I have two overlapping sets of interests. As a researcher, I’m interested in distributional ecology; essentially, I study where and why we find species, and how human activities and anthropogenic climate change impact those distributions, in the broader context of conservation. As a humanist, I have a passion for ensuring that access to biodiversity information (and relevant training, tools, and opportunities) is equitable globally.
I never had that lightbulb moment of “this is what I’m going to study;” rather, it was the collective suite of experiences I cultivated after undergrad that led me to my current path. Instead of enrolling in a graduate program directly after graduation, I chose instead to gain some life experience—first as a zoo keeper in Florida, then as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, and finally as a field biologist in India. Even as I progress through my graduate studies, my research continues to evolve based on where the data (and my life experiences) take me.Tell us what your PhD topic is about:
I’m exploring novel methods of improving predictive capacity of correlational niche models for migratory species (specifically birds) with a focus on application of open-access data and programs.What is one thing you think everyone should know about starting a graduate program?
If you want to go into a research-based graduate program, spare yourself the angst later and take the opportunity as an undergraduate to learn computer programming.Why is your subject important?
Biodiversity is essentially the ecological infrastructure which we as a species rely on for survival. Thus, understanding biodiversity, and how we impact it, is critical to our own survival.Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?
Shout out to my graduate advisor, Town Peterson, who’s been a phenomenal mentor and amazingly tolerant of my need to learn all the things, my tendency take on too many projects at once, and my weirdness in general!What KU class would you recommend to other students, and why?
My two favorite courses at KU have been Hindi and glaciology; but as a general recommendation I would tell anyone to take Hindi. Why? Well, first, the class is amazing! You’ll work hard, but the professor –Patrica Jii—and the Fulbright Language TAs are always supportive and do a wonderful job of making the learning process fun and engaging; they strive to provide opportunities for students to immerse in the culture outside the class. Passport-To-India festival at the Nelson Atkins. The latest Bollywood release in theatre. Cooking lessons and potlucks at Patrica Jii’s. Skype calls with friends in India… And, second, you can never speak too many languages. Seriously, no one was ever denied a job because they were a polyglot!
Why did you choose to take Hindi classes at KU?
I worked in Bihar, India for just under a year prior to beginning graduate school. During that time I tried to learn Hindi but work somehow always got in the way. Flash forward five years… I had just finished my comprehensive exam and decided I needed a hobby that was stimulating yet unrelated to my doctoral research. I contacted Patrica Jii about auditing Hindi 110, and here I am two years later still loving her Hindi languages classes and my classmates!Left: Kate Ingenloff. Right: A Hindi class potluck and cooking lesson with Patrica Jii. What has been most valuable about taking Hindi classes at KU?
Beyond the obvious value of increasing the breadth in which I’m able to communicate with my fellow humans, Patrica Jii’s classes provide much needed breaks from the day-to-day intensity of doctoral research/obligations. And, let’s be honest, if she can get a non-traditional student such as myself to hear (and pronounce!) some of those syllables, she can teach anyone. Although Hindi isn’t directly related to my research, it’s rare that I travel somewhere and don’t hear people speaking the language, so familiarity with the language will definitely be useful. And, of course, it will continue to make watching Bollywood movies that much more enjoyable.What is the most valuable experience you have had while studying at KU? What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?
Get a job. In all seriousness, I hope to find employment with an international conservation NGO or similar which will allow me to continue as a researcher and positively impact conservation policy.What motivates you?
Travel and learning: the banes of prejudice and stagnation.
Imagine criss-crossing the Atlantic throughout the year to work on hit musicals and cutting-edge creative works gracing some of the biggest stages in London, New York and beyond. That’s the life of Amy Anders Corcoran, a freelance theatre director, choreographer, script doctor, educator, and proud Jayhawk.
Amy’s journey to her current career was not a straight path. While she has always been involved in theatre, developing a love for dance and acting as a kid growing up in Topeka, Kansas, she chose to major in Psychology at the University of Kansas – like many students Amy didn’t have just one interest. But she kept up her passion for performance while at KU, and after graduation and a brief stint as a performer, Amy completed an MFA in directing at Penn State. Since then she has worked on shows performed at prestigious venues including The Guthrie, Asolo Rep, Goodspeed Musicals, Marriot Marquis on Broadway, and American Conservatory Theatre. Amy’s worked on many hit shows, including as an associate director for Disney’s ‘Freaky Friday’ and more recently for ‘Escape to Margaritaville,’ on Broadway.
A constant advocate of new works, Amy loves helping develop shows that try something novel. This September, she’ll be directing ‘Unexpected Joy’ in London as part of her work with Aria Entertainment, a company that develops and presents new and ground-breaking productions on both sides of the Atlantic. This passion for helping talent at the early stages of their careers has led Amy to return to KU to support productions here, including as the director and choreographer of ‘Little Women’ in 2016.
