Driving with Jayhawks: Heidi Simon

Posted on Mar 21, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

KU Alumni is Driving with Jayhawks!

Our first guest is Heidi Simon, senior associate director for freshman and transfer recruitment for KU’s Office of Admissions.

Simon, g’00, takes a ride down Jayhawk Boulevard with our host, Ryan Camenzind, j’17. She talks about what incoming Jayhawks need to know about KU, her favorite place on campus, and some of her favorite KU basketball memories.



Thanks to our postseason partner, Crown Automotive, for allowing us to use the Jayhawk car for this series. Click here to watch more “Driving with Jayhawks” videos.

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Leaving my legacy at KU

Posted on Oct 19, 2018 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Crimson and Blue Day banner

David Johnston, j’94, g’06, vice president for strategic communications and digital media, recalls his experience taking his oldest daughter to Crimson and Blue Day on Oct. 12.

Giving back

We’ve been talking a lot lately at work about the term “legacy” and what it means. That makes sense when you consider I work for the KU Alumni Association, which hopes to keep alumni connected to KU in ways that inspire so many Jayhawks to give back to their alma mater. You could even say that we’re in the legacy business. Yet when you boil it down to its essence, what is a legacy, really?

Throughout our strategic planning process–with working groups armed with survey data–we sought to define terms like legacy, pride, tradition and connection: the things we value and stand for at the Association. But legacy might be the most nebulous and difficult to define, even for professional communicators and self-proclaimed “word nerds” like myself. I supposed, conceptually at least, a legacy was simply something you leave behind.

Last week I learned what a legacy truly is, and I discovered that I was half-right.

Crimson & Blue Day

Oct. 12 was a big day at KU. More than 1,200 students and families came to the KU Office of Admissions’ Crimson and Blue Day Open House to tour campus and learn about admission requirements and scholarships while soaking in the spirit, pride and tradition of KU. I took my oldest daughter, Sydney, who has grown up in the shadow of Mount Oread, living in Lawrence her entire life. As a potential third-generation Jayhawk, Sydney (and her siblings, Sophie and Austin) fit the definition of a prospective legacy student at KU.

Sydney JohnstonEven a rainy day couldn’t dampen my pride as I got a rare opportunity to see KU through her fresh eyes; Watching her jaw drop in the expansive atrium of Cap Fed Hall. Getting chills while watching the video of Topher Enneking’s spellbinding spoken word ode, Welcome to KU. Seeing her giddy smile when bumping into the KU volleyball players she has idolized (and realizing they are now closer to being her peers). Sydney’s KU visit was both eye-opening and transformative… for me.

Legacy redefined

I started working at the University of Kansas in January of 2000, and not too long after, our first child was born. During my 18-year career working at KU, I have hoped that I will one day leave it a better place for the next generation. My contributions to KU, I assumed, would surely serve as my legacy, and really, what better place to make a lasting impact than at a place like KU; an institution that can–based on its bold aspirations–educate leaders, build healthy communities and make discoveries that change the world.

Should Sydney decide to eventually attend KU, she’ll have the world at her fingertips with opportunities to learn, lead and succeed in ways that any proud dad would hope for his little girl. With any luck, she’ll also be left with the values and life lessons her mom and I have tried to teach her along the way.

It became clear during her visit that she was indeed ready for KU and ready to make her mark on the world. Sending her off to college–and perhaps even dropping her off at KU–will be a difficult challenge saved for another day, but I know that I would feel incredibly proud to leave her at KU. And that’s when it hit me.

Leaving my legacy at KU took on new meaning for me last week. My legacy, I discovered, is not some thing I leave behind. It is someone.

–David Johnston

The KU Alumni Association’s Legacy Relations team can help alumni families navigate the KU admissions process by scheduling campus visits, advocating for students who seek scholarships and connecting parents and grandparents to campus contacts in financial aid, housing, etc. Email Joy Maxwell, director of legacy relations, at jmaxwell@kualumni.org for more information.

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California watch party leads new Jayhawk to Lawrence

Posted on Dec 18, 2017 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Davis Rach attends a California watch party in Orange County

While many University of Kansas alumni head to local game watch parties to feel like they’re back home in Lawrence, one family came to see if Lawrence was home.

