Fall 2020 may have been a semester to forget, but one KU journalism class was focused on making sure it could always be remembered.
Professor Eric Thomas saw a unique opportunity with his Photojournalism class to document a year unlike any other. Students captured shots of life on campus, both memorable and mundane to show their daily lives as students trying to get a college education during a global pandemic, with the end result a photo book available for sale.
Early in the fall with the semester’s future unknown, Thomas’ goal to produce the book was anything but certain.
“Honestly, I am surprised that we got the book complete,” Thomas said. “The book was a goal that I essentially whispered to the class because I was unsure that the pandemic, the state of classes on campus, the class’ health or even my health would allow us to complete it. Submitting the book to the publisher this month was, in some ways, the most unexpected thing that happened for me during a semester that was surprising at almost every turn.”
The photos cover moments in time such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 presidential election, and daily realities such as the pandemic and the resulting unemployment.
Phoebe Koruna, a junior journalism major from the Chicago area, came into the class with limited experience telling stories through photography.
“I took a few photography and digital art classes in high school, but I had never tried photojournalism,” Koruna said. “Artistic and journalistic photography have a lot in common, but I wasn’t used to taking well-composed pictures of strangers and asking for their information without using too much of their time. Capturing history instead of creating art was also different for me.”
As the end of the semester approached, the real work began: sorting through thousands of photos to find the very best to make the book. The process bled into the weeks after the semester ended, but the class was determined to get the job done.
“I will remember this year as a turbulent time, one of depressing news and little social life,” Koruna said. “I lost a chunk of my college experience, though I paid full tuition price. But I am also grateful, for my professors and peers, who made the best of a bad situation, and for this learning experience, even if it was not the experience that I had pictured. Professor Thomas’s class got me out of my apartment and thinking creatively; it was something I could focus my energy and attention on. I got to help document our small slice of history, and I will always be grateful for that.”
As William McNulty helped care for survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, an insight guided him to co-found Team Rubicon: Military veterans—trained in crisis management, experienced at responding calmly under pressure and passionate about service—are ideally suited to fill a gap in disaster-relief efforts around the globe.
Ten years later, with more than 100,000 volunteers in five countries (and with four countries working to launch teams), Team Rubicon faces a global health crisis that calls for different tactics. How does a group known for putting armies of volunteers on the ground contribute to a pandemic response that counts lockdowns and social distancing among its most effective tactics?
When Camila Ordóñez Vargas, a political science and economics double-major, traveled to spend spring break with her family in her home country of Colombia, she never imagined that she would be unable to return to finish her junior year in Lawrence. Now facing this unexpected new reality, she’s finding ways to help alleviate the impact of the crisis in Colombia as the country grapples with social and economic uncertainties.
If you’re looking to mask your Jayhawk pride, John Killen is your guy.
Killen, j’85, is president & CEO of WinCraft, a manufacturer of licensed and promotional products for over 500 colleges and professional sports teams. As COVID-19 continued to spread, the company began to look at how they could help.
It’s not unusual for college students to balance their classroom education with real-life learning experience in the workplace, either through a full-time job or an internship. For 23-year-old biotechnology senior Justin Carroll, however, the experience has taken on a different sense of importance in the last few months. For the last four years, Carroll has worked for clinical laboratory company Quest Diagnostics, first in specimen processing and later as a laboratory assistant. Since the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, Carroll has been helping process COVID-19 tests.
For Chandra Swanson, M.D., who’ll soon begin her pediatrics residency at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, the effort and experiences she put into earning Global Scholar Distinction helped focus her vision of the work she’ll do as a doctor.
Dr. Travis Batts is a board-certified cardiac specialist with a focus on disease prevention, nutrition, fitness optimization and cardiovascular screening in San Antonio, Texas. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas in 2000 and his medical doctorate (MD) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before practicing medicine for over 10 years.
He was a letter winner on the men’s track and field team as a Jayhawk from 1996-2000, where he was a sprinter in the Crimson and Blue. He currently serves as Medical Director of the Cardiology clinic at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center.
Danny Caine knows what it’s like to receive a bit of unseasonal holiday spirit. Last year his Raven Book Store benefited when bestselling author Shea Serrano enlisted 300,000 Twitter followers to forgo Amazon Prime Day and instead order books from the small Lawrence shop as a way of supporting striking Amazon warehouse workers. The Raven enjoyed its best day ever for online sales and Caine called the slow-season boost “a bit of Christmas in July.”
