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Become a Jayhawk Jedi: 14 KU College classes

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 08:20

Welcome, padawans to Jayhawk Jedi training camp. Master the skills needed to understand the Star Wars Universe by completing these 14 KU core College classes. Will you gain enough to stand with Rey and defeat Kylo Ren?

PCS 120 Introduction to Peace & Conflict Studies

Jedi are warriors of peace, defending the defenseless when necessary but mostly seeking to resolve conflict without physical force. Discover how and why violence emerges in human societies in PCS 120 Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, and you might make sense of what drives the Sith. Lessons on the diverse ways humans have sought peace through history will provide models for creating peace in the universe.

LDST 201 Introduction to Leadership

The Resistance needs strong leaders. Learn to lead like Leia by taking LDST 201 Introduction to Leadership Studies. You’ll study theories and research on core themes of leadership, focusing on how course materials relate to your own leadership experiences.

HIST 140 / EVRN 140 Global Environments I:Discovery Environment Change

Has Tatooine or Jakku always been so dry and arid? Or did something change in the climate? What about the frozen Tundra of Hoth? Was Luke Skywalker’s adventures there in a polar region of the planet, or is the entire planet frozen? You could become the first Jedi to pay real attention to understanding the climate by taking EVRN 140 Global Environments I, and gaining knowledge on the history of environmental systems and life on earth, the discovery of biotic evolution, ecological change, and climate change. This interdisciplinary course and laboratory sections survey the foundations of environmental understanding and the process of scientific discovery from perspectives that combine the principles and methodologies of the humanities, physical, life and social sciences.

ANTH 106 Introductory Linguistics 

Wouldn’t it be fun, and helpful, to be able to chat to Chewie! While KU’s School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures offers over 40 languages, Shyriwook isn’t one of them. Learn to decipher the fundamentals of linguistics by taking ANTH 106 Introductory Linguistics. You’ll explore the sound system, grammatical structure and semantic structure of languages. The course will include a survey of language in culture and society, language change, computational linguistics and psycholinguistics, and will introduce students to techniques of linguistic analysis in a variety of languages including English.

GEOL 121 Life Through Time: DNA to Dinos

The Star Wars galaxy has over over 400 billion estimated stars, and over 3.2 million habitable systems. Knowing how the environments in the different galactic regions work will help you understand what kind of life might be there the minute you land. Prepare by taking GEOL 121 Life Through Time and learn about life through time on Earth, from DNA to Dinos. This course leads students on a journey through time to explore the interconnection between life and the geology of Earth, including our own complex relationship with the world around us.

DANC 330 Approaches to World Dance

So, you’re dropping in to meet a friend at Cahlmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley and the band suddenly jumps into life. As Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes get going, you’ll likely be inspired to dance and a diverse range of intergalactic styles on show. Prep for your alien boogie by conquering earthly dance forms in DANC 330 Approaches to World Dance. You’ll examine dance from throughout the world and how they relate to the times and cultures in which they evolved.

ASTR 191 Contemporary Astronomy

Knowing the structure and evolution of the universe should be Jayhawk Jedi training 101, but if you missed that you can take ASTR 191 Contemporary Astronomy and learn all about nearby planets and distant quasars. Topics include recent discoveries concerning planets, stars, pulsars and black holes as well as their evolution, the structure of the universe today and how it will be in the future. The emphasis is descriptive rather than mathematical. The Death Star is not part of the syllabus, as it’s been destroyed, twice.

THR 120 Public Speaking as Performance

As the universe’s guardians of peace and justice, Jedi need to be able to negotiate and inspire. And besides, if you’re up against a skilled speaker like General Palpatine who inspired many with his Declaration of a New Order, you’d better be prepared to give a rousing rebute. Prep for that moment when you’ll need to rally the troops by take THR 120 Public Speaking as Performance and learn how to manage performance anxiety, organize a narrative, speak extemporaneously and articulate clearly.

ATMO 220 Unusual Weather 

Planet hopping across the galaxy you need to be prepared to understand a huge range of weather systems. From the intense heat of desert-planet Tatooine to the swampy phog-covered forests of Yoda’s home on Dagobah to the blizzards of frozen Hoth, you’ll encounter all degrees across the weather spectrum. Get ready by taking ATMO 220 Unusual Weather and you may even be able to prevent the sort of climate disruptor that the Empire used to cause fires and foods across Naboo.

ECON 110 The Economics of Globalization

Inter-planetary trade is a key feature of the Star Wars universe. There are intergalactic firms operating across planetary systems, trade agreements to manage complex deals across economies, and varied currencies and tax codes, while the Corporate Sector in the Universe’s Outer Rim is a sort of free trade zone including tens of thousands of planetary systems. Be prepared to go head to head with the Trade Federation by taking ECON 110 The Economics of Globalization to understand who wins and loses in the economics of globalization and other major considerations of economics on this grand scale.

POLS 170 Intro to International Politics

We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problems, agree what’s in the best interests of all the people, and then do it.” – Anakin Skywalker
That is exactly what we do. The trouble is that people don’t always agree.” – Padmé Amidala

Whether it’s the monarchy of King Lee-Char’s Mon Cala, the more democratic Galactic Republic, the dictatorship of Palpatine’s First Galactic Empire, or Naboo’s constitutional monarchy, leaders across the Star Wars universe use a wide range of political systems. Some are small entities akin to a nation-state, others span many planets. Make sense of the role of nationalism, sovereignty, and power by enrolling in POLS 170 Intro to International Politics. Patterns of state action including neutralism, collective security, war, and cooperation through international organizations are covered. Specific examples of contemporary international problems are also analyzed and discussed.

REL 104 Intro to Religious Studies 

Is Jediism a religion? Some on Earth believe so. Looking further afield, across the galaxy, a Jayhawk Jedi will encounter people with a diverse range of believes, making it imperative that you to have a key understanding of how to study and appreciate different religions. Luckily REL 104 Intro to Religious Studies is here to help you get to grips with key methods and issues in religious studies, while providing an introductory survey of selected religions.

GEOG 102 People, Place, and Society

The Ewoks prove that you don’t need complex technology to live a good life, or help bring down the Empire. The Ewoks live a sustainable life that’s in touch with nature on the forest moon of Endor. But how much does the environment shape their activities, or others across the galaxy. GEOG 102 People, Place, and Society will offer you a chance to examine the relationships between humans and their environments. And then you can see how it applies to the Ewoks, Wookiees, and other societies of varied beings. You’ll be introduced to basic concepts in human geography relating to economic activities, landscapes, languages, migrations, nations, regions, and religions.

Chance Maginness’ story, where passion plus experience equals change

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 11:23

When Chance Maginness graduated high school, he did something that no one from Westmoreland, Kansas, had done in four years: he went to the University of Kansas. This was a big decision, and it wasn’t easy in the beginning. Coming from a town of 778 people and a graduating class of 53, Chance soon realized that he didn’t have the friendship networks that most of his peers did. This, Chance felt, put him at a serious disadvantage from the start. So, like all compassionate Jayhawks, he decided to do something about it and help make changes that would have a lasting impact on the lives of others coming to KU from small towns in the future.

Chance threw himself into student politics. He ran for Student President in 2017. And he continues to dedicate much of his time advocating to improve the student experience in his role on the Student Senate, chairing the finance committee.

Rather than seeing his role on the Student Senate as distinct from his political science classes, Chance blends the two together. His thesis is about First Amendment issues with student elections, driven by a question drawn from his experience in student politics. Chance Maginness’ story is one where personal experience, academic interests, and campus involvement form a symbiotic relationship, the skills, knowledge and experience from each informing the others. The result is a perfect cocktail of passions and interests that drive Chance to make a difference.

Be A Jayhawk: Tiara Floyd

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 13:10

Why did you choose your majors and minors?

I chose my major and minors because I feel like I can best understand the world around me by studying them.

How do your majors and minors complement one another?

My majors and minors complement each other because they all have a cultural aspect to them and by studying a language, I can take my studies and knowledge internationally.

What is your favorite KU memory?

My favorite KU memory is going to Late Night in the Phog both years I’ve been at KU.

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

One class everyone should take is AAAS 117 with Professor Accilien because she is an awesome professor and the class opens your eyes to a lot of issues that are affecting Black women worldwide.

What’s a fun fact about you:

I am “ambidextrous”; since I was developing left handed as a baby, but had to develop with my right hand as a kid, I use both of my hands for different functions. (i.e. right for writing, but left for sports, and sometimes I use both while eating).