Curtis Rach of Orange County, California, says he always pushed his kids to explore things outside of their home state. So when his son Davis was choosing a college, he had narrowed it down to two choices: follow his twin brother to Auburn, or strike out on his own at KU. To help him make the decision, Curtis took Davis to a local watch party for KU’s tournament game against Purdue last season.

Rach reached out to Ramy Rahman, b’09, Orange County Network leader, beforehand and told him about his plans. When he arrived at the watch party with Davis, they both were more than impressed with the hospitality.

“When people at the event heard he was thinking about KU, they all came up, introduced themselves, and told us stories about their experience at KU,” Rach said.

Both alumni and current students on spring break took time to meet Davis and his father. “What helped with the decision for him was how warm and inviting everyone was, and that they were so passionate about KU,” Rach explained.

The camaraderie and excitement of KU watch parties may have surprised the Rach family, but Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, knows it well.

“The goal of watch parties is to provide a venue in which alumni can gather and feel like they’re back on campus for a big game,” Woods said. “When you graduate you’re still yearning for that experience. ”

He added that watch parties are like the “front porch” of KU alumni events. “They are often the first alumni gathering that people attend, and it opens the door for them to attend other events in their area.”

Davis carried through on his promise and is now a freshman at KU.

-Ryan Camenzind

Interested in finding a watch party near you? Visit our website for a list of watch sites by state, and check out the online calendar for official watch parties organized by alumni networks.

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All signs point to KU

Posted on May 16, 2017 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Rock Chalk Ready yard sign

High school seniors planning to arrive on the Hill next fall have found unexpected surprises in their yards lately: yard signs declaring they are “Rock Chalk Ready.”

Volunteers delivered the signs, a joint effort between the KU Office of Admissions, the Provost’s office, and the KU Alumni Association, to incoming freshmen in Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita and the Kansas City metro area over the past few weeks.

“This was our first crack at welcoming the incoming freshman class with KU yardsigns, and we could not have pulled it off without the collective effort of our KU alumni and staff,” said Joy Maxwell, director of legacy relations. “It has been so fulfilling to watch KU alumni share their time and Jayhawk pride to blanket these major in-state markets with crimson and blue. We hope to expand the campaign statewide and nationally with more funding and volunteer help in years to come.”

Check out our collection of photos below to see the signs:

So proud of this guy!! Heading to the University of Kansas. #imajayhawk #rockchalk #jayhawk

A post shared by Mark Stroginis (@nashville_smoked) on

High school is finally over and I won’t miss it. #imajayhawk #college #senior #classof2017 #capandtassel

A post shared by Logan Devlin (@keil247) on

can you tell how excited i am?? ❤️???? #imajayhawk @universityofkansas

A post shared by Ashleigh Bickford (@ashleighbickford) on

How special that KU puts this sign in the yard of incoming freshman! #Rockchalkready

A post shared by kamdawn (@kamdawn) on

Ok sure congrats on knowing where I live KU #imajayhawk

A post shared by Lissa Peloquin (@lissapeloquin33) on

rock nation ???? #imajayhawk

A post shared by taryn lininger (@taryn_lininger) on

Welcoming our JOCO incoming freshman Jayhawks! #kualumniassociation #imajayhawk

A post shared by Melissa Stewart (@themelstewart) on

Look what showed up in our yard! Congrats Josie! Proud Mama❤️???? #imajayhawk

A post shared by Jessiek70 (@6th_man_photos) on

Some random person put this sign in our yard for Cole. #damncool #rockchalk #KU

A post shared by Danny Wastler (@dwastler) on


Woke up to this surprise! #imajayhawk

A post shared by Linda Deng ???????? ???????? (@linda_daaang) on

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Jayhawks rally to give alumnus an unforgettable Commencement

Posted on May 12, 2017 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

One of the most treasured traditions at the University of Kansas takes place every spring, when thousands of graduating students walk through the Campanile and down the Hill for Commencement.

Brian Palermo | www.kualumni.orgBrian Palermo, a KU Admissions representative based in St. Louis, never got to experience that moment. Shortly after graduating in December 2012, he accepted a job at a mental health facility for children in Oklahoma City. Knowing it would be difficult to take time off in May for the ceremony, he let the opportunity slip by.

Earlier this year, Palermo, c’13, shared with his supervisor, Elisa Zahn Krapcha, c’05, j’05, g’11, that he never participated in Commencement. She mentioned that the Admissions team should stage a small ceremony for him.

