Sasha Kuchinski, j’09, c’09, coordinates the Hawk Mentor program and serves as a KU admissions representative for Wichita. “At the banquet we had each mentor and mentee share their favorite moments from the past year and it was pretty incredible to hear all the things they’ve done together, but mostly how close some of these mentees and mentors have become,” said Kuchinski.
Azhai Williams, a senior from Wichita West High School, shared advice on succeeding in high school. Williams is headed to KU in the fall and spoke about her college search process.
Mentors and mentees left with KU mugs and glasses filled with candy and Jayhawk pennants.
The HAWK Mentor Program scheduled events for mentors and mentees throughout the school year. Events included KU campus visits, game watch parties and volunteer opportunities. Mentees also shadowed mentors at their jobs to learn more about professional workplaces.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
Find out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our biweekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes.If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at email@example.com.
Derby native Casey Combs walked across the stage at KU earlier this month, as she earned her Doctorate in Audiology. Casey is profoundly, or totally for a more practical term, deaf. Read full article and watch video
The Summer Venture in Business program is open to high-achieving 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade minority students or those who would be the first in their families to attend college. Former KU student body president Stephonn Alcorn and his Student Senate coalition had proposed such a camp last year as one way to help increase campus diversity. Read full article.
Tom Eblen, who mentored a generation of journalists as general manager and news adviser for the University Daily Kansan, died Saturday at age 80 in Prairie Village. As general manager and adviser of the Daily Kansan, Eblen oversaw the newspaper’s business affairs and provided lasting advice to students on writing and editing. Read full article.
Perry Ellis was one of the many fan favorites participating in an exhibition game that featured more than 40 former KU players and coaches including 12 members of Kansas’ 2008 national title squad. Read full article.
Robert Cobb, a University faculty member and administrator for over 30 years, passed away last week at the age of 91. In his time at the University, Cobb was an English professor, department head, dean, executive vice chancellor, professor emeritus and more. Read full article.
The Sacramento Kings hosted a second pre-draft workout on Wednesday with last season’s National College Player of the Year – Kansas’ point guard Frank Mason III. Upon arriving in Sacramento on Tuesday, Mason caught the attention of social media for inviting a Jayhawks fan to meet him at his downtown hotel. Read full article and watch video.
Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read more about newsworthy Jayhawks.
“One thing we all have in common is our Jayhawk network,” Mark van Blaricum told students at the Student Alumni Association’s Networking Night event on October 20.
More than thirty members of SAA attended the popular event, modeled after “speed dating” events, to meet alumni, make connections and learn more about the business world.
Van Blaricum, b’99, l’02, g’08, gave the keynote address at the event, and reminded students that there are many different ways they can gain leadership skills. He has worked as an attorney in various healthcare settings since 2006, serving as the risk manager at a hospital, a compliance officer for a safety-net health insurance plan, as well as practicing law at a small healthcare firm. Van Blaricum is also a freelance ghostwriter for Inc.com and other outlets. He has a passion for health and wellness, and gives presentations on health-related topics to groups across Kansas City.
After the keynote, students had the opportunity to meet with alumni in small groups.
Other alumni who participated in the event include:
Kelli Calhoon, e’01, a senior Manager for Ramboll Environ US Corporation, who manages air quality and other environmental permitting and compliance projects for a variety of manufacturing industry clients, including power generation, oil & gas, cement, construction materials, and fertilizer manufacturing. She manages and prepares technical work and has extensive experience with business development and sales in the environmental services industry.
Mark Frutiger, b’01, an Account Manager II—Institutional Servicing for KeyBank, who manages pool loans in the Institutional Servicing group. He works with borrowers, lenders and other stakeholders to make sure loans are in compliance and operating within established guidelines. He is an advocate for the borrower and the lender.
Grant Kollman, c’10, associate director and investment sales specialist at Berkadia Real Estate Services who focuses on the acquisition, disposition, and advisement of multifamily assets throughout the Midwest.
Tom Larkin, a’09, vice president of development for Flint Hills Holdings Group, LLC, who oversees real estate development sourcing and project management for the state of Kansas and parts of the Kansas City Metro.
Mike Walrod, b’90, a consultant and business coach who helps business owners and executives gain clarity over what they want to accomplish. He collaborates with them on the critical next steps needed for success.
Jerry Younger, e’86, g’92, the deputy secretary and state transportation engineer who provides the executive day-to-day leadership for 2400 employees of KDOT. He is responsible for the effective and efficient management of a 10,000 mile state highway system as well as involvement in other transportation modes (bike/pedestrian, rail, transit, aviation). He also serves as the chief engineer for KDOT.