So when a wave of closings ordered by state and local authorities began shutting schools, businesses and community organizations across Lawrence in mid-March, it was only natural that Caine, g’17, would be among the KU alumni finding creative ways to bring a bit of normalcy to the city during an unprecedented public health crisis by offering curbside pickup and delivery services.
Before he even attended his first class at the KU School of Medicine, Zach Krumsick had accumulated a world of experience dealing with challenging health issues in difficult circumstances.
The Frontenac native was determined to learn about diverse cultures beyond his small southeast Kansas hometown; during his undergraduate days at Pittsburg State University he completed medical missions to Peru, Belize and Mexico. Craving deeper immersion, he spent a year between undergrad and medical school doing humanitarian work in public health and education in Kenya, helping the “poorest of the poor” in a Nairobi slum manage the AIDS epidemic and take full advantage of support offered by local schools.
Former Kansas basketball standouts have made pledges to assist their communities in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Ben McLemore, who is in his seventh year in the NBA, currently with the Houston Rockets, is teaming up with C3 International to produce critical N95 respirator masks needed for coronavirus relief efforts.
On Thursday, March 12, Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, KU Alumni Association President and Megan McGinnis, Assistant Director of Student Programs, shared the following message with Student Alumni Network members.
Our thoughts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). In coordination with the University’s decision to conduct classes online, we will cancel all Student Alumni Network events for the next 60 days to further protect our Jayhawk community. These include the Mocktails & Mingle for Architecture on March 18, Wine & Wax on March 19, and Big Jay’s Recess on April 2.
In addition to continuing your classes online, you can stay connected to Jayhawk alumni through KU Mentoring.
Please do all you can to remain healthy and safe. Watkins Health Services offers helpful guidance for reducing your risks and taking steps if you experience symptoms.
Your well-being remains our top priority during this challenging time.
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09
KU Alumni Association President
Assistant Director of Student Programs
A spring semester gift to the University of Kansas is already paying dividends.
On Feb. 7, Silicon Valley financial technology company Ripple awarded a $2 million grant to KU as part of the University Blockchain Research Initiative. The program focuses on accelerating academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments at top universities.
Ripple is led by Brad Garlinghouse, c’94, who serves as CEO of the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency and digital-payment processing firm.
One of the programs benefiting from the grant is the KU Blockchain Institute, a student-led organization that focuses on advancing KU’s standing in the fast- developing field of blockchain. The group is open to students from all disciplines, including engineering, business, economics, mathematics, science, health care and technology.
Daniel Jones, a senior from Owasso, Oklahoma, is president and co-founder of the KU Blockchain Institute. His interest in blockchain was sparked by attending industry conferences and studying abroad.
“I was able to network with seasoned professionals who seemed adamant that blockchain technology would be a huge disruption for their industry,” Jones says. “I remember thinking, ‘If these executives are so worried about this technology, maybe I should check it out.’ Incumbent firms may see blockchain as a major disruption, but the KU Blockchain Institute sees blockchain as a serious opportunity for student entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo.”
Daniel Jones, Brad Garlinghouse and Jack Schraad, co-founder and vice president of the KU Blockchain Institute
Since its launch in August 2018, the KU Blockchain Institute has hosted three large conferences, including an October 2019 conference on cybersecurity. Speakers from FedEx, Lockheed Martin, the University of Arkansas and IBM attended, as well as Garlinghouse.
So what exactly is blockchain?
“Blockchain uses applied mathematics and cryptography to create trust in any transaction,” Jones explains. “Blockchain is a verifiable data structure that creates trust or traceability through a transfer of value. The transfer of value takes place through a transaction around a digital asset. A digital asset can represent any piece of physical property or store of value.”
“Using distributed ledger technology, blockchain creates a direct peer-to-peer exchange system for the transfer of value. Blockchain is to value what the internet is to information.”
Since 1959, KU seniors have chosen a professor to receive the H.O.P.E. Award to Honor an Outstanding Progressive Educator. The award, established by the Class of 1959 and given each year through the Board of Class Officers, is the only teaching honor bestowed by the senior class.
Hailey Solomon, a senior from Oswego, nominated her civil engineering professor, Matt O’Reilly. When he was selected as a finalist, Solomon attended the Oct. 5 KU-OU football game to support her mentor. Uninterested in the game itself, Solomon brought her crocheting and presumed her presence had gone unnoticed.
Four million Twitter and Facebook views later, she had become a social media sensation.
“It was incredibly surprising to go to exactly one football game in my entire college career and leave it as a meme, but I’m thankful for the experience,” Solomon says. “If a 30-second video of me contentedly crocheting brings people joy, then I’m joyful too!”
