Mentor Spotlight: Nicole Reiz

Posted on Apr 5, 2021 in Career/Life and News

Nicole Reiz is a program manager at the KU College Office of Graduate Affairs. Reiz has worked at the University since 2007 and has earned three degrees (c’07 g’11 PhD’17). Nicole can help students with applying & navigating a graduate degree, resume review, transitioning from graduate school into your career and more. Connect with Nicole on KU Mentoring.

What do you do at your job?

Broadly speaking, I support graduate student professional development and our strategic communications to graduate students about everything from funding opportunities to career development resources and fun events and community gatherings. More specifically, every day is a bit different. Some days I’m hosting workshops on various aspects of graduate student life and professional development. Other times I’m meeting with graduate students to help them discover and explore various career paths that may be a good fit for their interests and skills.

I also collaborate with units across campus to develop events to meet graduate student needs, support students in grant writing, crafting effective resumes, learning about hybrid career paths in the academy, and learning about how to give a perfect TedTalk. I’m also responsible for our strategic communications to graduate students which includes everything from website design to newsletters and social media so we can alert our students to important resources and events.

How do you support KU graduate students?

Most directly, I provide one-on-one career support for graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who are interested in careers beyond the tenure track – which includes career exploration and career assessment to help students understand the vast array of careers that are open to them, helping student craft effective job documents for non-academic careers, and helping students build their professional networks. I also teach a number of graduate-level courses in professional development and career preparation.

Perhaps a little more indirectly, I do a lot of our strategic communications to graduate students about various resources and opportunities both on and off campus to support their professional development and also finding their community while they’re here. This includes building a new student facing website for graduate students, creating and sending our bi-monthly newsletter to all of the grad students in the College, and managing our social media channels.

Who was mentor for you during graduate school? How did they help you?

I had a number of mentors while I was in grad school, including my two dissertation advisors, Dr. Shannon O’Lear and Dr. Steve Egbert. Both were incredibly supportive of my rather depressing research project and crucially were really supportive of my desire to pursue a career in the public sector which meant I took advantage of some opportunities of working off campus for an NGO and a few internships. While this meant less writing and research time so the writing of my dissertation took a bit longer, they understood how important these experiences were to preparing me for the career paths I was pursuing.

Kathy Porsch, my supervisor in the Hall Center’s Grant Development Office made a huge impact on the last few years of my program – teaching me the ins and outs of research and grant development and research administration which led to my current position in the College Office of Graduate Affairs.

Favorite KU graduate school memory?

I have two – the first being the year we had a team of grad students and faculty from the geography department for the Brew to Brew marathon race from KC to Lawrence. It was such a hot and chaotic day, we learned not everyone knew how to drive a Prius, and had a really fun time running the route through a lot of funky urban and rural geography.

The second one is walking across the stage at the Lied Center during my PhD Hooding ceremony where both of my dissertation advisors were able to jointly hood me – it’s a really special moment that celebrates the end of a really long, difficult road in pursuing and finishing a doctoral project and dissertation (mine was on international sexual violence and rape laws, so there were many difficult days doing the research and writing) and the start of the next stage of my career journey.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Andrew Linn

Posted on Jan 20, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Andrew Linn

Andrew Linn is a composer and audio producer in New York City and describes himself as a ‘builder of sounds.‘ He earned an undergraduate degree in trumpet performance from the KU School of Music in 2010. His compositions and arrangements have been performed across the United States, Europe, and India, most notably at the Montreux Jazz Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Outside of music, Andrew is also interested in film and comedy.

Andrew can help students with career and industry trends, choosing a major, internship and job search strategies and more.

Connect with Andrew on KU Mentoring.

Tell us about your work. What is Andrew Linn Music?

I’m a composer and audio producer in the New York City area. I balance a variety of projects including: podcasts, film scores, commercials, audio logos, UI sound design, and more.

Some of my notable collaborations include New Balance Team, Hal Leonard Publishing Co, Himalaya, Scribd.com, Grind Studios, Studio Fontana, Velvet Green Music, TuneReel, Jellynote, SmartHer News, Sanity Media, Carrtoons, Gene Lake, NandoSTL, and Angela Parrish.

