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Hawks to Watch: Aaron Justus, Brewer

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 10:45
Why Aaron’s a Hawk to Watch:

In 2011, Aaron Justus packed up his bags and life in Richmond, Virginia to travel across the country to San Diego, California. It was the start of a journey that led him to his dream job. He was 35 at the time and had established himself as a broadcast meteorologist, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas in 1999. Broadcasting jobs in Kansas City, Iowa and California had led him to Richmond. But after 12 years in television he wanted a career change and asked himself two questions: what do I love doing, and how can I use my knowledge of science to get it? Brewing beer ticked both boxes.

Making a career change is daunting. And that first year in California was tough for Aaron. He balanced his online studies at the American Brewers Guild with several jobs, including his first role in craft beer as a keg washer at Ballast Point Brewing Company. It was worth it, though. He quickly climbed through the ranks at Ballast Point, getting experience in various aspects of brewing before arriving at his current role as Director of Research and Development and Specialty Brewing. Along the way, he’s presented to the best brewers and beer scientists in the world, won prestigious awards for Ballast Point, and teaches brewing for the University of California San Diego Extension Program.

Though brewing is a very different career to weather broadcasting, there are several cross-overs. Most notably, the importance of math, physics and communication, all skills he developed here at the University of Kansas. Goes to show, that what you learn in college can be transferred to a whole range of industries once you’ve graduated.

Oh, Aaron’s parting gift to broadcast meteorology is this hilarious video that has gained over 1.6 million views on YouTube.

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

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Passing the IBD Diploma In Brewing exam was arduous to say the least. Presenting at the World Brewing Congress in 2016 and MBAA in 2017 was also a great honor. It can be intimidating talking in front of a large group of scientists and brewers! Our brewery also recently won gold for Double IPA at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s great to work with such a talented team.

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

After I finished college, I worked in television as a meteorologist for twelve years. I decided to quit my job and start a career in brewing. I was 35 at the time. I packed my bags and moved across the country to San Diego, where there were a lot of breweries and job opportunities. I was very fortunate to land a job washing kegs at Ballast Point. I also worked two other jobs to make ends meet. In addition, I was attending an online brewing school. It was a tough first year in California. I had to schedule every minute of my life and stay focused on my goal.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Just as long as I’m brewing beer, I’ll be happy. The brewing community is full of passionate and fun people.

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

Don’t stress out about not knowing what you want to do for a living. You have plenty of time to figure that out. If you stay focused, you can change your career path at any point in your life.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

You’re never an expert. Don’t get comfortable. Continually push yourself to learn more.

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

What’s your best KU memory?

Walking across campus on a Friday afternoon during the autumn. The campanile is ringing and I’m excited to hang out with my friends.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I’m fortunate to have a tasting room at work that has over 40 taps of different beer. It’s hard to decide which one to enjoy at the end of my shift.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

My wife doesn’t like beer. Life’s all about compromise: we drink wine at home.

Be like Aaron. Here’s more information on studying Atmospheric Science at the University of Kansas.

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

Meet the CLAS of 2018

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 12:34

As the graduates of the College took to the Hill to celebrate their accomplishments, we asked some to look back at their time at KU. These students pushed boundaries in research, made changes for the world around them, and did so much more. Their futures span the globe, but their start happened here. By looking back at the years they spent at KU, many of these students had advice and the knowledge that could help current Jayhawks lead to greatness. Rock chalk!

Kathryn Brewer, bachelor’s in chemistry

Notable: Kathryn received the Beckman Scholarship while at KU which enabled her to do research full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. Her research experience helped her figure out what it really means to be a scientist and prepared her to pursue a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University.

“I have grown tremendously during my time here at KU. I have grown more curious. I have learned how to ask questions about a subject and dig deeper in search of a greater understanding. I have learned to never be satisfied with a simple answer and to always strive to know more. I have also grown in my Catholic faith during my time at KU, learning how to be the woman I was made to be and to walk with confidence in who I am and what I am capable of, with the help of the Lord. These past four years I feel as though I have really become myself, and I’m certain the next chapter of my life will be even more life-changing.”

Gita Nadinda, bachelor’s in psychology major with a minor in applied behavioral sciences

Notable: Gita may be a KU legacy – her father is a graduate – but she still travelled quite a ways to get to Lawrence, KS. Being an international student from Indonesia means Gita has forged her own path and found a way to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

“Being an international student, I’ve grown a lot through finding a balance between adapting to an independent environment and maintaining my interdependent values. Learning how to live independently and adjust to the different expectations and standards have made me more flexible, open minded and motivated. I’ve met so many different people at KU who have introduced me to many different viewpoints and outlooks on life that enabled me to step out of my comfort zone.”

Emma Murrugarra, bachelor’s in human biology, psychology and philosophy

Notable: Emma was a psychology research lab manager for two years working on research projects focusing on emotional bonding processes in close relationships. After graduation she plans to attend Cornell University to pursue a doctorate in human development with a specialty in culture in context.

“College is unnerving at first — the university experience is oftentimes the first time that people are exposed to an environment with many different people from many different cultures. It is jarring, and can be abrasive. You’re not alone. Get involved in the things that interest you and branch out to explore all the new things that are available to you for the first time.”

Soroush Rezvanbehbahani, doctorate in geology

Notable: Soroush’s research involved testing fundamental glacier flow assumptions using a range of sophisticated numerical models. He repeatedly learned new models and used them to address important scientific questions that pushed his research group into new and exciting directions.

“My project involved a very exciting, yet complicated question. While working on it, I would get inspired or sometimes distracted to do a side project. These side projects have consistently served as my semi-healthy way of procrastinating; I felt I was still doing something useful, while taking short breaks from my main project. I started working on a side project, purely out of curiosity and we ended up publishing the results in a somewhat high impact journal relatively quickly. Then, a few months after that, I saw a tweet by my advisor how she was proud of my ‘curiosity and tenacity.’ That was truly flattering!”

Katie Phalen, bachelor’s in molecular, cellular & development biology

Notable: Katie is bound for medical school at KU Medical School next year. She’s been an active student leader, serving as executive director for the Center for Community Outreach, was a finalist for the 2017 ExCEL Award, and has been involved in multiple student organizations, all the while maintaining outstanding academic performance.

“Despite the fact that these last four years have gone by so quickly, I feel as if I have grown tremendously during my time at KU. The classes I’ve taken, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had here have changed my perspectives and challenged my thinking in many different ways. My time with the Center for Community Outreach in particular has taught me so much about serving my community, and has sparked in me an interest in community engagement that I plan to take with me after graduation and into my career.”



Mario D. Balcazar, bachelor’s in physics and electrical engineering

Notable: Mario has spent much of his time at KU in research labs. This includes studying particle accelerators and their technology. Mario credits being able to work closely with his professors as playing a role in his success. Once he graduates, Mario will head to the University of Michigan for a Ph.D.

“I would greatly emphasize the importance of exploring your curiosities outside of the classroom. This could be in the forms of conducting research, pursuing interdisciplinary coursework, participating in summer internships, or simply chatting with professors from fields different than your own. Life is a cumulative experience and your interests evolve with time. The ability to learn and adapt is fundamental for success.”

Kayla Wilson, bachelor’s in molecular, cellular & developmental biology

Notable: Kayla knew from an early age that she wanted to be a scientist. She’s been active in undergraduate research, working with her mentor Robert Ward for three years. She’s also served as an undergraduate research mentor to help encourage other students to get involved. She will continue her research pathway in the fall, starting a Ph.D. program in genetics, genomics and development at Cornell University.

“While at KU, I have learned to be a little more fearless in my everyday life! All of the amazing opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of at KU have come when I tried something outside my comfort zone, applied for something I thought I would never get, or when I introduced myself to someone new.”

Amy Olson, bachelor’s in geology

Notable: Amy is known among faculty and peers as an involved and dedicated student and mentor. She has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a few introductory classes, led the Association for Women Geoscientists’ mentor program and serves as the Department of Geology’s undergraduate representative at faculty meetings.

“My most memorable experiences as a KU student have definitely been on KU Geology field trips, including KU Geology Field Camp. They were the perfect opportunity to apply all of the knowledge and skills that I acquired in the classroom to actual field settings, which was always rewarding. Also, when you spend every waking moment with a group of people an extended period of time, whether it be a week, two weeks, or 6 weeks, the relationships that are formed are truly awesome and unique.”