Amy loves working with creative people – collaboration is her favorite word. The key to developing these professional relationships is, in her words, the “invaluable” Psychology degree she received from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Kansas.Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living: What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?
Working on Broadway and off-Broadway while having a toddler.What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
It was definitely when I was still a performer, 23 years old–fired from a cruise ship job before I even made it to the boat. I was let go because I was too fat. That’s the harshness of this business.Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year- old self?
What’s your best career pro-tip?
Make all the connections you can and say yes as often as you can early (life will get in the way later). I said yes a lot to a lot of projects and opportunities at the beginning of my directing career and they have all served me by setting up relationships and connections.How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?
What’s your best KU memory?
Camping out for basketball seats and going to England with the choir after my junior year. That began my love affair with London, which continues to this day.What do you do after you’ve clocked out?
I read scripts or reply to emails. There is no clocking out for a freelance director.What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?
I married my high school sweetheart (also a Jayhawk).
Be like Amy. Here’s more information on studying Psychology 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.
In 2011, Aaron Justus packed up his bags and life in Richmond, Virginia to travel across the country to San Diego, California. It was the start of a journey that led him to his dream job. He was 35 at the time and had established himself as a broadcast meteorologist, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas in 1999. Broadcasting jobs in Kansas City, Iowa and California had led him to Richmond. But after 12 years in television he wanted a career change and asked himself two questions: what do I love doing, and how can I use my knowledge of science to get it? Brewing beer ticked both boxes.
Making a career change is daunting. And that first year in California was tough for Aaron. He balanced his online studies at the American Brewers Guild with several jobs, including his first role in craft beer as a keg washer at Ballast Point Brewing Company. It was worth it, though. He quickly climbed through the ranks at Ballast Point, getting experience in various aspects of brewing before arriving at his current role as Director of Research and Development and Specialty Brewing. Along the way, he’s presented to the best brewers and beer scientists in the world, won prestigious awards for Ballast Point, and teaches brewing for the University of California San Diego Extension Program.
Though brewing is a very different career to weather broadcasting, there are several cross-overs. Most notably, the importance of math, physics and communication, all skills he developed here at the University of Kansas. Goes to show, that what you learn in college can be transferred to a whole range of industries once you’ve graduated.
Oh, Aaron’s parting gift to broadcast meteorology is this hilarious video that has gained over 1.6 million views on YouTube.Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living: What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?
Passing the IBD Diploma In Brewing exam was arduous to say the least. Presenting at the World Brewing Congress in 2016 and MBAA in 2017 was also a great honor. It can be intimidating talking in front of a large group of scientists and brewers! Our brewery also recently won gold for Double IPA at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s great to work with such a talented team.What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
After I finished college, I worked in television as a meteorologist for twelve years. I decided to quit my job and start a career in brewing. I was 35 at the time. I packed my bags and moved across the country to San Diego, where there were a lot of breweries and job opportunities. I was very fortunate to land a job washing kegs at Ballast Point. I also worked two other jobs to make ends meet. In addition, I was attending an online brewing school. It was a tough first year in California. I had to schedule every minute of my life and stay focused on my goal.Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
Just as long as I’m brewing beer, I’ll be happy. The brewing community is full of passionate and fun people.What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?
Don’t stress out about not knowing what you want to do for a living. You have plenty of time to figure that out. If you stay focused, you can change your career path at any point in your life.What’s your best career pro-tip?
You’re never an expert. Don’t get comfortable. Continually push yourself to learn more.How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job? What’s your best KU memory?
Walking across campus on a Friday afternoon during the autumn. The campanile is ringing and I’m excited to hang out with my friends.What do you do after you’ve clocked out?
I’m fortunate to have a tasting room at work that has over 40 taps of different beer. It’s hard to decide which one to enjoy at the end of my shift.What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?
My wife doesn’t like beer. Life’s all about compromise: we drink wine at home.
Be like Aaron. Here’s more information on studying Atmospheric Science 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.
As the graduates of the College took to the Hill to celebrate their accomplishments, we asked some to look back at their time at KU. These students pushed boundaries in research, made changes for the world around them, and did so much more. Their futures span the globe, but their start happened here. By looking back at the years they spent at KU, many of these students had advice and the knowledge that could help current Jayhawks lead to greatness. Rock chalk!Kathryn Brewer, bachelor’s in chemistry
Notable: Kathryn received the Beckman Scholarship while at KU which enabled her to do research full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. Her research experience helped her figure out what it really means to be a scientist and prepared her to pursue a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University.