UpWork listed me as one of the top 30 audio producers in the New York City area.

KU pep band in San Antonio

Andrew Linn

How did your KU experience help you get to where you are now?

Andrew Linn

While in the KU School of Music, I had the unique opportunity to travel to three different continents to perform. Those experiences exposed me to different cultures around the world and showed me that amazing things are possible if you dedicate yourself to your craft. Ultimately it gave me the courage to move to New York to build a career in music and audio.

What advice do you have for current student musicians?

Music opportunities are healthiest when you bring a positive vibe to the project, so always keep a pulse on your mental health. It’s easy to hardwire your self worth to your abilities as a musician and it can cloud your perspective in the bigger picture.

Remember that you’re not alone in this journey. There are so many musicians out there that want to join you on your path. Focus on those people – not the ones that make you feel inadequate or don’t reciprocate.

Talk to music friends, support them. Lift others up like you want to be lifted. Believe in yourself, accept your failures, and have the strength to push forward.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Keon Stowers

Posted on Jan 19, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Keon Stowers

Keon Stowers earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2015 from the University of Kansas. As a student, he was a member of the KU football team.

Keon previously worked for the KU Office of Admissions, where he helped recruit new Jayhawks, and the KU Alumni Association, where he served as the assistant director of student programs.

Keon is always happy to talk with prospective students. He can also assist with networking, informational interviews, and introductions to others in his field, as well as transitioning to life after college.

Connect with Keon on KU Mentoring.

How did you end up at KU?

I came to KU on a football scholarship. KU was one of five schools I was considering at the time. The way KU invested in their student athletes education is what sold me on KU.

What do you do at your job?

I work as a Major Gifts fundraiser for KU Endowment, a nonprofit organization and the official fundraising foundation for the University of Kansas. 

Who is a mentor for you? How have they helped you?

I’ve had many mentors who have made a tremendous impact on my life. I try to find mentors in different sectors of my life (professionally, personally, educational, etc).

Keon StowersIf I had to choose just one it would be Mr. Larry Shaw, an old computer teacher of mine. He and his wife, Pam, played a huge role in my college selection process as well as my transition to college. They were there when I walked across the stage in high school and were there on the other end when I walked down the hill at KU.

This past year I worked with a donor who was so compelled by our mentor relationship and story that they started a $25,000 scholarship in Larry and Pam’s name to aid students seeking mentorship while at KU.

What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

Make yourself vulnerable to help and always be willing to learn and get better at something new. Never be afraid to take a chance on something that makes you uncomfortable or is outside of your box, that’s where the most opportunities are.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Bill Mar

Posted on Jan 15, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Bill Mar

Bill Mar loves the hunt for the solution. He describes himself as a technically-oriented leader with diverse experience in the full software lifecycle. He enjoys helping his team drill down into hard problems, analyze the patterns and draw conclusions through data collection.

A Garden City native, Bill, c’88, earned his degree in computer science at the University of Kansas. He can assist students and young alumni with choosing a major, career and industry trends, mock interviews, diversity and inclusion and more.

In his free time, Bill enjoys running, biking, swimming, triathlons, genealogy and travel. Connect with Bill on KU Mentoring.

What do you do at your job?

In my most recent LinkedIn position, I worked as the Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Manager for Search. The Search SRE team in the US and a complimentary group in Bangalore, India, maintain the search platform’s uptime and availability for the scores of search deployments across the company; search has one of the largest hardware footprints at LinkedIn.

Anywhere that a user searches for people, jobs, companies, schools, or other terms would be processed by all the relevant search indices. The consolidated ranked and most relevant results would be shown, relative to the individual user logged in, the job posting managed by a recruiter, or another search requester. My team ensured that search results would be timely, complete, up-to-date, and not disrupted by software failures, hardware issues, or excessive lag in updates.

How has being a Jayhawk helped your career?

Networking is one of the most important aspects of managing a successful career. Beyond prior co-workers, being able to affiliate with other KU Jayhawks allows me to find or recognize potential job candidates and companies that employ KU alumni.

