News Items In Category XCareer/Life

Kansas City entrepreneurs share startup experience at alumni networking event

Posted on Oct 20, 2017 in Alumni News

Kansas City Skyline from Kansas City entrepreneurs event
Kansas City-area alumni and current KU students gathered Oct. 18 at the WeWork shared-office space in downtown Kansas City for a networking event and panel discussion with three of the city’s top entrepreneurs.

The panelists included Chase McAnulty, assoc., founder and CEO of vintage T-shirt company Charlie Hustle; Paul Francis, a’80, founder and CEO of OYO Fitness; and Hillary Philgreen, g’97, chief operating officer of Hantover Inc. and ARY Brands Inc and founder and creator of StinkBOSS. The discussion was moderated by Tyler Enders, b’11, owner of Made in KC and partner in five other retail concepts in the Kansas City area.

Prioritizing industry connections

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, welcomed the crowd of 65 Jayhawks and thanked Jessica Nelson Palm, j’11, managing director of the Kansas City Area Development Council and president of the Association’s Greater Kansas City Alumni Network, for the network’s assistance in hosting events for local alumni.

“These sorts of panel discussions and industry connections are a big focus for the Alumni Association right now,” Peterson said, explaining that the Association plans to launch a new career initiative, the Jayhawk Career Network, in 2018. “Programs like this in major metro markets across the country are part of that plan.”

What worked and what didn’t

Throughout the evening, the panelists answered a series of questions from Enders, as well as from several participants in the crowd, about their processes for product development and marketing, including how they secured funding, who they enlisted for help, how their prototypes were built and, ultimately, what worked for them and what didn’t.

Philgreen, a mother of two teenage boys who inspired the creation of StinkBOSS, a machine designed to dry, sanitize and deodorize shoes and athletic gear, relied on her extensive business background and made connections with other industry professionals, which proved invaluable to launching her product. She reminded participants that Kansas City offers a wealth of resources and networking opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“You need help, there are people in this city that will help you,” she said. “You just need the concept and you just need to step forward and try.”

“Reverse engineer” what’s already been done

Francis and McAnulty used the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help fund their concepts, and they stressed the importance of having a captivating, informative video for product campaigns. Both entrepreneurs recruited local business-savvy professionals to help create their videos.

“You don’t have to do anything new,” said Francis, who patented SpiraFlex, the exercise technology that powered strength-training equipment for NASA, and also developed the Bowflex Revolution. He watched several other campaign videos before creating one for his latest product, the DoubleFlex portable gym. “You just have to reverse engineer what’s already been done, then just improve upon it.”

Keep trying

McAnulty, whose passion for vintage tees and textile design inspired him to launch Charlie Hustle in 2012, reminded participants that the most important lesson in starting a new business or launching a new product is to keep trying. His brand’s most popular tee and signature piece, the KC Heart design, wasn’t even on the initial roster of T-shirts when Charlie Hustle first launched.

“You learn from everything,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes, you learn from your little successes. Try to expand and grow on those. We failed on a lot of different products. Just keep going, do it.”

—Heather Biele

Watch our video below to hear from the panelists. Pictures from the event are available on our Flickr page and may be downloaded for personal use.

 

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Kansas City network president to receive leadership award

Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in Alumni News

Jessica NelsonJessica (Nelson) Palm will be honored with the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce on September 28.

The award honors emerging leaders who demonstrate excellence, creativity, and initiative in their business; contribute time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community; and serve as role models for young women personally and professionally.

Palm, j’11, serves as president of the Greater Kansas City Alumni Network board for the Alumni Association, where events such as an upcoming KC Entrepreneurship panel provide area Jayhawks with opportunities to engage with their peers in various industries.

“Jessica has set the bar high for young professionals in Kansas City,” said Kelsey Hill, assistant director of Kansas City alumni programs. “She is engaged in a way that inspires alumni to be present and proud of their University. We could not be more proud of Jessica and are honored that she is serving as president of the Kansas City board.”

As managing director of the Kansas City Area Development Council, Palm manages the organization’s talent recruitment initiative, TeamKC: Life+Talent. The nationally-recognized program strengthens the region’s competitive advantages through programs such as InternKC by engaging interns to encourage setting in the KC region. She’s also publisher of KC Options magazine, which answers the question “Why KC?” to candidates, new hires and interns from around the world.

“Supporting young professional women in the Kansas City business community is a great way to engage and leave a lasting legacy no matter what your age,” Palm said. “The camaraderie of women leaders in Kansas City is powerful, and as a young professional in our community having access to these individuals for collaboration and mentorship has propelled my personal and professional aspirations greatly. It is truly an honor to be recognized among such successful and incredible women in our region as an ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award honoree.”