O’Reilly, an associate professor, is one of the few people Solomon would attend a game for. She credits his guidance as an adviser during freshman orientation as the reason she had the confidence to pursue engineering. An excerpt from her nomination form shows O’Reilly’s investment in his students, even before they are in his classroom.
“You can absolutely be successful in engineering because engineering, like everything, is so much more than it appears,” O’Reilly told Solomon. “It’s not just math and science; it’s writing, communication, teamwork, design, and so much more. You can’t judge yourself based on what you’re not, otherwise you’ll never accomplish anything. You have to make decisions based on what you’re good at and get help with the rest.”
Standing on the field during the award presentation, O’Reilly presumed one of his fellow finalists already received word he or she had won, so when “Dr. O’Reilly” blared over the loudspeaker as the winner, it took a second to sink in. Then he jumped with surprise.
“Most of my students call me Dr. Matt, so it took me a bit longer to respond to ‘O’Reilly’ and realize ‘he’ was me,” he says. “Nothing like jumping in shock when you’re on the Jumbotron.”
O’Reilly’s care for his students led to the H.O.P.E. Award. He fills his lectures with humor, makes video tutorials for difficult lab procedures, and grades every assignment, including exams, the day they are turned in. His open-door policy extends beyond office hours: He has been known to drive to campus on a Saturday to help a student understand a topic that was better explained in person.
“I know my students like and appreciate what I do, and that’s always been a source of happiness for me,” O’Reilly says. “I couldn’t imagine having a better career than teaching.”
His style derives from his own favorite teachers, student feedback, and trial and error. He constantly adjusts to best suit the needs of his students.
“The common thread was always putting students first and treating them with respect, and I strive to always hold myself to that,” he says.
As for Solomon, her crocheting is more than a hobby. She co-founded Warm the World, a student organization that makes warm clothes and blankets to donate to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The group meets every other Wednesday in the Union and is open to all students, regardless of skill level.
Solomon’s 15 minutes of fame made for a fun weekend, but the real story continues a cherished 60-year KU tradition: Matt O’Reilly’s teaching has earned him a place among the professors enshrined on the H.O.P.E Award plaque in the Kansas Union.
The plaza in front of Wescoe Hall has been lovingly referred to as Wescoe Beach for decades. This year, a group of KU students are making a splash with a proposal to turn the classic building into a real beach party with a rooftop pool.
The concept of the #WescoeRooftopPool began as a humorous crusade on Twitter, which continues to grow with some big names jumping in on the fun, including Athletics Director Jeff Long and former NBA player Scot Pollard, d’97.
“@StudentsofKU had been tweeting about it for a while and made a Photoshop version of it,” says Jordan Yarnell, an architecture senior from Elgin, Illinois. “Someone commented ‘let the architecture students handle this’ so we did. The three of us started to joke about it and then we realized it would be fun and pretty easy to do.”
Yarnell teamed up with fellow architecture students Jordan Vonderbrink, of Eudora, and Aaron Michalicek, of St. Louis, to create the designs. The results are a sight to see:
As fun as it is to dream, it’s worth asking: Could this really happen?
“Short answer is no,” Yarnell says. “We don’t know the structural makeup of Wescoe for what really has to be done. To add 200 thousand gallons of water, another whole floor, a deck, a lot more people, and more concrete, that’s a lot of work.”
Don’t tell Jeff Long, as he appears to be all in. Long has certainly leaned into the joke, teasing the public with promises we don’t exactly expect to come true.
A new school year is here already, and with it comes a fresh start and new classes. Here are some tips for KU Student Alumni Network members to get your semester off to the right start.
Everyone says get organized; we’ll show you how to actually do it. Pick out a folder or a notebook for each class, but be prepared to switch it up to fit the class structure. Don’t just shove papers into your backpack, you might not see them again. If a professor publishes slides on Blackboard, find free printing on campus and take notes on the slides instead of writing down the info from the slides.
Write down what textbooks each class asks for, and check prices at the KU Bookstore compared to online retailers. You can use the KU Bookstore’s comparison tool or do it yourself. And remember: keep your receipt if you buy from KU. You can return a textbook until September 16 with the receipt.
Master your schedule
We hope you spent some time optimizing your schedule for what works for you. Whatever you ended up with, let’s make it work. Set your schedule as your phone background for the first week. Leave extra time to get to classes if they are in unfamiliar buildings.
Most importantly, plan out your time between classes. Find some time to get to the library or wherever you study if you have a break, or swing by the Rec before it gets flooded. Don’t go home between every class; you might be tempted to stay there.