Bill Mar in San Francisco

There are many KU alumni in Silicon Valley, so they can represent valuable networking to learn about a company and potential referral opportunities with a much higher reply rate; they may also have the inside track on opportunities not advertised.

How did you end up at KU?

I was born and raised in Garden City. I knew from junior high that I wanted to major in computer science, and between the in-state and out-of-state college options I had, KU offered the best program based on my research—and the basketball didn’t disappoint either!

Interestingly enough, the family car broke down my first year, but I could still take the Amtrak train to school because it stopped in Lawrence! Today, and before COVID, I still took the commuter train to work in Silicon Valley to avoid highway traffic delays into San Francisco.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Andrew Sherwood

Posted on Jan 14, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Andrew Sherwood at the Sydney Opera HouseAndrew Sherwood is a leadership gift officer for Southern Methodist University. He has nearly a decade of experience in collegiate athletics specializing in fundraising, marketing, writing and strategic communications.

Andrew earned his undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Kansas. He later earned a master’s degree in recreation and sports management from the University of Arkansas. Andrew has worked in athletic communications, media relations, and fundraising at the University of Tulsa, Notre Dame, the University of Arkansas, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Kansas.

If you’re interested in college athletics, higher education, fundraising or journalism, connect with Andrew on KU Mentoring.

How has being a Jayhawk helped your career?

It’s hard to truly put into words all of the ways that being a Jayhawk has helped my career but I know the impact has been immense. Since graduating in 2007, I have had the opportunity to live and work all over the country. No matter where I’ve been, the one constant has been my connection to my fellow Jayhawks in the area. Often times these people became some of my best friends that opened up numerous doors for me both personally and professionally. Without the relationships I formed both as a student and as an alum of the University of Kansas, I would not be where I am at today.

Andrew Sherwood and friends in 2008When I moved to Texas nearly four years ago, one of the very first calls I made was to the Alumni Association looking for ways to become involved with the Dallas Jayhawks. Through my involvement with the local board, we have hosted numerous networking events and happy hours aimed at connecting fellow alumni from all generations in meaningful ways while sharing with them the power of the Jayhawk Career Network.

Knowing the important role that Jayhawks have had in my life and on my career, I feel very blessed to be able to pay it forward. Through my own personal involvement with the Jayhawk Career Network, I have had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to recent graduates interested in my career path. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience as I have seen them have success as they begin their careers and most importantly I consider them now to be friends.

What advice do you have for fellow Jayhawks?

One thing that sets Jayhawk alumni apart from so many other is our willingness to help one another. I can’t tell you how many times I have met for coffee, lunch or scheduled a phone call with a fellow alum looking for career guidance.

Don’t be shy about reaching out and be sure to follow up accordingly. It can seem a bit intimidating, especially at first, but you won’t believe the amount of positive feedback you will receive and the doors that will be open simply because you are both Jayhawks.

Andrew and Kayla Sherwood

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Monique Garcia

Posted on Jan 13, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Monique Garcia has more than 25 years experience in federal and local government service as well as non-profit and corporate/strategic communications experience.

A Wichita native, Garcia, c’96, has returned to her hometown, where she directs community relations for the Kansas Health Foundation, and has vowed to “pay it forward” by helping other Jayhawks—from future and current students to recent graduates just starting their careers. She participates in the Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) Mentor Program, a University initiative developed in 2016 by the Office of Admissions to help minority and first-generation students make a smooth transition from high school to college.

Who are your mentors?

Before going into ‘who’ a mentor is for me, I want to first share about the vast range folks who can serve as mentors for college students and young professionals.

Monique Garcia and her niece and nephewOne of my fondest memories at KU was having plenty of opportunities to meet and engage with faculty members, academic advisers, KU student/campus services staff, coaches, clergy and many others who are all part of your educational experience.

In my first year at KU, I was fortunate to be a member of the KU women’s rowing team, and one of the coaches served as a mentor to me. Father Vince Krische of St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center also served as a mentor. Intentionally seeking a range of folks who can share their time with you can provide helpful and diverse perspectives and end up having a really profound influence on you.

