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Lilah Wilder goes to Washington as a Department of State intern

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 16:22

If you’ve been keeping up with headlines, you’ve probably noticed that stories involving diplomacy have been dominating the news cycle recently. As a Public Diplomacy intern with the U.S. Department of State’s Student Internship Program, KU senior Lilah Wilder gained hands-on experience and training in international relations and foreign policy, working directly with government officials and organizations whose works shape the political and social landscapes in societies across the globe.

Learn about Lilah’s adventures in the U.S. and overseas, how she plans to achieve her career goals, and how communication skills she developed in College classes prepared her for work in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of Press and Public Diplomacy.

Internship title and organization:

I was a Public Diplomacy intern working in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of Press and Public Diplomacy for the U.S. Department of State’s Student Internship Program in Washington, D.C.

 What were your responsibilities during the internship?

I was fortunate to not have a set list of duties during my internship, but rather to have the chance to work on many different projects throughout the internship. I coordinated meetings between State Department officials and professionals from the Middle East and North Africa who were visiting the U.S. through the International Visitor Leadership Program. After coordinating these meetings, I escorted the participants from the Middle East and North Africa throughout the building and even had the chance to moderate their discussions with officials during meetings entirely in Arabic.

Additionally, on my second day of work, I had the chance to set up for and attend the Ministerial Meeting for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. I also collaborated with other offices across the department to plan and organize the 2019 International Women of Courage Awards. On the day of the awards, I took on the role of escorting the International Woman of Courage from Jordan, Khalida al-Twal, to her meetings with State Department officials after First Lady Melania Trump recognized her accomplishments empowering women in the Jordanian Security Forces. I also escorted members of the press to different meetings during the 2019 NATO Ministerial, and I assisted in the planning for the 2019 Camp David Accords Celebration. I thoroughly enjoyed these opportunities to meet people from around the world and practice my French, Arabic, and even Spanish language skills.

One of my more long-term projects was curating press clips every morning on Iran and sending it out to the Department to keep officials updated on what was happening there. I also drafted fact sheets about Secretary Pompeo and other high-ranking officials’ upcoming meetings and conferences around the world and the foreign policy objectives those meetings were meant to achieve. Additionally, I analyzed public responses to U.S. embassies’ social media content regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote up a report based on that analysis, and sent it to Jason Greenblatt, the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Finally, I updated content on the State Department website and archived grant records for Near Eastern Affairs Public Diplomacy programs into Excel spreadsheets.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

My favorite part of the internship was definitely coordinating and moderating meetings between State Department officials and groups from the Middle East and North Africa for the International Visitor Leadership Program. We had several of these meetings every single week of my 4-month internship. During each meeting, I had the chance to practice speaking Arabic and French with the participants and learn about their incredible work as journalists, activists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and scholars in their home countries. My successful coordination of these meetings helped facilitate cross-cultural exchange and improve relations between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa on the people-to-people level.

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

From this internship, one of the first important things I gained was strong relationships with people in my field in Washington, D.C. My goal is to work in the U.S. Foreign Service, and thanks to this internship, I have gained close friendships and contacts with Foreign Service Officers and other State Department officials who have expressed their willingness to act as references for my job applications and have formed a crucial network that will help me achieve my career goals.

Additionally, I gained a strong understanding of how U.S. foreign policy is formed and shaped while working at the State Department, and I gained valuable skills that I can apply to almost any job after graduation. I learned to write much more concisely and effectively than in school, since government writing is about getting a complex point across in a quick, clear, easily-digestible way (and not in 12-page papers). I also improved my Arabic and French speaking skills in a professional setting, as well as my public speaking skills. Additionally, I gained computer skills by updating the State Department website and working with spreadsheets on a daily basis.

Lastly, I learned how to change the ink in a printer. Who knew something as basic as that would come out of this experience?

How had the classes you’d taken at KU, and in your majors and minors prepared you for the internship?

My classes in Arabic, French, Spanish, Islamic Studies, Environmental Geopolitics, and Comparative Politics are some examples of the coursework from my Global & International Studies major that definitely prepared me for my internship. These courses gave me strong Arabic, French, and Spanish speaking skills in order to interact more productively with visitors coming to the State Department all over the world and to represent the U.S. in a more positive light. The other courses I listed gave me strong writing skills and crucial background knowledge on the workings of the U.S. government and the histories, politics, and cultures of the countries that my office works with on a daily basis. I quickly gained the respect of my colleagues by demonstrating that I had this essential political and cultural knowledge.

Have you been part of any study abroad programs at KU?

I studied abroad twice during my time at KU. First, I studied in an intensive Arabic language program at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco during the summer of 2017. This was my first time living for an extended period of time in a foreign country and my first time to the African continent. It was one of the most eye-opening, impactful experiences of my life and allowed me to gain an incredible amount of independence and confidence in myself.

During the fall semester of 2017, I then studied at IAU College in Aix-en-Provence, France. I lived with a host family who didn’t speak English, so this opportunity allowed me to finally immerse myself in the French language and become fluent after seven years of study. I also had the chance to travel to eight different countries outside of France during that semester and see a lot of Europe.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After graduation, I am hoping to work as a Program Assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace or at the State Department in Washington, D.C. I am currently applying for these kinds of positions and have interviews in D.C. in a couple of weeks. Eventually, I plan to go to graduate school and get a Master’s Degree in International Affairs. My ultimate goal is to join the U.S. Foreign Service, and although I have passed the Foreign Service Officer Test and have made it through the second round of the selection process, I expect that it will take several years before I can make it through all three rounds and be selected for the Foreign Service.

Give a shout-out to someone to a prof, advisor or someone else who has been influential during your time at KU:

There have been so many people during my college career who have helped me get to where I am today, and I wish I could recognize all of them! However, I would definitely say that my Honors Advisor, Dr. Marc Greenberg, has been one of the most active sources of support in everything I have done in the past four years, from studying abroad, to interning in Washington, D.C., to being involved on campus. One of the first courses I took at KU was an Honors Seminar taught by Dr. Greenberg that inspired my love for learning languages and pushed me to start learning Arabic at KU. Although I never took any other classes with Dr. Greenberg, I have met with him many times over the past four years to talk about my career goals, get advice, and update him on what I am pursuing. He has written me countless recommendation letters and always believed in my ability to achieve my goals. Thank you Dr. Greenberg!

I would also really like to recognize Professor Antje Ziethen and Professor Christine Bourgeois in the French Department for taking my French reading and writing skills to the next level, for always taking an interest in my goals, and for supporting me in my Fellowship and Fulbright applications!

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

One of the benefits of being in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has simply been being exposed to students from diverse backgrounds holding diverse interests, perspectives, and talents in my classes! I have talked to Engineering and Pre-Med students who have told me that their classrooms have been very different than mine, as most of the students in their classes have the same interests and goals, and they have had to join clubs and other organizations in order to get exposure to diversity at KU.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Although it is important to get good grades, you don’t need to pull so many all-nighters to balance school, work, and a social life! Manage your time more efficiently and find that happy, healthy medium between slacking off and taking school way too seriously to the point of stress. Enjoy your youth and get more sleep so you live longer! Haha.

What motivates you?

I have always been very self-motivated, constantly reminding myself of my career goals and where my hard work will eventually take me in order to stay dedicated. 

Be like Lilah. Stay dedicated to your goals. For more information, explore the Center for Global & International Studies, the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Middle East Studies, the Department of African and African-American Studies, and Study Abroad & Global Engagement at the University of Kansas. Also see the U.S. Department of State’s Student Internship Program and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of Press and Public Diplomacy.

Unwinding: Dave Tell on race, memory and the legacy of Emmett Till

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:26

What does it mean to commemorate a moment in time? For Professor of Communication Studies Dave Tell, commemorating the legacy of the murder of Emmett Till has taken him on a journey from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. As part of the Emmett Till Memory Project, Tell has worked with Till’s family to help shepherd his story and to preserve his memory. Hear Tell discuss his latest book Remembering Emmett Till, how he came to be involved with the Emmett Till Memory Project, and his work with memory, race and place on the latest episode of Unwinding.

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 to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. The conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a production by KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 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.

Photo credits: University Daily Kansan

Hawks to Watch: Brett Striker, Entrepreneur

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:13
Why Brett’s a Hawk to Watch:

Fair warning: You might want to grab a snack before reading about our November Hawk to Watch, Brett Striker, CEO and founder of the Minneapolis-based popcorn company Maddy & Maize. At Maddy & Maize, Brett and his team are feeling the holiday rush in full force, popping up small batches of chocolate-covered, caramel-drizzled, sprinkle-coated gourmet goodness to satisfy the appetites of a hungry seasonal market.

A career that requires being surrounded by popcorn may sound delightful, but Brett’s road to entrepreneurship was often an uphill struggle, with numerous obstacles and rejections along the way. But with a solid understanding of people from his KU degree in psychology, and a determined, ‘keep at it’ mindset, he was able to turn his vision into a delicious reality.

Check out what Brett had to say about his experiences with business start-up, how Maddy & Maize came to be, and see what kernels of wisdom (pun 100% intended) he has to share with KU students and aspiring entrepreneurs. Discover why Brett’s a Hawk to Watch.

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

I am the Founder & CEO of a popcorn company called Maddy & Maize.

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 knew that I wanted to own my own business, but I didn’t have a clue as to what type of business it would be. I spent years coming up with ideas in my head – whether it was an idea for an app or taking an existing business model and trying to figure out how I could improve upon it, or simply developing a completely new business that didn’t exist yet. I was pretty obsessive about it.