“I have grown tremendously during my time here at KU. I have grown more curious. I have learned how to ask questions about a subject and dig deeper in search of a greater understanding. I have learned to never be satisfied with a simple answer and to always strive to know more. I have also grown in my Catholic faith during my time at KU, learning how to be the woman I was made to be and to walk with confidence in who I am and what I am capable of, with the help of the Lord. These past four years I feel as though I have really become myself, and I’m certain the next chapter of my life will be even more life-changing.”Gita Nadinda, bachelor’s in psychology major with a minor in applied behavioral sciences
Notable: Gita may be a KU legacy – her father is a graduate – but she still travelled quite a ways to get to Lawrence, KS. Being an international student from Indonesia means Gita has forged her own path and found a way to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
“Being an international student, I’ve grown a lot through finding a balance between adapting to an independent environment and maintaining my interdependent values. Learning how to live independently and adjust to the different expectations and standards have made me more flexible, open minded and motivated. I’ve met so many different people at KU who have introduced me to many different viewpoints and outlooks on life that enabled me to step out of my comfort zone.”Emma Murrugarra, bachelor’s in human biology, psychology and philosophy
Notable: Emma was a psychology research lab manager for two years working on research projects focusing on emotional bonding processes in close relationships. After graduation she plans to attend Cornell University to pursue a doctorate in human development with a specialty in culture in context.
“College is unnerving at first — the university experience is oftentimes the first time that people are exposed to an environment with many different people from many different cultures. It is jarring, and can be abrasive. You’re not alone. Get involved in the things that interest you and branch out to explore all the new things that are available to you for the first time.”Soroush Rezvanbehbahani, doctorate in geology
Notable: Soroush’s research involved testing fundamental glacier flow assumptions using a range of sophisticated numerical models. He repeatedly learned new models and used them to address important scientific questions that pushed his research group into new and exciting directions.
“My project involved a very exciting, yet complicated question. While working on it, I would get inspired or sometimes distracted to do a side project. These side projects have consistently served as my semi-healthy way of procrastinating; I felt I was still doing something useful, while taking short breaks from my main project. I started working on a side project, purely out of curiosity and we ended up publishing the results in a somewhat high impact journal relatively quickly. Then, a few months after that, I saw a tweet by my advisor how she was proud of my ‘curiosity and tenacity.’ That was truly flattering!”Katie Phalen, bachelor’s in molecular, cellular & development biology
Notable: Katie is bound for medical school at KU Medical School next year. She’s been an active student leader, serving as executive director for the Center for Community Outreach, was a finalist for the 2017 ExCEL Award, and has been involved in multiple student organizations, all the while maintaining outstanding academic performance.
“Despite the fact that these last four years have gone by so quickly, I feel as if I have grown tremendously during my time at KU. The classes I’ve taken, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had here have changed my perspectives and challenged my thinking in many different ways. My time with the Center for Community Outreach in particular has taught me so much about serving my community, and has sparked in me an interest in community engagement that I plan to take with me after graduation and into my career.”
Mario D. Balcazar, bachelor’s in physics and electrical engineering
Notable: Mario has spent much of his time at KU in research labs. This includes studying particle accelerators and their technology. Mario credits being able to work closely with his professors as playing a role in his success. Once he graduates, Mario will head to the University of Michigan for a Ph.D.
“I would greatly emphasize the importance of exploring your curiosities outside of the classroom. This could be in the forms of conducting research, pursuing interdisciplinary coursework, participating in summer internships, or simply chatting with professors from fields different than your own. Life is a cumulative experience and your interests evolve with time. The ability to learn and adapt is fundamental for success.”Kayla Wilson, bachelor’s in molecular, cellular & developmental biology
Notable: Kayla knew from an early age that she wanted to be a scientist. She’s been active in undergraduate research, working with her mentor Robert Ward for three years. She’s also served as an undergraduate research mentor to help encourage other students to get involved. She will continue her research pathway in the fall, starting a Ph.D. program in genetics, genomics and development at Cornell University.
“While at KU, I have learned to be a little more fearless in my everyday life! All of the amazing opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of at KU have come when I tried something outside my comfort zone, applied for something I thought I would never get, or when I introduced myself to someone new.”Amy Olson, bachelor’s in geology
Notable: Amy is known among faculty and peers as an involved and dedicated student and mentor. She has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a few introductory classes, led the Association for Women Geoscientists’ mentor program and serves as the Department of Geology’s undergraduate representative at faculty meetings.
“My most memorable experiences as a KU student have definitely been on KU Geology field trips, including KU Geology Field Camp. They were the perfect opportunity to apply all of the knowledge and skills that I acquired in the classroom to actual field settings, which was always rewarding. Also, when you spend every waking moment with a group of people an extended period of time, whether it be a week, two weeks, or 6 weeks, the relationships that are formed are truly awesome and unique.”Zachary Douglass Green, bachelor’s in biochemisty, human biology and psychology
Notable: With his heart set on a medical career, Zachary’s spent his time at KU building his understanding of the fundamentals of human life and mind, triple majoring in biochemistry, human biology, and psychology. Adding certificates from the Research Experience Program and Global Awareness Program along the way, this Honors student has also been dedicated to honing research skills, including working as a research assistant with the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory under the guidance of David K. Johnson.