I have been blessed to have a handful of mentors throughout my professional career. Just remember that it’s okay to cultivate more than one mentor in your academic, professional and even personal journeys! If I may strongly suggest to Jayhawks, it’s best to consider finding as many mentors as you can along your career journey. As we know, each career opportunity along our journey can bring along new opportunities to engage with and identify other mentors.

Most importantly, I urge folks to pay it forward and consider serving as a mentor to a Jayhawk or other young professional – that’s the best way to bring it full circle.

How have your mentors helped you?

There are so many ways in “how my mentors have helped me” along the way and continue to help me! Some mentors have helped me by encouraging me to go to graduate school after 10 years of being in the workforce. Other mentors supported me to pursue extremely helpful professional development opportunities and active membership to professional associations. Other mentors effectively advised me on interview and salary negotiation skills. And yet other mentors have instilled the strong sense of service to my community focusing on servant heart leadership. ‘Paying it forward’ is my motto!

Monique GarciaMy first mentor is Janet Murguia. Janet currently serves as president and CEO of Unidos US in Washington, D.C. Janet is also a Jayhawk whose exceptional career in public service has taken her to Washington, D.C., to Lawrence (where she served as KU’s Executive Vice Chancellor for University Relations) and then back to the nation’s capital where she currently leads the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the country.

I’ll always be grateful to Janet because upon moving to Washington, D.C. in 1996 with a degree in political science from KU, I was very fortunate to land a role working for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Capitol Hill. At the time, Janet was serving as deputy director of legislative affairs for the Clinton Administration.

What’s even more exciting, is that I met Janet at a KU Alumni Association event in Washington, D.C.! I cannot emphasize enough how awesome KUAA is in living out its mission of building lifelong relationships that strengthen KU anywhere in the world. And the shared KUAA values of pride, tradition, connection and legacy aren’t just hollow words. These shared values are lived out in action among KU alumni. KUAA is such a strong alumni network of folks who truly care about supporting KU and fellow Jayhawks.

Janet is a mentor to me because she took me under her wing and recommended that I take the next step in public service by working in the executive branch of government. She served as my sponsor to receive a political appointment with the Clinton Administration. My first role in the Clinton White House was in the Office of National Drug Control Policy – Public Affairs office under the then-Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey.

And it was specifically because of Janet that I was fortunate to have the unique opportunity to work in both the Clinton AND Bush administrations. As we know, this is extremely rare since political appointees come and go with each new administration. Since my role in the Clinton Administration was more apolitical than a typical appointee role, I was very fortunate to stay and work for the Bush White House, serving in the Public Affairs/Press Office of the National Security Council of then National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

Monique Garcia and Ismari MartinezI’ll always be most grateful to Janet for the incredible and exceptional opportunities of working for two vastly different presidential administrations. Janet shared with me that hard work yields remarkable opportunities, but that it’s incumbent upon us to pay it forward. Janet also instilled the importance of sharing knowledge and helping pave the way for others who may not have the contacts and resources that we’re blessed to have.

Janet’s example has indeed accompanied me along my career and personal journeys… and it’s made me very deliberate in helping others and serving as a mentor to other Jayhawks. My mentee through the KU Hawk Program is Ismari Martinez from Wichita. Thanks to Kim Beeler, who at the time was coordinator of the KU Hawk Program several years ago, I was matched up with Ismari and we’ve been so blessed to stay connected beyond the KU Hawk Program! What is the common denominator in all of this? I am so proud and excited to share that the common denominator in all of this is …the University of Kansas!


Another mentor for me is Kristi Zukovich. Kristi currently serves as vice president of Policy and Communication for the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF). Prior to coming to KHF, Kristi served over 29 years in public service in working for Sedgwick County as communications director and policy director. I first met Kristi in 2003, upon my return back to Wichita from Washington, D.C. In late 2002, my mom became gravely ill, so I moved back to Wichita to help my mom recover from her illness. It was important to help my mom and sisters manage the family-owned restaurant, so once my mom made a full recovery from her illness, it was time to try and put my Washington, D.C. experience to use in local government.