Eventually, when I thought that I actually had an idea that had some legs to it, I’d research what it would take to get started and then try to find a way to raise some money. I did this for many years and with multiple business ideas that resulted in enough “no’s” to last a lifetime, but it was absolutely necessary for me. Although it was a long and difficult process, I learned so much about business. I began to develop new perspectives as a result of talking to smarter people than I who either explained why my ideas wouldn’t work or would ask me questions that I hadn’t yet thought of. So, in one sense, it wasn’t necessarily a moment when things came together because it took years; however, I do remember the exact moment when I had the idea for popcorn. Finally, after everything I had learned, this idea made some sense. Now, I just had to figure out how to make it! 

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievement so far, without a doubt, is that I haven’t given up. Starting this business has been so much harder than I would’ve ever expected – and I expected it to be extremely hard – but, I never let myself give up despite wanting to so many times.

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

There have been many days when I felt so down and defeated that I couldn’t even move. I have no doubt that I will face more days like that in the future, but I’ve learned to never get too up or too down. I guess the key for me is expecting low moments and viewing them as opportunities. I know it’s cliché, but it’s truly how I view any obstacles in front of me. I feel fortunate that from a very young age, my mom would always stress to me that I need to look at every bump in the road as an opportunity to learn and grow. I’ve definitely become mentally stronger over the years, but fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t know how a person can learn and grow unless they also experience challenges along the way. 

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be in a financial position where I can mentor and invest in aspiring entrepreneurs and growing businesses.

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

I’d probably tell myself that the years right out of college are going to be extremely challenging, and although it might seem from the outside that all of your friends look as if they are happy, successful, love doing what they are doing and have it all together, that probably isn’t the case.  They are all just like me. We are all freaking out about not knowing what we want to do with our lives and looking around as if we are the only one. But rather than doing something that seems like it will make you a lot of money, it is actually the time to enjoy the unknown. Take risks. If nothing else, you’ll learn what you don’t want to do and meet awesome people along the way. Oh, and 30 isn’t old at all. It’s not some magic age where you need to have it all figured out. But the 18-year-old me probably still wouldn’t have believed me!

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Meet with people that make you feel intimidated. Ask to meet with them for a coffee and pick their brain for advice. Don’t worry if you don’t really have any deep questions to ask. You’ll quickly start to feel more comfortable around people and in situations that make you nervous the more you put yourself out there. Networking is crucial and those are the type of people you should be looking to meet. One of my favorite quotes, even though I don’t have a clue who said it and I’m likely paraphrasing it is, “everything you’ve ever wanted is just outside of your comfort zone.”

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

My degree taught me a lot about people and how they think. I learned that we all have our own internal struggles, and for the most part, we are all trying our best.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I don’t really ever truly “clock out” but I try to hang out with my friends and relax as much as possible. I like to read and workout, but the truth of the matter is I need to do a better job of turning it off. 

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I have a twin sister named Erin who also graduated from KU. She’s pretty cool.

Be like Brett. Chase what excites you, even it takes you out of your comfort zone. For more information, visit the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas and Maddy & Maize.

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. 

Starting the dialogue: Jeff Thompson and Thomas Angel tackle health issues with new podcast

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 11:18

Issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and male relationships can make for sensitive topics of conversation for some, but two nontraditional students in the KU College have built a podcast devoted to tackling those subjects and more.

Jeff Thompson and Thomas Angel, who are both studying in the College on a pre-med track, quickly hit it off as friends and bonded over their common interests. Jeff, who has Type 1 diabetes, and Thomas, who comes from a poverty-stricken community and served in the U.S. military, wanted to share their passion for helping others with the world. And one morning, over 5:00a.m. cups of coffee, they landed on the idea of starting a podcast to help reduce stigma, promote healthy living, and encourage open discussion about health issues that affect millions of people.

Learn about Thomas and Jeff’s journey as nontraditional students at KU, launching The Kensington Corner podcast, and their goal of spreading mental and physical health through their careers and honest dialogue.

Why did you choose your majors and minors? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study?

Jeff: I chose my major because it’s a science major that I was interested in and really felt it encompassed all the bases moving forward towards the end goal of becoming a doctor. There wasn’t really a moment, but it interfaced well with the desire to get into medicine. The journey has been fun, scary quitting job as an adult, but as a non-traditional student it’s an opportunity to redeem myself in college now.

Thomas: I chose Italian because I love the culture and language and wanted to have a foreign language heading into Med School. I was incredibly interested in Behavioral Neuroscience because I love all aspects of neuro, curious about how the brain works, why we behave the way we do and the evolution of the human brain. I really knew I wanted to do both of these coming back in. The journey from military to now has been humbling, I’m excited to be back in school.

Tell us about your podcast, The Kensington Corner. Where did the idea come from, and what do you hope to achieve through the project? What life experiences informed your approach to the podcast?

Thomas: Our podcast aims to help promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy conversation. The idea came from Jeff and I having a morning coffee around 5 am a couple times a week. We were having great conversations and decided we wanted to share that with the world and invite other people in. We believe every human being is unique and wanted to showcase that. My time in the military really shaped my view of the world and helped form the idea of becoming a doctor and helping people. Jeff has been working well over a decade in the civilian field and has Type 1 diabetes which leads him to wanting to help others in ways that I could never understand. We share a common understanding of wanting to be better people and help others achieve that as well.

How do you apply lessons or skills you’ve gained in your majors to your podcast work?

We would actually say it’s vice versa; we use our communication skills that we develop on the podcast in daily interactions with peers, professors and advisors. The podcast has given us an outlet to learn and understand more about the world and the individuals who roam it.

Do you have any advice for others about how to begin to have more open dialogues about some of the issues you discuss in The Kensington Corner, such as mental health, PTSD, anxiety, and male relationships?

Be open and honest. Don’t be ashamed of anything and know that there are people out here who care and want to help. That approach is a good way to lead by example who are going through dark times and maybe need a lift out of the slump they’re in.

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

Ally Stanton and Keon Stowers of the Alumni Association have been beneficial in our success here at KU.

The professor that I would say we’d like to give the most credit to our success is Shaui Sun. He’s a kind, caring individual who really gets the students. He does not get the credit in his department that he should.

What have your experiences as a nontraditional student at KU been like?

Overall a very positive experience. Being non-traditional gives you an entirely different perspective that your peers probably don’t understand. It is energizing to be around the younger generation because we’re learning more daily about ourselves than maybe we would if we were around like-minded individuals our age all the time. It’s a refreshing feeling, we’re basically kids again.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Jeff: Intelligence and talent isn’t a substitute for hard work.

Thomas: Slow down, be patient. It will all come with time.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Both of us want to be doctors. Of course, Jeff and I are very different, he is leaning towards the trauma side of medicine whereas I’m interested in the brain/psych side. We just both hope we’re healthy and somewhat successful and happy in our careers.

What motivates you?

Jeff: The desire to get into med school and make a positive impact in my community.

Thomas: I come from a poverty-stricken area, so just knowing I never want to live like that again.

Be like Jeff and Thomas. Start a dialogue about the issues that matter to you. For more information, explore the Undergraduate Biology Program, the Department of Psychology, and the Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies at the University of Kansas. And check out The Kensington Corner podcast. Feature image photo by Kathy Hanks at the Lawrence Journal-World.

Unwinding with Joy Ward: Ecologist

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 15:01

By now you’ve heard about climate change affecting weather cycles and sea levels, but a less discussed element of rising carbon dioxide levels is changes to vegetation. Associate Dean for Science Research Joy Ward and her team are seeking answers to questions about how plants respond under different climate conditions by simulating carbon dioxide levels in a lab setting. Learn more about Associate Dean Ward’s research and how she first became interested in working with plants on our latest episode of Unwinding.

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 to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. The conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a production by KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 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.

Habitat: Explore where KU theatre & dance get their threads

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 09:11

Housing thousands of costumes from decades of productions, the Costume Shop turns out new designs each season for KU’s Department of Theatre & Dance. Go inside this creative space to see where it all gets stitched together.

For more information, explore the Department of Theatre & Dance and the KU School of the Arts at the University of Kansas.

Jayhawk entrepreneur Paige Albert makes a splash with KC bridal boutique

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 11:06

Have you ever dreamed of being your own boss? For KU alumna Paige Albert, the idea of running a business had long been an exciting possibility for a future career. So when approached about buying a small bridal boutique in the Crossroads District in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, only six months after being hired on and with a year of university study still ahead of her, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. In January 2018, Paige became the new owner of Something White Bridal Boutique.

Check out Paige’s advice for aspiring Jayhawk entrepreneurs, and discover how she was able to pursue her passion with a major in Communication Studies, a minor in Business, and a certificate in Entrepreneurship from KU.

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

I’m from Andale, Kansas – just outside of Wichita. I decided to come to KU because my mom is Jayhawk Alumni and I knew KU would make me a more well-rounded person. I also liked that Lawrence is far enough from home but still close enough to do a day trip if I ever needed to. AND, the basketball atmosphere isn’t bad either. Lawrence has always felt like home to me, even before I came to KU!

Why did you choose your major and minor? And how do they complement each other?

After switching my major a million times, I chose communication because it seemed general enough to not close any opportunities off. Because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time, something general seemed like a good choice. My business minor was more of what I wanted to do, but didn’t add any time onto my already prolonged time at KU. I think the two complement each other in every way possible.