Zachary Douglass Green, bachelor’s in biochemisty, human biology and psychology

Notable: With his heart set on a medical career, Zachary’s spent his time at KU building his understanding of the fundamentals of human life and mind, triple majoring in biochemistry, human biology, and psychology. Adding certificates from the Research Experience Program and Global Awareness Program along the way, this Honors student has also been dedicated to honing research skills, including working as a research assistant with the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory under the guidance of David K. Johnson.

“My most memorable time here is mostly from my position as a research assistant with the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory under David K. Johnson. Not only did I get to work with Alzheimer’s patients and other older adults, but I traveled abroad to work with a collaborating lab at the University of Costa Rica. Assisting my mentor with his research into Alzheimer’s has very much shaped my interests and passions, and it is something I feel makes me unique. I will be matriculating to the University of Kansas Medical Center as an M.D./Ph.D. student to pursue my medical degree and continue my neuroscience research. I’ll be accompanied by my amazing girlfriend, who will be pursuing her J.D./M.H.S.A at KU Law, and our Great Pyrenees, who will probably have a lot of time home alone to chill.”

Hannah Gibson, bachelor’s in astronomy

Notable: Hannah came to KU at age 16. She was in the University Honors Program and a Sigma Pi Sigma & Phi Kappa Phi inductee. She also helped plan the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics the last two years. Hannah is graduating with university and departmental honors and will be attending Purdue University to pursue a Ph.D. in planetary science.

“I’ve dreamed of studying Europa since high school and thanks to KU that dream will soon be reality. Without my coursework and research experience at KU, my future as a planetary scientist would never have been possible. Be fearless. Take every opportunity that comes your way and never dwell on the ones that don’t work out.”




Insia Zufer, bachelor’s in biology with minors in film and media studies and psychology.

Notable: Ask Insia Zufer why she studies biology, and she’ll give you an answer that extends far beyond a passion for fieldwork. By exploring how and why humans, animals and even a blade of grass work, Insia discovers the connections that unite us all to each other, and to the planet. She added minors in psychology and film to gain new ways of looking at the world, and to explore her love of the arts. For this Jayhawk, the subjects she studies help shape her worldview. And it is this desire to help others and the environment that motivates Insia’s work beyond the KU campus. As Managing Director of the KU Center for Community Outreach, Insia helps coordinate programs that address the needs of the Lawrence community. Along with the other members of the CCO, Insia makes our local community a better place, contributing to programs that support education, arts, health and care for the elderly. And in the process, she helps fellow KU students apply their passions to support others and become lifelong active, aware and engaged citizens.

“I will be going to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after graduation to pursue an MD/MPH. The opportunities I received at KU, especially my humanities classes, social justice programming, and leadership with the Center for Community Outreach most definitely led me to this career path and made this possible. Advice-wise, I would definitely say be “interested” in as many community and campus events on Facebook as possible. I have never regretted putting off an assignment or studying for a test to attend a cool event or lecture happening on campus, even if it was totally out of my discipline. My humanities courses and these events are what kept me linked into local and global issues of justice, as a biology major. KU has definitely shaped the medicine I hope to pursue — merging individual health and population health rooted in equity with an MD/MPH.”

Carin Gavin, bachelor’s in physics and astronomy

Notable: Carin did not start out as a student in the College, but she followed her heart and found her way here still. Since becoming a double-major in physics and astronomy, Carin took advantage of multiple opportunities such as the conference for undergraduate women in physics and the Harriet Johnson scholarship. After graduating, Carin will continue studying physics and work towards her PhD.

“Don’t be afraid of changing your plans. My first year here, I was completely sure that I wanted to pursue architecture. Even after becoming convinced I wanted to switch majors, it was terrifying. I hated admitting that I was wrong in the first place, and the prospect of essentially overhauling my entire college existence was so daunting. But when I finally owned up and made the change, it was the best decision of my life. I know it can be very difficult, financially, logistically, etc. But you can find a way to make it work. Don’t ever get stuck doing something you don’t love. You will regret it later.”

Collin D. Clay, bachelor’s in chemistry

Notable: Collin has made a mark as an exceptional student in the Department of Chemistry. He is the vice president of the Chemistry Club, serves on the department’s Undergraduate Affairs Committee and was the department’s representative in a research exchange program in Dublin, Ireland. To cap it all off, he was selected as a Beckman scholar as a sophomore, providing him resources and support to enhance his development as a scientist.

“While at KU, I have had plenty of memorable experiences. Traveling to Ireland and DC, listening to President Obama speak, teaching students, and doing research. While all of these moments were in some way life changing, the most important experience I had at KU was meeting the people I call my friends and peers. The people I have met at KU have made my college experience a time I would not trade for anything, and getting to know people who are driven to make a positive change in this world makes me proud to be a Jayhawk.”

Alexandra Erwin, doctorate in ecology & evolutionary biology

Notable: Alex was instrumental in raising funds for and the organizing of the first SEARCH (Scientists Exploring non-Academic caReer CHoices) symposium and the first Jayhawks Breaking Barriers event that aimed to increase awareness of the gender leadership gap in STEM, empower women through leadership and mentoring opportunities, and foster discussion about the gender leadership gap among university women and the community. Alex will be graduating in the spring and accepted a position created for her at BioKansas, a local life science non-profit, to lead their STEM workforce development and bring in grant funding. The job aligns perfectly with her interests and goals and will be a great first step in her career.

“Pursuing a Ph.D. in the sciences allowed me to develop a deep understanding of biological processes and the scientific method. Not only have I found this knowledge to be broadly applicable, but learning how to effectively distill and disseminate complex scientific information to the broader public has enhanced my communication skills. Independent scientific research also requires commitment, self-direction, self-reliance and resiliency for when barriers are encountered which happens often in science. These are essential skills that I am glad to have had an opportunity to strengthen. Additionally, I have developed a truly deep understanding of data including how to generate it, how to analyze it, and how to use it in the decision-making process, which is a powerful toolkit that I can utilize to work on a wide variety of issues. I’m so glad I chose to pursue a graduate degree at KU. A supportive environment is an integral part of pursuing a higher degree and I’m lucky to have had a great network of KU students, faculty, and administrators who helped me grow along the way. These long-lasting relationships are one of the greatest values from my time at KU.”

Ben Rogers, doctorate in political science

Notable: Ben Rogers is receiving the 2018 Marnie and Bill Argersinger Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences! Ben graduates with honors based on a dissertation which showed how an algorithm could be used in political science. The algorithm was applied to old and new questions in political science, and its predictive capabilities were used to compare the advantage provided by the variables suggested by different theories. But the greatest privilege he had at the University of Kansas was serving as a teaching assistant, helping students to answer their own questions in political science.

“What KU gave me was a chance to excel by sharing the things I love with others. It taught me about what it meant to have a sense of your own worth, how to develop into something better through practice and pushing beyond the fears that we have with others’ help.” My advice: “Neil Gaiman once wrote that if you can write a minimum of 400 words a day, you can write a novel. It turns out that with appropriate preparation, the same holds true for a dissertation. When you’re thinking about an argument (especially if it includes numbers), always look for the advantage the person arguing gains if you believe them.”

Hannah Schifman, bachelor’s in art history and psychology, with a minor in leadership studies and undergraduate certificates in global awareness, arts engagement, and leadership.

Notable: Hannah has made her mark here on the KU campus. She has been involved in multiple activities across KU including co-founding the KU Art History Club, co-founding Sigma Delta Tau sorority, participating in the Women’s Leadership Institute and being involved with Colors of KU, Hawk Week and KU Hillel. In 2017, she was a finalist for the Alumni Association’s Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Award. Hannah has also held a summer internship at Crystal Bridge Museum of Art, supporting their adult public programs department. After graduation, Hannah will be attending Marist College’s campus in Florence, Italy, to complete a master’s in museum studies to prepare for a career as a museum professional.

“I would be lost without the tremendous opportunities the University has to offer. Without the support systems I have gained over the years, I would not be as confident or ambitious in discovering what I am most passionate about. The flexibility of the College allowed me to take on a well-rounded educational experience without compromising my career goals. Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to say no.”