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Meet the Staff: Keon Stowers

Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in Campus News

Keon Stowers, assistant director of student programs, KU Alumni AssociationKeon Stowers, c’15, assists with student programs for the KU Alumni Association, including advising the Student Alumni Leadership Board. Previously, he represented the KU Office of Admissions helping to recruit first generation and underrepresented students to campus. Keon served as a two-time team captain for KU Football and was featured on Big 12’s Champions for Life series. When Keon isn’t spending time with his beautiful family, he can be found manning the BBQ pit.

I became a Jayhawk because…

When I first got a call from KU I actually had to look on the United States map to find where Kansas was. But after visiting KU for my official recruitment visit, I fell in love with the people. Most importantly, I fell in love with this school and everything the Jayhawk stands for. Now I get the honor of raising two little Jayhawks!

How has KU propelled you into your current career?

After graduating and moving home for a year I returned to KU seeking job opportunities, and that’s where I found an opportunity to work in our Office of Admissions as a recruiter. During my time there I learned so much more about the university and what we have to offer here. I truly believe that my past experience working in the office of admissions has given me great insight on my new role here as Assistant Director of Student Programs.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

Having lunch at the Market in the Union. It gives the perfect view of Memorial Stadium on a beautiful Lawrence day!

Kansas football players

My favorite KU memory is…

Snapping the horrible Big 12 losing streak against WVU and celebrating with the student section as they rushed the field. It was only our second win that season but it was our Super Bowl and I’ll never forget that game and the euphoric feeling of celebrating with my peers.

My best advice for college students is…

Get involved on campus early. KU has more than 600 student clubs and organizations, pick one and join. That way, you have an immediate cohort of friends to lean on when college gets tough. Also, it gives you a chance to build relationships and build your network for professional opportunities after you walk the hill.

Learn more about the programs Keon works on, including the Student Alumni Network and the Student Alumni Leadership Board. For more information about student programs, contact him at kstowers@kualumni.org

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KU alumnus leads charge for improving health in rural Kansas

Posted on Sep 25, 2017 in Alumni News

David Toland: KU alumnus leads charge for improving health in rural Kansas

When faced with decreasing populations and poor health ratings, a Kansas county rallied together to take control of their future.

David Toland, c’99, g’01, serves as executive director of Thrive Allen County, a nonprofit coalition that works to improve the quality of life and economic conditions in Allen County, Kansas.

Toland joined the organization in 2008, when Allen County was ranked 94th out of 105 Kansas counties in overall health by the County Health Rankings. The county of 13,000 came together at a series of town halls and reached a common goal: to become the healthiest rural county in the state.

Now the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has recognized Toland and Allen County’s work as a Culture of Health prize winner. The award honors eight communities making great strides in their journey toward better health.

“It means so much to the people of this community to have their hard work recognized at a national level,” Toland said in response to the award. “It’s an important part of the emotional fuel that people need to keep doing the work.”

County projects

While the work to reach the top continues, the results already in place are stunning.

The county re-purposed an old school bus as the MARV—Meals And Reading Vehicle—which provides a healthy meal and books to read for students during the summer. Miles of biking and hiking trails constructed largely by volunteers have proven so popular that a Kansas City bike shop opened a new location on Iola’s main street. And after a proposal to raise the local sales tax to help build a hospital passed with 72% approval, the Allen County Regional Hospital opened in 2013 with Brian Neely, c’08, MD’12, m’16 as the doctor.

“Something special is happening in Allen County — we are fundamentally changing, for the better, how we live,” said Toland. “And we will keep steadily and quietly working toward our goal: being the healthiest rural county in Kansas.”

“The people in Allen County work hard, but in a quiet way. They don’t seek fancy recognitions or awards or acknowledgments. They know that we are facing difficult odds.”

Read the article or watch the video the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created that captures Allen County’s work towards creating a culture of health.

-Ryan Camenzind

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Doctoral student balances bioengineering research, ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Posted on Sep 18, 2017 in Campus News

Mitch VeDepo puts both his body and brain to work by researching heart valve replacements and training for NBC’s hit reality TV show “American Ninja Warrior,” where contestants compete to finish an extreme obstacle course. We reached out to Mitch to ask him about his time on the show, his work in the labs, and his plans for the future.

