Posted on Nov 27, 2017
in Alumni News
The Jayhawk Career Network event on Monday, Nov. 27, allowed students access to real-world insight from Portia Kibble Smith, c’78, and Mark Mears, j’84. Putting your best foot forward was a common theme as both guest speakers brought to light what really counts when networking.
Just be yourself
When it comes to networking and interview preparation, the best advice is to simply be yourself. For some, that might be easier said than done. To be the most authentic and best version of yourself, you must first know who you are.
Mark Mears, j’84, stressed the importance of taking personality tests when preparing for interviews. When he spoke recently with KU students, Mears revealed, “your resume tells part of the story.” He believes grounding yourself in who you are helps show future employers the other part.
“None of the personality results are bad,” he said. Instead, these tests show who you really are, not necessarily who you think you are.
Whether it’s a DISC or a Myers-Briggs, these tests highlight your strengths. KU’s University Career Center even offers various assessments. Once you have a sense of who you are, you can understand how you work in a team setting and what you bring to the table.
Are you a leader? Do you work well under pressure? Do you try to keep the peace? Whatever your strength, remain true to whatever makes you “you.”
Posted on Nov 22, 2017
in Alumni News
This time of year always makes us thankful for the people in our lives who have helped us along the way, and many of those generous souls are Jayhawks. Whenever KU alumni gather together for a networking event, a common question put to the crowd is this one: “Raise your hand if a Jayhawk helped you in your career.” Inevitably, every hand goes up.
Whether it was a special professor, a KU staff member, alumnus or friend, KU connections weave in and out of our lives and unite us as Jayhawks. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we asked some of our Alumni Association staff members to thank their KU mentors by reminiscing about the Jayhawks who made a difference in their lives.
Here are a couple of their responses:
I was in the Sports Management program right as Dr. Bob Frederick was transitioning to being a professor in the department from his career as Athletics Director. His real world way of teaching, stories of his time in the industry, and focus on not losing sight of being a good person first made an impact on me that continues to this day.
– Nick Kallail, d’04, l’07
My advisor in the J-School was Associate Dean Dana Liebengood, who would scribble out my academic future with a pencil on his bright yellow legal pad, like he did for so many students. Once we’d covered the required courses, we would discuss elective opportunities, and this is when he would light up! He became like a kid in a candy store, encouraging me to sample some of KU’s best professors, making sure I took advantage of all the university had to offer. Without his guidance, I might have missed out on Dick Wright’s ‘History of Jazz,’ one of the best courses I took at KU. His guidance enriched my KU experience–and ultimately my life–immeasurably.
–David Johnston, j’94, g’06
Did you have a KU mentor who made a difference? Go to our Facebook page to share your story, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And have a happy Thanksgiving, Jayhawks. Rock Chalk.
Posted on Nov 21, 2017
As the KU Cares Month of Service continues, the pictures and stories from the events are rolling in. We’re sharing a few from the first events to show how Jayhawks are making a difference in their communities. Visit the KU Cares Month of Service homepage to learn how you can participate in giving back to those in need.
Portland: Friends of Trees
The Portland Jayhawks joined forces with other volunteers on a misty Saturday afternoon to plant more than 200 trees in southeast Portland. Network volunteer Meg Viezbicke, c’97, organized the event and praised Friends of Trees for helping ensure the Jayhawks could be involved. Friends of Trees, a local nonprofit, aims to to inspire community stewardship of the area’s urban forest by planting and caring for trees in both neighborhoods and green spaces.
Seattle: Food Lifeline
Network volunteer Deanna Marks, b’16 e’16, brought together 10 Seattle Jayhawks who donned aprons and hairnets over their KU gear and packed 1,420 meals for their community at Food Lifeline, a nonprofit that provides meals to residents of Western Washington. Food Lifeline is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of over 200 food banks.
Tampa Bay: Feeding America
The Tampa Bay ’Hawks also partnered with Feeding America by collecting over 100 pounds of food. Network leader Chris Longino, b’06, thanked those who brought donations to their watch site for football and basketball watch parties. “I am always impressed with the generosity and goodwill of the Jayhawk Nation,” Longino said. “Hopefully, we can plan many future opportunities for our KU group to give back to our adopted Tampa Bay community.”
San Diego: Sunset Cliffs beach cleanup
San Diego Jayhawks spent a Saturday morning by the ocean, but instead of lounging in the sun they opted to beautify the beach. Network volunteer Stephanie Shehi, b’86, partnered with the San Diego Coastkeeper organization, which helps keep Sunset Cliffs Park clean and beautiful for the community. The network picked up 20 pounds of trash, enjoyed stunning views, and heard lots of “Rock Chalks” from bystanders.
The easiest way to participate in the KU Cares Month of Service is to join or renew your Alumni Association membership. During the month of November, a portion of all dues will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative!
Posted on Oct 20, 2017
in Alumni News
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.”
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.”
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.
Posted on Sep 28, 2017
in Alumni News
Jessica (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.”
Posted on Sep 28, 2017
in Campus News
Keon 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!
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 email@example.com
Posted on Sep 25, 2017
in Alumni News
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.”
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.
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.
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.
What 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.
Posted on Jul 26, 2017
in Alumni News
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.
P.S. If you’re on Twitter, follow Nick Kallail at @NiXstyle and Danny Woods at @dcwoods89. They won’t disappoint.
Posted on Jul 24, 2017
in Alumni News
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.”