News Items In Category XCareer/Life

Shawnee teacher brings history to life with “Classroom Museum”

Posted on Mar 6, 2018 in Alumni News

Keil Hileman, Shawnee teacher who brings history to life with his "Classroom Museum"

Keil Hileman believes that the best way to teach students history is to bring the history to them.

NBC’s Left Field, a studio that creates documentaries for social media, recently visited Hileman, d’93, g’96, at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas. The segment featured his “Classroom Museum,” a room full of artifacts that began as a personal collection and continues to grow due to community support.

As the video racks up views and shares, we reached out the KU alumnus to hear more about NBC’s visit, his time at KU, and his goals for his students.


What was it like having NBC visit your classroom?

It was a great adventure for my students and I. We had a great time meeting two amazing videographers. They have traveled the world doing stories and chose to come see what we do in our “Classroom Museum” each day. Very cool honor for all of us and our community.

What have people been saying as the video gains in popularity?

There have been lots of new artifact donations and people offering to help financially. The museum budget is currently ¼ of what it used to be so any artifacts or support is appreciated. My emotion and compassion for my students has really struck a chord with people across the country. They see how much a teacher can care about their students…. and why. My favorite connection so far has been with teachers who want to know how to start their own museums and artifact collections. It’s very exciting to see a cool idea spread.

What influences your teaching style?

I have worked hard to simply teach my students in the most effective ways for 25 years. If what I was doing did not work, I threw it away and found a better way to connect my students to the history of the world around them. I continue to use unanswered questions as a way to guide my student’s problem solving and analysis skills. This was a valuable lesson taught to me by Dr. Joe O’Brien, an amazing and awarding-winning teacher in the KU School of Education. He changed my life and allowed me to go on and change the lives of my students by opening their minds, touching their hearts and defining their dreams.

What do you hope students take away from your class?

I want my students to become lifelong learners. I want them to find a passion for something and hold on to it. I want their passion to fuel their life experiences. We have a museum credo… or belief statement:

Explore… Empower… Excel…
Explore your World
Empower yourself and others
Excel in everything you do

—Ryan Camenzind

Keil E. Hileman is one of 50 teachers profiled and celebrated in the book, “American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom,” by Katrina Fried. The publisher notes three intentions: “To bring everyone interested in America’s future into 50 classrooms to experience public education first hand; to inspire other teachers through sharing ideas, innovations and successes; and to inspire administrators, parents and policy makers to listen deeply to the thoughts expressed by these teachers about education. Hileman was the Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2004. He was also featured in the Winter 2004 and Fall 2012 issues of the The Jayhawk Educator, a publication of the KU School of Education.

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Writer finds dream gig in the funny business

Posted on Mar 4, 2018 in Alumni News

The jokes you hear from host Jimmy Kimmel during tonight’s 90th Academy Awards telecast will be written in part by a Jayhawk— Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney.

McNearney, j’00, has served as co-head writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” since 2007. She began her career on the show as assistant to the executive producer in 2003. Last year, she served as co-head writer for the Oscars telecast—Kimmel’s first year as host—and will reprise her role for this year’s event.

A St. Louis native, McNearney earned a degree in advertising from the KU School of Journalism. She and Kimmel married in 2013.

Read more about McNearney’s thoughts on writing for the Oscars and her family’s busy year in her recent interview with Vanity Fair.


McNearney was profiled in issue No. 6, 2009, of Kansas Alumni magazine, which is embedded below.

If the embedded document isn’t available above, click here to read the profile on Issuu.

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Why being a Jayhawk is a divine advantage

Posted on Feb 15, 2018 in Alumni News

Jerry Skillett, b’81, recently shared his story of the power of being a Jayhawk in the workplace in the KU Alumni LinkedIn group. Skillett is a member of the KU Alumni Association’s national board of directors.

Jerry Skillett, b'81, member of the KU Alumni national board of directorsYou might wonder how someone with roots in Leroy, Kansas, population 561, could come from such a humble beginning and end up in New York as the founder of the second-largest (hope largest soon—all Jayhawks strive to be No. 1) parking company in the United States. I attribute it to the University of Kansas and the incredible network and power of the Jayhawk brand.

KU for me was the gateway to a much bigger possibility. Believe me, it was a quantum leap to go to KU, where there were more students in my organic chemistry class than in my whole high school. I struggled through a lot of it, but being a Jayhawk and thinking about all of the other brilliant Jayhawks made me determined to be a part of this incredible connection of people. Looking back to graduation in 1981 (wow, that long ago?), just the commitment to step into the challenge and complete it was such a catapult of energy. There was nothing that I could not achieve.

While I would love to say that I was an outrageously successful student (nope), or that I was a wildly popular party guy (hardly), I had an amazing experience nonetheless. How many of us can admit to getting a D in computer science, yet using that background to later start four software companies (yes, it’s true), or even building on an incredible 2.65 grade point average (rounded up to 3.0!) to become an innovator, industry leader and founder of a company with $1 billion in revenue and 8,000 employees? (Jayhawk Power!)