Tell us about your business, Something White Bridal Boutique. How did you decide to start your own business, and what has that experience been like?

Something White Bridal opened its doors in 2014 in the Crossroads District of Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Something White caters exclusively to brides and offers a diverse selection of bridal gowns from designers around the world. We are a small, intimate boutique and pride ourselves on giving our brides the best experience possible, from the day we meet until after their big day! 

I began my journey at Something White in 2016 and was approached about purchasing the boutique just six months after my initial start date. As a full-time student, taking on a fully functioning business sounded terrifying, but I truly believe that life is about opportunity and it doesn’t always come knocking, so when it does you have to go for it. I officially became the owner of Something White in January of 2018 and haven’t looked back!

So far, my experience has been full of growth in every way. From learning how to manage a team to renovating the boutique and juggling my last year of college and the shop all at once – it’s been a whirlwind. I can honestly say that Something White Bridal is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and the friendships and experiences I’ve encountered in just 14 months makes me so excited for the future.

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

I think that KU made me so much more open minded as a person. Learning about other cultures and ways of life is beneficial in any career and comes in handy every day. I also think that I learned really practical skills within my major and minor.

What was your favorite class at KU? And why?

ENTR 303 with Charlotte Tritch and COMS 440 with Adrianne Kunkle – FOR SURE. I learned so much about marketing with Charlotte and with Adrianne I gained a more worldly view of struggles I will never experience.

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

Charlotte Tritch and Lisa Bergeron were both amazing to me. I learned so much from both of them and they showed so much grace and understanding when it came to my schedule of school and work. Plus, I’m pretty sure they are the reason I get to be a part of fun features for KU like this!

What advice would you give to KU students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs?

Do it! It’s so incredibly worth it in every way. Make as many connections as you can and don’t take “no” for an answer. If there’s a will, there’s a way. 

What would you tell your freshman self?

GO TO CLASS. SERIOUSLY. And also, it’s cool if you don’t get an “A” on everything. It’s not the end of the world, just get through it and learn from it. Again, make connections and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

What’s your best KU memory?

My freshman year was the best year ever. Living in the dorms was a blast and I loved every second of it. Every basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse was also amazing and I’m really bummed about not having student tickets anymore. BUT, singing the Alma Matter at graduation was amazing. It’s so bittersweet to leave KU but the feeling of being Jayhawk Alumni is such a proud moment and it’s so fun to experience with your classmates! 

What motivates you?

My mom. She’s the hardest working person I know and exemplifies a class act to me. I want to be the best version of myself to make her proud and I want to provide for my future family the way my mom has for us. I would be nowhere without my mom and I owe everything to her.

Be like Paige. When opportunity knocks, answer. For more information, explore the Department of Communication Studies, the School of Business, and KU Entrepreneurship Programs at the University of Kansas. Also, check out Paige’s business, Something White Bridal Boutique.

Hawks to Watch, Julie Mulvihill, Nonprofit director and humanities advocate

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 15:34

Why Julie’s a Hawk to Watch:

Every great movement begins with an idea. And when Kansans from diverse backgrounds come together to share their experiences, ask the right questions, and exchange ideas, the possibilities are endless, something that Julie Mulvihill knows well from her years bringing public programming to the Sunflower State.

At Humanities Kansas, located in Topeka, Julie and her team are joining forces with partners statewide around the shared goal of “leading a movement of ideas across Kansas” — a movement fueled by public work in the humanities. And as executive director, Julie is leading the nonprofit’s efforts to connect Kansas’ communities by sharing its stories, values, history and culture, and exploring what it means to be a Kansan today in the 21st century.

Discover how Julie’s KU degrees and experiences allowed her to apply her passion for storytelling and people outside of the classroom, and led to a career where she’s able to collaborate with the public, as well as staff at places like the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, on projects centered on the humanities. Because every big idea is grounded in the human experience.

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

I am the Executive Director of Humanities Kansas, an independent nonprofit leading a movement of ideas across Kansas. Since our founding in 1972, we’ve pioneered programming, grants, and partnerships in the belief that stories carry our culture and ideas change the world.

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

There are two experiences when the humanities clicked for me. I didn’t recognize it as “the humanities” then, but more of a strong attraction to fiction, as well as history. I remember going to KU’s Natural History Museum in elementary school and learning about the Galapagos Islands and sitting there on my carpet square up on the 6th floor and thinking, “there is a whole world out there that I know nothing about” and feeling like it was an important responsibility to know more. Books did this for me too.

In the summertime, my family went to Lawrence once a week on Wednesday mornings. And every Wednesday morning we made stops at the bank, post office, library, and grocery store. The stop at the Lawrence Public Library was, by far, the highlight and we would walk out of there with stacks of books. I started with Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown, and then became impossibly hooked on historical fiction during elementary and middle school. Reading is still my favorite thing to do. I never really thought of this line of work as a profession, and nonprofit work wasn’t something I knew anything about. But, fifteen years after the Galapagos Island presentation, I was attending KU and got a job at the Natural History Museum assisting with their public education camps right up there on the 6th floor.

After graduating and realizing classroom teaching wasn’t for me, I thought back about how much I loved the learning that happened within the museum environment. From there I went on to become the curator of education at the Johnson County Museum and then at the Kansas Historical Society. Each step of that journey had the humanities at its core – the connection between people and place over time and across generations. After getting over my intimidation about being an executive director, I was beyond excited to get offered the job at Humanities Kansas. To help make civic engagement opportunities through the humanities available to more Kansans? Yes, please! The humanities provide an encouragement, an expectation that we have the ability to see beyond ourselves. It’s the best work ever.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Our work with saving democracy. It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. The public work that we do at Humanities Kansas is centered around the big, bold idea that democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. What better lens to do this than the humanities? The humanities help us ask good questions: what do we value, what do we owe to one another, and where do we make adjustments to prepare for generations to come?  Our work is grounded in this idea that the human experience is worthy of our attention. It’s an extraordinary call to action and every day I get the opportunity to help make more of these conversations happen in Kansas. As a job perk, I get to do this with many, many partners, including board members and fellow staff members, and Kansans from all across the state.

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

I don’t consider any of my job experiences a low point. For my first two jobs, I spent my days alphabetizing, filing, and answering the telephone. I’ve sat at a front desk, sold shoes, cleaned bathrooms at a historic site, and taught school in a turn-of-the-century schoolmarm costume. I have learned something at every single job. Here’s the deal, though: If that job is not your thing, keep moving forward.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Wouldn’t it be great if in 10 years every community in Kansas, regardless of size, location, and prosperity, had ample access to dynamic and innovative cultural programming and resources? It’s the movement of ideas, Humanities Kansas will lead the way, and I hope and plan to be instrumental in this success. So, Hawks out there? Let’s do this together and make welcoming places where Kansans of all backgrounds can share insights and ideas to make our communities stronger. Together we can spark new ideas about what it means to be a Kansan in the 21st century.

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

Don’t be so hard on yourself. There’s almost always another option or another plan b.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Stay curious and pay attention. Every meeting gives you the opportunity to connect to something or someone new, and you never know where that may lead. Who could predict that a farm kid from Billtown would eventually get hired to run an awesome organization, and work with many smart, imaginative, and civic-minded Kansans, as well as with staff at the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities? I have a hard time believing it myself and I never take it for granted. 

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

KU taught me the skills I needed to be organized, empathetic, and creative. I use these daily in my job whether I’m analyzing reports, raising money, or brainstorming program directions.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

Read. I’m the proud owner of three library cards. I’d love to have more.   

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I was going to use my line about owning three library cards here but I realized that wouldn’t surprise anyone, so how about this: I was really into 4-H growing up. I held every office as a “Go-Getter,” became a 4-H ambassador, and showed and sold cattle. I still have one of my 4-H t-shirts from the early 1980s, which I keep next to my original KU sweatshirt from my freshman year in 1987.

Be like Julie. Be part of a movement that matters. For more information, visit the School of Education, the Museum Studies Program, and the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas. Also, explore Humanities 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. 

Earn credit in the KU Core with these 11 College classes

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 14:41

Looking to fulfill some KU Core credits next semester? Take a class in a subject that you’re passionate about or you’d like to learn more about! Classes in the Core can be a great opportunity to explore new topics, get a feel for classes in a particular major, or to take a breather from classes in your field of study. Don’t know where to start? We have some suggestions. Check out these 11 classes you can take in the Spring semester and earn Core credits.

ART 101 Art – Drawing I

Drawing allows us to communicate complex ideas, moods, and emotions through visual expression. It gives us a way to build a world of our own making through line and shading. If you’re hoping to get creative this Spring, check out Drawing I and other classes offered in the KU School of the Arts!

Introductory study of Drawing with emphasis on tools, techniques and observational development. Studio class includes intensive in-class exercises, lectures, images, and assignments. Students develop a formal fine arts vocabulary and gain verbal and written skills in critical analysis through individual and group critiques. Six hours scheduled studio activity and approximately six hours outside work weekly. Prerequisite: Must be a major or minor in the Department of Visual Art or receive instructor permission. Satisfies: Goal 3 Arts and Humanities (GE3H), H Humanities (H)

PHIL 140 Philosophy – Introduction to Philosophy

Pop quiz! This should be easy:

  1. What does it mean to live a good life?
  2. What does a just society look like?
  3. How do you know what you know?
  4. Are we free? How do you know?
    Okay, maybe it isn’t so easy… Get a dose of wisdom this Spring in Introduction to Philosophy, and explore ideas and questions that major philosophers have grappled with throughout history.