One remarkable trait in public service is that regardless of political party, there are so many fulfilling opportunities in helping others. Public service is truly a noble profession and it was something that I was eager to do upon my return to Kansas. In 2003, I was very fortunate to begin working for Sedgwick County at the health department, and then later, in the County Manager’s (for then County Manager Bill Buchanan) office – working with Kristi’s team. What has made Kristi such an important mentor in my professional journey is that she has always demonstrated a ‘multiplier effect’ in an organization. There’s a leadership quality of what is described in the book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.”

Kristi has always been deliberate of being a ‘multiplier’, a person who attracts talent, encourages staff to step out of their comfort zones, make bold decisions and invest in people. For me, it certainly was a big shift to make the transition of working in the executive branch of government in Washington, to return back home and work in local government. Why I consider Kristi such an important mentor in my career journey is that she has and continues to urge me to leverage my experience and utilize it in my current role serving as Community Relations Director for the Kansas Health Foundation in Wichita.

What advice do you have for current college students or young alumni?

Try to take advantage of as many opportunities to get involved with campus organizations, clubs and activities that are geared toward your major(s) – or even different from your major(s)! Another opportunity that has always been fulfilling is to volunteer for local nonprofits that need help, depending on your interests.

Of course, living through a pandemic doesn’t necessarily provide lots of in-person opportunities right now, (i.e. internships, service projects, campus activities). But as we’ve learned to adjust in nearly a year, many of these activities can be done through virtual platforms of engaging with folks. Of course, it’s not an ideal situation, but establish the relationships now… so that once we’re able to connect in person, you can continue to grow the relationships and benefit from the mentoring opportunities.

Another piece of advice for current KU students or young alumni – in less than a dozen words: “Become a member of the KU Student Alumni Network – it’s free!” Yes, it’s free! Thanks to the generous support of KU Endowment, this amazing gem of a membership to the Student Alumni Network (SAN) is free. In just a few clicks, you can download the KU Alumni Mobile app and register by using your KU student ID number.

Now is the time to start building and growing your personal/professional networks with the Jayhawk Career Network. I am speaking from direct experience that internships and remarkable job opportunities are within reach! Please know that Jayhawks like to hire other Jayhawks, and that they’re willing to help you out. It’s an instant network of fellow Jayhawks who love KU and want to support fellow Jayhawks, no matter where you live!

Because of a fellow KU alum, I was so grateful to work in the West Wing of two presidential administrations. Often times, I would feel like pinching myself when taking a press call from Tom Brokaw, or zipping through the West Wing for a media availability of a senior administration official, or grabbing lunch from the White House Navy Mess area before taking the food back to my desk. And it’s only because a KU alum took me under her wing and vouched for me.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like! I am fortunate to serve as a mentor to a current KU student, thanks to the KU Hawk Program. And for over 13 years, I am also a proud mentor to elementary students in Wichita. It’s never too early to share your time with someone… so when it’s your turn to pay it forward, consider serving as a mentor to a child or young person. I promise it’ll be the most fulfilling feeling ever – to try and make positive impacts on a child’s life!

What is your favorite KU memory?

There are several favorite KU memories that I’ll always love and look back on that make me instantly smile! Traditions Night was always such a blast! What better way to learn how to ‘Wave the Wheat,’ learn the words of our beloved Alma Mater song, and of course, crush the clap pattern correctly for the Rock Chalk chant, than with your closest of fellow Jayhawk friends?!

I am a huge college hoops fan. As we know, Allen Field House (AFH) is known as among the cathedrals of college basketball! So many fun KU memories involved partnering with fellow KU classmates/friends to stand in line outside of AFH for a spot in the student section. Of course, when it came time to attending classes while in line, we formed a system where there was always someone to hold our space, because come tip-off time, the best seats in the house were in the KU student section. I was fortunate to attend a game last month at AFH and definitely surreal due to the pandemic, but still lots of fun – and the magic of AFH hasn’t changed!

And by far, one of my fondest KU memories is having been a small part of bringing Latino civil rights leader and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Cesar Chávez to KU. As a member of the KU Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO), we had the unique opportunity to bring Cesar Chávez to campus to speak about his civil rights and labor organizing efforts. KU HALO worked collaboratively with KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Chancellor’s office to make the visit possible.

