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.
Fourteen sophomore students at Wichita North High School made valuable KU connections Sept. 20, when they were introduced to alumni who will serve as their mentors for next three years.
The group is part of the University’s new initiative, a product of the Office of Admission’s existing Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) program, to help underrepresented and minority students make a smooth transition from high school to college. The program was launched this spring in Wichita.
Participating students and their parents attended the induction ceremony, which was held at KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita and included appearances by Keon Stowers, c’15, a former KU football player who works for the Office of Admissions; Nate Thomas, KU’s vice provost for diversity and equity; and Baby Jay, who was on hand to take pictures with the students and their mentors.
Kim Madsen Beeler, c’93, j’93, g’99, who coordinates the HAWK program and has worked with alumni for years recruiting prospective students to KU, oversees the new Mentor Leadership Development program. She teamed up with Danielle Hoover, c’07, the Alumni Association’s assistant director of Wichita programs, to enlist area Jayhawks as mentors.
“These alumni are so passionate about KU, and they have told us for years they want to help,” Beeler says. “They want to make a difference and recruit great students.”
Students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and complete an application and essay to be considered for the program. Those who are accepted are assigned mentors, who will coordinate opportunities for the students to shadow working professionals in various fields, participate in volunteer activities in the community and develop skills to be successful in the workforce, including learning how to fill out job applications, dress appropriately for interviews and create a résumé. In addition, the students will visit KU and participate in sports events, campus tours and discussion panels with current University students.
Hoover presented the opportunity to alumni on the Wichita Network board and was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic response. Five board members, Jim Spencer, c’82; Andy Ek, b’05, g’11; Monique Garcia Pope, c’96; Anna Ritchie, c’05, j’05, and Bob Nugent, c’77, l’80, signed up to be mentors, and other board members offered to host events for the students or help with their community service projects.
“One of the biggest initiatives on our board is to give back to the community,” says Hoover. “That’s a big passion for all of our board members. And it’s right in line with this initiative.”
Beeler hopes to expand the program at Wichita North High School next year and eventually include other schools in the area.
“This year we have 14 mentees, next year we’ll have another class, and we’ll just keep building,” she says. “The goal is to help students transition from high school to college and, hopefully, to KU. But also we want to engage our alumni, because they’re so important in recruitment. If we can get the alumni engaged and to help with recruiting, it’s a win-win for both of us.”