Sammy Badran, doctorate in political science

Notable: Sammy spent the 2016-2017 academic year on Fulbright Fellowship, conducting interviews throughout Morocco. He recently presented a chapter from his dissertation at a conference at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar. His dissertation concerns protest dynamics in Morocco during the Arab Spring. This Fall he will be a new Visiting Professor of Political Science at Saint Martin’s University in Lacy, Washington.






David Easley, bachelor’s in Chinese language & literature and in computer engineering

Notable: In his time at KU, David has made sure to get involved with his studies. After studying abroad in Hong Kong, David took up learning Mandarin. This led to a love of the language which helped form his college experience. After graduating, David and his wife (and cats!) will head to Kansas City for work.

“Take risks and jump on opportunities. This really takes a different form depending on your interests. Being an engaged student at KU, all sorts of people may ask you to do something or make you aware of events, and it is up to you to go out and participate.”

Sara Neel, bachelor’s in art history, minor in French

Notable: For her History of Art capstone project, Sara took on the challenge of writing about the restoration and repurposing of the fourteenth century Chinese murals at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This paper, which she later presented at the Annual Undergraduate Art History Symposium at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, earned her an invitation to join the graduate seminar “Korea-Japan: Negotiating Art Old and New.” Alongside 10 East Asian art history graduate students in the seminar, Sara worked on her own research project about the proposed restoration of an amazing 17th century Japanese painted screens of dancers held by KU’s Spencer Museum of Art. After graduation, Sara plans to continue her education in art preservation.

“My most memorable experience as a KU student was the opportunity I had to study abroad in both Italy and France my junior year. With a great amount of help from the KU study abroad advisers, I was able to participate in two different programs. The first was an art history program in Florence, Italy in the fall of 2016, and the second program was a French language program in Angers, France in the spring of 2017. This was my first time traveling abroad and learning about and experiencing other cultures and traditions of various countries. I am forever grateful for the experiences and friendships I made while abroad, which would not have been possible without the benefit of being a student at KU.”

Bronson Herrera, doctorate in political science

Notable: Bronson is a first generation college student and PhD. candidate in the Department of Political Science here at KU. In the fall, Bronson will be joining the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Northwest Missouri State University as an assistant professor. His primary duties will include teaching courses in American politics and policy, mentoring students, and conducting research. Bronson’s dissertation focuses on the role that religious identity plays in the formulation of opinion and its effects on policy adoption.

“Attending KU was the best decision, not only for me, but for my family as well. The mentorship and support that I received from the Political Science faculty was invaluable in my preparation to join the academy as a professor. They did so much to help me be the best student I could be while, supporting my decision to have a family. I hope to mentor my future students in a similar way and help them to achieve their goals.”


Jenna D’Ottavio Swanson, master’s in American studies, graduate certificate in peace & conflict studies

Notable: As a Kansas African Studies Center affiliated graduate student, Jenna gets it. She understands the complexities of the African continent and, as is evident from her work and service contributions as a graduate student, is committed to communicating that to the undergraduates she teaches, her colleagues, and the broader Lawrence community. This includes volunteering to teach Arabic at the Lawrence Juvenile Detention Center. Jenna plans to work toward a doctorate in ethnic studies with a focus on Arabic and Middle East studies.

“My favorite class is Arabic. It will forever be Arabic. Language learning is like a relationship— it must be nurtured. My second language acquisition at KU has equipped me with the skills to express my political views in cabs, read books without an English translation (although slowly), and make connections across Tunisia, the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Jordan, Morocco, and Egypt. Alf Shukran to our ustaz.”

Alex Burdge, bachelor’s in environmental studies, minor in English

Notable: Alex is a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a great leader and activist who will be pursuing a Ph.D. in English here at KU.

“I came to KU with fairly clear ideas of where I wanted to end up after graduation, but my degree program exposed me to an incredible array of topics and allowed me to find skills and interests that I was completely unaware of. The interdisciplinary nature of Environmental Studies as well as the wonderful faculty have set me on my current path, the trajectory of which I never would have guessed on my first day here. Go to the office hours of your favorite professors, even if you don’t think you need to. The ideas that I have been exposed to and lessons that I have learned in one-on-one conversation are some of the most important and formative of my time at KU.”

Kaitlyn Johnson, bachelor’s in Russian, East European & Eurasian studies, global and international studies, (focus in Latin American & Caribbean studies), Slavic language & literature (focus in Russian), and political science

Notable: With four degrees under her belt when she graduates, Kaitlyn has kept busy here at KU. Kaitlyn has studied abroad multiple times, which helped prepare her work with the U.S. State Department in DC. After graduating, Kaitlyn shows no signs of slowing down. She plans to head to Georgetown for her master’s, while interning with the State Department’s Office of European Security & Political Affairs.

“KU has allowed me to take advantage of a myriad of opportunities, including internships in DC, fellowships, study abroad, research abroad, and independent studies. Students should take advantage of every opportunity they can as early as possible. Do not wait until your junior or senior year to explore possibilities beyond classes.”

Ylham Jorayev, bachelor’s in international studies (emphasis: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies)

Notable: Ylham is an extraordinary linguist with a passion for contributing his language and research skills to public service. Since arriving in the US from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Ylham has honed his language skills and is now fluent in Turkmen, Russian and English, with knowledge of French, Azeri, and Uzbek. While at KU, Ylham has serviced as a research assistant at the KU Institute for Social and Policy Research, supported by the prestigious Minerva grant and conducted his own research project as part of the Diplomacy Lab Project. He’s interned for a council member of the City of Berkley, taught English in Turkmenistan, and taught Russian to KU students in the Foreign Language Center. Next up, Ylham will start a master’s degree in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies.

“I’m originally from Turkmenistan. After graduating from KU this May, I’m planning to attend Georgetown University for my master’s degree in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies. Looking back at my experience at KU, I would like to mention the importance of networking at KU. Don’t be shy, get to know your professors and the research they work on. Knowing your professors and being friends with them can get you very far.”

Marcus Williamson, doctorate in political science

Notable: Marcus has worked for numerous political campaigns during his professional career, including several during the 2014 and 2016 general election cycles, and the 2017 KS-04th special election, while at KU. He also served as Chair for the Second Congressional District with the Kansas Democratic Party. His dissertation, “Campaigning in Context: A Practical Statewide Study of Correlations between Campaign Contact Methods, Partisanship, Timing, Frequency, Population Density, and Regionalism on Voter Turnout,” focuses on bridging some of the gaps between practical campaign activity and academic study. He is currently an adjunct professor at Missouri Western State University.

“I plan on continuing my research and further peruse a teaching career. The KU faculty and campus community enabled me with the capacity to connect practice and academic political science. I now have many more tools to connect my experiences with scholarship. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my understanding of the field in a way that advances both practice and study.”

Emma Easom, bachelor’s in philosophy and Spanish

Notable: Emma was a member of the LEAD Program here at KU – she’ll earn her B.A. + Law degree in just 6 years. She was a Hall Center and University Scholar and served in leadership roles in many KU activities. Emma also studied abroad in Buenos Aires. She will be attending KU Law to achieve her J.D. next year.

“I am an out of state student from Albuquerque, New Mexico, so moving away to college was a big step for me and my family. My independence and self-reliance have definitely grown while at KU as I have matured and created my own adventure. KU has fostered my curiosity and self-exploration in ways that I never expected when attending college. I have been able to become really involved with the Honors Program, the Hall Center for the Humanities and my majors’ departments while also maintaining a strong circle of friends. The Midwest has rubbed off on me in more ways than one. I say “Ope!” now whenever I bump into someone. I’ve learned about the importance of giving back to a place that has given you so much – I plan to return here often after I graduate. I am very grateful for all the memories I have made here.”

Annie Landis (center), bachelor’s in English, minor in psychology

Notable: Annie is looking ahead to a career in higher education, a passion she discovered working on campus at KU. She has been admitted to a master’s program at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. As an undergraduate, she balanced a number of obligations by completing much of her coursework through the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences online degree completion program.