Vedepo course

What is it actually like competing on the show?​

Competing on American Ninja Warrior is really interesting. The best thing about the whole experience is definitely the other people. The ‘Ninja’ community is awesome and full of amazing characters. It is a bunch of like-minded individuals who come together to try and take down the hardest obstacle course in the world. I really do mean we come together against the course. There is a real sense of camaraderie among the ninjas, and although the show likes to depict it as though we are competing against each other, we are really all competing against the same obstacle course. We cheer each other on when there is a finisher and are bummed when someone falls. My least favorite part of competing is the whole production of the show. It’s easy to forget but ANW is a reality TV show first, and a competition second. I definitely participate for the competition aspect and the interviews, lights, and cameras are not my favorite, but I suppose they are necessary. In the end the production aspect does help build up the excitement and hype of the competition so it is all worth it. But overall the show is just a ton of fun, which is why I have competed the last three years and will try again next year.

Mitch Vedepo in the labWhat have your classmates and professors said to you about your performance? Or is it all business once you get back into the labs?

It’s actually very much business, which I am okay with. Professors and advisers definitely know about me competing and we will talk and joke about the show and my performance but then it is back to the research. The show likes to call me the Science Ninja, and I definitely bring some science into my training, but I don’t bring any ninja into my science.

What are you researching at KU?

I’m in my fourth year of my doctorate in bioengineering at KU. My research is focused on creating tissue engineered heart valves for pediatric patients. There is a significant clinical need for an ideal heart valve replacement option, especially for pediatric patients, who must otherwise undergo multiple revision surgeries. My specific interest is in the recellularization of decellularized heart valve scaffolds by investigating different cell re-population mechanisms and leveraging bioreactor conditioning parameters. My research is being performed in collaboration with the Cardiac Regenerative Surgery Research Laboratories at the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Were you training and resaerching at the same time? If so, how did you manage your time?

I was! And it is cool to see both those efforts pay off in the end. Time management has definitely been key. I’d like to think I do a good job of getting down to business and trying to be effective when it is time to work in the lab. But once I leave the lab I rarely take that work home with me so I can separate work and play. And by play I mean training. Probably five nights a week I end up training at the gym because it really does feel like playing around and having fun. Only after do you realize what a good workout it was.

What are your plans and goals for after graduation?​​

I’d definitely like to continue with my research. I’m currently looking for post-doc opportunities related to cardiac tissue engineering with a long-term goal of pursuing a career in academia. My short term goal, though, is really just to graduate, and somewhere in there, maybe compete on American Ninja Warrior again next year.

Watch the video below to see Mitch’s run in the Kansas City finals that sent him to the national finals in Las Vegas.
 

 
-Ryan Camenzind

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Alumni Programs team travels across America boosting network activity

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 in Alumni News

New York City Jayhawks network meeting at a rooftop happy hour
Nick Kallail and Danny Woods continued their work to boost alumni networks by traveling cross-country visiting with local Jayhawks.

The pair of KU Alumni Association program staffers are looking at potential growth cities as part of their goal of unique and diverse programming across the nation. Their itinerary included visits to Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Phoenix, and New York City​.

Kallail, d’04, l’07, and Woods, j’13, hosted a meeting at each stop to connect existing network leaders with new area volunteers. They introduced their plan for successful networks to the group, and then let the local alumni plan amongst themselves.

“We really want to empower all of the network leaders,” Woods said. “These leaders know their network way better than we ever could. We just want to give them the tools to build a successful network and let them run with it. This will ultimately help the network sustain and grow for years to come.”

One of the main goals of the network visits was to promote planning events in all of the five event buckets such as Rock Chalk Connect, which provides networking opportunities, and Rock Chalk Cultivate, which gives alumni the opportunity to learn a new skill—often from other Jayhawks.

“For our network moving forward, I would like to see the meeting’s enthusiasm to continue,” Brandon Snook, New York City network leader, said. “I want us to fully embrace the new event branding, which I love…especially KU Cares. It will be a great way for us to give back to the community, and strengthen our bonds in the process. I hope the new branding will be a springboard for our network board, and that everyone involved won’t be hesitant in popping out fresh new ideas for programming.”

Kallail and Woods also introduced a new structure for network leadership. Instead of traditional roles such as president, vice president, and treasurer, networks will have leaders who manage event buckets. “I like the concept of having a group with individuals focused on different areas of outreach for the Alumni Association,” Scott Lundgren, Portland network leader, said.

After the planning meeting, other local Jayhawks joined for a happy hour. Both Snook and fellow New York City network leader Kellie Johnson were pleased with their meeting. “We assembled a nice variety of people who seem enthusiastic to lead,” Snook said.

Wherever they went, Kallail and Woods were excited to see the networks’ turnout. Johnson has a theory why.