“My most memorable time here is mostly from my position as a research assistant with the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory under David K. Johnson. Not only did I get to work with Alzheimer’s patients and other older adults, but I traveled abroad to work with a collaborating lab at the University of Costa Rica. Assisting my mentor with his research into Alzheimer’s has very much shaped my interests and passions, and it is something I feel makes me unique. I will be matriculating to the University of Kansas Medical Center as an M.D./Ph.D. student to pursue my medical degree and continue my neuroscience research. I’ll be accompanied by my amazing girlfriend, who will be pursuing her J.D./M.H.S.A at KU Law, and our Great Pyrenees, who will probably have a lot of time home alone to chill.”Hannah Gibson, bachelor’s in astronomy
Notable: Hannah came to KU at age 16. She was in the University Honors Program and a Sigma Pi Sigma & Phi Kappa Phi inductee. She also helped plan the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics the last two years. Hannah is graduating with university and departmental honors and will be attending Purdue University to pursue a Ph.D. in planetary science.
“I’ve dreamed of studying Europa since high school and thanks to KU that dream will soon be reality. Without my coursework and research experience at KU, my future as a planetary scientist would never have been possible. Be fearless. Take every opportunity that comes your way and never dwell on the ones that don’t work out.”
Insia Zufer, bachelor’s in biology with minors in film and media studies and psychology.
Notable: Ask Insia Zufer why she studies biology, and she’ll give you an answer that extends far beyond a passion for fieldwork. By exploring how and why humans, animals and even a blade of grass work, Insia discovers the connections that unite us all to each other, and to the planet. She added minors in psychology and film to gain new ways of looking at the world, and to explore her love of the arts. For this Jayhawk, the subjects she studies help shape her worldview. And it is this desire to help others and the environment that motivates Insia’s work beyond the KU campus. As Managing Director of the KU Center for Community Outreach, Insia helps coordinate programs that address the needs of the Lawrence community. Along with the other members of the CCO, Insia makes our local community a better place, contributing to programs that support education, arts, health and care for the elderly. And in the process, she helps fellow KU students apply their passions to support others and become lifelong active, aware and engaged citizens.
“I will be going to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after graduation to pursue an MD/MPH. The opportunities I received at KU, especially my humanities classes, social justice programming, and leadership with the Center for Community Outreach most definitely led me to this career path and made this possible. Advice-wise, I would definitely say be “interested” in as many community and campus events on Facebook as possible. I have never regretted putting off an assignment or studying for a test to attend a cool event or lecture happening on campus, even if it was totally out of my discipline. My humanities courses and these events are what kept me linked into local and global issues of justice, as a biology major. KU has definitely shaped the medicine I hope to pursue — merging individual health and population health rooted in equity with an MD/MPH.”Carin Gavin, bachelor’s in physics and astronomy
Notable: Carin did not start out as a student in the College, but she followed her heart and found her way here still. Since becoming a double-major in physics and astronomy, Carin took advantage of multiple opportunities such as the conference for undergraduate women in physics and the Harriet Johnson scholarship. After graduating, Carin will continue studying physics and work towards her PhD.
“Don’t be afraid of changing your plans. My first year here, I was completely sure that I wanted to pursue architecture. Even after becoming convinced I wanted to switch majors, it was terrifying. I hated admitting that I was wrong in the first place, and the prospect of essentially overhauling my entire college existence was so daunting. But when I finally owned up and made the change, it was the best decision of my life. I know it can be very difficult, financially, logistically, etc. But you can find a way to make it work. Don’t ever get stuck doing something you don’t love. You will regret it later.”Collin D. Clay, bachelor’s in chemistry
Notable: Collin has made a mark as an exceptional student in the Department of Chemistry. He is the vice president of the Chemistry Club, serves on the department’s Undergraduate Affairs Committee and was the department’s representative in a research exchange program in Dublin, Ireland. To cap it all off, he was selected as a Beckman scholar as a sophomore, providing him resources and support to enhance his development as a scientist.
“While at KU, I have had plenty of memorable experiences. Traveling to Ireland and DC, listening to President Obama speak, teaching students, and doing research. While all of these moments were in some way life changing, the most important experience I had at KU was meeting the people I call my friends and peers. The people I have met at KU have made my college experience a time I would not trade for anything, and getting to know people who are driven to make a positive change in this world makes me proud to be a Jayhawk.”Alexandra Erwin, doctorate in ecology & evolutionary biology
Notable: Alex was instrumental in raising funds for and the organizing of the first SEARCH (Scientists Exploring non-Academic caReer CHoices) symposium and the first Jayhawks Breaking Barriers event that aimed to increase awareness of the gender leadership gap in STEM, empower women through leadership and mentoring opportunities, and foster discussion about the gender leadership gap among university women and the community. Alex will be graduating in the spring and accepted a position created for her at BioKansas, a local life science non-profit, to lead their STEM workforce development and bring in grant funding. The job aligns perfectly with her interests and goals and will be a great first step in her career.