“I’ve grown so much throughout my time at KU. I’m definitely more open-minded and outgoing because of my time here. Looking back, I have so many faculty and staff to thank for all the help and support they’ve given me along the way. I would tell new and current students to use your faculty and staff as resources. I could have been involved in so much more exciting opportunities at KU had I started developing those mentor relationships earlier on. Faculty and staff really are eager and willing to help-so there’s no need to be nervous about asking them for it!”

Thomas Dirth, doctorate in social psychology

Notable: Innovative. That’s the word repeated over and again when describing Thomas’ achievements in the classroom, in his research, and the solutions he helps find while advocating for an inclusive and accessible KU for all students. Passionate about improving understandings about diversity, particularly in relation to disability, Thomas has already published several academic papers and has served as graduate advisor to the campus organization “Ablehawks and Allies” and as graduate student representative on the Architectural Barriers Committee. Thomas’ hard work and expertise has secured him his first academic job at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.

“I don’t think the ‘me’ that drove into Lawrence for the grad program interview 6 years ago would recognize the ‘me’ that is graduating. My experiences at KU have been transformative, both in the positive influence of my peers and mentors and the enriched academic environment that calls for perpetual self-reflexivity. I feel very confident moving on from KU to begin my career as a professor because of my everyday experiences at KU interacting with and being mentored by leaders in my field. Through the wealth of independent teaching and research experiences in my time at KU, I have also crafted an independent identity as an educator and scholar that can help to provide a clear heading in the years to come.”

Emily Reno, bachelor’s in environmental studies, minor in Spanish

Notable: Emily will attend the University of Minnesota next year to pursue a master’s in urban and regional planning. She’s focusing her degree around food systems and how urban planners can better support the agricultural community. She’s taken advantage of many opportunities at KU, including study abroad, research, and the McNairScholars program.

“Aside from studying abroad in Australia, attending the spring banquet as a new McNair Scholar has been the most memorable moment for me because it was the first time I felt like I was where I belonged. Surrounded by other first-generation, minority students, and recognizing our accomplishments up to that point had me in tears because I didn’t realize that going to college was such a big deal. (While at KU), I have clarified many of my career and life goals, and become a much more independent thinker. I continue to dream big, but more strategically so that I don’t forfeit my personal health or time with family.”

Allison Maxfield, bachelor’s in psychology, anthropology minor

Notable: After a 7 year break from KU, Allison returned in 2016 to finish her degree as an online student. Since her return she has been a straight-A student balancing a full time course load with work and ungraduated research. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in organizational psychology in the near future.

“Before my academic career at KU, I had little confidence in my academic ability. I left high school with limited dreams, believing that my only skills were as an artist. I’m happy to say that my time at KU has totally transformed me. I am now confident in my ability to use my many academic skills from writing to reading to researching and beyond. I have become someone who is known for their well-rounded academic intelligence, which is something I never thought I would hear. I take so much pride in the person I have become, and I have KU to thank for pushing me further than I ever thought possible.”


Tomas Green, bachelor’s in chemical engineering with a public policy minor

Notable: Tomas may be an engineering major, but when he looks to the future, the values of the College are close to his heart. As a student, Tomas was involved with my activities on campus, including student senate elections and studying abroad. After graduating, he plans to head to MIT to complete a master’s in policy and technology.

“I have changed more than I ever expected. Most notably, I changed my career trajectory from engineering to public policy. While I am keeping an emphasis on science and technology, I am now focusing on how to build a better connection between STEM and politics.”

Chelsea Ren Morton, master’s in public administration, graduate certificate in peace & conflict studies

Notable: Ren was an intern for the League of Kansas Municipalities, where she was in charge of the Youth Education program. Last summer, she revamped all the league’s civic education pieces. Her work while interning led to her being hired by the league where she has worked while completing her degree.

“KU enjoys incredible professors. The time each of my professors has invested in my life, my goals, and my academic interests has allowed me to grow spherically in many directions. I can honestly say that I am an entirely different person in terms of my understandings and worldviews than I was when I started undergraduate, and again when I started graduate school. I believe I have become more open-minded, more compassionate, and more curious during my time here. I have definitely learned not only to ask questions, but to ask deeper questions to uncover the underlying assumptions and worldviews of the work we pursue.”



Mylls Cheffey, bachelor’s in psychology, minor in sociology

Notable: Mylls is an active duty member of the military who has completed his coursework while in the field. Completing his degree while serving has convinced at least one of his fellow soldiers to join the College’s online degree program as well. His future goal is to work on counseling veterans and to pursue a graduate degree.

“If there is something that you truly want or believe in you must find a way to accomplish it. Many people will stop when someone tells them that they cannot complete a task or that it is impossible. However, when I reflect I found myself doing homework for the University of Kansas on a C17 flying between Syria, Iraq and Qatar. It would have been easy to stop or not take as many classes when I was faced with adversity, but to me being a Jayhawk means more than just operating at a minimum level.”

Eilish Gibson, bachelor’s in physics and classical antiquity

Notable: Eilish Gibson has reached for the stars at KU, and her list of achievements are stellar. In 2017, Eilish was awarded both the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship and the Astronaut Scholarship. That same year, Eilish flew out to the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to conduct research under the supervision of Prof. Alice Bean. Next stop? A doctorate in particle physics at the University of Oxford.

“When I started at KU, I was very enthusiastic about particle physics and really enjoyed reading Latin. My experience at KU empowered me to hone my raw passion for both subjects. While I still specialize in particle physics and reading Latin, I understand where my particular interests fit into the larger picture. KU has prepared me to pursue one of the most elusive frontiers of particle physics: the search for dark matter. The coursework in the physics department has prepared me to make the leap to Oxford, and the research experience that I’ve gained while working with Prof. Alice Bean and Prof. Phil Baringer has proven invaluable. Without either the coursework or the research experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on one of the hardest and least understood problems in modern physics. My most memorable experience as a KU student is undergraduate research. I had the unique opportunity to work with scientists from around the world, and I even got to travel to Geneva, Switzerland to work on site at the Large Hadron Collider (where the Higgs boson was discovered) for seven weeks. With help from the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, I won two national scholarships, the Goldwater Scholarship and the Astronaut Scholarship, for my undergraduate research. KU has prepared me to pursue one of the most elusive frontiers of particle physics: the search for dark matter.”

Joshua Robinson, master’s of public administration (emphasis: City Management)

Notable: Joshua’s positive attitude shines through in all he has achieved at KU. Named a KU man of distinction in 2017, Joshua has thrown himself into various initiatives beyond his program including chairing the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government. All this while taking up an internship in Kansas City and landing a job as a Management Fellow for the City of Cedar Park, just outside Austin, Texas.

“The most memorable experience at KU was the opportunity of being the Conference Chair of the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government. This conference hosted over 500 students from across the Big XII and the country for leadership development, workshops, and keynote speakers. It was an honor to represent the University of Kansas and be the host school for this conference. I truly had the time of my life.”


English classes are perfect prep for aspiring physician

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 13:25

There are some things that you just know you will always love doing. These passions shape your choices in college, and lead you to the type of work that makes you happy and fulfilled. For Megan Hanson, it was always science. And a future as a physician is now firmly on the horizon for this biology major and pre-medicine student.

But along the journey through life, it’s important to remain open to those interests that come out of the blue and surprise you. Megan started taking English classes as part of the pre-med requirements, and just didn’t want to stop. Several classes later, she added a major in English. Now, as Megan looks forward to graduating, she recognizes that those English classes have provided invaluable communications skills, an ability to synthesize lots of information, and an adeptness at connecting with people with different perspectives from all over the world. All of these skills and experience will translate perfectly as Megan continues on her chosen path to work as a physician and a policymaker.