“I kind of knew we might do a little something, but I didn’t expect too much,” Palermo says.

Krapcha and Heidi Simon, g’00, senior associate director of Admissions, had a surprise in store. On May 8, they summoned nearly 20 team members to the Campanile, where Palermo was given a traditional cap and gown, as well as party beads and a crimson and blue lei.

Brian Palermo and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little | www.kualumni.org“As I’m getting ready to walk through the Campanile, Heidi hands me a bottle of sparkling cider,” he recalls. “I got so focused on trying to open it, because people were shouting ‘Pop it, pop it!’ I was looking down at it and still walking when I heard someone say ‘Whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment.’”

When Palermo looked up, he saw Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little standing in front of him. “I was just floored,” he says. “I couldn’t believe she was there.”

The chancellor congratulated Palermo and delivered remarks, reminding him of KU’s noble mission: to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.

“I challenged the graduates at the 2012 Commencement to continue to do all of these things after they walked down the Hill,” Gray-Little told him. “You’ve done these things even without being there to hear my call.”

As Palermo wraps up his first year as a KU Admissions representative, he’s more determined than ever to continue serving the University, thanks to the kindness and support of his team and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“It was just a really special moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he says.

—Heather Biele

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University’s student recruitment efforts impress Hawkeye

Posted on Jan 30, 2017 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

An article posted on LinkedIn praising the KU Office of Admissions’ student recruitment efforts has been spreading like wildfire among Jayhawks recently. The post, published in November by Ed Baldwin, a human resources strategist, analyzes KU’s recruitment of his son and compares it to a job candidate’s experience.

Baldwin, a graduate of the University of Iowa, explains that it’s often the little things that differentiate a school or employer from the competition, and he describes several small “extras” that KU staff member did to make his family feel special, such as sending personalized letters and emails to him and his wife.

“You’ve differentiated yourself amongst a field of great universities, and you may also be rewarded with a KU student attending in the Fall that is great young man because of it,” Baldwin writes.

Read the full article on LinkedIn.

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Kansas vs. Austin Peay: Work hard, play hard

Posted on Mar 17, 2016 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

March Madness can create some unlikely rivalries, and KU’s feisty first-round match against Austin Peay produced some good natured trash talking on Twitter this week. The admissions offices from KU and Austin Peay exchanged shots that were too good to miss. Check it out. These loyal staffers work hard and play hard. Let the games begin!

Hats off to the teams that work hard AND play hard for the Governors and the Jayhawks. Rock Chalk!

–David Johnston

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Legacy students experience KU’s game-day glory

Posted on Sep 15, 2015 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Sophomore legacy recruitment day 2015High school sophomore legacy students were treated to a special KU visit day last weekend, hosted by KU’s Office of Admissions.

A total of 224 people attended the event, including 96 sophomore students and 128 guests. Participants experienced KU in all its game-day glory, and enjoyed campus tours, lunch in the Union and presentations about what it’s like to be a Jayhawk.

One lucky attendee even won a basketball signed by the 2014-15 men’s team, which will surely entice her to enroll at the University in a few years.

After the formal program, students and their guests had a few hours to explore campus and Lawrence on their own or tailgate on the Hill before heading to the football game in Memorial Stadium.

Students and parents, as well as organizers, were pleased with the event. “We really enjoyed the entire program, and thought everything was well organized and informative,” said parent Jay Burgess. “Our ambassador did a great job of showing off the school and answering all our questions—I know I was ready to come back to school at the end of the day!”

Joy Maxwell, the Alumni Association’s director of legacy relations, declared the program a winner. “Saturday’s event was top-notch!”

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A New Flock Flies to the Hill

Posted on May 28, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Jayhawk Generations | www.kualumni.orgThe Alumni Association has tracked Jayhawk family legacies since the early 1900s, when second-generation Jayhawks landed on the Hill. Faithful families have continued to fortify their legacies through the years and, with help from the Office of Admissions and University Archives, the Association has continued to honor legacy students each fall in our Jayhawk Generations tribute. Each fall we are honored to salute second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-generations Jayhawks and beyond. Family members and fellow alumni look forward to tracing the histories of KU families and spotting former KU classmates among the photos of parents.