“Pursuing a Ph.D. in the sciences allowed me to develop a deep understanding of biological processes and the scientific method. Not only have I found this knowledge to be broadly applicable, but learning how to effectively distill and disseminate complex scientific information to the broader public has enhanced my communication skills. Independent scientific research also requires commitment, self-direction, self-reliance and resiliency for when barriers are encountered which happens often in science. These are essential skills that I am glad to have had an opportunity to strengthen. Additionally, I have developed a truly deep understanding of data including how to generate it, how to analyze it, and how to use it in the decision-making process, which is a powerful toolkit that I can utilize to work on a wide variety of issues. I’m so glad I chose to pursue a graduate degree at KU. A supportive environment is an integral part of pursuing a higher degree and I’m lucky to have had a great network of KU students, faculty, and administrators who helped me grow along the way. These long-lasting relationships are one of the greatest values from my time at KU.”Ben Rogers, doctorate in political science
Notable: Ben Rogers is receiving the 2018 Marnie and Bill Argersinger Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences! Ben graduates with honors based on a dissertation which showed how an algorithm could be used in political science. The algorithm was applied to old and new questions in political science, and its predictive capabilities were used to compare the advantage provided by the variables suggested by different theories. But the greatest privilege he had at the University of Kansas was serving as a teaching assistant, helping students to answer their own questions in political science.
“What KU gave me was a chance to excel by sharing the things I love with others. It taught me about what it meant to have a sense of your own worth, how to develop into something better through practice and pushing beyond the fears that we have with others’ help.” My advice: “Neil Gaiman once wrote that if you can write a minimum of 400 words a day, you can write a novel. It turns out that with appropriate preparation, the same holds true for a dissertation. When you’re thinking about an argument (especially if it includes numbers), always look for the advantage the person arguing gains if you believe them.”Hannah Schifman, bachelor’s in art history and psychology, with a minor in leadership studies and undergraduate certificates in global awareness, arts engagement, and leadership.
Notable: Hannah has made her mark here on the KU campus. She has been involved in multiple activities across KU including co-founding the KU Art History Club, co-founding Sigma Delta Tau sorority, participating in the Women’s Leadership Institute and being involved with Colors of KU, Hawk Week and KU Hillel. In 2017, she was a finalist for the Alumni Association’s Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Award. Hannah has also held a summer internship at Crystal Bridge Museum of Art, supporting their adult public programs department. After graduation, Hannah will be attending Marist College’s campus in Florence, Italy, to complete a master’s in museum studies to prepare for a career as a museum professional.
“I would be lost without the tremendous opportunities the University has to offer. Without the support systems I have gained over the years, I would not be as confident or ambitious in discovering what I am most passionate about. The flexibility of the College allowed me to take on a well-rounded educational experience without compromising my career goals. Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to say no.”
Sammy Badran, doctorate in political science
Notable: Sammy spent the 2016-2017 academic year on Fulbright Fellowship, conducting interviews throughout Morocco. He recently presented a chapter from his dissertation at a conference at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar. His dissertation concerns protest dynamics in Morocco during the Arab Spring. This Fall he will be a new Visiting Professor of Political Science at Saint Martin’s University in Lacy, Washington.
David Easley, bachelor’s in Chinese language & literature and in computer engineering
Notable: In his time at KU, David has made sure to get involved with his studies. After studying abroad in Hong Kong, David took up learning Mandarin. This led to a love of the language which helped form his college experience. After graduating, David and his wife (and cats!) will head to Kansas City for work.
“Take risks and jump on opportunities. This really takes a different form depending on your interests. Being an engaged student at KU, all sorts of people may ask you to do something or make you aware of events, and it is up to you to go out and participate.”Sara Neel, bachelor’s in art history, minor in French
Notable: For her History of Art capstone project, Sara took on the challenge of writing about the restoration and repurposing of the fourteenth century Chinese murals at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This paper, which she later presented at the Annual Undergraduate Art History Symposium at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, earned her an invitation to join the graduate seminar “Korea-Japan: Negotiating Art Old and New.” Alongside 10 East Asian art history graduate students in the seminar, Sara worked on her own research project about the proposed restoration of an amazing 17th century Japanese painted screens of dancers held by KU’s Spencer Museum of Art. After graduation, Sara plans to continue her education in art preservation.