“As you climb the career ladder, you will be put in charge of people. Their success will depend on your success, ” explained Younger.
The first in a series of business-focused networking events for Kansas City area alumni was held June 17 at Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa. The company’s president and CEO, Scott Coons, was the keynote speaker.
Jim Brown, j’92, president of the Kansas City Alumni Network, introduced Coons, e’91, who spoke to a group of nearly 40 Jayhawks in the massive lobby of the sustainably constructed building, which boasts 240,000 square feet, a dodgeball court, amphitheater, two-story slide and full-service cafeteria for nearly 800 Lexmark employees who work in process and content management software technology.
“We have a lot of fun,” Coons said. “We believe happy employees make happy customers.”
Coons, who will retire in July, has been with Lexmark, formerly known as Perceptive Software, for 20 years. In that time, he’s learned some valuable lessons for building a successful business, including these tips, which he shared with the group:
1. Focus: Our saying around here is, “You’re not defined by what you do. You’re defined by what you don’t do.” Too many times you see project managers trying to solve the world’s problems with their product, instead of just getting the product built and finding its first customer.
2. Put in a little extra effort every single day. Don’t let something that can be done today trickle into tomorrow. Get it done today. Stay a little late or start a little early.
3. Work is never done. Too many young employees don’t know what hard work is. We have to spend a lot of time helping them understand that hard work is the first thing you have to do to be successful.
4. Prepare for a number of short races. It’s not a marathon. Win the first race and move on to the next one. You might not be around if you don’t win the race in front of you.
5. Surround yourself with winners. Give people a great deal of latitude and let them do their jobs. They will make mistakes. Mistakes are fine; they help you learn. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
6. Don’t always do what you’re told. The experts aren’t always right. Have the motivation to prove them wrong.
7. Listen to your customers. It’s hard to listen to customers when things are going wrong, but that’s when you’ll learn the most from them. Customers will tell you exactly which product to build; you just have to listen.
8. Don’t make a habit of spending more than you make. Some startups get ahead of themselves, and then they’re in a leverage position they don’t want to be in. Do your business conservatively.
9. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Happy employees make for happy customers.
10. Decide who you are and what you are, then go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. You have to make a lot of sacrifice. You have to put in a lot of hours and have a lot of support from family and friends. But if they’re in your corner, they’ll understand the time and dedication it takes to get there.
To view of a Flickr album of images from the event, click here.
Student Alumni Association members and sports management students attended Networking Night on March 31, 2015, to learn from Jayhawks working in the world of sports. Ten alumni came back to their alma mater to give advice to the students about how to gain leadership qualities while in college, how to separate yourself from others trying to break into the field and how to balance work life with family life. Read more here.
At last week’s Networking Night, hosted by the Student Alumni Association, students interested in the sport management field learned from ten alumni currently working in the industry.
After three rounds of networking in small groups with nearly 60 students, the panelists reconvened for a general Q&A session.
Is it hard to balance work with family life in sports?
Short answer: yes. The panelists agreed that working in the world of sports marketing and management is a lifestyle. “You have to organize your priorities and be willing to take breaks and time off in order to be successful,” Jennifer Allee said.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for us to separate ourselves from others? What are you looking for on paper or in person that helps us stand out?
Experience is important, but so is character and personality. Refine your communication style and make eye contact. Hand-written thank you notes are still important! People don’t write them enough anymore.
Anything you can do to show you’re a self-starter or that you take initiative helps—we want to know we can give you a task and you can go get it done.
What type of leadership qualities do we need to be successful, and how can a college student gain those qualities?
You need to be a team player; you’re only as good as the people around you. You need to be able to make a decision, especially now when things move so fast. Have an element of confidence—but don’t cross the line.
“In my office, it’s team leadership. Your success is my success; my success is your success,” said Allee. Flexibility and being able to adapt to the situation is extremely important.
Students can improve these skills through leadership positions in campus activities, internships, even group projects in class will help you prepare.
How do I go after an internship where I have no connections?
Start early! There’s nothing wrong with cold-calling someone you’re not connected to, as long as you do it the right way. Handwritten notes will stand out here, too. You can also volunteer for an event the company is holding to make connections.