“I think KU alumni attend the events to keep that special connection alive. I’ve met several people from other schools who have noted that KU alumni are the most loyal they have ever met. One told me he doesn’t get involved with his alumni because he left nothing there – and when I asked him to clarify – he said it was clear all of us had left our hearts in Lawrence.”

If you want to get involved, visit our website and check out a list of all alumni networks to learn how you can help connect Jayhawks in your community.

-Ryan Camenzind

P.S. If you’re on Twitter, follow Nick Kallail at @NiXstyle and Danny Woods at @dcwoods89. They won’t disappoint.

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Chicago alumni, students connect with local business leaders

Posted on Jul 24, 2017 in Alumni News

Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel: David Grossman, Todd Holmes and Sherry Scott

More than 40 alumni and 15 current students met July 18 on Michigan Avenue to learn from some of the best and brightest Jayhawk alumni based in the Windy City.

The event, Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel, featured a panel of business leaders who shared the stories of their journey with Chicago area alumni. A select number of KU Student-Alumni Network members also attended.

Bryce McMichael, d’08, Chicago Network leader, said “One of the main goals we have in Chicago is diversifying our event offering beyond watch parties for KU games and expand into the careers and lifelong learning space. This event definitely fit the bill in that regard.”

David Hoese, e’86, vice president at Goldman Sachs served as panel moderator, with Todd Holmes c’89, CEO at Liquidus Marketing and co-founder of Goose Island Beer Co., Sherry Scott j’91, president at Gagen MacDonald, and David Grossman j’89, president at Freshii comprising the panel.

“The panelists stemmed from a Presidents Club reception we had last year in which Todd Holmes suggested an event like this,” McMichael said. “David Grossman and Sherry Scott were also added due to their specific entrepreneurial experience, local ties, and fascinating life stories.”

The event was the first of a series highlighting business leaders and entrepreneurs in Chicago. The panel offered advice to students and young alumni on topics such as how to start a business and risk tolerance.

“With 15 current KU students who hail from the Chicago area in attendance, I believe they came away with inspiration and pointers on how to create your own destiny and do the work you truly love,” McMichael said. “I also hope that those who went also came away knowing that their Alumni Association can provide much, much more value than they had originally thought going into the event!”

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, president of the KU Alumni Association, echoed McMichael’s sentiments for the Alumni Association as a whole.

“We want to do more to directly connect students to industry leaders and showcase the power and reach of the KU degree,” Peterson said. “We must leverage the story of successful alumni to ensure current students have direct and constant access to a powerful network.”

Peterson’s goals were realized for Rebecca Hans, j’18, a Student-Alumni Network member who made an unexpected connection.

“I didn’t expect to know anyone [at the event] but I saw a family friend,” Hans said. “He introduced me to someone who has a connection to the military at KU. My dream job is a military psychologist where I could work with soldiers or their families and help them with mental health issues.”

“This event helped me realize that I can be successful in Chicago. Knowing that I am graduating in the spring, it is comforting to see that KU stays with you forever.”

—Ryan Camenzind

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Alumni Profile: Caleb Bobo

Posted on Apr 24, 2017 in Alumni News

Caleb Bobo, c’16, is a native of St. Louis who earned a degree in political science with a minor in African and African-American Studies. He is currently a first-year graduate student and diversity fellow at Saint Louis University. Caleb is a member of the KU Alumni Association and served on the Student Alumni Leadership Board as an undergraduate.

Caleb BoboI became a Jayhawk because…

Simply put, there was no competition. I applied to and visited several universities, but none gave me the same feeling that the University of Kansas did. It was the perfect size and distance from home. I found it to be the perfect balance between the social scene of a major, state university and the academic rigor of an elite research institution. Everything one could want out of their college experience, they can get at KU.

How has KU propelled you into your current career?

Graduate school is difficult for many reasons. Professors expect a lot out of their students and most of us balance professional opportunities with classes. Luckily, KU’s academic programs prepared me extremely well for my graduate studies, and the emphasis my professors and advisers put on internships during my undergraduate career allowed me to find employment in my new city.

What’s your favorite spot on campus? and/or What spot do you return to whenever you’re back on the Hill?

The Nunemaker Center is the home of the KU Honors Program. Not only is it an awesome place to study on The Hill, but the staff who works there always made me feel so welcomed when I walked through the doors. I’ve remained very close with several of the faculty and staff I met through KU Honors, and I always try to visit when I come back to Lawrence.

My best advice for college students:

Be flexible with your academic program! A lot of students, myself included, think we have our lives figured out at 17 or 18 years old but that’s often not the case. Allow yourself to be challenged through classes, projects and extracurricular activities outside of your chosen discipline. You never know when you’ll discover an interest or passion that you didn’t know existed.