“My most memorable experience as a KU student was the opportunity I had to study abroad in both Italy and France my junior year. With a great amount of help from the KU study abroad advisers, I was able to participate in two different programs. The first was an art history program in Florence, Italy in the fall of 2016, and the second program was a French language program in Angers, France in the spring of 2017. This was my first time traveling abroad and learning about and experiencing other cultures and traditions of various countries. I am forever grateful for the experiences and friendships I made while abroad, which would not have been possible without the benefit of being a student at KU.”Bronson Herrera, doctorate in political science
Notable: Bronson is a first generation college student and PhD. candidate in the Department of Political Science here at KU. In the fall, Bronson will be joining the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Northwest Missouri State University as an assistant professor. His primary duties will include teaching courses in American politics and policy, mentoring students, and conducting research. Bronson’s dissertation focuses on the role that religious identity plays in the formulation of opinion and its effects on policy adoption.
“Attending KU was the best decision, not only for me, but for my family as well. The mentorship and support that I received from the Political Science faculty was invaluable in my preparation to join the academy as a professor. They did so much to help me be the best student I could be while, supporting my decision to have a family. I hope to mentor my future students in a similar way and help them to achieve their goals.”
Jenna D’Ottavio Swanson, master’s in American studies, graduate certificate in peace & conflict studies
Notable: As a Kansas African Studies Center affiliated graduate student, Jenna gets it. She understands the complexities of the African continent and, as is evident from her work and service contributions as a graduate student, is committed to communicating that to the undergraduates she teaches, her colleagues, and the broader Lawrence community. This includes volunteering to teach Arabic at the Lawrence Juvenile Detention Center. Jenna plans to work toward a doctorate in ethnic studies with a focus on Arabic and Middle East studies.
“My favorite class is Arabic. It will forever be Arabic. Language learning is like a relationship— it must be nurtured. My second language acquisition at KU has equipped me with the skills to express my political views in cabs, read books without an English translation (although slowly), and make connections across Tunisia, the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Jordan, Morocco, and Egypt. Alf Shukran to our ustaz.”Alex Burdge, bachelor’s in environmental studies, minor in English
Notable: Alex is a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a great leader and activist who will be pursuing a Ph.D. in English here at KU.
“I came to KU with fairly clear ideas of where I wanted to end up after graduation, but my degree program exposed me to an incredible array of topics and allowed me to find skills and interests that I was completely unaware of. The interdisciplinary nature of Environmental Studies as well as the wonderful faculty have set me on my current path, the trajectory of which I never would have guessed on my first day here. Go to the office hours of your favorite professors, even if you don’t think you need to. The ideas that I have been exposed to and lessons that I have learned in one-on-one conversation are some of the most important and formative of my time at KU.”Kaitlyn Johnson, bachelor’s in Russian, East European & Eurasian studies, global and international studies, (focus in Latin American & Caribbean studies), Slavic language & literature (focus in Russian), and political science
Notable: With four degrees under her belt when she graduates, Kaitlyn has kept busy here at KU. Kaitlyn has studied abroad multiple times, which helped prepare her work with the U.S. State Department in DC. After graduating, Kaitlyn shows no signs of slowing down. She plans to head to Georgetown for her master’s, while interning with the State Department’s Office of European Security & Political Affairs.
“KU has allowed me to take advantage of a myriad of opportunities, including internships in DC, fellowships, study abroad, research abroad, and independent studies. Students should take advantage of every opportunity they can as early as possible. Do not wait until your junior or senior year to explore possibilities beyond classes.”Ylham Jorayev, bachelor’s in international studies (emphasis: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies)
Notable: Ylham is an extraordinary linguist with a passion for contributing his language and research skills to public service. Since arriving in the US from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Ylham has honed his language skills and is now fluent in Turkmen, Russian and English, with knowledge of French, Azeri, and Uzbek. While at KU, Ylham has serviced as a research assistant at the KU Institute for Social and Policy Research, supported by the prestigious Minerva grant and conducted his own research project as part of the Diplomacy Lab Project. He’s interned for a council member of the City of Berkley, taught English in Turkmenistan, and taught Russian to KU students in the Foreign Language Center. Next up, Ylham will start a master’s degree in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies.
“I’m originally from Turkmenistan. After graduating from KU this May, I’m planning to attend Georgetown University for my master’s degree in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies. Looking back at my experience at KU, I would like to mention the importance of networking at KU. Don’t be shy, get to know your professors and the research they work on. Knowing your professors and being friends with them can get you very far.”Marcus Williamson, doctorate in political science
Notable: Marcus has worked for numerous political campaigns during his professional career, including several during the 2014 and 2016 general election cycles, and the 2017 KS-04th special election, while at KU. He also served as Chair for the Second Congressional District with the Kansas Democratic Party. His dissertation, “Campaigning in Context: A Practical Statewide Study of Correlations between Campaign Contact Methods, Partisanship, Timing, Frequency, Population Density, and Regionalism on Voter Turnout,” focuses on bridging some of the gaps between practical campaign activity and academic study. He is currently an adjunct professor at Missouri Western State University.