Get to know your classmates
Don’t worry if you don’t know many people in a class; chances are your peers don’t either. Use the first week to talk with people sitting around you. It might come in handy when you need to pick partners for a group project, study for a test, or catch up after a missed class.
Everyone tells you to take advantage of them, but do us a favor and do it right. You don’t have to parade in at the first possible opportunity with no plan. If you’re going to use your professor’s time, make it count. Start by introducing yourself after class on the first day to put a name to a face, and come in later with a real question about the class, or even better, the material. Showing a genuine interest in learning the concepts is the best way to stand out.
We hope this tips help you get your semester off to a great start! Have tips to add? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Kansas TRIO programs help guide students through the process of college. Each graduation season produces incredible stories of student success. This year was no different, with a first-generation college student heading to Harvard and a non-traditional student pursing a law degree.
As KU’s first-ever Rangel Fellow, Constanza Castro has been in the news before. Now, the first-generation college student and daughter of Chilean immigrants has walked down the Hill at Commencement. Constanza has been heavily involved from the moment she stepped on campus, including participation in the Multicultural Student Government and traveling to D.C. for advocacy. She also participated in the KU TRIO McNair Scholars Program and received support from KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services. We reached out to Constanza student to hear more about her KU experiences.
How has the TRIO program helped you?
The TRIO program has provided me academic and personal support to ensure I succeeded in graduating in four years. The most important thing TRIO provided me was a community for me to lean on when I needed support. Having people who understand your background and where you come from because they also come from that place has been beyond important and valuable.
Tell us about your experience in Washington D.C.
My advocacy for TRIO in D.C. was the first time I got to look at how federal budgeting works and how to lobby local congressmen and women to support an issue. It taught me how to find common ground with those different than me and how powerful individual voices can be in determining representatives votes on issues.
What did you learn from your time with Multicultural Student Government?
In Multicultural Student Government, you had to advocate for students from diverse backgrounds. I learned how to serve a constituency that was not only vocal, but often had differing opinions and how to diplomatically work with others to find solutions to common issues.
What advice would you give to first-generation college students?
Grow a large network. The network of people in your life will help guide you and present you with opportunities you would never even consider for yourself. It will be those opportunities which teach you the most and change your life.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation I am off to D.C. to intern in Representative Elijah Cummings’ office, and in the fall I will begin a Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
As a non-traditional student, Robert Armstrong took the road less traveled to a KU degree. The Kansas City, Kansas, native walked down the Hill at KU’s 147th Commencement. The TRIO program has been part of Armstong’s education from an early age, from TRIO KU Talent Search in middle school to graduating as a TRIO McNair Scholar. We reached out to the new alumnus to talk about KU and his future.
How has the TRIO program helped you?
Without the KU TRIO program, I would not be where I am today. It has provided me with support and opportunities that I otherwise would not have had access to. Since middle school with KU Talent Search, to joining the McNair Scholars program, KU TRIO programs have given me a network of amazing people who have helped me thrive.
What made you decide to come to KU?
My younger brother was the most influential in my decision to attend KU. He graduated from KU with a degree in social welfare in the spring of 2017. He would often rave about living in the city of Lawrence and the University’s social inclusivity.
What advice would you give to people considering going into college at a later age?
I would advise any prospective nontraditional students to invest in themselves by attending KU. No matter what phase of life you are in, it’s never too late to strive for more.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I will begin as a summer research assistant to the dean of Washburn Law School. I also plan to attend Washburn Law in pursuit of my Juris Doctorate.
As president of the Unity Hip Hop dance crew, Caitlyn creates community among fellow students with a shared passion of hip hop culture. Caitlyn has continued Unity’s strong tradition, founded in 1995, and has led them into new opportunities like training sessions with visiting artist Amirah Sackett.
Humberto Gomez Salinas
Humberto’s extensive work within the international student community at KU helps shape the experience of more than 2,000 Jayhawks who come to Lawrence from all over the world. He serves as an International Undergraduate Student Senator and a resident assistant in Downs Hall. Both roles allow Humberto to create space for students to feel welcome and engaged with the campus community.
When Jordan arrived at KU, he wanted to create a space for students that he couldn’t find. With assistance from faculty, Jordan created The Connect, a space for students to come together, eat and hang out. Student organizations come to The Connect to offer their services, academic resources are also available at the event. Jordan’s creation continues to grow and welcome more Jayhawks each month, just as Jordan set out to do.
The Jayhawk Impact Awards program is sponsored by Hy-Vee of Lawrence.