Hawks to Watch: Caleb Chin, social media strategist

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 14:33
3 reasons why Buzzfeed social media strategist Caleb Chin is a Hawk to Watch: 1. Caleb creates innovative ways to tell stories on social media that are seen by millions

Ever wondered why that viral video on your social media is such a welcome distraction to your day? Caleb is one of the creative minds behind the kind of social media that goes viral. His videos for Buzzfeed alone have accumulated over 40 million views on Facebook and Instagram!

2. He takes risks, and learns from his fails:

Caleb’s risks have landed him in trouble a few times. In his senior year he made a parody Twitter account of the KU Chancellor. While he was asked to take the account down by the university, he was offered a job on the KU social media team as a student assistant, a moment that has led him to go after a career that he really loves. Oh, and he was also ahead of the curve in the world of cryptocurrencies at KU being the founder and only member of the university’s Bitcoin club!

3. He’s driven to succeed in order to give back to the Kansas education system:

Some people like money to buy fancy things. Caleb Chin is not averse to that, but he wants to succeed so that he can get to a place where he can give back to the funding of the Kansas education system, particularly in the K-12 sector.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I develop and implement social media strategy to make things that you like to see and share!

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievement so far was at the very end of my super senior year of college in 2015: I made a really simple site called when the state legislature was months behind on deciding on a balanced budget, which meant state employees wouldn’t get paid (including all KU employees)! All the site had on it was the word “NO” and when you clicked on a link that said “How about now?”, it would just refresh the page. Later I changed it so it would show different gifs that all said “no” in one way or another. It ended up going semi-viral, got some news coverage, and clocked around half a million hits in less than a week. And that drove everything.

You can influence it, mold it and make your mark on it in a meaningful way.

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

I got fired from being a resident assistant in my junior year of college. I lost everything in a day. The dorms were where I lived, where I ate, and where all my friends were. To have it all taken away from me was pretty soul-crushing and the public humiliation was a nice sting to the cut. I came close to dropping out and transferring schools.

After brooding for nearly a year, I finally decided to start over and told myself I never want to feel this way again. Getting fired forced me to take a deep look at myself, enter one of the most creative periods of my life, and it taught me that you can lose everything if you’re not careful, so be prepared and make yourself irreplaceable. Anyway, in a funny turn of events, KU actually ended up hiring me back! And it was none other than the College that gave me a second chance to redemption: I made my return as a KU employee as a student assistant for the College (I’m still not sure if they knew about my previous termination, I was too afraid to ask) and a few months later Katie McCurry from KU Marketing Communications took a chance on me as a social media student assistant, which gave me the foot in the door I needed to pursue social media as a career. I owe everything to her.

Looking back, I thought my life was over but it turns out getting fired was the best thing to ever happen to me. Otherwise, I would have settled and never chased after what I really cared about.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I don’t think my headlights are that bright because life moves too fast, but ultimately I want to be in a place where I can give back to the funding of the Kansas education system, particularly in the K-12 sector. Once you gain it, no one can take away your education, what you learn outside of it in the process, and the connections you make. Education is the greatest ladder for economic ascendancy, and we have a shared responsibility to make sure everyone who wants one gets a fair, affordable shot at climbing it.

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

The only thing any of us really has in our life is time. It didn’t feel like it back then, but right now I feel like that time is bleeding through my hands. But if you invest that time in yourself and have meaningful experiences that you’ll learn from and better yourself, there’s no way to lose. So don’t wait, never settle, and embrace grandiose ambitions while time is still on your side.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

This is something I’ve forgotten myself:


Make sure you don’t sacrifice cherished relationships in the haste of your own ambitions because you’ll miss not giving them enough attention down the road.

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

Talking with other students on my way to graduation helped me understand people from all walks of life better and how to figure out what people like to see and hear, what gets them engaged. Finding out what gets people’s attention is a skill that’s valuable in every aspect of life.

Much of my learning happened outside of my classes but still within the ecosystem of the KU campus. I ended up getting so much from interacting with my peers, new environments and situations. I kind of aggressively tried new things and college taught me what everyone finds out eventually:

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I love wandering around New York City and exploring all of the different neighborhoods. I also like checking out what headlines, images, and videos are hitting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc because the landscape changes every day. Lastly, I’m a big fan of work hard, play hard and there’s no shortage of rooftop bars in New York City. Right now I’m on a quest to find the best Old Fashioned in Manhattan. (shameless plug for my instagram lol: @thecalebchin).

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

Yes! This is my chance! Did you ever hear about the Bitcoin club at KU? NO. I tried starting a Bitcoin club back in 2014 but no professor that I approached would sign off on it to make it official. Nobody even showed up to the first meeting I held. I even offered free bitcoin to help people get started! I sat alone in the middle of the student union for half an hour. Bitcoin was maybe around $350 per BTC at the time. Now it’s at almost $6000. Someone should try making another cryptocurrency club at KU and hit me up if you do! I think cryptocurrencies are still one of the most exciting things going on in the world right now.

Be like Caleb. Here’s more information on studying Political Science and Global and International Studies 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. 

Emily Hoy studies in Senegal

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:56

Hometown: Windsor, Ontario

Major(s)/Minor(s): African and African American Studies, French minor

Where did you study abroad? Dakar, Senegal

Why did you choose to study abroad? I chose to study abroad to experience full language immersion in both French and Wolof. My scholarship has focused on Senegal, so I felt it paramount to visit the country at least once.

What was your favorite part(s) of studying abroad? My favorite part of studying abroad was getting to use my language skills in real contexts outside of the classroom. Dakar is also located on the coast, so spending so much time by the ocean was quite a treat for someone who lives in Kansas!

What did you gain from the experience that will be valuable to you in the future? I gained important language skills in both French and Wolof that have already helped me in the classroom since my return. I have also been able to give multiple talks on my trip and have in that way improved my public speaking skills.

How did you find out about this study abroad opportunity? I found out about the study abroad opportunity through my Wolof instructor here at KU.

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

Emily Hoy and friend Sierra Hurd enjoy the local cuisine – coconuts.

Why did you choose your majors/minors? I chose my major due to an excellent Introduction to African History course that I took my freshman year. I feel that the African continent and its copious cultures often get ignored in scholarship and that much of the general public in the United States doesn’t know much about it. I chose my minor in French because my mother speaks French, but I didn’t learn it growing up. I have always believed in the importance of multilingualism.

What do you plan to do after graduating? I currently plan on obtaining my MA in French from KU.

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

Emily Hoy at the United States Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Hoy was invited as a Gilman Scholar along with ten other students

The College has also put on copious events for all subjects and interests.

What motivates you? I am motivated by my past failures to become a successful, interesting, and helpful person. I am also motivated to make positive change in my community and beyond as I see the troubles that face our society.

What would you tell your freshman self? I would tell myself to double major.

Who is your biggest inspiration? Personally or professionally? I am inspired by powerful women who have made positive changes in society, such as Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren.

Relationship advice from the Heart of KU

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 15:53

Valentine’s Day is here, love is in the air. Pick-up a glossy magazine, flick a few pages and very quickly, you will find a celebrity sharing their relationship advice with you. Turn on the television, and dating shows like “The Bachelor” will show you the trials and tribulations of finding love in the modern world. Should celebrities and reality TV be shaping our ideas about something as important as love?

Researchers across the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at KU also have a lot to say about love and relationships. So this Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a relationship advice column based on recent research. Unlike “The Bachelor,” our researchers propose complex and multi-faceted understandings of love that avoid clichés and a single path to a successful relationship.*

*Warning: this advice does not come with relationship success guaranteed.

Start stand-up comedy:

Romantic comedies commonly depict two rivals vying for the heart of one character. More often than not the romantic competition is between a classically good-looking, successful professional who is as dull as dishwater and a less obviously attractive suitor who is kind and, most importantly, has a great sense of humor. Like the hare and the tortoise, after a slow start it is the latter that eventually wins the heart. Is there truth in the idea that humor lies at the base of all good relationships?

The answer is overwhelmingly yes, according to communication studies associate professor Jeffrey Hall. Laughter is the cornerstone to a successful relationship. But it is not as simple as being a great teller of jokes.  According to Hall, the key to success is to find a partner who shares your sense of what is funny. “What is strongly related to relationship satisfaction is the humor that couples create together,” Hall’s research finds.