“I plan on continuing my research and further peruse a teaching career. The KU faculty and campus community enabled me with the capacity to connect practice and academic political science. I now have many more tools to connect my experiences with scholarship. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my understanding of the field in a way that advances both practice and study.”Emma Easom, bachelor’s in philosophy and Spanish
Notable: Emma was a member of the LEAD Program here at KU – she’ll earn her B.A. + Law degree in just 6 years. She was a Hall Center and University Scholar and served in leadership roles in many KU activities. Emma also studied abroad in Buenos Aires. She will be attending KU Law to achieve her J.D. next year.
“I am an out of state student from Albuquerque, New Mexico, so moving away to college was a big step for me and my family. My independence and self-reliance have definitely grown while at KU as I have matured and created my own adventure. KU has fostered my curiosity and self-exploration in ways that I never expected when attending college. I have been able to become really involved with the Honors Program, the Hall Center for the Humanities and my majors’ departments while also maintaining a strong circle of friends. The Midwest has rubbed off on me in more ways than one. I say “Ope!” now whenever I bump into someone. I’ve learned about the importance of giving back to a place that has given you so much – I plan to return here often after I graduate. I am very grateful for all the memories I have made here.”Annie Landis (center), bachelor’s in English, minor in psychology
Notable: Annie is looking ahead to a career in higher education, a passion she discovered working on campus at KU. She has been admitted to a master’s program at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. As an undergraduate, she balanced a number of obligations by completing much of her coursework through the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences online degree completion program.
“I’ve grown so much throughout my time at KU. I’m definitely more open-minded and outgoing because of my time here. Looking back, I have so many faculty and staff to thank for all the help and support they’ve given me along the way. I would tell new and current students to use your faculty and staff as resources. I could have been involved in so much more exciting opportunities at KU had I started developing those mentor relationships earlier on. Faculty and staff really are eager and willing to help-so there’s no need to be nervous about asking them for it!”Thomas Dirth, doctorate in social psychology
Notable: Innovative. That’s the word repeated over and again when describing Thomas’ achievements in the classroom, in his research, and the solutions he helps find while advocating for an inclusive and accessible KU for all students. Passionate about improving understandings about diversity, particularly in relation to disability, Thomas has already published several academic papers and has served as graduate advisor to the campus organization “Ablehawks and Allies” and as graduate student representative on the Architectural Barriers Committee. Thomas’ hard work and expertise has secured him his first academic job at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
“I don’t think the ‘me’ that drove into Lawrence for the grad program interview 6 years ago would recognize the ‘me’ that is graduating. My experiences at KU have been transformative, both in the positive influence of my peers and mentors and the enriched academic environment that calls for perpetual self-reflexivity. I feel very confident moving on from KU to begin my career as a professor because of my everyday experiences at KU interacting with and being mentored by leaders in my field. Through the wealth of independent teaching and research experiences in my time at KU, I have also crafted an independent identity as an educator and scholar that can help to provide a clear heading in the years to come.”Emily Reno, bachelor’s in environmental studies, minor in Spanish
Notable: Emily will attend the University of Minnesota next year to pursue a master’s in urban and regional planning. She’s focusing her degree around food systems and how urban planners can better support the agricultural community. She’s taken advantage of many opportunities at KU, including study abroad, research, and the McNairScholars program.
“Aside from studying abroad in Australia, attending the spring banquet as a new McNair Scholar has been the most memorable moment for me because it was the first time I felt like I was where I belonged. Surrounded by other first-generation, minority students, and recognizing our accomplishments up to that point had me in tears because I didn’t realize that going to college was such a big deal. (While at KU), I have clarified many of my career and life goals, and become a much more independent thinker. I continue to dream big, but more strategically so that I don’t forfeit my personal health or time with family.”Allison Maxfield, bachelor’s in psychology, anthropology minor
Notable: After a 7 year break from KU, Allison returned in 2016 to finish her degree as an online student. Since her return she has been a straight-A student balancing a full time course load with work and ungraduated research. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in organizational psychology in the near future.
“Before my academic career at KU, I had little confidence in my academic ability. I left high school with limited dreams, believing that my only skills were as an artist. I’m happy to say that my time at KU has totally transformed me. I am now confident in my ability to use my many academic skills from writing to reading to researching and beyond. I have become someone who is known for their well-rounded academic intelligence, which is something I never thought I would hear. I take so much pride in the person I have become, and I have KU to thank for pushing me further than I ever thought possible.”