An introductory examination, based primarily on writings of major philosophers, of such central philosophical problems as religious belief, the mind and its place in nature, freedom and determinism, morality, and the nature and kinds of human knowledge. Satisfies: Goal 1 Outcome 1 (GE11) ,  Goal 3 Arts and Humanities (GE3H), H Humanities (H), HR Philosophy & Religion PC (HR)

ENGL 209 English – Introduction to Fiction

Being able to tell a story effectively comes in handy in any career. Learn about the techniques involved in creating a compelling narrative by exploring works from some of the great masters of prose fiction in the English language in Intro to Fiction.

In-depth reading of and writing about prose fiction with emphasis on critical analysis of a variety of narrative types from different historical periods. Prerequisite: Completion of ENGL 101 and ENGL 102, or their equivalent. Satisfies: Goal 1 Outcome 1 (GE11), Goal 2 Outcome 1 (GE21), Goal 3 Arts and Humanities (GE3H), H Humanities (H)

GEOG 102 Geography – People, Place, and Society

It’s no secret that the impact of the human species on the natural world has been profound. For a better understanding of the complex relationship between humans, our activities and social systems, and the environments we live in, check out People, Place, and Society.

An examination of the relationships between humans and their environments. The course introduces students to basic concepts in human geography relating to economic activities, landscapes, languages, migrations, nations, regions, and religions. Serves as the basis for further course work in cultural, economic, political, population, and urban geography. Satisfies: Goal 4 Outcome 2 (AE42), Goal 3 Social Sciences (GE3S), S Social Science (S), SC Culture & Society PC (SC)

HA 261 History of Art – Introduction to Modern Art

Whether you’re inspired or perplexed by it, there’s no denying that modern art provokes strong emotional responses from audiences. But what social, political, and scientific movements led to the birth of what we call modern art? What ideas and motivations drove artists to create works associated with the movement, and how did those works reflect artists’ place in the modern world? Find out in Introduction to Modern Art.

This course considers the efforts of artists to explore and represent their place in the modern world. The political, industrial, and scientific revolutions of the late 18th and 19th centuries in the West overturned the certainties of traditional authority and liberated artists to raise new questions. Innovations ranged from Impressionism’s light-filled landscapes to Surrealism’s dream imagery, Abstract Expressionism’s paint-spattered canvases, and Pop Art’s celebration of consumer culture. This course addresses these and other modern art movements, emphasizing developments in Europe and the United States through the late 20th century and concluding with international contemporary art in an age of globalization. Intended for non-majors. Satisfies: Goal 3 Arts and Humanities (GE3H), H Humanities (H), HT Historical Studies PC (HT)

POLS 150 Political Science – Introduction to Comparative Politics

If you’re alive in 2019, you’ve probably noticed that people have a lot of opinions when it comes to politics. For a better understanding of the various political systems that societies have been governed by, the components that make up those systems, and how political structures change over time, check out Introduction to Comparative Politics.

An introduction to the comparative study of political systems emphasizing governmental structures, parties, electoral techniques, and recent trends in the field. The course also considers major differences between (1) representative and autocratic systems, and (2) developed and underdeveloped nations. Satisfies: Goal 4 Outcome 2 (AE42), Goal 3 Social Sciences (GE3S),  S Social Science (S), SF Public Affairs PC (SF)

REES 110 Russian & East European Studies – Understanding Russia & East Europe

Understanding Russia and Eastern Europe is a bit like, well, a Russian Doll: there are multiple layers that one needs to grasp. Luckily, Understanding Russia & East Europe will introduce you to a variety of the region’s fascinating and complex issues, from history and politics to languages, ethnicities, and religions, through a mix of movies and readings.

A multidisciplinary introduction to Russia and Eastern Europe. The course explores the geography, history, and politics of this complex region, as well as the diverse cultures, ethnicities, languages, and religions. A special focus of the course is the current socio-political situation in Russia and Eastern Europe in the context of the fall of communism nearly 30 years ago and the ongoing post-communist transition. Students in the course watch one feature film from Russia or Eastern Europe per week as a visual representation of issues discussed via scholarly articles and chapters, newspaper articles and news clips, video lectures, documentary and animated films, music videos, and literature. This course is offered at the 100 and 300 level with additional assignments at the 300 Level. Not open to students with credit in REES 310. Satisfies: Goal 4 Outcome 2 (AE42), H Humanities (H), SC Culture & Society PC (SC), World Culture (W)

AAAS 105 African & African-American Studies – Introduction to African History

Are you curious about people, places, and day to day life around the world? Take a class that will expand your knowledge of other cultures and people across the globe! In Introduction to African History, you’ll gain a better understanding of contemporary societies in Africa through the continent’s history, religion, arts, langues, and more.

An introduction to the interdisciplinary study of African cultures and societies focusing on contemporary life on the continent. Topics to be covered include the geography, history, politics, and economics of the continent, as well as the religion, languages and literatures, music, and the arts. The interdisciplinary perspective will provide students with a sound basis for understanding contemporary African societies. Satisfies: Goal 3 Social Sciences (GE3S), NW Non-Western Culture (NW), S Social Science (S), SC Culture & Society PC (SC), World Culture (W)

THR 106 Theatre – Acting I

Whether you plan to take the stage in a Shakespearean production, have dreams of seeing yourself on the silver screen, or just want to try out something new, Acting I is sure to bring a boost of creative energy to your semester. In this introductory course, you’ll test and improve your acting chops and get tips on body language, character creation, and speech techniques.

Fundamental techniques in acting. Practice in character creation, body language, and effective stage speech. Satisfies: Goal 3 Arts and Humanities (GE3H), H Humanities (H), HL Literature & the Arts PC (HL)

WGSS 333 Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies – Politics of Physical Appearance

Pale versus tanned, thin versus curvy, long locks of hair versus bob cut. From hairstyle and fashion to skin tone and body type, societies’ standards of beauty for women are constantly changing. In Politics of Physical Appearance, you’ll look past surface appearances to examine ways that standards of attractiveness have evolved over time, and the social and political impact of these shifting ideals.

An interdisciplinary analysis of standards of physical attractiveness and cultural conceptions of women’s bodies. Includes analysis of how these standards change across time and cultural groups, and of the impact of these standards on women as individuals and on social and political outcomes. Satisfies: Goal 4 Outcome 1 (AE41), Goal 1 Outcome 1 (GE11), S Social Science (S)

SLAV 320 Slavic Language and Literature – Graphic Novels as Memory: Representations of the Holocaust and Communism

Most of us are familiar with memoirs and novels that deal with war, political movements, and tragedies of history like the Holocaust, but graphic novels exploring similar themes are often overlooked. In Graphic Novels as Memory, you’ll discover the relationship between graphic novels and memory of the Holocaust and communism.

This course examines the connection between graphic novels and memory as an approach to critical reading and writing about literary works. This is a writing instructive and writing intensive course designed to expand student knowledge about the relationship between genres, audiences and contexts. Satisfies: Goal 2 Outcome 1 (GE21), H Humanities (H)

Note: These classes are offered across all semesters. Check out the schedule of classes to see what’s available in upcoming semesters.

Marissa Duckett bridges natural and social sciences

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 08:33

“Remember what you’re here for.” It’s a simple reminder that can have a major impact. For KU senior Marissa Duckett, that means pushing herself daily to study the relationship between the environment and human health to better understand health disparities that exist in black, brown, and queer communities. In her research in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, she’s seeking to complicate traditional notions of health by considering not just the human body, but also environmental factors that affect the global microbiome, to address those disparities.

Learn about Marissa’s research, which bridges natural and social sciences, her public health service experiences abroad, and the KU mentors and organizations that provided a support network on her journey to becoming the scientist she is today.

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?

I am interested in the environment and how human health relates to environmental conditions especially in the spread of infectious diseases. I liked infectious diseases coming into college but freshman year I took Environmental Ethics with Alex Boynton and that was when I knew I needed to tie in the environment with whatever I did. I was under the impression microbiology was anthropocentric. Last year, I found Dr. Jennifer Roberts in the Department of Geology and absolutely loved her take on microbiology and realized microbiology could be environmental; I jumped into her lab immediately. Microbiology is a broad and versatile field of study, and I’ve been intrigued and appropriately challenged with my coursework all three years.

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.

I think my research complicates the definition of health. Our bodies are the center of our individual health, but environmental factors affect your body and the global microbiome, so there’s way more to consider in human health than has been traditionally thought.

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

It takes a village, but I’ll keep it short, otherwise I’d write a book. Lindsey Deaver, Mulu Lemma, Dr. Simone Savannah, Ed Healy, and Dr. Justin Blumenstiel among several others have helped me so much.

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

The Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) helped me adjust to living out of state and provided me with several resources that shaped the scientist and student I am today. Without the foundation and support I got from MSP I wouldn’t have been involved with all of the organizations I’ve participated in and I probably would have transferred schools. Transferring after my first year was my original plan, but MSP made KU so lovable and resourceful that I had to stay.

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

What I want to research is a bridge between natural science and social science, so it’s very beneficial to talk diversity with my humanities friends. It’s a great way to identify the needs of black, brown, and queer communities and strategize viable initiatives in those communities for both disciplines.

Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share?

During summer 2017, I led a Global Brigades public health service trip of 14 volunteers to Nicaragua. In summer 2018, I got to conduct epidemiological research and volunteer in underserved communities through Louisiana State University in New Orleans. And during summer 2019, I got to conduct field research with Dr. Jennifer Roberts and Bryan Rodriguez-Colón in Puerto Rico for my microbial geochemical research at KU. Over the summer, I also interned with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston studying gonorrhea.