Megan explains why an English major is the perfect complement to science

Be like Megan, check out KU’s degrees in biology and English, and information about premedicine at KU Megan’s KU story in three quotes


Hawk to Watch: Shannon Portillo, professor and campus leader

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 09:56
Public Affairs and Administration class with Professor Shannon Portillo on Edwards Campus. Why Shannon’s a Hawk to Watch:

How to describe the stellar career trajectory of professor Shannon Portillo? Reading back through articles about Shannon on the web and in print, a picture of a prodigious student emerges. “A model student” and “Ph.D. at 23” are just a few of the headlines marking Shannon’s impressive student days. Shannon completed high-school in three years and repeated the feat at KU, polishing off degrees in political science and international studies in 2004. As a student, Shannon was dedicated to more than just her studies, working as a teaching assistant, the program coordinator for the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, and organizing several community events. Juggling research, teaching, learning, and community engagement with mastery continues to define Shannon’s academic career at KU, via four years at George Mason University. Shannon is now Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Administration and is KU’s first ever Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate programs at the KU Edwards Campus. And her impact on campus has been deeply felt by students, winning Shannon multiple awards for mentoring, including the McNair scholars Mentor Award, the K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, and the Kathleen McClusky-Fawcett Women Mentoring Women Award. Shannon has already achieved so much, but she remains as dedicated as ever to making higher education more inclusive and accessible through her work. We are thrilled to have this Hawk to Watch right here at KU.

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

I’m the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Programs at the KU Edwards Campus and an Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration at KU.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

When I first started as a faculty member in 2008 I said my goal was to be the professor I never had. That wasn’t a dig on my faculty, I had some of the most amazing educators and mentors in the world. But, the entire time I was in undergrad and graduate school I never had a class with a Latina professor, and I rarely see women in my field who look like me. I was always going to interdisciplinary spaces to find mentorship. A few years ago a Latina student of mine was graduating and going on to a PhD program in Public Administration. She wrote me a really nice note saying that she could never say that she wanted to be the professor she never had because she had me, now she just has to keep paying it forward.

Shannon Portillo (right) with Senior Nicole Humphrey (left). Nicole Humphrey is a student, and McNair scholar, in Public Adminstration and Political Science. She has worked closely with faculty mentor Shannon Portillo, and has won two UGRA scholarships. What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

Early in my career I was at an academic conference and had attended a networking dinner. After the dinner I was invited to go out for drinks with a number of senior scholars. At the end of the evening, when I was going back to my hotel, one of the senior male scholars made an inappropriate advance. While that moment was easy to shut down, the affects lasted for a while. I spent a lot of time questioning my ability to do academic work at this level, and whether I was able to navigate a field dominated by older men with reputations for not taking women seriously and trying to take advantage of women. I realized that I needed to be one of the people who was senior in the field so I could work to make sure that same experience doesn’t happen to women in future generations.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I have my dream job, but half of it didn’t exist 10 years ago. I am first Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Programs at the Edwards Campus. Ten years from now I hope that I’ve continued to move forward with my academic career, publishing work that makes a difference. I also hope that I can continue to be a campus leader pushing to make higher education more equitable, inclusive, and accessible. I am not sure what that title or role looks like, but I am excited to find out.

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

When I was 18 I was convinced I was going to go to law school, because I had no idea what going to graduate school meant or what faculty really do. I would say remain curious, and be open to changing plans and new experiences.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

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

I was prepared to face the rigors of research, had the opportunity to create and teach my own classes, and really saw what it meant to be a good departmental citizen and colleague. I appreciate the balance my education gave me, preparing me for the multifaceted aspects of my career.

What’s your best KU memory?

Every year when I see a new class walk down the hill at graduation, and when we sing the Alma Matter at our School of Public Affairs & Administration graduation banquet I can’t help but think about the joy of my own hooding ceremony. My grandparents and parents met my advisor at my hooding ceremony, and seeing the look on their face when he called me Dr. Portillo at that ceremony was wonderful.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I love to cook. When I was in graduate school I realized that research is something that really never ends and your friends are never quite as into your work as you are, so I wanted a hobby with a discrete end that would be easy to share with friends. Bringing friends and family together over a good meal and delicious cocktails is important to me.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I’ve had the incredible privilege to travel to five continents, in dozens of countries. I love to travel, but I can’t imagine a better place to call home.

Be like Shannon. Here’s more information on studying  Political Science, International Studies, and Public Administration at KU.

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. 

Zoya Khan is dedicated to building inclusive communities

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 09:18

It’s hard to believe that Zoya Khan hasn’t been involved in politics all of her life. Since arriving at KU she’s served as a student senator, president of the Muslim Student Association, diversity, equity & inclusion ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and has been a member of KU Students for Refugees,  the Dole Institute Student Advisory Board and International Studies Services. Zoya’s extraordinary service to the University of Kansas was recognized at the 2017 Homecoming football game when she was announced as one of two winners of the KU Alumni Association’s Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) Awards. 

When Zoya rocked up at KU in 2015, however, she’d had very little experience in politics. While at high school in Overland Park, Kansas, Zoya planned to follow in her parents foot-steps and pursue a career in medicine. And that desire to help others has always remained. But it was the experience of being a first generation Muslim American that prompted Zoya to throw her energy into student politics.

Building an inclusive KU community has been a key part of Zoya’s work at KU. Coupled with the knowledge and skills she’s gaining through her majors in global & international studies and political science and a minor in middle east studies, we are excited to see what Zoya does next at KU, and in the future when she intends to pursue graduate education to prepare for a career in public policy.

Zoya discusses her experience with us:

Be like Zoya, Here are links to the KU’s Center for Global & International Studies, the Department of Political Science, and the Middle East Studies program. Zoya’s KU story in three quotes:

Triple major combo leads to research project that improves lives

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 08:28

Majors: Law & Society, Applied Behavioral Science, and Spanish

Describe your research in a few sentences that we can all understand:

My project looks at collaboration within community task forces addressing human trafficking in the Midwest. Since these teams can be comprised of government officials, non-profit organizations, law enforcement officials, first responders, and even concerned citizens, I am trying to discover if these different professions view collaboration in the same way when working on the task force. I want to know if the similarities or differences in the perceptions of collaboration within a task force have implications for how the task force addresses human trafficking.

What is the most exciting part of doing research?

I would say that I love collecting data! My project uses qualitative data that I collect through a series of interviews with members on anti-human trafficking task forces. Being able to ask questions to people working in a field that I am passionate about has been really exciting! But, I would say the most exciting part of doing research is getting to see patterns develop across the data, especially when they are not the patterns that I thought I would find.

What did you learn by participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar? 

In participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar, I learned that presenting your own research is nerve-wracking, but so energizing. Since it allowed people to ask me questions on my research, I was better able to understand how to present my research in the future to provide stronger connections between my findings and the background literature in both human trafficking and collaboration.

I also learned a lot from hearing the other presenters. Every field has different protocol for conducting research and hearing how the other presenters conducted their own research helps me better understand their passions and how these different research techniques complement each other in academia.

Give your research advisor a shout-out:

Why should other students enroll in the Honors program?

I’ve gained so much from being in the Honors program. If you have the opportunity, apply. Tell your friends to apply too. The Honors program makes it possible for you to shape your KU experience to whatever you want to accomplish.

Why did you choose your major (majors)? And how do they complement each other? 

I am a triple major in Applied Behavioral Science with an emphasis in Community Health and Development, Law and Society in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and Spanish.

Law and Society looks at the policies themselves and how their application affects different groups of people. Conversely, Applied Behavioral Science looks at how those groups of people react to factors in their environment, such as the implemented policies, and provides a way to naturally observe the effectiveness of these policies and point to problems that still need to be addressed. Finally, one of the best ways to understand the perspectives of others is to understand their language. My goal is to learn more languages in the future, but at the moment my Spanish major allows me to work toward fluency in Spanish.

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

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

I would say that the benefit of having so many different students studying different fields is that I never feel like my learning is occurring inside a vacuum. I have constant access to new perspectives that challenge me to think outside of the box. It allows me to gain a breadth and depth of knowledge.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I want to work in public policy and advocacy after I graduate by working with governmental and non-governmental organizations to achieve sustainable solutions to inequality in our society. Everyone deserves a voice, and I want to work to help make that possible.

What would you tell your freshman self?

I’m actually only in my second year at KU, but if I could go back and have a conversation with my freshman self, I would remind myself to stay in the moment. It is so easy to stress out about the what-ifs and lose sight of what is happening in that moment. It’s great to make plans, but as I have discovered in research, some things are simply outside of your control. All you can do is stay in the moment and work towards solving the problems at hand.

What motivates you?