Tomas Green, bachelor’s in chemical engineering with a public policy minor
Notable: Tomas may be an engineering major, but when he looks to the future, the values of the College are close to his heart. As a student, Tomas was involved with my activities on campus, including student senate elections and studying abroad. After graduating, he plans to head to MIT to complete a master’s in policy and technology.
“I have changed more than I ever expected. Most notably, I changed my career trajectory from engineering to public policy. While I am keeping an emphasis on science and technology, I am now focusing on how to build a better connection between STEM and politics.”Chelsea Ren Morton, master’s in public administration, graduate certificate in peace & conflict studies
Notable: Ren was an intern for the League of Kansas Municipalities, where she was in charge of the Youth Education program. Last summer, she revamped all the league’s civic education pieces. Her work while interning led to her being hired by the league where she has worked while completing her degree.
“KU enjoys incredible professors. The time each of my professors has invested in my life, my goals, and my academic interests has allowed me to grow spherically in many directions. I can honestly say that I am an entirely different person in terms of my understandings and worldviews than I was when I started undergraduate, and again when I started graduate school. I believe I have become more open-minded, more compassionate, and more curious during my time here. I have definitely learned not only to ask questions, but to ask deeper questions to uncover the underlying assumptions and worldviews of the work we pursue.”
Mylls Cheffey, bachelor’s in psychology, minor in sociology
Notable: Mylls is an active duty member of the military who has completed his coursework while in the field. Completing his degree while serving has convinced at least one of his fellow soldiers to join the College’s online degree program as well. His future goal is to work on counseling veterans and to pursue a graduate degree.
“If there is something that you truly want or believe in you must find a way to accomplish it. Many people will stop when someone tells them that they cannot complete a task or that it is impossible. However, when I reflect I found myself doing homework for the University of Kansas on a C17 flying between Syria, Iraq and Qatar. It would have been easy to stop or not take as many classes when I was faced with adversity, but to me being a Jayhawk means more than just operating at a minimum level.”Eilish Gibson, bachelor’s in physics and classical antiquity
Notable: Eilish Gibson has reached for the stars at KU, and her list of achievements are stellar. In 2017, Eilish was awarded both the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship and the Astronaut Scholarship. That same year, Eilish flew out to the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to conduct research under the supervision of Prof. Alice Bean. Next stop? A doctorate in particle physics at the University of Oxford.
“When I started at KU, I was very enthusiastic about particle physics and really enjoyed reading Latin. My experience at KU empowered me to hone my raw passion for both subjects. While I still specialize in particle physics and reading Latin, I understand where my particular interests fit into the larger picture. KU has prepared me to pursue one of the most elusive frontiers of particle physics: the search for dark matter. The coursework in the physics department has prepared me to make the leap to Oxford, and the research experience that I’ve gained while working with Prof. Alice Bean and Prof. Phil Baringer has proven invaluable. Without either the coursework or the research experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on one of the hardest and least understood problems in modern physics. My most memorable experience as a KU student is undergraduate research. I had the unique opportunity to work with scientists from around the world, and I even got to travel to Geneva, Switzerland to work on site at the Large Hadron Collider (where the Higgs boson was discovered) for seven weeks. With help from the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, I won two national scholarships, the Goldwater Scholarship and the Astronaut Scholarship, for my undergraduate research. KU has prepared me to pursue one of the most elusive frontiers of particle physics: the search for dark matter.”Joshua Robinson, master’s of public administration (emphasis: City Management)
Notable: Joshua’s positive attitude shines through in all he has achieved at KU. Named a KU man of distinction in 2017, Joshua has thrown himself into various initiatives beyond his program including chairing the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government. All this while taking up an internship in Kansas City and landing a job as a Management Fellow for the City of Cedar Park, just outside Austin, Texas.
“The most memorable experience at KU was the opportunity of being the Conference Chair of the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government. This conference hosted over 500 students from across the Big XII and the country for leadership development, workshops, and keynote speakers. It was an honor to represent the University of Kansas and be the host school for this conference. I truly had the time of my life.”
There are some things that you just know you will always love doing. These passions shape your choices in college, and lead you to the type of work that makes you happy and fulfilled. For Megan Hanson, it was always science. And a future as a physician is now firmly on the horizon for this biology major and pre-medicine student.
But along the journey through life, it’s important to remain open to those interests that come out of the blue and surprise you. Megan started taking English classes as part of the pre-med requirements, and just didn’t want to stop. Several classes later, she added a major in English. Now, as Megan looks forward to graduating, she recognizes that those English classes have provided invaluable communications skills, an ability to synthesize lots of information, and an adeptness at connecting with people with different perspectives from all over the world. All of these skills and experience will translate perfectly as Megan continues on her chosen path to work as a physician and a policymaker.Megan explains why an English major is the perfect complement to science Be like Megan, check out KU’s degrees in biology and English, and information about premedicine at KU Megan’s KU story in three quotes