I’ve done a lot with my time at KU and I’m grateful for all the programs I’m in. I wouldn’t be the same person or scientist without these experiences or the programs (Multicultural Scholars Program, McNair, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) that helped me get accepted into these research experiences.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Don’t let a single class determine your ability to complete your major. Also READ THE BOOK!

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

I am currently applying to Ph.D. programs in environmental health sciences, toxicology, and public health sciences across the country. Where I’ll be in a year is anyone’s guess.

What motivates you?

When I’m super stressed I tell myself “remember what you’re here for.” It’s pretty applicable for everything, but at the end of the day it is a reminder. I need to build the skills and education to put me in a place where I can alleviate heath disparities in black and brown communities.

Be like Marissa. For more information, explore the Department of Molecular Biosciences, the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP), the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program, and the Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) at the University of Kansas.

Unwinding with Jennifer Delgado: Astrophysicist

Thu, 10/03/2019 - 10:29

If you spent any time on social media this summer, you probably heard that United States government agencies confirmed the existence of video footage of UFOs taken by military aircraft. The videos reignited speculation about the presence of alien life visiting Earth.

In an effort to bring some context to these discussions, we sat down with Associate Teaching Professor Jennifer Delgado from the KU Department of Physics & Astronomy to talk the expansiveness of space, searching for habitable planets outside out own solar system, and how anyone can contribute to new discoveries at KU.

After our chat, Professor Delgado wanted to add a bit more clarification to some of the information she provided:

  1. We have directly imaged a few exoplanets in the sense that we have images where we can distinguish the light from a planet in an image, but we do not have the ability to see the surface of the planet, like we would see a picture of a planet in our own Solar System.
  2. Pulsars emit x-rays if they are accreting matter, meaning that if matter falls onto the pulsar, then it can emit x-rays. This is not typical of pulsars unless they are in a binary system and have a companion star from which to obtain matter.  

Additionally, Professor Delgado provided a link to a more in-depth explanation of dark energy.

In this podcast we also briefly touched on a discovery by Assistant Professor Allison Kirkpatrick. Learn more about her discovery of cold quasars here.

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 to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. The conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a production by KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 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 and “Max Flashback

Mitch Lightfoot

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 16:02

Student athlete. Kansas Jayhawk. Econ major. With hometown roots in Kansas City, Missouri, senior Mitch Lightfoot was a KU fan long before he began his career on the court. It was only natural, then, that he would pursue his passion for basketball at the University of Kansas as part of Bill Self’s team. And as an economics major in the College, with a business minor, he discovered opportunities to challenge himself outside of Allen Fieldhouse as well. 

Learn what Mitch had to say about exploring new ideas and building flexible skills for a variety of career paths in the Heart of KU, tips for success, his favorite KU memory (spoiler: it might involve the Final Four), and, whether in the classroom or on the court, the value of living life without “what ifs.”

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

I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, and I moved to Arizona when I was 5 years old. I’ve always been a KU fan, and my family are KU fans. We’re kind of KU die-hards, and that’s why I went to KU.

Photos courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose my major because I felt it was flexible and would allow me to pursue multiple professions when I get out of college and when I’m done with my career as an athlete.I wouldn’t say there was a single moment when I decided what to study. It was more of a culmination of things and realizing, in talking to people, that economics is something that I could use in more than one aspect of my life.

What is the most exciting part of your major and minor?

I would say getting to meet people from a bunch of different backgrounds is the most exciting part, whether it’s people in my classes or teachers. It allows me to interact with people that I might not get to interact with on a daily basis.

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

Photos courtesy of Kansas Athletics (left) and KU Marketing Communications (right).

You get to meet students that you wouldn’t in other areas in life. In the College, you’re exposed to diversity and get to see how other people think, bounce ideas off of others, and understand their ideas and interests.

How has being a student athlete shaped your experiences at KU?

Being a student athlete has shaped my experience at KU by allowing me to gain both an academic and athletic perspective. I get to meet people in the classroom, teachers and professors, and as a student athlete I get to meet other student athletes from across the nation and across the globe, and I get to learn from them and gain an understanding of their lives and perspectives.

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

My shout-out goes to Dr. Scott Ward, “Scooter”, who was one of my academic advisors. He’s done a great job and helped shape my time here at KU. He helped me become a bigger person, and I really appreciate him

What’s your best KU memory?

Photos courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

My best KU memory would probably be going to the Final Four. It was an experience unlike any other.

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

I like being pushed in class, but I also like classes where it’s more of a group learning environment, where you meet with peers in the class and go over stuff with them in order for you to truly understand the topic. I enjoy classes where teaching from the instructor is important, but where students also help each other. That’s something that’s special about Economics classes at KU.

What would you tell your freshman self?

I would say don’t be afraid to slow down. Relax, take your time, and enjoy it. It’s fun. Freshman year is a time of getting to learn with everybody, and learn what going to college is like. And also I would say, don’t worry too much about figuring out your major in the first year. It’ll come to you and you can take your time.

Photos courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

What do you want to do when you graduate?               

When I graduate, I want to play basketball for as long as I can, which will most likely be overseas. Then when I get done with that, I want to use the connections I’ve made here at KU to get into the professional world.

What motivates you?

Since the earliest I can remember, my motivation has been trying to get the most out of the talents I’ve been given. Whether in the classroom or on the court, I don’t want to live with “what ifs.” I want to get the most out of every situation, and that’s what I base things on.

Photos courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

Be like Mitch. Explore new ideas, and enjoy the moment. For more information, explore the Department of Economics, the School of Business, and KU Athletics at the University of Kansas.

Hawks to Watch: Carlos Centeno

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:26

Why Carlos is a Hawk to Watch:

When disaster strikes, we count on rapid responses, and carefully reasoned plans, from those with the experience, expertise and steady-handedness to get right to the heart of the matter during high-stress scenarios.

From climate change and weather emergencies to food scarcity and financial inequality, the most complex and consequential issues facing the modern world demand both prompt action and increasingly advanced, data-driven solutions. A tall order perhaps, but Carlos Centeno, whose accomplishments include emergency ops, tech startup coaching, artificial intelligence, and — of course — a KU degree, has always been up for a challenge.

Although statistics, mechanics, and numerical analyses figure heavily into his daily tasks, it’s the outcomes and human implications of his work, first and foremost, that drive Carlos’ efforts. At the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), he provided humanitarian aid by helping the organization feed almost 90 million people in 83 countries each year, serving in refugee camps, tribal areas, and migrant crisis settings across the globe. Now at MIT Solve in Cambridge, Massachusettes, he’s leading efforts to bring together leaders in academia, private and public sectors, and non-profits to explore innovative tech solutions that spark major change in communities on a global scale.

Meet Carlos, our September Hawk to Watch. Learn how skills he developed in KU’s journalism and global & international studies programs have transferred into his multifaceted career, and discover how he’s bringing his curiosity about people and their stories to his work today.

Tell us in a few sentences what you do for a living: 

For 8 years I designed and managed projects in areas prone to natural disasters, where we worked with communities and governments to plan preparedness and recovery activities. I also worked in a few emergency operations. Now I work at MIT Solve, where I lead the economic prosperity community, engaging leaders in tech, non-profits, academia to support solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.  

MIT Solve is an initiative of the President of MIT that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world’s most pressing problems. Solve is a marketplace for social impact: we find tech entrepreneurs from around the world and broker partnerships across our community to scale their innovative work—driving lasting, transformational change.

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 started as an idealist, thinking that I should do what I love. I learned that this is a good driver for anyone because few of us know what we want when we are fresh out of college. We may think we know what we want but it’s not until you try it out and give it a serious go that you stick to it as something you love.

I always had this fascination growing up in Caracas, looking up at the middle class and poor class neighborhood buildings, when mom or dad would drive us home from school, and thinking, “What is that family doing right now? Are they fighting? Do they have enough money? Are they laughing and cooking?” I think that’s where that curiosity that is the ultimate expression of journalism was sparked. But I went from that passion for journalism into a different kind of career: I backpacked throughout South America with the money I saved Djing at bars in Lawrence, to understand what I wanted to do with my degree. I wanted to be in remote places, talking to people who were not as present in the media. 

I was interested in the roots of violence, and I was interested in music. But after my trip I realized I wanted to do things other people wrote about, not write about them.I think there was a lot to be done and I didn’t think I could get my hands dirty quickly enough through reporting. I love writing and have a huge respect for photojournalists like Jim Nachtwey, Abbas, Larrain, Salgado, Paolo Pellegrin and the whole Magnum crew. I’ll never drop the idea of writing for a publication, and in fact in my new position I might get to publish next year.

In the end, I settled on working in the humanitarian field. There’s a wonderful quote by Howard Thurman, who influenced MLK a lot. It set me at ease with my work at the United Nations (UN), because as a junior officer you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, because there’s no humanitarian school (despite what some schools offer): “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

What made me come alive was listening to stories that few people heard and telling those stories(This is when I was in the highlands of Ethiopia for example, with farmers who had lived here for 10 generations). It just happened to be a different format than journalism, and I think, very rewarding. Talking to communities and staying in those areas for months to figure out their needs, like a reporter, and then being able to get all the pieces in place to run a massive program to address those needs is everything I didn’t know that I wanted and it was the perfect combo of J-School and GIST.