Use LinkedIn to research the company and and your mutual connections. Chris Galle shared that when he was looking for an internship, he found that one of his LinkedIn connections was connected to someone at the company, and even though they weren’t close connections, that person was still able to make an introduction.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“Getting to meet my clients in person after working so hard to make sales,” replied Beth Brittain. Allee concurred, adding that being able to touch the lives of the people she works for—the fans, student athletes— in an emotional way fulfills her.
Dr. Bernie Kish, lecturer and facilities director for sport management in the School of Education, thanked the panelists and students. “It makes me feel so good because there are so many people on this panel that I’ve had the privilege of teaching or working with in one capacity or another,” he said.
“If there is one nugget that you can take with you, it’s been a worthwhile evening,” adding that we are fortunate to be Jayhawks. He encouraged the students to use these Jayhawk connections, and to use the Student Alumni Association to help further alumni ties.
Thanks to our alumni panelists:
Jennifer Allee, d’04, g’06, assistant athletics director for marketing and fan experience, Kansas Athletics
Jason Booker, d’00, senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales, Kansas City Royals
Student Alumni Association members and sports management students attended Networking Night on March 31, 2015, to learn from Jayhawks working in the world of sports. Ten alumni came back to their alma mater to give advice to the students about how to gain leadership qualities while in college, how to separate yourself from others trying to break into the field and how to balance work life with family life.
Jason Booker, senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales for the Kansas City Royals, gave the keynote speech at the Student Alumni Association‘s Networking Night last Tuesday. He encouraged the students to find something they are passionate about. “If you truly find something you enjoy, you’re not going to ‘work’ every day,” he said, adding that who you network with professionally and who you associate with can make an impact down the road. “You never know when an opportunity will present itself.”
Case in point: Booker, d’00, was working at the University of South Carolina in 2007 when the Gamecocks hosted the KU men’s basketball team. He took the initiative to introduce himself to Lew Perkins, KU’s then-director of athletics, and discovered that Kansas Athletics had a position to fill. Two weeks later, Booker was on a plane back to Kansas to interview for a job he eventually landed.
Booker shared what he’s learned throughout his eighteen years in the sports marketing field, including these tips.
Eight Items to Consider in Your Career
1. You’ll be dealt obstacles; it’s all about how you handle them.
2. Don’t fall in line and be ordinary; be great for you. If you’re really passionate about something, figure out a way to do it.
3. Nothing will be given to you. If it has been, reality is around the corner. At some point, you won’t have someone there helping you.
4. Life is competitive, but compete for yourself, not the Joneses.
5. Do things the right way and it will pay off for you.
6. Knowledge is power. Stay up or get left behind.
7. There are two things you can control in your work life and personal life: work ethic and attitude.
8. Perception is reality. You are your own personal brand. If you aren’t willing to show it to your parents, it’s not worth posting on social media.
Booker’s current role with the Royals involves overseeing day-to-day functions of the corporate partnership sales and activation teams as well as the Royals Radio Network media sales and affiliate sales. He has served in the position since August, 2014.
Prior to joining the Royals, Booker served for seven years as the executive director and general manager for Jayhawk IMG Sports Marketing, where he oversaw the corporate partnership program and operation functions with the University of Kansas, including Jayhawk Radio and TV Networks, in-venue, digital, print sponsorships and endorsement rights for Kansas Athletics head coaches.
For more information about the Student Alumni Association, membership benefits and other upcoming events, visit www.kualumni.org/saa.
During a recent campus panel discussion, one KU administrator reminded everyone that good dialogue begins when we listen with the intent of understanding, rather than listening simply to respond. Perhaps you’ve been in a conversation that felt more like a tennis match, with each side trying to one-up the other, contesting and challenging each point, or searching for that unreturnable one-liner. Nobody wins these conversations. More importantly, the opportunity to make a meaningful connection is often lost.
Baseball offers a better metaphor for one-to-one networking. Anyone who has played a game of catch knows how satisfying it can be to find a rhythm. When both participants are on equal footing, each throw, catch and return seems to add balance. Actions and reactions become more fluid and natural. When one suddenly throws harder, it disrupts the balance, and it is immediately noticed (usually accompanied by a stinging glove hand). In tennis, this is expected, as we chase down points and fire off zingers in an attempt to gain the upper hand. A satisfying game of catch, however, requires balance and harmony, as do good conversations.
I think the key difference is catching the ball rather than hitting it, or as my KU colleague put it, listening with the intent of understanding. When we pause to understand and grasp the point our partner is trying to make, we can contribute in a more meaningful way, add balance to the conversation and ultimately strengthen the relationship.