I have had many people and experiences in my life that motivate me to work diligently in my research, coursework, extracurriculars, and at my job; however, one of the greatest motivations in my life has continued to be service to others. Everything I do, I do with the intention that the knowledge I gain or the products that I produce can help others. I think that serving others should be the primary motivation of any venture.

Zachary Kelsay: researcher and problem solver

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 08:27


Global and International Studies and History

Describe your research in a few sentences that we can all understand:


What did you learn by participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar?

Using imagery to simplify intricate concepts can be useful for communicating ideas efficiently. I really like how interdisciplinary the seminar was and allowed me to explore research in other fields.

Give your research advisor a shout-out:

Why did you choose your major (majors)? And how do they complement each other? 

I chose international studies because it encouraged a balance between several different fields including language studies. Within GIST, I have had the opportunity to take classes in economics, anthropology, and Spanish which later helped me specialize on my research interests. I chose History because its provides a lot of context for international events and history professors tend to be exceptional researchers and writers.

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

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

Students have diverse specializations and perspectives to raise the level of conversation.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I want to work for a foreign policy think tank.

What motivates you?

Fear… just kidding. I really like to accomplish at least one thing every day so that I feel like I am making effective use of my time.

Classics and Computer Science, a perfect match

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 08:26


Describe your research in a few sentences that we can all understand:

My current research pertains to the metaphors which Vergil employs to delineate a rhetoric of movement and stasis in the Aeneid. Throughout the text, Vergil develops a sense of stasis and fixity surrounding Aeneas while Dido is constantly associated with movement and wandering. While this is clearly an inversion of their physical states, Vergil flips the script after Dido’s death. In this project, I hope to explicate Dido and Aeneas’ relationship within the epic and demonstrate Aeneas as the typical Roman agent of fixity or stasis akin to the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) which Augustus “established” in the first century.

What is the most exciting part of doing research?

To me, the most exciting part of doing research is finding points for scholarly intervention—points where other scholars have made assumptions or passed over analysis that would have been beneficial to the field. This is where you can make your mark and contribute something valuable.

What did you learn by participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar? Did you learn anything from the other participants that will help with your own studies?

Everyone can always improve something about their work and that’s the beauty of academia. This seminar highlights that and establishes a really safe and comfortable environment for testing out your research and scholarly ideas.

Give your research advisor a shout-out:

Are you in the Honors program? If so, why should other students enroll in the Honors program?

I am in the Honors program and it is through this involvement that I met Dr. Anne Dotter, who encouraged me to participate in the seminar, Dr. Anne Wallen and Dr. Mary Klayder, who set me on my academic trajectory, Dr. Phil Baringer, who led an excellent interdisciplinary seminar, and many other who have supported me throughout my time as an undergraduate. In addition to being a great resource for advising and academic support, the Honors program has provided financial assistance for all of my endeavors, ranging from study abroad programs to conference presentations.

Why did you choose your major (majors)? And how do they complement each other? 

I originally came to KU as a Computer Science major and I really loved it for a period of time. I started taking Latin courses and double majored in Classical Antiquity for a while until I fell out of love with Computer Science and switched wholly to Classics. It was a really difficult decision process, one fraught with the problems of funding, career prospects, et al., but I eventually decided to major in a field that I loved and knew had transferable skills to whatever I might want to do next.

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

I think my favorite class at KU has been Roman Gender & Sexuality, which I took with Anthony Corbeill a little over a year ago. That class was my first real exposure to academic scholarship and Prof. Corbeill was an incredibly engaging professor. I loved it.

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

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I am currently awaiting responses to my graduate program applications. My hope is to attend a fully-funded PhD program in Classics, perhaps spending some time in an M.A. program first.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Don’t stress the small stuff and, to quote the immortal words of Mary Klayder, “It will be fine” (my italics). I was so stressed about switching out of CS and into Classics for a variety of reasons, but after I made the decision, things fell squarely into place and I never looked back.

What motivates you?

Knowing that I can contribute to the scholarly discussion on these topics which have been studied for centuries motivates me. Seeing how Classical literature relates to people today and that there are still lessons to be learned from these ancient minds is inspiring. After presenting some of my research at the Undergraduate Research Seminar, one student told me “I had no idea Classics was this cool!” Reactions like that motivate me.

After a decade away, Caleb returns to complete KU degree

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 07:59

Why did you choose your majors and minors?

I have, from a very early age, been interested in politics and history. I was a junior in high school when the September 11th Attacks took place, and after that, I was determined to pursue these interests as a career.

How do your majors and minors complement one another? What is one class at KU everyone should take, and why? What is one class at KU that everyone should take, and why? What’s a fun fact about you?



Sam Blaufuss: Double-Major

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 10:35

Freshman Sam Blaufuss makes the best of two worlds by combining classes from the KU School of Journalism and the College. As a double-major in strategic communications and film & media studies, with an emphasis in production, Sam has classes and experiences that will prepare him for the world beyond college. But Blaufuss isn’t all work and no play – he can be spotted on campus wearing a pair of boots that he got and wore at an old job working at Lawrence’s cemetery!

Here’s Sam in three quotes:

Learning the skills to improve the world

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 11:07


Internship title and organization: Chapters & Global Education Interns, People to People International, in Kansas City, Missouri

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

Gabby: My responsibilities include archiving and updating records for the international mural project, planning and developing resources for the 2018 Global Youth Forum, reading and blogging for the international book club every month, public outreach for events, and data entry to update the chapters worldwide. Also, I review and offer recommendations for scholarships and grants submitted to People to People International.

Taesuck: Organizing chapters and creating idea and projects through power point are my responsibilities.


In spring 2018, three KU students interned at People to People International in Kansas City, Missouri. They are Stefanie Weiland (far left), Taesuck Lee (third from the left) and Gabby Ale-Ebrahim (second from the right).

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

Gabby: Public outreach for the Global Youth Forum has been my favorite part of the internship so far because I love talking to people and informing them about opportunities with People to People International.

Taesuck: Creating ideas and sharing them with colleagues. Also, I really enjoyed meeting new people and learning about working in a professional environment.

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

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

Gabby: All of the global and international studies classes I have taken prepared me for this internship because they have taught me time management and editing skills. Time management and editing skills have been useful at my internship when blogging for the international book club and making sure I complete tasks on time.


Why did you choose your majors/minors?

Gabby: I have always been fascinated with languages, religions, and cultures.

Taesuck: I like learning about global issues and different cultures. I also like traveling around the world. I am interested in learning Latin American studies because I have never learned about this field in my county, and my country does not have much information and studies about this area/.

What do you plan to do next?

Gabby: I plan on finishing my research for my Global and International Studies Capstone and graduating in May of 2018. I hope to make a positive impact on a local and global level and I am open to potential non-profit and international career opportunities.

Taesuck: I am planning to another internship this summer, hopefully in Washington D.C. After that, I plan to do an internship or work in Brazil.

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

Gabby: The best part about being in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is that I was able to have time in my four-year plan to study abroad. Studying abroad in Israel expanded my worldview and broadened my perspectives.

Taesuck: There is a wide variety of courses to choose from. There are so many options, so I can develop my special area.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Gabby: I would tell myself that it is okay to make mistakes and fail. Sometimes you have to fail at something to lead yourself to the right path that you are meant to be on. For example, I was a nursing major for a semester and struggled through chemistry which made me realize my strengths are in writing and editing instead of science. I am so happy that I switched to Global and International Studies because it is not only my passion, but the major fits my strengths well.


Who is your biggest inspiration?

Gabby: My biggest inspiration is Malala Yousafzai because of her courage despite being surrounded by imminent danger. She was shot by the Taliban on her way to school and survived. She went on to write an autobiography about her life story and she strives to be a humanitarian activist. I want to be like her because she is fearless, driven, and values education.

Taesuck: My KU friends. It’s great to learn from their different perspectives, and they all have their own clear goals for what they want to do next. These conversations help motivate me to pursue my own goals.

Nila Khan: Taking the Pre-Med Track

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 15:21

Why did you choose your majors and minors?

I am currently a pre-med student and I picked my majors and minors to help better prepare me for the MCAT and the subject matter I would most likely see in medical school.

How do your majors and minors complement one another?