MIT Solve was a natural transition for me. I was looking at other ways of solving the challenges we identified with communities every time we spent weeks planning with them and their governments and it was not only hard to solve comprehensive issues with UN-specific mandates but also without that capacity to try things that the UN had never tried before. While the World Food Programme (WFP) is doing a great job with their Accelerator, it takes the grit and resilience of small startups to prove how something can be done differently to gradually change the outlook of whole communities. I’ve seen a few people accomplish this at the UN and it has been exceptional when it’s done and usually involves going outside what’s expected or working with unexpected organizations. 

I wanted to be in a dynamic environment where people with ideas could get the support needed to take them to scale, and part of that is being at MIT. It’s a wonderful place to create. So I’m excited to not only do that at Solve but also next year as a Visiting Fellow at MIT Sloan School of Business researching the intersection of tech and fragile contexts like migrant paths, refugee camps etc. 

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far? 

That’s a tough one. I always think of achievements as something I did with somebody else. One of those was reinventing the way a massive organization like WFP did project design to focus on fixing chronic issues, engaging communities directly and focusing on livelihoods through satellite imagery, data analysis, community planning and a bit of anthropological work. 

WFP has come a long way from the days of sending food to address a hunger crisis. We worked on guidance for years and tested it out with several divisions in-house and in remote rural communities. It was the first time I was part of something so comprehensive with such a brilliant team of humanitarian legends.By the time I left that unit we had received a $1 million in grants to spread the methodology. My prototype project ALIA, even as I work at MIT now, is the natural progression of this achievement, automating these processes for emergencies so the humanitarian community can support a quicker, better informed response. The teams that worked on the guidance pre-tech are now working on this with a lot of enthusiasm.

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

I prepared with a team of 25 brilliant humanitarian responders for a humanitarian crisis that I cannot name. We worked on many scenarios 7:00 AM to midnight, including weekends for two months. In the end, we were not able to enter the country and a lot of people are still suffering. It pains me to this day and I feel like I let everyone down. I mean that; I was in communication with people inside and they had huge hopes that we would enter. 

I’m usually good at moving on, but this one is still fresh. I left the UN after this and still think about what I can do from my current position to get us closer to a resolution. I guess I moved on by remaining alert about opportunities to help. But every mission leaves a scar and it’s not good or bad, it’s just a scar. 

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

From a personal and professional standpoint, after moving around and being so unstable for the past 10 years, I want the next 10 years to be about building long-term. I see myself building my own organization and I’m in no rush. There’s an epidemic of startups nowadays and I want to acquire the skills and the network necessary to build something that addresses a social need through a scalable model.More than anything I have fun building things that solve problems and I love doing it with dynamic people. I know a bunch of those aching to move into something like this in the future, so I hope I can count on them even if they don’t know it yet!

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

  1. Take your time in college to learn in your classes and even take the least amount of classes per semester as a full time student so you can dedicate the rest of your time to extra-curricular activities or traveling abroad or even inside your state, getting to really know your communities. I did some of this but always had this obsession with finishing early. College should be a time to prepare yourself, not a step towards something. Nothing’s waiting for you after you climb down that hill during graduation, unless you’ve built up enough experience outside of the classroom.
  2. Don’t worry about choosing the right major, worry about choosing the right environment to learnand, yeah, it helps if your major is something you like and is something you can grow with (that you can continue to learn because it’s an evolving space). Also, don’t limit yourself to just what you know.In the J-School, they asked us to have a minor or several electives. I think this is great advice. If you like economics, take a minor in engineering, or law. If you like art, take a minor in education. Those who cross boundaries are more likely to find or create work.And the worst thing that can happen is you met different people than you’re comfortable with.
  3. It’s important to do well in your classes but what will really set you apart is what you do outside of class: journalism club, working for the radio station, study abroad trips. Everybody can get As in school with enough work, not everybody can lead or create extracurricular organizations.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Thisisthe time to make them and make as many as possible, so you don’t make them later.
  5. Don’t lose sight of your roots and your family. College can go by in a flash and your family time with it and then you’re off to who knows where. Make time every year for family and be fully in the moment. College will still be there when you go back.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Carve yourself a role within the organization, one that is not in your job description, and become the go-to person for something.It will give you responsibility because only you will be responsible if that one thing fails, and it makes you unique. Because of my journalism background, I was the go-to person for editing reports at my first UN gig. That meant everything that we proposed to the world went through my desk, a junior officer’s desk. That also meant I learned every statistic, name, terminology, enough to sound knowledgeable and to start supporting the director in meetings.

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

It’s shocking how much I’ve used from my days at KU,because at KU I didn’t plan on joining the UN for humanitarian response work. A good writer, researcher, and analyst is always in demand, in any job.And while nobody cares if you say that during an interview, it will come in so handy that people will rely on you later. I can’t count the times I referenced my editing class for emergency situation reports. If you got one number wrong, 2,000 people might go to bed hungry during the emergency or you’d deliver too much salt (I made that mistake in the last emergency but caught it just in time before we sent several extra lorries of salt).

Interviewing, getting at the truth, translating number-heavy content into digestible policy memos, working long nights under pressure. These all sound like a reporter’s regular skillset but I used all of these on all my missions with the UN to support people in need. At GIST I learned to develop long papers, which is a lot of the work at the UN. I wrote at least 15 reports, more than a dozen pages long, collaborating, interviewing, coordinating data gathering. All the things I learned to do on various topics at GIST. 

Finally, skimming. The glorious art of skimming through 200 pages of text that GIST drills in you so well because that’s the only way to get through several academic papers per week. At the UN I reviewed about 100 pages of information per week, some of it within minutes of a teleconference. It’s a skill you should never underestimate. Information is gold and the people who can transact the quickest with that gold are incredibly valuable. 

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

Back in the UN days I’d go out to eat with friends from the humanitarian community (we were a tight group anywhere you landed) or I’d go read somewhere. We were constantly on missions everywhere so when all the friends/colleagues would be in the same city we’d party until karaoke late in the morning or whatever that city offered. It was really a family. Now, at MIT, I cycle to the river and hang my hammock and read until the sun sets or just cycle somewhere new far from work. I think I’m digging solitude a lot more after so much interaction.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I’ve been DJing now for 17 years thanks to KJHK. I’ve DJd in some unexpected places because I always bring my little mixer when I’m deployed for a long time.I did a party in a parking lot, a month after a Category 5 hurricane ripped through the Philippines. We were all exhausted and the first wave of responders was leaving so we went all out. We a great dance party with fried chicken. 

I had a DJ residence in Guatemala, one in Rome in a little art gallery, and in Asia I got to DJ in some wonderful places. I love seeing people’s reactions to very different music that they’re not used to hearing. 

Be like Carlos. Carve out a unique role for yourself. For more information, visit the Center for Global & International Studies, the William Allen While School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and KJHK at the University of Kansas. Also, explore Solve at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the United Nations (UN).

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. 

Rachel Smith meets the beetles (of South America)

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 11:46

Rachel Smith is a big fan of the beetles. Water beetles, to be exact. As a biology major with an emphasis on ecology, evolution, and organismal biology, Rachel spends her days working alongside fellow KU entomologists on all things related to insect biodiversity and ecology. So when she learned about a study abroad program that would allow her to study local water beetles and discover new species in Suriname, the smallest country in South America, she seized on the opportunity.

Learn how Rachel’s hands-on research in Suriname allowed her to bring her sense of curiosity to scientific fieldwork and solidified her plans for the future.

Why did you choose your major?

I’ve always been interested in natural sciences, but my interest in Entomology actually started when I began making and selling entomological art pieces, which progressed to a scientific interest, leading me to my major of study.

Where did you study abroad?

I studied in Suriname, the smallest country in South America.

Why did you choose to study abroad? 

I wanted to gain experience in my future field of study/career. My time in Suriname was a biodiversity assessment expedition, where we were looking to do a survey of the area we were in to document localities for known species of water beetle and discover new ones. For me personally, it was my first experience in biological fieldwork so I learned a lot about biodiversity, field sampling methods and the value of working with local collaborators! It definitely solidified the idea in my mind that it is something I want to pursue and I hope to continue with biological fieldwork centered on insect-related biodiversity and ecology in grad school!

What was your favorite part of studying abroad? 

Aside from the friends and connections I made with both my Surinamese and KU peers, gaining experience in what will hopefully be my career someday was absolutely invaluable!

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

I have made valuable connections in a country I hope to return to someday. I also gained valuable knowledge of how intense but rewarding field biology is, which will help me in my next expedition!

How did you find out about this study abroad opportunity?

My advisor recommended I go on this study abroad trip as a member of his lab and to gain experience.

What advice would you give students who are considering studying abroad?

I would advise students who are about to study abroad to learn a little of the spoken language(s) wherever you are going. Also, pack lots of socks!

Give a shout-out to someone to a prof, advisor or someone else who has been influential during your time at KU:

I am very grateful to my current advisor, Dr. Andrew Short, who has taught me an incredible amount about biodiversity, entomology, biological fieldwork, and given me the opportunity to do research in his lab!

What do you like best about studying in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the Heart of KU?

I like that there are opportunities for any major to do research on a project that they are interested in, and are encouraged to do so!

What do you plan to do after graduating?

I plan to attend graduate school either in the U.S., or abroad for entomology or ecology.

What motivates you?

I have always been very curious and love learning, so any opportunity to learn something new motivates me every day.

