supporting my research and encouraging me to explore outreach opportunities outside of the lab. I also would like to give a shout-out to Dr. Sonia Hall, a former Ph.D. student in our lab, for her support early in my graduate career.

What is the most valuable experience you have had while studying at KU?

Besides developing my career as a scientist, the most valuable experience for me is co-creating programs such as ​SEARCH Symposium​ and ​Jayhawks Breaking Barriers​. These programs allowed me to serve in various leadership roles early in my career. Also, participating in outreach activities such as Kansas DNA Day​ and ​Girl Scouts STEM Expo​ helped me practice science communication in a more interactive environment.

Why did you get involved in Jayhawks Breaking Barriers and the Early Career Scientist-Communication and Outreach Subcommittee for the Genetics Society of America?

I wanted to get involved with​ ​Jayhawks Breaking Barriers ​program to help undergraduate women see their potential and develop their leadership skills early in their scientific career. I served as a Co-Chair of the Curriculum Committee and helped design the workshop series part of the program. Currently, I am a member of the Steering, Mentorship, and Research Committees of the new implemented course BIOL420: STEM Professional Development, which is more tailored for diversity in science.

Genetics Society of America (GSA) has a well-developed program for early career scientists to explore leadership roles and enrich their skills while building their professional network.

As a result of my appointment with GSA, I published my first blog post on Science Trends website and the second blog post will be published soon.

What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?
My primary goal is to stay in academia and run my laboratory using model organisms to answer questions related to developmental biology. Thus, after graduating from KU, I will conduct postdoctoral research in related fields to gain more experience in scientific research and grant writing. Then, I will apply for faculty positions. ​What motivates you? Knowing that my work adds new knowledge to science, mentoring undergraduate students and helping them succeed, creating opportunities for others, and engaging with the public by participating in outreach activities.

Be like Haifa. Search for answers to the most important questions in your field, and stay on the lookout for leadership opportunities! For more information, visit the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas, as well as SEARCH Symposium, ​Jayhawks Breaking Barriers, Kansas DNA Day​ and ​Girl Scouts STEM Expo​.

Unwinding with Paul Stock: Mr Rogers optimist and environmental sociologist

The College Blog - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 08:44

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” – Mr Rogers

Paul Stock, an environmental sociologist at KU, is a helper. He’s driven by that same Mr Rogers optimism as he seeks to understand and consider solutions to some of the great challenges facing the world – inequality, food insecurity and environmental degradation. For Paul, the solutions lie in the creative capacities of us all to rethink how we do things and to make choices that, no matter how small, make the world better. In his research, Paul points to the examples of experimental uses of land for entrepreneurial food growing, like the Common Ground project here in Lawrence, Kansas, and to the potential of small farmers around the world to model new ways of doing things that address global issues. Small-scale projects can have big impacts, especially when they are the result of collaboration between students, community leaders and people across the world.

Oh, and there’s also a beautiful poem and a story involving beer, hot-dogs and baseball.

It’s Unwinding with Paul Stock:

Unwinding is a podcast that tells the human stories driving the minds and talents of the University of Kansas. In each episode we sit down with KU researchers in a favorite or familiar setting to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. You may find us on campus, running the trails, on a farm, at a coffee shop or down at the pub. Wherever the location, the conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a collaboration between The Commons at KU and KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The Commons is a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. It’s home to more than 50 departments, programs and centers, offering more than 100 majors, minors and certificates. A collaborative and creative community, the College is committed to making the world better through inquiry and research.

Music: Lee Rosevere‘s “Let’s Start at the Beginning

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