Love sells:

The idea of the gold-digger, someone seeking a companion’s money rather than true love, recurs in countless books, films and songs. Shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” highlight both men and women seeking fame and fortune by broadcasting their search for true love to the whole of America. While the contestants repeatedly state that their feelings are genuine, it is far easier to argue that the prospect of celebrity and financial gains is what really motivates their participation in the show. Why else would anyone choose to put their search for “The One” in the public spotlight?

The connections between love and money are evident across the world in a whole range of complex dynamics. For example, consider researcher Akiko Takeyama’s work on Japan’s thriving male geishas. Takeyama’s research took her into Tokyo’s red-light district, where she met men from largely poor backgrounds seeking to gain wealth and fame by selling companionship and attention to female consumers. This is not a simple commercial transaction. “People’s emotions really confuse what is real and what is commercial,” says Takeyama, an associate professor of anthropology and women, gender and sexuality studies. Ultimately, what Takeyama’s research shows is that the hope of love and affection can become “an object to be bought and sold,” so keep your wits about you when a stranger saddles up to you in a bar and asks you for a drink.

Read more books:

Stephen Daldry’s film “The Reader,” based on the book by the same name, tells the story of a love affair between a 35-year-old female tram conductor and a student in his late teens living in 1950s Berlin. The short-term relationship largely hinges on the younger student reading books to his older and illiterate companion, played by Kate Winslet. The film’s plot then shifts forward in time. But one of the key messages from the early part of the film is that books are integral to their connection, and provide a vessel for exploring emotion and self-definition.

It turns out that books not only provide characters for people to explore their own emotional identities, but the very act of reading is an important attribute for those seeking a romantic partner. According to Christy Craig, a doctoral candidate in sociology, American women attend book clubs because the status of “reader” carries high importance in the dating field. These same book club members were also found to place high value on the act of reading in their expectations for a partner and “would never date or marry a non-reader.”

If you catch your partner reading Fifty Shades of Grey, don’t jump to conclusions:

The success of risqué novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” is emblematic of a revived interest in the romance genre. E. L. James’ book started, of course, as a piece of “Twilight” fan fiction, which focused on a love triangle involving a vampire, werewolf and a human. Why has the erotic romance genre come back in vogue? Are these books a threat to the normality of day-to-day relationships? Perhaps history can be instructive.

In December 1785, the vicar general of Madrid ordered the arrest of two Mexican priests for reading a graphic book, titled “Le Portier des Chareux”. The book had been banned because it contained pornographic passages that the author used as a venue to discuss forbidden philosophies that critiqued the Catholic Church. However, associate professor of history and women, gender and sexuality studies Marta Vicente suggests a far more innocent reason why these persecuted priests, and other ordinary early modern Europeans, read the banned book. Analyzing the inquisition case, Vicente argues that these priests did not read for political ideas or graphic depictions. Like most other 18th century readers, they just liked to joke around about the scenes. Probably true today, too.

While we’re talking about the brooding romantic vampires of “Twilight,” let’s also remember that the depiction of a desirable vampire is of our day. Originating from 11th century Slavic folklore, vampires have taken on a wide range of guises, many of which differed greatly from the sexualized versions depicted in most recent films, books and TV shows.  Just ask vampire expert and assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures Ani Kokobobo, whose course explores The Vampire in Literature, Film, and Television” throughout history.

Lesson: don’t judge a Dracula by its cover.

Worldly travelers are cool, but do they make good partners?

The Beat generation had a certain cool about them. Their Bohemian lifestyle and adventurous outlook on life sparked a creativity that many find attractive. Road-trip novels like ”On the Road” have no doubt inspired many Americans to throw a few clothes in a bag and see where the wind might take them. Tales of travel and worldliness are certainly qualities many look for in a partner. The question is, however, does a spirit of wanderlust also lead to a light-footedness when it comes to love?

Omri Gillath, associate professor of psychology, argues that people who move around a lot “develop attitudes of disposability toward objects, furniture, books, devices,” but also personal relationships. “Even in romantic relationships, when I ask my students what would they do when things get difficult, most of them say they would move on rather than try to work things out, or God forbid, turn to a counselor,” Gillath said.

Listen to your heart, fight for love:

The final and most important piece of advice is that many have had to fight against prejudice and adversity for love, and these battles continue today. This is evident in a chapter on the history of health and the LGBTQ movement published by Katie Batza, assistant professor in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Batza examined sites of discrimination, protest and service that have played critical roles in the LGBTQ movement in American history as part of a larger study led by the National Park Service. The historical examples Batza analyzes serve also as reminder that battles over the right to love continue to this day.

Photo and video credits:

  1. Feature image courtesy of KU Marketing and Communications
  2. Victorian Lovers image from Danish “Puk” magazine illustration, 1894, via WikiCommons.
  3. Image of the lady smoking, via KU News.
  4. “The Reader” image, via wikipedia
  5. “Madrid Fair in Cebada Square,” Manuel de la Cruz Vázquez, via Wikimedia Commons
  6. Vampire collage, all images via wikipedia
  7. Relational Disposability video, via Gillath Lab
  8. The Willard State Hospital, via

Sana Cheema’s passions for people, public service and medicine intersect

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 08:38

Sana Cheema is always alert for those eureka moments, when a new passion emerges that demands attention.  This open-minded can-do attitude means that when lightning strikes, Sana commits, determined to do the best she can in her studies, campus leadership and future career as a physician.

When a high school science experiment won Sana top prize in the State of Kansas, she took this as a sign to keep asking questions about the world around us and enrolled as a biology major at KU.

Running parallel to, and in conjunction with this interest in science, was a determination to help others and leave a lasting impact on the world. A pre-med student with ambitions to work in the medical field was a start, but Sana wanted to take her commitment to public service further. A “wonderful internship experience” working with Kansas Senator Jerry Moran in Washington D.C. deepened Sana’s interest in public policy and how it impacts people. Back on campus, Sana got involved in a range of activities, contributing her energy as vice president of both the KU pre-medical society and Student Alumni Leadership Board, as well as founding and running KU’s Friends of Pakistan organization, helping combat often negative portrayals of that country seen in the media. We are sure that this aspiring physician, public servant and advocate for all people will leave a lasting impact on the world, as she has already done here in the College, the heart of KU.





Robert Adams Interns with Alpha Tau Omega

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 11:28

Hometown: Saint Joseph, MO

Majors: Film and Media Studies Major, Business Minor, University Honors Program

Internship title and organization: Communications Intern for Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity 

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

I worked with the Communications team to set up an aesthetically pleasing Awards Banquet for our 140+ chapters. Some of my responsibilities were to create the background graphic panels for presentations, set up walk-ons slides and synchronized music for keynote speakers, and animate logos for each collegiate chapter receiving an award.

Left: The podium used for the Alpha Tau Omega awards ceremony. Right: the Alpha Tau Omega national headquarters.

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

Working with the communications department, and really the entire staff was perhaps my favorite part of the experience. It was like being accepted into a larger family where everyone was so driven to make positive change in the lives of men they hardly even knew. Even during some of the hardest days when I struggled with a project, there would be someone there to help push me towards success. Every single person I met in that office, most of them only one to three years older than myself, was motivated, dedicated, and displayed a fervency like no other.

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

I came into the internship looking to harness more experience with the technical “hard skills” of film and media such as working behind the camera. However, I left with a plethora of both hard and soft skills I had not anticipated. I started off with a proficiency in Photoshop and left with a profound knowledge of Illustrator. The degree of networking I experienced was far greater than my 4 years of college combined. And, I learned how to work in a team where every individual is key to the overall success of the organization.

Why did you choose your majors/minors?

I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and how stories affect us and provoke emotion. It’s a very special moment: inciting feelings or being inspired by someone else.


What do you plan to do next?

I am pursuing a fifth year at KU in hopes of gaining even more from the Film and Media department. So far, the time has been very rewarding, and there are many more courses I am excited to learn from. Hopefully, after that, I’ll join the ATO National Staff as a full time member of the Communications Team.

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

The people. Honestly, just being around such passionate students and teachers has really given me energy to pursue my dreams. I’ve received a lot out of my college experience, and the people here have helped me learn not only about the topics we cover in class, but also about myself.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Start looking into opportunities earlier! It never hurts to just ask around or seek more information on something that piques your interest.


Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is my younger brother, Jacob. He’s always pushed on no matter what obstacles stand in his way, and he doesn’t look at anything as a disadvantage. His obstacles become challenges, and challenges become feats of accomplishment. I have to say, he’s one hell of a kid.