Be like Rachel. Seize on opportunities to learn in new ways, and in new places. For more information, explore the Undergraduate Biology Program and the office of Study Abroad & Global Engagement at the University of Kansas.

Alex Murray & Elizabeth Sundahl: For the love of bees

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 11:43

You’ve probably heard about the recent boost in popularity for the KU Beekeeping Club (KUBC), who signed up nearly 300 Jayhawks at this fall’s Hawkfest and Unionfest alone. Not only is the club experiencing rapid growth in membership; they’ve also found success as a small business, making use of their members’ wide-ranging talents to sell everything from honey and lip-balm to stickers and t-shirts.

So what’s driving all the buzz? To find out, we asked KU seniors Alex Murray, co-founder and president, and Elizabeth Sundahl, co-founder and club treasurer. Discover how Alex, a double-major in environmental studies and finance, and Elizabeth, who is double-majoring in economics and visual art, are bringing their creative energy and academic interests to the KUBC to better the environment, connect Jayhawks across disciplines, and build community around beekeeping.

Photo by Meg Kumin, photographer at KU Marketing Communications.

Why did you choose your majors? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study?

Alex: I entered into KU knowing that I wanted to ultimately combine my passion for issues I cared about with a background to enable myself to create the kind of change I wanted to see. I began with studying finance to develop a useful skill-set that could be used in a multitude of fields and sectors. At the time, I was pursuing environmental studies as a minor to gain more knowledge about climate change outside of my involvement with numerous other sustainability-focused organizations. After receiving a few additional scholarships, I ultimately decided to pursue environmental studies full-time to fully dive into both worlds. I firmly believe that my experience in a multi-disciplinary undergrad program changed the game for me at KU. I continue to feel far more connected to the entirety of campus and I’ve been able pursue some fascinating experiences I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, like the KU Beekeeping Club. The ability to listen and learn with a variety of perspectives is, in my opinion, the only way to truly develop your own knowledge and opinion on an issue and I would strongly recommend such a path to anyone.

Photos by Meg Kumin (left) and Jed Shaffer (right).

Elizabeth: It took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to study at KU. I took a variety of classes my first two years here and then finally declared a major at the end of my Sophomore year. Making art has always been an integral part of my life, and I definitely did not want to halt my art education in college. However, I also wanted to earn a degree in another area of study in case I wanted to apply my art education in a way other than making art my primary profession. An economics class I took my first semester of my freshman year interested me enough to take another economics class, then another, and another. Although the dual major in economics and visual art is an unusual combination, it really works for me as a student. I value the opportunity I have to engage in both analytical and creative problem-solving every day thanks to my unique double major.

Photo by Meg Kumin.

What’s your role in the KU Beekeeping Club, and how did you get involved? What sparked your interest in beekeeping?

Alex: I helped found the KU Beekeeping Club and currently serve as president. I began beekeeping after returning home to my family’s new home in Lawrence, Kansas, after I spent a few months in New York City and Hong Kong. Upon introducing myself to some of our new neighbors, I learned that they kept bees and I asked if I could join them sometime with Elizabeth and Joe (our other co-founder). Soon enough, almost all of us became hooked. They became incredibly gracious and wonderful mentors to Elizabeth, Joe, and me and allowed us to gain experiential knowledge before tackling our own hives, which isn’t something most people get to do. As we progressed in learning how to become real beekeepers, tons of our friends reached out to us and asked to accompany us to our hives. We realized that we had enough organic interest to start the KUBC and the rest is history. At this point, we have over eighty people involved with us in some shape or form and continue to grow without any significant formal recruiting or advertising. I’m continually blown away by the support we receive from our fellow Jayhawks.

Elizabeth: Bees have been an interest of mine since high school, and they have always been the subject of a lot of my artwork. There was a UDK article written about my bee and nature inspired artwork last year, and Alex saw the article before we met. When he got involved with his neighbor’s hives, he took me with him for a hive inspection. I was hooked during that hive inspection, and since getting to see that hive, bees have been a more important part of my life than I could have ever expected. As a result of the passion sparked during that hive inspection, I helped Alex and Joe found the KU Beekeeping Club and established myself as the treasurer, I have assisted Alex with educational presentations about bees and their impact on our environment, and I have been making even more bee inspired art.

How do you apply lessons or skills you’ve gained in your majors to your work in the KU Beekeeping Club?

Alex: This summer we saw an explosion of activity within our hives and from our support. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to harvest an amazing amount of honey within our first year and pretty quickly we began processing and selling it as a fundraiser. Soon we added lip balm, stickers, t-shirts, and more. I think we sold through mostly everything within a few days of posting about it through word of mouth alone. Tracking and completing all of these orders became a small business for all of us, and the accounting, finance, and economics majors we have across our founders became highly useful in making our club run smoothly.

Photos by Jed Shaffer.

Of course, the entire other side of our majors took the KUBC to the next level. My connections and insights from the environmental studies department helped us land a faculty sponsor, the location of our hives, and vastly grow our membership. Maybe more importantly, I think the KUBC provides all of us amazing opportunities to apply the lessons and issues we learn about in the classroom to a real-world setting that we dearly care about. Like I said earlier, there would be no way I could’ve done something like this without both majors working in sync.

Elizabeth: One of my favorite applications of my visual arts major in the context of the beekeeping club was when we painted our hives. We painted three different Jayhawks on the red, yellow, and blue hives and I think they really stand out in pictures that we use to promote the club. It is nice to know that the knowledge and skills I gained in my art classes can draw attention to the club, benefit the bees, and as a result, better my community. My economics background has helped with the business side of our club. I have been able to use my training in economics to market and sell honey, lip balm, and other club merchandise.

Photo by Meg Kumin.

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

Alex: Oh man – there are plenty. Jennifer Moody, Kelly Kindscher, Jim Guthrie, Deb Smith, and many more have helped lift our club off the ground and help promote our cause. Meg Kumin also produced some fabulous shots of us at launch and helped document our beginning. We genuinely could not have done this without their help. I should also mention John Hedeman, Jennifer Harrison, Anne Wallen, and Uma Outka as a few of many amazing mentors who have been enormously instrumental in helping me realize my potential at KU.

Elizabeth: There have been so many people at KU who have helped us get to where we are as a club. I really appreciate Michael McCaffrey, Norman Akers, and David Slusky because they helped me build my confidence and begin to appreciate my own interests.

Photos by Meg Kumin.

Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any service learning experiences you’d like to share?

I’ve done all of the above which makes this an impossible choice! I’ve held numerous internships from the non-profit, financial, and political sides of the world and made some amazing friends and connections throughout them all. I think internships are super important to answer the question of “what if?” in your life and determining if a prospective career path is the right fit for you. My favorite was probably the chance to intern for a non-profit in New York City. As far as studying abroad goes, I strongly recommend studying somewhere completely new to you both from a geographic and cultural standpoint. I ended up in Hong Kong and fell deeply in love with Southeast Asia. The chance to study at a world-class university like Hong Kong University was something that I never imagined as a freshman, and as intimidating as it seemed, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that experience.

Photo by Jed Shaffer.

Lastly, I would be remiss to not give a HUGE shout out to Alternative Breaks KU. The service-learning opportunities they provide gave me some of my best friends and memories at this school and allowed me to see parts of the United States and do things I never would’ve otherwise – including accidentally Frenching a wild wolf. I’ve completed three trips during my undergrad and worked at a wolf conservation in Colorado, an LGBTQIA+ youth center in Wisconsin and an urban farm in New Orleans. There’s no way I could recommend these programs enough.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Alex: Buckle up! I had no dream of being as involved as I got at KU, and I feel like I’ve grown immeasurably as a person because of it. I’m really glad that I rarely turned anything down, although sometimes I wonder what life would be like with a little less on my plate. I’m mostly kidding.

Elizabeth: Branch out! I wish I had done a lot more at the beginning of my time in college. I was kind of intimidated by how much there was to get involved with and do on campus. The clubs and activities I’m involved with are what I have loved most about my college experience. Obviously, the beekeeping club was not around when I was a freshman, but I could’ve started making more connections to where I am now if I had branched out more.

Photo by Meg Kumin.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Alex: Currently I’m pursuing a few nominations by KU to apply for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell scholarships. Pending those applications, I would either transition to graduate school in Europe or begin working full-time, preferably in the renewable energy sector. Immediately after graduating, however, I’d really like to hike through the Pacific Crest Trail.

Elizabeth: Immediately after graduating I am planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for a few months. After that, I am still unsure if I want to start working or attend grad school.

Photo by Jed Shaffer.

What motivates you?

Alex: Trying anything new and feeling as uncomfortable as I can as often as possible. I think there are so many opportunities people rule out for themselves simply because it’s something foreign to them; in the end, the things I trusted myself the least in doing became some of the best experiences of my life. I hope to help make those possibilities more accessible to anyone at KU, in my community, and hopefully wherever I go. I’m also motivated by making people understand how insanely cool bees are.

Elizabeth: The people in my life are my biggest motivators. My family has always gone out of their way to support me in my endeavors. Whether it’s sharing my art on their social media or buying tons of the KU Beekeeping honey and merchandise, they are always cheering me on. Alex is also a huge motivator and has helped me become the beekeeper I am today. Without him, I would not have had the opportunity to gain knowledge of and experience with bees. My involvement with the KU Beekeeping Club is what I am most proud of in my time in college, and I am thankful to Alex, my family, and the beekeeping community in Lawrence for their support.

Be like Alex and Elizabeth. Branch out and pursue your passions at KU. For more information, explore the KU Beekeeping Club, the Environmental Studies Program, the School of Business, the Department of Visual Art, and the Department of Economics at the University of Kansas.