Today, in every meeting I attend, I have this Jayhawk sticker on the back of my portfolio. Ninety percent of the time, anyone I am meeting from around the world knows what the Jayhawk represents and wants to talk about it and how they have a KU connection. My wife, Leonor, a Southern California native, is now truly convinced that the world revolves around Kansas. I’ve always known it does.

Hey, Jayhawks, let’s hear your success stories and help you connect with fellow alumni. 2018 is going to Rock Chalk.

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Mentors matter: Jayhawk pays tribute to mentor, champion and friend

Posted on Jan 17, 2018 in Alumni News

Thomas R. Docking and Marc Langston

Last November, we encouraged Jayhawks to thank the KU mentors who made a difference in their lives. Marc Langston was inspired to pay tribute to his friend and mentor, Thomas R. Docking, c’76, l’80, g’80, who died last August. Langston, c’08, currently resides in Washington, D.C and is an annual member of the KU Alumni Association.

Internship leads to mentor

During high school, I was a summer intern at the Law Offices of Morris Laing in Wichita. Within my first week, Tom treated me to lunch. We discovered a mutual passion for politics, film, art history and Kansas. Over the course of that summer, I gained a mentor, a champion, and a true friend.

Tom held great interest in my aspirations and willingly shared his sagacity with a receptive 17-year-old. Tom persistently encouraged me to attend his alma mater, KU, versus other out-of-state schools I considered. I knew then how fortunate I was to be counted among his friends, but I could not imagine how profoundly influential Tom would be in my life. Thankfully, I heeded his advice and attended KU.

Influential mentorship

Tom’s daughter, Margery, was already at KU, and we enjoyed attending events together at the Dole Institute of Politics. Tom encouraged me to continue exploring the intersections between politics and art history. I earned a B.A. in political science and art history. He was thrilled when hearing from me abroad while I explored Turkey and Egypt, always eager to discuss my impressions of places he too admired. When I became involved in Student Senate and Kansas politics, I frequently sought Tom’s advice and counsel.

Tom’s mentorship proved extremely influential while at KU as well as during and after law school. Tom kept track of my progress, changes in my career, and continued to offer sage advice in times of need. My inbox is full of emails from Tom arranging times to meet when I would be in Wichita. I envisioned being able to continue to share my ups and downs with my friend and mentor, Tom, for at least the next 20 years.

An enduring legacy

Tom’s passing in August 2017 jolted those who were privileged to be mentored by him. We all know that Tom is survived by a loving family with an earnest love for KU. Although few of us are in a position to match the generous contributions made by the Docking family toward scholarships, faculty retention, and improvements to the campus, I elected to join the KU Alumni Association.

By supporting KU, even in this small way, I am taking the first step in furtherance of Tom’s enduring legacy of mentorship. I encourage others to follow Tom’s lead in continuing their support of KU and serving as mentors to prospective, current, and alumni Jayhawks.

Want to share your story about a Jayhawk who inspired you? Email us at And stay tuned—the KU Alumni Association will launch the Jayhawk Career Network this spring, which will provide additional mentorship opportunities for students and alumni.

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Meet the Staff: Crysta Moon

Posted on Jan 9, 2018 in Alumni News

Crysta Moon, coordinator of membership and business development, KU Alumni Association

Crysta Moon graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and minor in Business. Choosing to attend KU was an easy decision, as Crysta, c’17, is a third-generation Jayhawk and native of Mission, Kansas. Some of her favorite childhood memories include coming to Lawrence with her parents and brother for KU football and basketball games. Before joining the membership and business development team, Crysta was an intern for the alumni association for nearly two years, which prepared her to tackle any “Tegan or Teri project” that lies ahead. In her free time, Crysta enjoys watching KU and Kansas City sports teams, watching movies, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

I became a Jayhawk because…​

I became a Jayhawk because of my family. I’m a third-generation Jayhawk, so the decision to continue the tradition was an easy one. I love being a part of a huge KU family and sharing stories and experiences with other students and alumni.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The view of the Campanile and Potter Lake from Snow Hall. Some of my favorite childhood memories are playing around the lake and on the Hill before a KU football game. Later, as a student, it was my favorite sight to see when walking to and from class.

My favorite KU memory is…

The many hours spent in Allen Fieldhouse camping for KU basketball games!

My best advice for college students is…

Enjoy every moment and take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you. There are so many ways to meet new people and get involved on campus and in the Lawrence community. So take the chance, because those are the moments that make your college experience memorable. Also don’t forget to establish your camping group for basketball early, that’s very important.

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Be yourself. Be a Jayhawk!

Posted on Nov 27, 2017 in Alumni News

Jayhawk Career Network | Be Yourself, Be a Jayhawk networking preparationThe 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.”


The KU Alumni Association and the Jayhawk Career Network are here to help students and alumni. Find more information about career resources, networking, and tips from alumni on our website.

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Thank a Jayhawk

Posted on Nov 22, 2017 in Alumni News

Jayhawk Boulevard in the fall | Thank a Jayhawk Mentors Matter

Mentors Matter

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 And have a happy Thanksgiving, Jayhawks. Rock Chalk.

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From Feeding America to Friends of Trees: The KU Cares Month of Service begins

Posted on Nov 21, 2017 in Career/Life

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!

-Ryan Camenzind

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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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