I have biology as my major and am planning to declare anthropology and psychology as my minors in the future. These complement each other well because I feel a pre-med student should be well-rounded and not only focus on the physiological aspect of healthcare.


What is your favorite KU memory?

My favorite KU memories are watching Game of Thrones with my roommates even though we all have other things we should be doing and are secretly panicking on the inside.

What is one class everyone should take at KU, and why?

Fun Fact:

Whenever I have free time I like to play video games: The Witcher 3, League of Legends, NieR Automata, etc.

Aly Lange interns at the UN

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 14:58

Hometown: Platte City, MO

Majors: Global and International Studies, Spanish minor

Why did you choose your majors/minors? I have a passion for learning about the world around me and complex issues in global social justice.

Internship title and organization: Press and Public Diplomacy for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

What was your favorite part(s) of the internship? I was given a pass to enter the United Nations building whenever I wanted to! So I was able to sit in on U.N. Security Council meetings, High-Level Political Platforms on the Sustainable Development Goals, and other interesting events. I also was able to give the Editor in Chief of Glamour magazine a brief tour of the UN!

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

As a future attorney, being able to speak with lawyers at the USUN about their experiences was very enlightening. I was also able to learn both what the UN is effective in doing and where it falls short as a global power.

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

What do you plan to do next?

I will begin law school beginning in the Fall of 2018!

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

Through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I’ve had the opportunity to take diverse and interesting classes that helped me discover my true vocation.

What would you tell your freshman self?

That I shouldn’t force myself into remaining within the limited scope of interests and skills I think I have, to not be afraid to expand my horizons. Furthermore, that my perception of myself and the world will naturally change quite a bit during my time at KU, and to enjoy the ride!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration are marginalized people who refuse to comply with injustice. As an attorney, I want to advocate for and represent the oppressed and marginalized and champion their causes. DACA recipients who have organized and demanded legislation in the midst of fear of deportation, people of color who dismantle systemic racism daily, feminists who assert the equal dignity of men and women – these people give me hope and inspire me to pursue justice.

Internship provides firsthand experience in non-profit sector

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 12:47

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Majors: Double majoring in Humanities (Peace and Conflict Studies) and Global and International Studies; double minoring in Business and French

Internship title and organization: Global Chapters Intern at People to People International (PTPI) in Kansas City, Missouri

During her internship Sara worked on a winning grant application awarded to People to People International’s Kigoma, Tanzania-Nyarugusu Camp Chapter for a multi-cultural workshop on HIV/AIDs and SGBV prevention to be a local platform that unifies young people to carefully investigate what could be the root-causes.”

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

I organized and headed the 2017 Joyce C Hall International College Scholarship Program and the 2017 International Chapter Grant Project. Additional responsibilities included communicating with each chapter regarding updating chapter records, membership renewal, documenting and sharing community service projects, and accomplishments with PTPI international membership via newsletters and social media.

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

One of the programs PTPI offers is a Student Ambassador program – something I participated in while I was in middle school. I went to Europe for three weeks with a group of students, and this experience really made me love history, traveling, and studying culture. It led me to the degrees I’m now pursuing, so it was awesome being able to intern with an organization that has had a significant impact on my life and college career.

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

This internship allowed me to see all the theories and concepts I’ve learned in my classes in action. For example, many of my Peace and Conflict classes have discussed cosmopolitanism, which is essentially PTPI’s framework for peace. Their mission is to enhance understanding and friendship through humanitarian activities and exchanging ideas and experiences. Analyzing concepts in the classroom that are actually being used by international organizations and non-profits to approach real problems in the world adds more weight both to my education and my internship experience.

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



What do you plan to do next?

This spring is my final semester on the KU Campus, but I will be studying abroad in the fall at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium through ISEP Direct. I will be completing a European Peace and Security Studies certificate through classes that analyze the changing nature and challenges of contemporary security and peace issues, and through a high-profile guest lecture series. After graduating in December, I plan to work in the non-profit sector to gain work experience then apply to International Affaires graduate programs.

Why did you choose your majors/minors?

Global and International Studies requires the study of a language, so I minored in French because France was one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to. I decided to minor in Business after being in a marketing club in high school, and I thought it would be a good addition to a Global and International Studies B.A.

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

There is a lot of room for flexibility and studying all the subjects you are passionate about. Because of this multidisciplinary aspect of many KU College programs, I was about to double major and double minor. Studying in the College really allowed me to maximize and make the most out of my college experience.

What would you tell your freshman self?

As a senior, I’ve realized that four years passes pretty quickly. I would tell freshman self to make the most of every experience and opportunity.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My grandmother has always been a big inspiration in my life. After she was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to make her last years count by taking my family traveling all over the world. She pushed me to partake in the PTPI Student Ambassador program and instilled in me a love of travel and exploration. I will always be grateful for the opportunities she gave me because they led me to pursue these degrees.

Annie Landis: To the stars through difficulty

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 14:36

Listening to the radio can change your life. You’re driving in your car, bopping along to your favorite songs, when an advert interjects telling you that you can still complete your degree at the University of Kansas. Don’t believe us? Just ask Annie Landis, a KU College student majoring in English, with a minor in psychology. Here’s what happened:

Annie had arrived at KU in 2012 as a pre-pharmacy student. Like many starting college, Annie approached freshman year as a time of explore the subjects that she was both passionate about and that aligned with her future aspirations. An enlightening experience in a freshman English class lit a fire in Annie, and she decided to switch to English. A psychology minor was added shortly after. All was going well, until Annie’s grandma passed away in 2015 and Annie needed to leave College to get a job to pay the bills. In her typically matter of fact way Annie describes this moment as “life happens.” But she always harbored hopes of one day returning to KU to finish her degree.

And then, in 2016, when driving home from work, Annie heard a advertisement for the College Online while listening to Pandora. She turned up the volume. But the possibility didn’t seem real that first time she heard it. Throughout that year, the advert followed Annie everywhere she went, repeating the same message between songs: there is a way to go back to school while continuing to work in order to pay her bills. Eventually Annie decided to act and reached out to the College Online for more information. “Before I knew it, I was readmitted to KU, eager to begin again in Spring 2017,” Annie remembers. She’s not looked back.

Annie’s KU experience is now shaping her future plans to work in higher education. As the first person in her family to attend college, she’s passionate about helping all students access an university education, and stay the course. At KU, Annie’s thrown herself into a variety of campus positions offering advice to students. She’s worked as an orientation assistant and ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and as a Hawk Link guide for the Office of Multi-cultural Affairs. Graduate school is next on the horizon for this compassionate KU College Jayhawk, and then a career dedicated to helping others, especially first-generation students, succeed at university.

Annie discusses her experience with us:

Be like Annie, Here’s links to the College Online, KU’s English Department and KU’s Psychology Department. Annie’s KU story in four quotes:

Bio Means Business – A Peek into Grace Proett’s KU Life

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 10:08


Why did you choose your majors and minors? 

I choose Biology as my major with hopes of a career in a medical field so that I may work to better the quality of others lives. As well, a minor in business will help me gain the skills for effective marketing & business strategies.

How do your majors and minors complement one another?

This major and minor allows my two greatest interests to be combined – helping people and developing leadership skills. I would like to go into biotech sales and this is a great option for me to combine the health care field with the creativity of marketing.

What is your favorite KU memory?

The best thing I have done since coming to KU was live in a residence hall my freshman year. It allowed me to meet many of my best friends and get involved in different organizations throughout campus. It instantly made KU feel smaller and the hill feel like home!

What is one class at KU that everyone should take, and why?

I really enjoyed taking a first year seminar, I learned about so many resources KU offers and have been able to use those resources in the semesters since.

What’s a fun fact about you:


Exploring Biodiversity: Benedictus Freeman’s Story

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 09:37


Name: Benedictus Freeman

Term: 2nd year Ph.D. student

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Advisor: A. Townsend Peterson

Research interests: Conservation biology, distributional ecology, ecological niche modeling, and climate change

Research summary: My research seeks to explain the current and future distributions of West African biodiversity, particularly birds. I want to know how they are influenced by global climate change now, and in the future (50 to 100 years from now), and what conservation approaches can we take to ensure that they continue to persist through these environmental changes.

Recommended KU class: Research ethics

Fun fact about me:

Studying at KU from the other side of the Atlantic has been fun, except that I have to brace for the unpredictable Kansas weather.