Habitat: Go behind the scenes of visual art

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 15:38

Comprising five stories and 130,000 sq. ft. of space, Chalmers Hall provides the perfect home for visual art students to create and learn. See where students get hands on learning in everything from painting and drawing to textiles and fibers.

Monica Martinez: Leaving a Jayhawk legacy to be proud of

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 10:55

For Monica Martinez, a Kansas native raised in Topeka and born on Kansas Day, the decision to carve out a unique path in her home state at KU felt entirely appropriate. And as a Jayhawk in the College, she found ample opportunity to immerse herself in the subjects she cares most about: American social issues, Latinx identity, and access and equity in higher ed. Now having recently graduated, she’s continuing to explore her passions by pursuing a Master’s in Student Affairs and working with TRIO Student Support Services at Iowa State University.

Meet Monica, a Class of 2019 graduate. Discover how she found her fit in the College, learn about the KU mentors, programs, classes, and internships that helped her in achieving her goals, and see what advice she has for leaving a legacy to be proud of on The Hill.

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

I am originally from Topeka, Kansas but I decided to come to KU for a few different reasons. KU’s Spanish department was the best out of all the schools I had applied to, and I had more opportunities to engage in studies that met my interests. I also wanted to be close to my family, and KU allowed me to be 30 minutes away from them. I was born and raised a Jayhawk, and I was even born on Kansas Day, so I feel like it was fate that I ended up at KU.

Why did you choose your major and minor? 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 changed my major a couple different times, but I decided to study American Studies because I really enjoy the social justice frameworks that American Studies promotes, as well as the opportunity to choose an emphasis that meets my research interests. I found American studies to be very interdisciplinary because I was able to engage in a lot of great classes inside and outside of my department that challenged my ways of thought about greater American social issues.

I think the moment I decided to switch my major to American Studies happened during my freshman year as a result of my AMS 260 America’s Latinos/as class. I really enjoyed this class and the instructor, and decided that I wanted to focus my studies on issues facing Latinx individuals in the United States. My journey through my major has been a very rewarding one and has helped me to critically analyze various aspects of society, and has led me to pursue a graduate degree in higher education and student affairs in hopes to evaluate questions of access and equity within academic institutions for marginalized students.

I always knew I wanted to study Spanish as my minor for personal reasons. Spanish is a big part of my family’s identity, and I wanted to help keep the language alive in my family and eventually pass it down to the next generations in my family, so I decided to study Spanish.

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

Hands down my AMS 260 America’s Latinos/Latinas class was my favorite because we read some of the best books by Latinx authors and it helped me discover my major!

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

I think a major benefit of being in the KU College is the opportunity to select from an endless range of unique, and engaging classes alongside students from all sorts of different departments and areas of interest. I think there is a lot to learn from students who come from different majors than your own and it is an opportunity to branch out and open your mind to new ways of thought and inquiry. The KU College really gives you the opportunity to explore all that your education at KU has to offer, and that is a really cool thing! 

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

My OMA mentors Emily Gullickson and Mauricio Gomez Montoya — They have encouraged me to set high expectations for myself and have offered some of the best advice about school and life to me. They have also been huge supporters in helping me reach my future career goals.

Dr. Joo Oak Kim is one of the most graceful people I know and she has helped me unlock my academic potential under her guidance. Dr. Marta Caminero-Santangelo has helped me achieve greatness and is always willing to go the extra mile to support me in all that I do.

The McNair Team Mulu Lemma and Simone Savannah are the definition of support and they do all that they can to ensure that my future will be bright. They reveal the true brilliance within their students. 

Tell us about your internship experiences with KU Endowment and the McNair Scholars Program Summer Research Internship (SRI). What were your responsibilities, and what was your favorite part of each of these internships?

My internship experience with KU Endowment was a really great experience that exposed me to the wonderful work of higher education fundraising. I got to learn about all the development work that goes into strengthening relationships with donors and what it looks like to fund a big university like KU. Some of my responsibilities as the Development Intern included going on donor visits, which were always really fun because usually I got to learn about our donors passions about KU over lunch or coffee, I got to travel to KC a lot to shadow Development Officers at the KU Medical Center Endowment office, and I got to conduct a research project about young alumni engagement and present my findings to the Annual Giving team. Endowment really helped me grow as a professional and taught me the importance of building strong relationships with fellow Jayhawks. My favorite part about my internship with KUEA was being able to get away from my desk and really get out there in the community and interact with our donors in a meaningful way!

If I could describe my internship experience with McNair in one word, it would have to be “life-changing.” Through my Summer Research Internship (SRI) I completed an independent research project under my faculty mentor Dr. Caminero-Santangelo about barriers to educational attainment for Latinx student workers in college. I spent most of my summer collecting data through interviews, analyzing my data, and reading research articles for my project. I also spent a lot of time preparing for graduate school during SRI. I took a GRE preparation course, spent time researching graduate school programs across the US, and wrote several drafts of my resume, CV, and personal statements. My internship with McNair taught me how to be a researcher and has provided me with so many useful skills, such as public speaking, time-management, and collaboration-all things that I know I will use in the future. I would have to say seeing my McNair cohort every day was really my favorite part of SRI, they motivated and inspired me to keep moving forward even when times were tough and stress levels were high.

How had the classes you’d taken at KU prepared you for the internships? What did you gain from those experiences that will be valuable to you in the future?

A lot of my classes initially exposed me to research and how to compose mini-research projects, and that was really helpful when it came time for me to do a larger scale research project. I didn’t feel completely lost either when it came to doing independent research because my classes had already taught me how to ask research questions and how to find research articles through the library database. One class in particular really helped prepare my for my KUEA internship, Honors 250, which exposed me to the nonprofit sector. We even visited KUEA during one class period to learn about the work they do, and that really motivated me to pursue an internship with them.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

When I graduate I want to pursue a Master’s degree in higher education administration and/or student affairs.

What would you tell your freshman self?

I would tell my freshman self, YES! You belong here and your legacy will be great. I spent a lot of my freshman year selling myself short and I really struggled to find my fit at KU, but I started to meet some really great people that helped me carve my path, and now looking back at my time at KU, I am nothing more than proud of all that I have accomplished over these last four years.

What motivates you?

I think I am most motivated by the opportunities my education will bring me in the future. My education has already changed my life in numerous ways, therefore, I am hopeful for what is to come and the endeavors I will pursue as a result of my degree. I will be the first in my family to get a degree, and just knowing that really motivates me to do the most with my education. I am also motivated to break a cycle in my family, in hopes that my siblings and my nephew will see the positive impacts education can have on some one’s life and one day find that same empowerment I have found through education.

Be like Monica. Carve out your unique path and leave a lasting legacy. For more information, explore the Department of American Studies, The Department of Spanish & Portuguese, the KU Honors Program, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the TRIO McNair Scholars Program, and KU Endowment at the University of Kansas.

Dean’s Message: Priorities as Interim Dean

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 17:36

Welcome to the start of the Fall 2019 semester and a new academic year. Since July 1, when I officially assumed the position of interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, I’ve been working in Strong Hall, getting to know the various divisions of the College office, and getting a more comprehensive picture of everything that the College does for KU.

Even though I’ve spent my entire career of more than 30 years here as a professor of human development and psychology in the College, the learning curve has been pretty steep, and I’ve appreciated the efforts of the College staff in making this transition easier for me. The College is described as the Heart of KU and I have come to recognize over the last two months how apt that characterization really is. 

As I’ve begun to meet with chairs, directors, faculty, and staff, and participate in start-of-the-semester activities with students, I have been asked about my priorities for the College during this interim period. I have shared three particular issues that I’d like to address, and I’ll speak to those here.

My first priority is to support scholarly activity. As I see it, the fundamental role of the College is the generation of new knowledge that ultimately benefits human welfare and society. In my eyes, the College’s impact and contribution in this rests largely on the quality of the research, scholarship, and creative activity coming from the arts, humanities, and sciences. In a time of limited internal resources at public universities, maintaining this quality will be a challenge, and so efforts to sustain research and scholarly programs of work with external funding will need to be especially encouraged and prioritized wherever possible.

A second priority is to orient the student experience toward skills that will help them succeed in the face of changing workforce needs across the U.S. As Chancellor Girod has stressed repeatedly, the current generation of students will change careers(not just jobs…careers) far more frequently than previous cohorts of students. This implies that their success in the workforce will require quality in skills that are readily translatable across different work sectors. These include for undergraduate students a proficiency in oral and written expression, quantitative literacy, and the ability to evaluate evidence and logical arguments critically. For our graduate students, we must broaden our concept of career opportunities beyond the professoriate and revisit our curriculum accordingly. We should do everything we can to ensure that students have adaptable skills that will serve them long after they leave KU.

Finally, the College will be able to accomplish very little in the current fiscal climate without attending to real-world budgetary constraints. The last few years have been difficult for KU.  The College still has some work to do to achieve financial stability from the impact of those years, and we will be working to adjust to the new budget model to be implemented over the next year. I will be working to streamline operations and workload within the College, to eliminate redundancies, and make us as efficient as possible in carrying out our core mission. The ultimate goal is for the College to return to building strong programs that reflect KU’s place as the flagship research institution in the state. Moving toward these goals will be a collective effort that will take the contributions and leadership of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I am excited to work closely with many new partners this year and appreciative of the opportunity to work alongside all those who keep the College moving ahead.