Hawks to Watch: Spencer Lott, Puppeteer

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 15:32
Why Spencer’s a Hawk to Watch:

Who hasn’t dreamed of taking a trip to Sesame Street? The air is sweet, the neighbors are friendly, and everything’s A-OK. But, how to get to Sesame Street? One answer is to become a puppeteer, like KU College alum Spencer Lott, our latest Hawk to Watch. Spencer developed a passion for puppetry while studying for a degree in theatre at KU. Since graduating he has landed work on Sesame Street and America’s Got Talent, as well as a chance to perform as a Muppet at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. To add to that, Spencer’s contributed his skills as a puppeteer on music videos and TV commercials on both sides of the Atlantic and has written, directed and performed in several films including his very own “Melvin the Birder.” Finally, this theatre graduate continues his thespian passions through his involvement with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, a New-York based theater organization making adventurous theater for young people and their families. We can’t wait to see what this multi-talented artist does next!

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am a puppeteer, a director and theater maker. I create original plays for young audiences with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company and I puppeteer on TV.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

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

I was fired from my first job as a professional puppeteer after I graduated from KU. I had signed a non-compete, so I couldn’t do any puppetry work in Kansas City for a full year. After a few failed auditions in NYC, I spent the next nine months serving pasta at a chain restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. It shook my confidence but it forced me to re-evaluate my goals and the trajectory of my career. With support from my family and my wife I started focusing on getting work in NYC. I would save up money and then fly back and forth to NYC for auditions and puppet-building gigs. I had very generous friends who let me stay on their couches for weeks at a time over the course of a year. In one magical moment, I landed a spot in a workshop of a new play with a young company called Trusty Sidekick Theater Company. Less than four years later, I would be on stage in the New York premiere of the same play at Lincoln Center. Last year, I became the associate artistic director of that same company.

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

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

So many skills are useful when you are a puppeteer – acting, directing, costume design, filmmaking. Every gig is a little bit different than the next, so the bigger box of tools I come prepared with, the better my chances of success in rehearsal or on set.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Be nice to everyone you meet.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I hope to be producing my own original stories (perhaps TV, theater, or books) for young people and in the midst of some artistic collaboration with my wife (who I met at KU!)

A still from “Melvin the Birder.” A short film Spencer directed that is available on What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

As a freelancer, it is hard to clock out at the end of the day, but I have an incredible wife who makes me get out of the studio and relax. Together, we go on adventures around New York City and have been doing some traveling. I see a ton of theater and we love hosting parties in our tiny Brooklyn apartment with our fancy cat named Colonel Mustard.

Spencer Lott’s Puppeteer Reel from 2017

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I’m going to steal my wife’s fun fact – her Godfather is Fred Rogers. My in-laws are writers and developed a friendship with him. He was even a part of their wedding ceremony! My wife and I share a small artist studio and we have a framed headshot of Fred that he signed “With love from your real friend Mister Rogers.”

What would be the soundtrack to your life?

My soundtrack would be an eclectic playlist – It would include a few songs from St. Vincent and Sylvan Esso and then perhaps a little Dirty Projectors. I’m getting into French Ye-Ye and I’m on a Yo-Yo Ma kick right now as well. Of course, somewhere on the mix would be Ernie singing “Put Down the Ducky.”

Be like Spencer. Here’s more information on the KU Department of Theatre.

Check out Spencer’s website for more about the incredible work of this Hawk to Watch.

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. 

Research: The Heart of the KU Experience

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:05

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. We educate the most students, produce the most research and collaborate all across KU. As the destination for more than half of the undergraduate students, we are in a unique position to prepare a broad population of Jayhawks to enter their careers with a blend of intellectual curiosity and hands-on skills.

KU is known as one of the top research universities worldwide. This distinction offers experiences students can find at few other institutions. Imagine, as a young student, working in close collaboration on cutting-edge research with experienced and renowned scholars who invite you to join their research project or advise you on your own research questions. This is exactly the experience our undergraduates have here, to work alongside some of the most accomplished professors in the world.

This goes far beyond reading texts for classes and writing papers. Students manage projects, work through problems, collaborate in teams, train on new technology, and communicate their findings through conference presentations, journal articles, exhibitions or performances. Students involved in undergraduate research in the College often describe this hands-on experience as a memorable and transformative part of their time at KU that boosted their confidence, improved their grades, facilitated lasting relationships with other students and their faculty mentors, and enhanced their career readiness. You can see this firsthand in our video highlighting the experiences of students and recent graduates: Victoria Bogner, Justin Kim, Taylor Leibbrandt and Kierstin McMichael.

3 Career Fair myths that just aren’t true

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 08:00

The Career Fair is coming up next week! It will be in the Kansas Union on Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.  Not sure what to expect? Don’t think this event is for you? We’ve talked with real employers and busted some of the most popular student myths and concerns about attending the Career Fair.

The companies attending aren’t looking for my major.

Employers are often looking for students with specific skills, not specific majors. Some companies will list a few majors that might be a great fit for the position, but that list isn’t always all-encompassing. There are more than 100 major and minor options within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences alone, not to mention the options across the whole university – so don’t sweat it if your major isn’t listed verbatim. Learn how to talk about the knowledge base you’ve developed through your major and the skillset you can offer in that position. Here’s a list of the top six liberal arts skills to get you started.

“I graduated from a liberal arts college, so I completely understand the value of a diverse, well-rounded education in the workforce,” said Jessie Poole, assistant account manager and internship coordinator at Crossroads. “I love talking with students that can speak about economics, politics and then dive into their love for writing or speaking. I’m less interested in what your degree will say, and more interested in why you want to intern at Crossroads and why you’d be a great fit for our team.”

Cristina Wall is a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Enterprise Holdings. As an alumna of a liberal arts college, Cristina said she understands the value of a broad education and that in the hiring process, skills are more important than a specific major. Skills she looks for include: “customer service, sales, flexibility, great work ethic, communication, and leadership.”

I can only talk to recruiters about the specific positions listed.

Employers sometimes choose to list opportunities available prior to the fair; however that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to discuss the company in general or keep your resume on hand for future postings. If you’re interested in a company attending the fair, you should meet with them, even if they don’t have your dream job available right now. Talking with the representative will give you the chance to ask questions you can’t necessarily find out through online research, plus they might have insight on potential internships or when opportunities might open up.

“LRS attends career fairs to find students for our entry level positions.  We like to start building relationships with students early so that we become a destination on their career fair experience,” said  Kaci Huelsmann with Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. “I’m the campus recruiter and deal with all things related.  I give out my business cards as well as fliers that have my information on it, including my cell phone number.  If someone thinks of a question after the fact, I’m more than happy to answer it for them and help them in any way!”

Giving out my resume is too pushy.

It’s not. Employers want to meet you; it’s why they’ve taken time away from their desks to attend the fair. Some of them will even keep resumes on hand for future opportunities. Providing your resume up front can help guide your conversation with an employer and give them the chance to ask any questions they may have about your experience.

“It’s amazing to me how often I visit a fair, ask for a resume and the student doesn’t have one ready to go. I think it’s great for students to ask questions to get a feel for the company first, but every interaction at a fair is an opportunity to get your name out there,” said Jessie Poole from Crossroads. “If you don’t have a resume to make an impression, how am I supposed to take notes, remember our conversation or reach out if an opportunity pops up? Always carry copies of your resume and don’t be afraid to ask questions or follow up with an email if you are really interested in an opportunity.”


Kyle Ta gains global perspective interning in Spain

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 15:02

Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

Majors: B.A. Biology, minor Philosophy

Internship title and organization:

Atlantis Project Fellowship, Hospital Shadowing in Spain

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

During my internship, we were required to attend shadowing opportunities in an assigned hospital and various departments for five hours a day, four times a week over the span of a month and a half.

Another responsibility was to gain immersion in the culture through weekly activities, whether it was visiting various towns and cities hours away from the heart of Madrid, or cultural lessons within the city, such as dancing and cooking.

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

I immensely enjoyed the various departments that I had been able to explore. Surgery was a particular field I was interested in, and cardiology was interesting in patient-doctor interactions.

I also enjoyed experiencing the various cultural aspects:

During my stay in Spain, I had also been afforded the opportunity to attend WorldPride Madrid 2017, which offered a wonderful insight into international and modern perspectives to cultural and societal issues.

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

It was interesting to see how the hospital was run and how different cultural norms, such as views on mental health and smoking, affected how patient-doctor relationships formed.