Describe a moment, during or after your time as a KU student, when you felt the greatest sense of Jayhawk pride.

I was really fortunate to make a great group of friends at the University of Kansas and after we all graduated, it’s been amazing to watch each of them begin their lives post-undergrad. Several are working for major corporations in New York, Chicago and Kansas City. A few moved to Washington D.C. to work for members of Congress or other governmental organizations. A handful ended up in elite graduate, legal or medical programs across the country, and I know a few who became officers in the United States Military. Each and every time I’m able to touch base with them over the phone or via social media, I always feel so much pride knowing that although we have a wide variety of interest and goals, we all walked the streets of Lawrence together.

Check out more profiles of outstanding Jayhawks to find out where a degree from the University of Kansas can take you.

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Alumni Profile: Jonathan Ng

Posted on Apr 20, 2017 in Alumni News

Jonathan Ng, c’03, j’03, earned degrees in Spanish and strategic communications and currently works as an attorney advisor for the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C. Originally from Leawood, Kansas, he now resides in Arlington, Virginia. He is a Life Member of the KU Alumni Association.

Jonathan NgI became a Jayhawk because…

As a native Kansan, it’s the flagship institution of our state, and I wanted to go to the best place possible while still maintaining close ties to my home. But no matter where you go, the quality of your experience depends on what you’re willing to put into it. KU provides all the opportunities that you could ever hope for in a full college experience — to be challenged academically at a nationally-recognized research institution, to cheer on elite athletic programs and to spend four years on a beautiful campus in a quintessential college town.

How has KU propelled you into your current career?

KU represents a true microcosm of our larger global society by reflecting the diversity you will encounter in your personal and professional lives. It’s large enough to find other students and groups who share your common interests, but it’s also diverse enough to bring you in touch with, and to teach you to be open and empathetic to other views, opinions and worldviews that are different from yours. It’s ultimately those “soft” skills of empathy, adaptability and compromise that help you excel in your career that you learn by immersing yourself in a rich and full college experience that a place like KU offers.

How did KU push you to try harder or to try something new?

As a freshman, I got involved in Student Government because I had an interest in shaping public policy and loved the democratic process of governance. By my junior year, I ended up running for and being elected student body president. Winning the election was obviously a great experience, but just putting myself in the arena regardless of victory or defeat was one of the most formative experiences of my life.

My best advice for college students…

Practice being present. College is not simply a stepping stone to your career. It is a rewarding and formative experience in itself. There’s a reason why many people form their best friendships and memories during their college years. Once you start working, society has a way to differentiate and separate us with arbitrary labels. In college, everyone is essentially on the same playing field, which enables you to get to know people for who they are, not what they do. Enjoy it for what it is. Don’t be in such a hurry to graduate.

What’s your favorite spot on campus? and/or What spot do you return to whenever you’re back on the Hill?

I always love returning to the Campanile and the view that overlooks Potter Lake, Memorial Stadium and the Kansas Union.

What’s the best KU tradition?

By far, the best KU tradition is the Rock Chalk Chant during the final moments of KU basketball games. It’s distinctly and uniquely KU. It’s a tradition you grow up watching on TV, participating in as a student at games in Allen Fieldhouse, and continue chanting as alumni long after you have graduated.

Reveal a “best kept” secret about the KU campus or Lawrence.

I’ll tell you after you graduate.

Check out more profiles of outstanding Jayhawks to find out where a degree from the University of Kansas can take you.

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KU Builds KC: Smart Cities Engineering Panel

Posted on Apr 18, 2017 in Alumni News

Panelists at the KU Builds KC: Smart Cities Engineering Panel, April 11, 2017

Five distinguished Jayhawks working in the world of engineering in Kansas City recently discussed the many challenges and questions facing the metro area now and in the very near future.

The event was hosted by Black & Veatch and held Tuesday, April 11. Clint Robinson, e’85, g’91, associate vice president of Black & Veatch, served as moderator.

The panelists included Kevin McGinnis, c’93, vice president at Pinsight Media; Angie Grant, e’04, vice president at Henderson Engineers, Inc.; Stephen Hardy, c’00, chief executive officer at mySidewalk; Herb Sih, ’89, managing partner at Think Big Partners; and Scott Stallard, e’81, b’81, vice president at Black & Veatch.

The Kansas City Network’s career networking committee helped organize the Smart Cities panel. The committee plans to host quarterly industry-specific events for KU students and alumni.

Watch the video below:

 

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