I remember that some of the KU HALO members picked up Cesar Chavez from the airport in Kansas City and then we all met for dinner in downtown Lawrence. I’ll always remember the profound humility and kindness of Cesar Chávez when we broke bread with him. I’ll remember his words to us of always seeking to bring equality and equity – not just for labor issues, but in health, human rights and so much more.

As we stand at the crossroads of today, working to move beyond the pandemic, Cesar Chávez’s words on equity that he shared with KU students, faulty and staff years ago – are as important as ever. And to know that Cesar imparted his wisdom on us in Lawrence is a memory that I’ll never forget – thanks to KU!

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Andrew Fillmore

Posted on Jan 12, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Andrew FillmoreAndrew Fillmore is a digital marketer and project manager with experience across the non-profit, entertainment and digital spaces. His goal is to help storytellers find audiences more effectively using his digital marketing background, project management experience and passion for film and television. 

Andrew, j’12, was involved in a number of activities at the University of Kansas, including Student Union Activities, KU Info, and KU Homecoming. He worked as a social media coordinator for the KU Bookstore and held internships with the KU Edwards Campus and JNA Advertising.

Andrew moved to California after graduation. He is available to help students and young alumni with choosing a major, career and industry trends, internship and job search strategies and more.

Connect with Andrew on KU Mentoring.

What do you do at your job?

I work at Movember, a non-profit known for our supporters who grow moustaches to raise funds for men’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer during the month of November.

I work on the digital marketing team, developing email, push and digital campaigns to engage our fundraisers throughout the year and to help them raise awareness for men’s health.

What was a big turning point or achievement in your career?

I worked at YouTube Space LA, YouTube’s production studio, during its launch after graduating from KU in 2012. I managed its productions for more than six years.

The biggest achievement for me was managing a 7-hour global livestream event with One Direction in 2013 when they were probably the biggest band in the world (and there were still 5 of them). It was an extremely stressful day but once it started it was so rewarding when I could just sit back and enjoy the show. And also try to sneak a selfie with Harry Styles.

What is your favorite KU memory?

Andrew Fillmore and friends from KUI have many fond memories during the four years I was involved with Student Union Activities on campus, where I planned countless movie screenings, concerts and other events.

A favorite memory was the Hawk Week Night on the Hill Concert in 2011, which I planned as the comedy and music coordinator. It felt like a culmination of my time in the organization and going into my senior year it was even more special. It was a small moment, but I curated a pump-up playlist for the crowd before the DJ went on, and to hear thousands of students singing along with my playlist gave me chills. I won’t ever forget it.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Caitlin Ungerer

Posted on Jan 11, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Caitlin UngererCaitlin Ungerer, j’17, lives in Chicago where she works as an influencer marketing manager for Octagon. She began working at the agency in 2017 and has worked her way up through a number of different positions in creative and digital.

As a student at KU, Caitlin majored in journalism. She was involved with Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA).

Caitlin can assist students and young alumni with choosing a major, career and industry trends, transitioning to life after school and more.

Connect with Caitlin on KU Mentoring.

How did you end up in your current career? What is an achievement you’re proud of?

My post-grad plan was always to start my career in broadcast. My studies focused on courses within the news and information branch of the J-School and it was really all I knew. As senior year rolled around, I realized I wasn’t passionate enough about news to pursue a long-term career. This was a scary but freeing realization!

I scrambled to search for other job openings that would align with both my passions and my skills. Professor Utsler, who was one of my mentors at the time, shared a job opening for a fellowship at Octagon he thought I might be interested in. Octagon is a sports & entertainment marketing agency that services both brand clients and talent personalities around the world. I knew it would be a longshot given I had no direct marketing experience, but I at least had to try.

The cards ended up working in my favor because I landed the fellowship that eventually turned into a full-time position on the digital strategy team focusing on all things influencer marketing. I feel very fortunate about how things worked out. Sometimes you just have to take a chance on yourself!