How did you find out about this internship?

I learned about this internship through the Office of Study Abroad. I had gone in two days before the deadline of the Gilman Scholarship application, and an advisor mentioned the program to me. I found it interesting, and within two days I had written two essays and received letters of recommendation, and set myself on the path to studying abroad. 

What advice would you give students who are considering an internship?

What do you plan to do next?

I plan to continue my studies in the United States, but with my perspective shifted toward a more global viewpoint. I am hoping to apply to medical school this year as a second-year student; I enjoyed the opportunity to be in a hospital and observe so much that I have changed my 4-year plan to graduate into a 3-year plan!

Why did you choose your majors/minors

I find that biology and philosophy compliment each other nicely. I always mention my biology major as more of a physical science, and philosophy as an abstract science. A factual understanding of the world as we know it is great on its own, but being able to critically think about what we learn, how to apply it, and why it is important is what really matters. Also, scientific method was derived from philosophers, the first scientists.

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

What motivates you?

My motivation, as a cliché, is helping others. I have always been an underdog, and despite that, have always tried my best to help other people by working in the service industry and as a tutor and mentor. My hope is that I can carry that passion of working with people into my desire to become a healthcare professional.

My favorite KU memory is…

It’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite memory at KU. Despite having attended KU for three semesters, I have learned more in my time here than I ever have in my life. I think that having traveled so much, being a member and now-president of a student organization that sends students to conferences and having been a fellow in the Hospital Shadowing in Spain program, would be my favorite set of experiences. I have learned so much and have traveled more than I ever have before. I think that has provided me with as much learning as in a classroom setting.

What would you tell your freshman self?

You can do research, you can receive scholarships dedicated for various academic experiences, and you can even get scholarships for being an active member in the KU community.

Who is your biggest inspiration? Personally or professionally?

My biggest inspiration would have to be the former president of the student organization I now run. He had been a hard working man, studying often, being an outspoken individual on campus, and ultimately was accepted into every graduate school he applied to. He’s now in his first year at Stanford, and I aspire to work just as hard as he did.

What would be the theme song for your life?

If I had to pick a theme song for my life, it would be one from pop culture, since nobody would know a random indie single. It’d have to be “Don’t Stop Believing,” and I think that speaks for itself.

Rachel Heitmann, Friend of Planet Earth

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 08:53

Hometown: Hebron, Nebraska

Majors: Environmental Studies major, Spanish minor

Internship title and organization:

Summer intern for ‘The Land Institute’ in Salina, Kansas

What were your responsibilities during your internship? 

It’s very hard to pin down exactly what my responsibilities were since they varied so much throughout the summer. My fellow interns and I worked on projects ranging from harvesting Kernza © in plots all around ‘The Land Institute,’ to hoeing weeds in a field all day, to planting hundreds of varieties of legume seeds. Each day was a promise of hard work towards the goal of sustainable, perennial polyculture. Improving agriculture comes in many forms, and my summer at ‘The Land Institute’ gave me a taste of lots of different ways of approaching agriculture from a sustainable viewpoint.

Rachel Heitmann’s internship took her out into the fields in the heart of Kansas. Rachel is far left, wearing a Jayhawk hat. What was your favorite part(s) of the internship? 

I loved that every morning when I went in I knew I would be working hard all day for a cause I believed in. Farming is so important, and using perennial crops has the potential to be a real solution to the issues we face in agriculture today—as an intern, I could be a part of this progress. Not only was I working towards such an incredible goal, but I also got to do this in the heart of Kansas alongside some terrific friends and fellow interns.

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

I did gain lots of practical knowledge from my experience, but the most beneficial thing that I will take away by far is understanding the value of a day’s hard work. 6 AM starts and frequent triple digit temperatures made for very challenging circumstances at times, but they were more than worth it.

What do you plan to do next?

At this point, I can’t say I know what I will be doing a few years from now, but I do know that I am very much looking forward to the rest of my time at KU.

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

I love that I am getting a taste of many different parts of what KU has to offer. From chemistry to environmental policy and analysis, the courses that I have taken in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences have shown me the importance of exploring the different corners of academia.

Why did you choose your majors/minors?

From a young age, I have known that protecting our Earth is very important, and this belief has only been reinforced as I have gone through college.

Studying environmental studies, I can get have a solid baseline education in the sciences as well as the arts, and it all ties together for a better understanding of the environment.

I have taken Spanish classes nearly every year since junior high, and with this foundation, it made a lot of sense to continue to the Spanish minor. I have always wanted to be fluent in a second language, and this is my chance. I am studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain in the spring semester, and I’m excited at the opportunity to put my skills to a practical use.

What would you tell your freshman self?

Relax! You truly don’t need to have it all figured out right now. I’d also tell myself to get out of my shell sooner and to appreciate the small joys of each day rather than worrying so much.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. She has been a part of my life in so many ways! St. Kateri is the patroness of the environment, and she is a role model for me in a variety of ways. My Catholic Faith is my number one priority, and St. Kateri inspires me through the gift of her life to God as well as through her advocacy for the environment and her courage. She was also known for her sense of humor, which serves as inspiration to go through life joyfully.

Leader and language learner: Mattie Bieberly prepares for government career

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:59

Mattie Bieberly is a dreamer with dedication, a compassionate Jayhawk who works hard to ensure that she’s ready to give everything to helping others. Mattie is what makes the College the Heart of KU.

Mattie knows that getting your dream job doesn’t just happen, it comes from preparing yourself with the right skills, gaining a wide range of experiences and working hard to turn your passions into reality. With aspirations to work in the government, it’s an understatement to say that Mattie’s time at KU has been full. Her studies and campus involvement is an overflowing plate. Academically, she’s pursuing majors in history and political science, as well as a minor in Middle East Studies, all focused on building her understanding of Iraq. Three years of Arabic language learning ensures Mattie has the necessary skills to pursue her academic interests, but is also well prepared for the world of work beyond KU.  Mattie is also the Director of Alternative Breaks, a student run organization helping KU students find volunteer and service learning opportunities, and is a College of Liberal Arts & Sciences representative on the KU Student Senate. Speaking to Mattie it is clear that a desire to advocate for others drives her to excel in all that she does.

Learn more about this compassionate and dedicated College Jayhawk in this video interview, and the graphics below:




Lisa Martin balances it all to complete KU degree online

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:25

Lisa Martin is a wife, mother, full-time employee and non-traditional student completing her degree with the flexibility of the KU College Online. Here’s Lisa’s story.

Major: B.G.S. Liberal Arts & Sciences Online

Why did you choose your major? I chose my major in part because it was an option offered by KU that allowed me to obtain a Bachelor’s degree 100% online. However, learning the flexibility that comes with a Liberal Arts & Science degree made the final decision-making process easy.

“Employer and coworker support are crucial for me as an Online Liberal Arts and Science major. From the 5 am starts, to flight following aircraft or maybe homework during my lunch break. I couldn’t do it without the entire team. You know you’re an online college student when lunch is spent with books, notes, and 5 open tabs for one assignment.” Quotes and images contributed by Lisa during her KU College Instagram Takeover on September 14, 2017.

What has been your favorite class? And why?  My favorite class is a toss-up between German 130 with Professor Vanchena and History of Art 100 with Professor Long.  The reason that they are my favorites is that they both were challenging and beyond my comfort level. However, they were well organized, educational, and made me look at things from a different perspective.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Elizabeth Long from History of Art 100. I am forever grateful for the encouragement, feedback, and willingness to assist me when needed.

How did you hear about the College Online? I live in Lawrence and happened to notice a sponsored ad for the College Online via social media.

Why did you decide to take College Online classes? Working my full-time job at this time doesn’t allow for the flexibility to attend class in person. The College Online offers me not only the flexibility, but allows me to complete my degree and graduate just like everyone else.

What would you say to someone thinking about enrolling in the College Online? 

How do you balance your classes with other commitments? The way I balance classes and commitments is by preparing accordingly and keeping a schedule. I prepare and schedule so that at least a minimum of two hours a day are devoted to class time.

How will the College Online classes help you meet your goals after graduation? The College Online is providing me with the opportunity to obtain something that no one else in my family has, a college education.

What motivates you? Besides the goals and high standards that I have for myself, I would say I am also very motivated by my husband. He is so proud of me and shares with everyone how proud of me he is so I could never let him down.