Disney Princess & Future Doctor: Natasha LaGrega

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 14:05

Why did you choose your majors and minors?

I am currently pursuing a B.A. in Biochemistry with a minor in Psychology on a pre-med track. The reason why I choose to be a B.A. in Biochemistry instead of the more common Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) is because even though I love science, I also love English and humanities classes. A B.A. allows me to take four semesters of Spanish and other humanities classes that would provide me with a well-rounded education and opportunities in bilingual medicine. I am also a psychology minor because human behavior is of great interest to me, especially human development and abnormal mental conditions.

How do your majors and minors complement one another?

My minor in psychology goes great with my biochemistry major because it allows me to look at the other side of the same coin; focusing on the human behavior aspect and the development of life.


What is your favorite KU memory?

As of right now, my favorite KU memory would have to be Late Night at the Phog because it truly started the year off right by getting all the students into the KU Spirit! They introduced all the basketball players, and at the end, Lil Boat performed and came up into the stands with the students.

What’s one class at KU that everyone should take, and why?

I recommend taking any class with Mary Klayder. She is a wonderful professor, and loves to become a friend and advisor to her students!

What’s a fun fact about you?

I have been an on-call Disney Princess for the Dream Factory. I dress up as Princess Belle and help reveal dreams to kids!

Mikki Brock, Historian of Witchcraft

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 08:27

Why Mikki’s a Hawk to Watch:

Witches and demons are everywhere. They make themselves known in T.V. shows, movies and video games, appearing as the nemesis to humans in horror movies or as heroes like Harry Potter and friends. The language of witch hunts has also made a come back in 2017 and 2018, invoked by prominent individuals like Woody Allen and even the President of the U.S.A. to decry a wide range of investigations that have dominated the news during these year. This did not go unnoticed by Mikki Brock, a KU College alum and historian of witchcraft, demonology and much more at Washington and Lee University. She decided to act.

Mikki’s research focuses on early modern Britain, but everything has a history and it was the modern misuse of the topics that she knew so much about that gave Mikki a way into the debate. All of the research and ideas that went into writing her debut book, Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c. 1560-1700, grounds Mikki’s ideas on contemporary issues and culture. In October 2017, she debunked the current use of the term witch hunt in a Washington Post article titled ‘No, there is no witch hunt against powerful men.‘ Mikki also draws on her historical knowledge to talk about popular video games, such as Diablo III. It’s Mikki’s success bridging both the rigors of being a published academic scholar and her contributions to public debate and popular culture that makes her our April Hawk to Watch.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am an assistant professor of British history at Washington and Lee University.


What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far? 

Besides getting the Ph.D., I’d have to say the publication of my first book, Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c. 1560-1700, in 2016. Writing a book is truly a labor of love—sometimes more labor than love!— but I still feel a thrill every time I see the copy in my office.

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

So much of life as a professor is a rollercoaster. Rejections— of articles and book manuscripts, job and grant applications, and so forth—are an unpleasant but expected and necessary part of the academic path. The key is not to take rejections of one’s work personally, even though it often feels personal. At low moments in my career, I try to translate criticism or “failures” into motivation to move forward and create space for new ideas and inspiration. Hearing “no” is never easy, but it is crucial to remember that everyone gets rejected or has missteps in their careers.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

A full professor, finished with my second book, and still excited every day about teaching history. I’d also like to be more involved in communicating about the importance of history to audiences outside the walls of academia.

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

That life is profoundly unpredictable, and no amount of planning or worry can completely dictate how things will look one, two, or ten years down the road. Be open to new ideas and experiences, and remember that self-worth should not be determined by achievements and accolades.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Do what you love, and don’t be afraid of hard work and taking risks. At the same time, learn to say no when you need to. I think this is especially important for women to hear, as we are so often socialized to say “yes” to meeting the needs and demands of others.

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

As a professor at a small liberal arts college, my training in an interdisciplinary major where I was exposed to a range of fields and perspectives has proven invaluable.

Until this course, I had never carefully considered how structures of power operate, how meaningful social change is actually achieved, or how historical figures we tend to adore or abhor are so much more complex than they appear at first blush. This is not because the professor spoon fed us his own beliefs and interpretations, but rather because he asked, prepared, and empowered us to critically investigate our own. I now try to do the same for students in my own classroom.

 What’s your best KU memory?

I have two academic experiences that really stand out: In summer of 2005, I studied abroad in the U.K. with the British Summer Institute. It was there, on the streets of Oxford and Edinburgh, and in conversations with Mary Klayder, that I first considered pursuing a PhD in British history. The following fall, I took a course on Medieval Russian History with Eve Levin, who provided essential guidance (and endless patience!) as I applied to graduate school and completed an honors capstone.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I’m an avid reader of fiction, and I spend my summers and breaks reading as much as I can. In the last couple of years, I’ve taken up running, which I really enjoy and is an awesome stress reliever. I’m also a bit of a politics junky, and I love great journalism—I read lots of newspapers and magazines, keep up with Twitter, and regularly listen to political podcasts. Not sure if this counts as a relaxing hobby, though J

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

Due to a childhood spent in Dallas, I have an exhaustive and encyclopedic knowledge of 90’s country music songs and their lyrics. This is especially surprising given that I don’t regularly listen to country music.

Be like Mikki. Here’s more information on studying humanities and history at KU.

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. 

Alex Olsen’s internship inspires her own production

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 11:20

Hometown: Rogers, Arkansas

Major(s): Dance major, psychology minor

Internship title and organization: Production Intern at the American Dance Festival

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

As a production intern, I was able to work backstage for the biggest modern dance festival in the U.S.

It was a running joke at ADF that production interns make the show happen, and it’s true. The crew was made up of only interns. There were no full-time staff, which gave us the opportunity to learn everything we possibly could.

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

My favorite part of ADF was the satisfaction of knowing I played a valuable part in making the festival successful. I also loved being able to work with some incredible dance companies such as Paul Taylor, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, Pilobolus, Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre and so many more. Every day there was something new.

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

It was a demanding internship. I was working 90 hours a week, so the most valuable thing I learned is how to work under duress. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true. I learned how to work through high stress and exhaustion, and I think that is something I can take with me into any career.

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

How has your internship experience helped you in your classes?

My internship hasn’t directly helped me in my classes, but it has helped me in productions I’ve done since. In October 2017, I was an assistant under my professor James Moreno for a show in Chicago, and the knowledge I gained about ADF about dance production helped me know exactly what we would need. Further, my own show, Boundless, opens this March. I built this show from the ground up, and my experience at ADF has helped me more than I can even say. I knew how to hire and speak with a lighting designer, how to set a stage, how to work with choreographers, and everything else I need to do run a smooth show.

Why did you choose your majors/minors?

I started out as a double major in dance and psychology because I wanted to be a dance therapist, but after producing my first dance showcase, I realized I had a passion for it. I dropped my psychology major to a minor so that I could put my energy into dance.

What do you plan to do next?

I just recently got accepted into the Leadership for the Creative Enterprises Masters Program at Northwestern University in Chicago! I’m really excited to move to Chicago and keep learning how to make dance happen. Someday, I hope to be a manager for a modern dance company.

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

What would you tell your freshman self?

I’m not the most technically advanced dancer. My freshman year, I was always really upset about not getting cast in pieces and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I would tell myself that physically dancing isn’t my passion, and that I need to be patient until I find it. I like to say that I love to “make dance happen.” Now, I look back and laugh a little at my insecurity in my dancing because I get more joy from watching dancers on stage knowing that I made that possible.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is my mom. It’s cliché, but her and I are extremely close, and we support each other 100%. She’s been through a lot, and whenever I face a challenge, I channel her energy to get through it. I honestly don’t know anyone with a relationship with their mom like I have, and every day I’m reminded how lucky I am to have her.

Could you tell us a little about the show you are putting on here at KU?

With pieces about issues from the #MeToo movement to individuality to support systems, Boundless covers a wide range of women’s issues. This show is also set in the round, which is a first for the dance department. It’s been a challenge communicating this concept and making sure choreographers create accordingly, but the result will create a unique, intimate space.

Be like Alex, check out the KU Department of Dance