Jayhawk network becomes a family affair

Posted on Nov 22, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Mark Mears and Brianna Mears | Jayhawk Career Network

A Jayhawk is born

For as long as I can remember, Saturdays were for the Jayhawks. At an early age I learned to wave the wheat and sing the Rock Chalk Chant. I didn’t know what they meant or why we did it, simply that I was supposed to cheer on KU. In all honesty, I was a Jayhawk before I even knew what it was.

However, as I got older I began to pay more attention. Not just to the athletics programs, but to the Jayhawk network around me. I accompanied my dad to alumni dinners, fraternity reunions, J-School Generations, and many a trip to campus to stroll down memory lane (otherwise known as Jayhawk Boulevard.)

It became clear my dad was not the only one who felt this special connection to his alma mater. Other Jayhawks nationwide were bonded by this shared experience. I could see how much love they had for the university and for the time they spent in Lawrence; many even looked for any excuse to come back to the Hill. It was infectious.

The legacy continues

Growing up, my dad couldn’t be home as often as either of us would have liked. He worked hard to provide for our family, and sometimes that included taking jobs cities, or even states, away. Regardless, he was always passionate about his work and eager to share with the family. With my dad being gone a lot of the time, and with me being a typical teenager, we didn’t always have the kind of relationship I hoped for. However, no matter what was going on in our turbulent world, we always had KU to unify us.

It’s been two years since I told my dad I was going to KU. We were seated at the dinner table on Thanksgiving, and the tears of joy began to stream down his face. I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now. The Hill is a magical place for Jayhawks young and old to gather, share stories, and connect. There is such pride in being a Jayhawk, so it’s no wonder alumni want to give back and help the next generation of leaders.

The power of a Jayhawk connection

Stories like this are common at KU because of the culture of alumni who want to assist other Jayhawks. Students already have the opportunity to connect with alumni at major-specific networking events. However, the new Jayhawk Career Network is open to Student Alumni Network members of all backgrounds. This event on Monday, Nov. 27 will be the first of many, and allows both novice and advanced networkers to hone their skills. Both my dad, Mark Mears j’84, and Portia Kibble Smith c’78, owner of PKS Executive Search & Consulting, will be teaching students how to build their own Jayhawk Network.

Throughout his career, my dad has always been eager to give back to KU in any way he can. In 2012 he endowed the Dr. Tim Bengtson Journalism Faculty Mentor Award for journalism professors who carry on the legacy of mentorship Dr. Bengtson left behind. My dad went to KU with the intention of being a lawyer, and it wasn’t until Dr. Bengtson pulled him aside and acknowledged his gift in advertising that my dad found his true passion.

I’m so proud to have a dad who wants to help others be the best version of themselves. All my life he’s instilled in me to “be the best ‘Brianna’ I can be,” and now I get to watch him help others be the best Jayhawks they can be.

Thank you, Dad, and Rock Chalk.

—Brianna Mears

Jayhawk Career Network

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