A supportive husband, dog and coffee machine helps Lisa keep up with her studies when she returns home from work and has assignments to do. Images contributed by Lisa during her KU College Instagram Takeover on September 14, 2017.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out? From the moment that I clock out from my job, I am clocking into to my studies. While clocking in at work allows me to apply what I have learned in class, clocking into student mode immediately following allows me to learn how to be a better spouse, mother, and grandmother.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people? A fun fact about me is that I am terrified of water, so I will never have the opportunity to take that ‘Dream Cruise’.

Hawks to Watch: Becky Mandelbaum, Writer

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 08:31
Why Becky’s a Hawk to Watch:

Aspiring writers everywhere should take a page out of award-winning Becky Mandelbaum‘s book. Writing, for Becky, is about moving through the world full of curiosity, every moment packed with inspiration, and then painting the characters on a page. Creating fiction is about being obsessed with what you do. Oh, and it’s about practicing, lots of practicing. Becky’s passion found life in the creative writing program at KU. Since graduating in 2013, Becky’s won the Lawrence Art Center’s Langston Hughes Award for Fiction and in 2016 her debut book “Bad Kansas” won the Flannery O’Connor Award, the highest award for collections of short fiction. Becky’s work has appeared in notable literary publications including The Georgia Review, The Rumpus, Necessary Fiction, Salt Hill, Great Jones Street, Hobart, Midwestern Gothic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. But being a writer is also about being tenacious and finding a way to make ends meet so you can find the time and energy to write. Currently, that “other job” for Becky is working as a cashier in the North Cascades National Park, Washington, an inspiring backdrop as she works on the draft of her first novel, tentatively titled “The Hurting Animals.”

Tell us what you do for a living:

Right now, what I do for a living has little to do with my writing career. Many writers know the drill: you find work in a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or, in my case, a gift store—anything to make ends meet so you can write. This past summer, I was a cashier at a gift shop in North Cascades National Park. Hawking hummingbird finger puppets to tourists doesn’t exactly make my heart sing, but it does provide a healthy supply of stories while leaving mental energy for my real work, which takes place at home, in the gauzy morning hours before work, with a blank page and a full French press.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

On paper, winning the Flannery O’Connor Award and publishing my first book, “Bad Kansas,” are certainly my biggest achievements. And yet, on a personal level, I feel most accomplished whenever I’m getting my work done. At the moment, I’m excited about finishing the early drafts of my first novel, tentatively titled “The Hurting Animals.” This novel had its start when I was a senior at KU, and the characters have been nagging me ever since. It feels good knowing they’re safely on the page, even if those pages never reach the outside world.

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

Strangely, this current moment feels like both the lowest and highest of my career. In terms of writing, my career is going well: I have a book out, I won an award, I have permission to keep writing. And yet, on a day-to-day level, I’ve been working at a cash register, earning only a teaspoon more than minimum wage. The way I’m picking myself up and moving on is by getting my work done—finishing my manuscript, looking forward to the next project. The beauty of writing is that it gives back twofold whatever you put into it. As long as you’re willing to do the work, it’ll be there to support you, and I’m finding that true now more than ever.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I hope to be living somewhere beautiful, near mountains and water, with time and space (and, fingers crossed, my very own desk) in which to work on whatever it is I’m working on: a novel, essays, short stories. I also love teaching and hope to ultimately settle into a career as a fiction writing instructor. It’d be a cruel world if I didn’t also have a dog.

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

Even the bad writing is important.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Write what obsesses you, not what you think other people will find interesting.

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

KU is where I learned how to write fiction. Writing is 90% practice, but there are elements of fiction writing that can be learned, like how to increase tension, reveal character, craft dialogue, etc. Those basic elements I learned at KU, in my undergraduate fiction writing workshops, and have carried with me ever since.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

The wonderful and terrible thing about writing is that you never clock out—the writing brain is always on, paying attention, searching for material. Every conversation is dialogue. Every personal catastrophe is a chapter. Luckily, certain activities are useful for exercising this writing brain. For me, hiking and traveling go hand in hand with writing. The body is in motion, absorbing new experiences and locations that may end up on the page.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

For fun, usually around the holidays, I like to make ornamental dolls out of human hair. I try to assure people the dolls are whimsical, not malicious. Needless to say, some people appreciate the art form more than others.

Be like Becky. Here’s more information on the KU English Department’s B.A. in Creative Writing.

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. 

9 things you should know about Langston Hughes

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 09:41

Famed writer and one-time Lawrence resident Langston Hughes, born in Joplin, Mo., is celebrated throughout the University of Kansas and the city. To help us celebrate his birthday and kick off Black History Month, we spoke to professors across campus to tell us what we should know about Hughes’ significant and broad career and the lasting impact his work had on American culture … in a nutshell.

He grew up in Lawrence, Kansas Not Without Laughter, 1930. Image courtesy of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Though born in Missouri, Langston Hughes moved to Lawrence to live with his grandmother Mary Langston. Hughes primarily lived with his grandmother during his early childhood while his mother moved about seeking jobs.

“Hughes spent his formative years in Lawrence. He learned many of his values from his grandmother, which are revealed in his various forms of writing,” said Edgar Tidwell, professor of English.  A number of autobiographical moments from his time in Lawrence appear especially in Hughes’s novel “Not Without Laughter,” Tidwell said.

He was a major leader of the Harlem Renaissance

“When you think of the Harlem Renaissance, people often think of that as the 1920s in Harlem, New York City, and that’s natural; that’s where it started,” said Evans who has been teaching Reading and Writing the Harlem Renaissance (ENGL 105) for about five years.

Hughes himself defined the Harlem Renaissance in this narrow sense. However, “in 1925, Alain Locke in his introduction to an anthology called ‘The New Negro’, predicted an ongoing kind of renaissance of black literature and the arts that he envisioned as having no end but as continuously evolving,” Evans said. “Ironically, Hughes proves Dr. Locke right because he and Zora Neale Hurston both had long careers that extended far beyond the 1920s in Harlem.”

He was a poet of the people

“His life’s work was about bringing people together socially, politically and artistically,” said Shawn Alexander, director of the Langston Hughes Center at KU and associate professor of African and African-American studies. “At the same time, in his attempts to bring people together he challenged the nation to live up to its ideals, as seen in two of his most famous poems, ‘I, too, sing America’ and ‘Montage of a Dream Deferred.’”

He was also one of the first artists to write jazz poetry. “His first volume of poetry is called ‘The Weary Blues’ in 1926. Here he is integrating jazz and blues rhythms, subjects, themes into poetry. He is experimenting with this,” Evans said.

He was more than just a poet; he was a writer in almost any genre you can think of

“Hughes is known mainly as a poet but he wrote in many forms and genres, including poetry, short story, drama, the novel, autobiography, journalistic prose, song lyrics and history,” Alexander said. “For instance, in 1962 he published the first comprehensive history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, entitled, ‘Fight for Freedom: The Story of the NAACP.’”

Throughout his career, Hughes wrote 16 collections of poetry, 12 novels and short story collections, 11 major plays, eight books for children, seven works of non-fiction, and numerous essays.

“A very prolific writer in almost any genre you can think of. And his career of course, spanned decades.  His career ended when he died in 1967. He was active until the last,” Evans said.

He was rebellious, breaking from the black literary establishment

“[Hughes’s] 1926 essay ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’ turned out to be something of a manifesto for the young black American writers and artists. And in this Hughes articulates for the first time a kind of racial consciousness and cultural nationalism. In other words Hughes is breaking with the establishment here in that he is asking the younger writers and artists to take pride in their blackness and their black heritage. And to make that an informing source for their art,” Evans said. “Hughes is, above all, what you might call a poet of the people in that he writes his poetry and fiction in a way that makes it accessible to just about everybody. You don’t have to have a college degree; you don’t have to have a background in Greek mythology to get what he’s going for.  The themes he’s dealing with are the themes of every day black American life. I would say this is his lasting contribution in that he helped to create an environment that influenced two or three generations of writers.”

He was a world traveler

“He was more than just an African American. He was much more than an American. He was a man of the world,” Tidwell said. “A lot of people are not aware of or tend not to pay much attention to the fact that Langston Hughes was a world traveler.”

His autobiographies “The Big Sea” (1940) and “I Wonder as I Wander” (1956) are admirable records of his travels throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Russia and East Asia. He embraced the international flavor of people and their spirit of community, Tidwell said. People naturally gravitated to his warm personality, and it was said he never met a stranger.