Since 2005 we have featured hundreds of second-, third-, and fourth-generation Jayhawks and highlighted fifty-seven fifth-generation Jayhawks, including Thomas Leach from Jayhawk Generations 2013. Thomas is one of many fifth-generation Jayhawks who are descendants of David Robinson, one of KU’s founding faculty members. We’ve also welcomed three sixth-generation students, including Gabriel Hass, Jayhawk Generations 2012, whose family tradition dates back to 1870. As KU traditions continue to flourish , we look forward to hailing the arrival of freshmen who represent seven generations and beyond.

We are beginning to research the family trees of fall 2014 freshmen, and we will send emails to the families of legacy students who have at least one parent who attended KU and a parent or grandparent who is an Alumni Association member. If you are an Association member sending a legacy freshman to the Hill this fall and you haven’t heard from us by mid-June, please send an email to jhawkgenerations@ku.edu, call us at 800-584-2957 or visit our website. The deadline for submissions is July 18, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your summer before your Jayhawk leaves the nest and heads to Mount Oread.

Update: The deadline has been extended to Aug. 31! There’s still time to have your legacy student featured in Jayhawk Generations.

—Leah Kohlman

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Meet the Admissions Rep: Michael Chavez

Posted on May 8, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Alumni play an important role in helping to recruit new students to the University of Kansas, and the KU Alumni Association works closely with the KU Office of Admissions in these efforts. Each year, the Office of Admissions staffs recruiters to represent KU throughout the state of Kansas an in key territories across the country. We asked each of the admissions reps to share a little information with us so alumni can get to know them.

Today’s post features Michael Chavez, c’11, a native of Topeka. Michael recruits students from Kansas City, Shawnee and Topeka.

What is your fondest memory of your time at KU?Chavez
One of my favorite memories is attending LeaderShape, a 6-day leadership conference. Not only was I around KU’s finest and brightest, but I gained a much deeper understanding of myself as a leader.  I gained valuable skills that I use in my everyday life now and still keep in touch with the Jayhawks I met during that time.

What clubs, organizations or traditions did you participate in as a student?
I was involved with and worked for the University Advising Center as a Peer Advisor. It was a great experience working with incoming freshman and helping them navigate the enrollment and advising process during orientation. It is one of the reasons why I am in higher education today!

Name one class you think every KU student should take and why.
I think everyone should take COMS 130, Speaker-Audience Communication. One of the hardest things to do is to speak in front of an audience and I attribute a lot of my success as a presenter to this class. It teaches you how to organize your thoughts and effectively communicate that to the audience. You also gain valuable skills that you can use in other classes at KU and your career.

When did you know you loved KU?
I knew I loved KU the moment I sang the Alma Mater and the Rock Chalk Chant for the first time in Allen Fieldhouse. Being around 16,299 of my closest friends singing along, swaying back and forth and hearing the chant that to this day still gives me goose bumps. That was when I knew that I wasn’t just a KU student, but I was part of the Jayhawk family. That’s when I looked around and said, “Damn, I love this place!”

What’s the most important piece of advice you give prospective students?
My advice for prospective students is to not be afraid to be different. High school is over and college is a great opportunity to start fresh. Take classes you never thought of taking, join a club you normally wouldn’t join, talk to a complete stranger on campus. You never know what could happen. You may meet your best friend or significant other. You may decide to change your major after taking a certain class. You might even develop a new hobby! Whatever that may be, be open to the new experiences. Challenge yourself to be different. I guarantee that you won’t regret it!

How do you show your Jayhawk pride?
I show my Jayhawk pride by bleeding crimson and blue. I work for KU as an Admissions Representative where I talk about my alma mater as part of my job! My wife loves KU. I have been an Alumni Association member since I graduated and now my 9-month old daughter is a member of the Future Jayhawks program.

How does your KU degree help you in your career and daily life?
My KU degree was in Communication Studies. I have used this degree in my everyday life. I have improved my presentation skills, learned how to talk to all kinds of people in different situations, and can write effectively.  All of these things I use not only in my career, but in my personal life and in my graduate program in Higher Education Administration.

Click here to visit Michael’s page on the Office of Admissions website, which includes his recruitment territories and school visit schedule. Contact Michael at 785.864.5411 or by email at mchavez@ku.edu.

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