I’m proud of the roster of clients I’ve had the opportunity to work with thus far, some of which include Michelob ULTRA, Budweiser, Mastercard, JBL, and PlayStation.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

One piece of advice for my younger self would be to never miss an opportunity to make meaningful connections. In the hustle and bustle of college, and really just life, it’s easy to simply go through the motions but you never know when a connection you made months or even years ago could pop back up in your life and impact you! Take the time to slow down and have meaningful conversations. You won’t regret it.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When I’m not working, I try to get outside as much as possible. Fresh air can cure almost anything. In COVID-times, I’ve found that exploring Chicago on foot has been one of my favorite activities. There’s so much to see and so many great food spots to grab a bite to go along the way.

I also enjoy traveling, cooking, cute animal TikToks, and reality TV.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Erin Curtis-Dierks

Posted on Jan 10, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Erin Curtis-Dierks is a communicator, project manager, and marketer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1997, and has worked in a variety of sales, promotions and communications roles throughout her career.

Erin Curtis-DierksErin was the director of communications for the KU School of Music from 2005-2013 and later worked as a senior media researcher. Currently, she is senior accounts director for Firesign Marketing, one of the nation’s only marketing agencies solely devoted to the legal industry, where she helps law firms build credibility and clientele.

Erin is happy to chat with prospective students, or help fellow Jayhawks with choosing a major, workplace issues, or questions related to parenting and your career.

Connect with Erin on KU Mentoring.

What do you do at your job? What do you enjoy about it most?

At Firesign, we create and manage marketing plans for our law firm and legal tech clients. We are a small but mighty agency, so we all wear a few hats, but as Senior Accounts Director I act as the overall marketing project manager while also creating and executing marketing campaigns, and I contribute to business development efforts.

I love meeting new clients, listening to their marketing needs, creating a customized marketing plan, and ushering them through the marketing process. It’s so fulfilling to help grow business for our clients.

How has being a Jayhawk helped your career?

My first job out of college is a direct result of being a Jayhawk; my college advisor connected me with my first position. Living in Chicago I actually ran into quite a few Jayhawks, as Chicagoland boasts a nice alumni base.

And coming back to the present time, my boss, the CEO of Firesign, is a proud KU graduate herself and we talked quite a bit about KU basketball during my interview. Needless to say, being a Jayhawk has had wonderful advantages.

What advice about preparing for a career would you give a college version of yourself?

Erin Curtis-DierksInternships: if you can secure one or more during college, do it. And do them well. Get excellent references. This has been a huge advantage for me personally for my career. Plus you meet some really cool people along the way.

Connect with your fellow Jayhawks. You will be blown away at the number of folks who will end up helping you throughout your career because of a healthy Jayhawk network.

Finally, if you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do with your degree when you graduate, that is okay. Try different things and see what fits best. You learn so much in all your experiences and trust me, you’ll apply all these learnings to everything you take on.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,

Mentor Spotlight: Howard Fox

Posted on Jan 9, 2021 in Career/Life and News

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Howard FoxHoward Fox earned an accounting degree from the University of Kansas in 1982. He has more than 30 years of experience in finance and accounting, acquisitions and divestments. Currently, he is a real estate executive with Better Homes and Gardens KC and a consultant with Fox Consulting.

Howard can assist students and young alumni in a number of areas, including career and industry trends, internship and job search strategies, work-life balance, transitioning to life after school, and more. He is also happy to make introductions to others in his field.

Howard is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. In his spare time, he enjoys tennis, travel, basketball, skiing and wine tastings.

Connect with Howard on KU Mentoring.

How did you end up in your current career?

I majored in accounting so I was mostly interested in the “Big 8” firms. I scheduled an interview with Amoco (Oil and Gas) and the industry interested me plus I knew it would give me an opportunity to live in other places such as New Orleans, Tulsa, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, and Chicago!

Howard Fox

Who was a mentor for you? How did they help you?

My mentor was my cost accounting Professor who had worked previously for Touche Ross (now Deloitte). She was really good about getting me to focus on my strengths and weaknesses and helping me envision a career which would be best for me.

What advice do you have for current college students or young alumni?

Develop strong technical and “soft skills” early in your career to develop your base. Work hard to understand company goals and culture. Act as though you “own the company”. Understand key drivers to company performance and options you can create/develop to improve operational and financial results. Finally, relationships are very important so make sure to treat everyone the same at all levels by being helpful and supportive and not only helping the folks that are higher up in the organization.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring.

Tags: ,