He had a complicated relationship with his mother

“His mother was largely in and out of his life,” Tidwell said. “But she was a very complex woman.”

Tidwell co-edited the book “My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938,” which explores Hughes’ relationship with his mother through letters she sent to him during the last years of her life. While working on the book, Tidwell said he “began to learn how truly complicated Hughes’ family relationships were. It was an opportunity to see what life was like for them through the eyes of his mother. He didn’t always respond to his mother by return mail; instead, he often used his writing to take up themes that appeared in her correspondence to him.”

He worked with the father of Black History

“A brief but often neglected connection occurred when Hughes came back to the U.S. from a tour abroad.   He stayed in Washington, D.C., and spent some time working for historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson,” Tidwell said.

The First Book of Jazz, illustrated by Cliff Roberts, 1955. Image courtesy of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Hughes helped Woodson catalog new and noteworthy experiences and achievements of African Americans. These achievements were celebrated in Negro History Week, which Dr. Woodson inaugurated in February 1926 between the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976 the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) and President Gerald Ford expanded the commemoration to the entire month. For his own pioneering scholarship, Dr. Woodson earned the designation of “the father of Black History.”

His legacy lives on at KU

“Hughes’ legacy lives in numerous ways at KU, but the most obvious example is with the Langston Hughes Center,” Alexander said.

As part of the Department African and African-American Studies, the Langston Hughes Center (LHC) serves as an academic research and educational center that builds upon the legacy and insight of Langston Hughes. It coordinates and develops teaching, research and outreach activities in African-American Studies, and the study of race and culture in American society at KU and throughout the Midwest. Since the LHC’s revival in 2008 it has held four major symposiums and sponsored nearly 80 academic talks and programs.

KU has also sponsored the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship since 1977. This program attracts prominent ethnic minority scholars to the campus in a broad range of disciplines. The Langston Hughes Professor teaches two courses a semester and delivers a campus-wide symposium. Additionally, several past recipients are now tenured faculty members at KU.

Cover photo courtesy of the Langston Hughes Center.

13 #HeartofKU moments from 2017

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 08:02

The College is the heart of KU because it’s home to creators, innovators and thinkers who turn up every day compelled to make the world better for everyone. They question the status quo, experiment with new ideas and products, and propose solutions and new ways of thinking that address the challenges we all face. Looking back, it’s amazing to see what our students, professors and alumni have accomplished in the past year. They made ground-breaking discoveries, received national and international recognition for their work and made lasting impact in business, technologies, the arts, entertainment and education. Here are just a few highlights from 2017.

Beating superbugs with innovation, NIH recognizes KU professor’s antibiotics research with $2.3M award

A personal experience compelled KU bioscientist Joanna Slusky to focus her research on one of the world’s most pressing public health questions: how to combat drug-resistant superbugs and re-establish the efficacy of antibiotics. Professor Slusky’s solution to the problem is a protein that will resensistize bacteria to common antibiotics, an invention that could have a global effect on the battle against disease. Slusky’s research was recognized with a Moore Inventor Fellowship, a three-year grant worth more than $800,000, in 2016, and a $2.3 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in October 2017. Read more about Joanna Slusky’s story in this KU Alumni Association feature.

When fossils attack: Explore KU’s newest exhibit

KU’s new Earth, Energy and Environment Center (EEEC) came to life this fall with the addition of two fossils hanging from Slawson Hall’s atrium: a mosasaur chasing an 84-million-year-old sea turtle. In a nod to our history and the study of geology, these specimens represent a time when the Kansas prairie was a vast inland sea, and when the Cretaceous-era reptiles roamed and hunted. The mosasaur is the state fossil of Kansas. You may recognize this particular one because it is a cast of a specimen that now resides in KU’s Natural History Museum. Measuring 45 feet in length, it was discovered in 1911 in Logan County, Kansas, and is believed to be the largest complete mosasaur fossil in existence.

Sea turtles were likely prey animals of mosasaurs in the Cretaceous seas of Kansas. The fossil specimen now on display was collected near Quinter, Kansas, by KU alumnus and Triebold Paleontology curator Anthony Maltese. It shows nearly 100 small indentations that have been interpreted as bite marks from a mosasaur that was similar in size to the fossil hanging in Slawson Hall. The bite marks show no evidence of healing, indicating the mosasaur attack was fatal.

The Earth, Energy & Environment Center (EEEC) sits next to Lindley Hall and will open for classes in spring 2018. The two buildings of the EEEC—Ritchie Hall and Slawson Hall— will feature bridges to Lindley Hall and Learned Hall. The multidisciplinary center is a collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering. It will bring together faculty, students and researchers from geology and engineering to tackle energy and environmental research.


Rewriting classics with feminist twist wins Kij Johnson top writing award

Even though she had already won the three most prestigious awards a science fiction/fantasy author can win, Assistant Professor of English Kij Johnson was still thrilled to win the 2017 World Fantasy Award for best long fiction for her 2016 novella, “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” ( “Vellitt Boe,” with its middle-aged female protagonist, is a feminist riff on H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” published posthumously in 1943. It struck a deep chord with readers.

Johnson is making a career — or at least an epoch — out of updating classic novels with a feminist twist. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about classics that excluded people,” Johnson said. “It got me to thinking about what books mattered to me when I was young and what accommodations I had to do in order to enjoy them. So, for instance, in ‘Lord of the Rings’ there were only three women in it. They were an elf princess, and I knew I wasn’t one of those, and a half-elf princess, and I knew I wasn’t one of those, and a human girl who was a princess, which I knew I wasn’t, but whose primary motivation for all of her actions was that she had a crush on Aragorn. And that was really disappointing when I was 10 years old, because I didn’t want to have crushes on anybody. So I would imagine that Merry, who is one of the hobbits who goes on the quest, was a girl, because the name Merry was pretty close to Mary, and Merry didn’t have to be a boy to have adventure.” We’re excited to read her latest, “The River Bank,” (Small Beer Press) a sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 “The Wind in the Willows” with two female protagonists.

New $20M NSF award will fund collaborative research on the role of microorganisms in plants, water and soil

The University of Kansas will partner with four other Kansas universities on a new project funded by $20 million from the National Science Foundation to gain a better understanding of how tiny microorganisms, collectively known as microbiomes, influence environmental changes and the resulting economic implications. Kristin Bowman-James, a KU distinguished professor of chemistry who is serving as the principal investigator of the project, said: “This project will pull scientists together from different disciplines and different universities to work together on an important research area,” Bowman-James said. “Microorganisms play an important role in a wide variety of areas that affect our lives, which ultimately can impact human health and the health of our environment.” Studying these tiny living things can be critical to understanding several key issues for the state, including agricultural sustainability, water quality, greenhouse gases, plant productivity and soil fertility, Bowman-James said. James Bever, a KU Foundation Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey, will help coordinate a portion of the work.


Flint water crisis led to lower fertility rates, higher fetal death rates, researchers find

Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis caused fewer babies being born there — through reduced fertility rates and higher fetal death rates — compared with other Michigan cities during that time, according to a working paper that includes a University of Kansas researcher. “Having children in America is expensive and resource-intensive, and we want people to have the number of children they want when they want to have them. We, as Americans, are very much about individual people getting to make the choices that are the best for their families, and this is one of the most fundamental ones,” said David Slusky, assistant professor of economics.

The implications of the Flint environmental crisis provide wide-ranging lessons for cities and states, Slusky said. Lead poisoning is still a concern in most communities, especially in the use of older lead pipes for infrastructure or older homes that might have lead paint. Flint also provides a lesson in the role of public health and environmental oversight. Much of the work uncovering the dangerous levels of contamination in Flint came from private engineering and health professionals during a time when city leaders said the water was fine, Sluksy said. This could be an important lesson concerning government funding of agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state bodies responsible for environmental inspections and oversight. “In the future we would like to have a government that is more responsive and more active in ensuring that the water that comes out of people’s taps is safe,”  Slusky said.

Three KU professors named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Three University of Kansas professors have been named as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

This year’s honorees:

  • Susan Lunte, Ralph N. Adams Distinguished Professor of Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Chemistry
  • A. Townsend Peterson, University Distinguished Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and senior curator at the KU Biodiversity Institute
  • Franklin (Feng) Tao, Miller Associate Professor of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering and Chemistry.

They are among 396 new fellows to receive this honor this year in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

“It is always gratifying to have our faculty members receive this recognition from AAAS, one of our country’s most distinguished scientific organizations,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “Designation as fellows is a well-deserved honor for all of these scientists, and it reflects well on the research efforts of our entire university. I congratulate them for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields.”

Author Coins Term ‘Adapturgy’ For Burgeoning Field

With interest in dramaturgy growing nearly as fast as that in the adaptation of literature into different artistic genres, the time is ripe, according to Assistant Professor of Theatre Jane Barnette, for her new book, “Adapturgy: The Dramaturg’s Art and Theatrical Adaptation” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018). Barnette delves into both the theory and the practice of moving from page to stage from the dramaturg’s perspective. “The central question in dramaturgy is why this play now?” Barnette said. “Why are we performing this particular play in 2017? So I have transformed that question in the book into ‘why this source as theatre now?’ You should always know why and what it’s saying to your current worldview. But if you are doing an adaptation, you need to understand why you are doing this source as theatre now. Because you could turn it into a film, a ballet or any other medium, but the adapter has chosen theatre. So part of my job is to figure out what does theatre allow us to do with this source that just reading it doesn’t allow?”

Hawks to Watch: Young alumni making their mark

What connects the Oscar-winning “The Jungle Book” movie and the California High Speed Railway? What about artistic pastries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Netflix? Or online music mag Pitchfork and some of the oldest rarest books in America? The answer is KU College graduates, our latest class of Hawks to Watch. These recent alums are poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Their successes in such a wide range of industries are testament to the diverse ways the liberal arts and sciences prepare students for almost any career.

 KU Debate ranked number one in the country

The Kansas debate team of seniors William Katz, of Topeka, and Quaram Robinson, Round Rock, Texas, ended the fall semester with a first-place finish at the prestigious Franklin R. Shirley Classic Debate Tournament hosted by Wake Forest University earlier this month. More than 130 teams from across the country competed. The pair defeated Harvard University in the semifinals and Emory University in the championship debate. Katz and Robinson finished the first semester as the top-ranked individual team in the country, and the KU squad as a whole is ranked No. 1 in the country in the NDT Varsity point rankings.


Federal grant to help preserve endangered Kiowa language

As an amateur linguist growing up among the Kiowa people a century ago, Parker McKenzie devised a method of writing his native language using English letters. Now his great-grandson, University of Kansas Assistant Professor of Linguistics Andrew McKenzie, is completing a book that will go further than ever before in outlining the grammar of Kiowa. Andrew McKenzie’s work is urgent, he said, because most of the remaining fluent Kiowa speakers (a few dozen) are quite elderly. In fact, several of those he has interviewed have subsequently passed away. “It’s an urgent task to document the language while it’s still preservable,” Andrew McKenzie said recently. “Teachers of the language will need to know this going into the future.” Andrew McKenzie recently won a three-year grant from the Documenting Endangered Languages program of the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities to fill in a gap on Kiowa.

Distinguished Alumni: Ambassador Delano Lewis, Diplomat and Executive

The list of careers Delano Lewis has held is lengthy and diverse. After graduating from KU in 1960 with majors in political science and history and a law degree soon after, he embarked on a career including roles with the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, as U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, CEO of NPR and more than 20 years in telecommunications with C & P Telco in D.C., culminating as president of Bell Atlantic/DC, which is now Verizon.

Alongside his professional career, Lewis has made contributions as a public servant and philanthropist in the Washington, D.C. community, and on a federal level. Recently, he’s focused his energy on sharing his experiences with others, compiling his life lessons in his memoir, “It All Begins with Self: How to Discover Your Passion, Connect with People, and Succeed in Life.”

In recognition of his diverse and impactful career, the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences honored Lewis with our 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. We sat down with him to learn more about his approach to leadership and learning.

KU geologists help spearhead development of app

Thanks to the work of geologists at the University of Kansas, all you need starting today to create detailed geologic maps of any region on Earth is a smartphone or a tablet and a desire to understand. Led by James Douglas Walker, the Union Pacific Resources Distinguished Professor of Geology at KU, the group helped plan and conceptualize a new geologic mapping app called the StraboSpot Data System. KU also completed all of the programming and technical development on Strabo. The KU Geology Department tested the app over the last two years in its GEOL 560 and 561 field courses in Colorado. “Strabo is an app tailored to field geologists and field students,” Walker said. “Behind the scenes, Strabo works more like Facebook than Excel, like other map-making systems such as ArcGIS do. The technology behind Strabo is completely different than the technology we’ve used before.”

A Year in Instagram Pics

This year, KU College Jayhawks shared with us their special moments gazing at our beautiful campus, supporting the football team with music, returning to campus to celebrate achievements, exploring the world, and capping off years of hard work with graduation from the KU College.

Winter grad profiles 2017

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 09:04

Learning from the experiences of other Jayhawks is the best way to make the most of your time on the Hill. So, we asked some of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences students who are candidates for completing their degrees in the Fall and Summer of 2017 to share some advice. Read their words, and discover the value of exploring Lawrence, taking online classes and finding that passion that motivates you to achieve great things.

Yasmeen Mansour, bachelor’s in sociology, minors in women, gender and sexuality studies and leadership studies. 

“After graduation, I plan on going into the workforce for a while and then applying to medical schools to become a gynecologist! Looking back, the one piece of advice I would give to incoming freshmen would be to really take advantage of every opportunity and go out with friends more, even if you feel like staying home. College makes the best, most unique memories and friendships that can’t be made at any other period in your life, so definitely go to that event that you were hesitant to go to, introduce yourself to your professor, and wear those sparkly pants to the party! Another piece of advice would be to explore Lawrence! 

Katherin Morales, bachelor’s in behavioral neuroscience and psychology.

“My favorite KU memory is adopting my now two-year-old puppy, Chloe. She keeps me grounded and entertained (she’s really cute too). My favorite time of year at KU is the week when all of the tulips blossom on Jayhawk Blvd – so many beautiful, vibrant colors to take in and enjoy.

I just finished applying to Ph.D. programs inneuroscience, so I hope to continue my education next fall. I would like to conduct research on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, that will provide a deeper understanding of their causes and progression.”

 Trenton James, master’s in public administration.

“While at KU I was promoted to an administrative position within a state-funded agency. Prior to my involvement with the MPA program I had been seen as a leader within my organization and given the opportunity to function in this capacity. I believe I was promoted because the administration noticed the maturing of my leadership skills and ability to engage the community and stakeholders in meaningful conversations about the future of criminal justice and reform. Looking back at my experience my advice to current or new students is to find your motivation.”

Haley Tinch, bachelor’s in speech-language-hearing (speech langage pathology and audiology).

“I’ve learned to branch out and explore different majors. When I first arrived at KU I was only concerned with projects and classes related to my major, but after time I branched out by taking classes in applied behavioral science, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Due to this, it landed me an internship in the realm of applied behavioral sciences.

Micah Swimmer, master’s in indigenous nation studies.

“My favorite KU memory was during career day at Haskell Indian Nations University. I visited with the Global Indigenous Nations Studies Program at KU and took a brochure. After reading it, I noticed that it said, “Preservation and Management of Indigenous Resources: Language Documentation and Revitalization.” Working in some capacity with my language has been a lifelong dream of mine. I went through the application process and a couple weeks later, I received my acceptance letter to the program!!

My plan after graduation is to continue fighting to keep our language alive and well. As of right now, I am working as the Adult Language and Education Coordinator at New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, N.C. After graduation, I look to one day become the manager of New Kituwah Academy (It requires a master’s degree, so thank you, KU, for the opportunity).”


En Ning Leow, bachelor’s in psychology.

“KU offers many opportunities to be involved in all sorts of academic and leisure activities; from study abroad programs to research experiences, events of diverse cultures and basketball games, all of these have contributed to the fun and meaningful times I’ve had in KU. After I graduate, I plan to venture out to other parts of the world to continue with my post-graduate education, and KU has taught me that being bold in taking initiatives is the first step toward achieving my goal.”

Kate Albers, bachelor’s in psychology, minor in sociology. “KU is a stepping stone for me to enter into graduate school and earn a degree in counseling. The diverse course offerings have helped me gain knowledge and understanding about persons from many different walks of life which will help me to give support and guidance to my future patients.

I would advise current students to look at their time at KU as not only an opportunity to advance their career path, but also to grow as human beings by opening themselves up to the experiences and knowledge that the coursework and the teaching staff have to offer.KU was my school of choice because it offered me the opportunity of advancing my degree and self while also offering flexibility so I can juggle being a mom and my other responsibilities.”