Lawrence Network leader earns Wintermote award

Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Brandon Petz, b'06, g'07, Lawrence Network Leader and Wintermote Award recipient

With volunteers all across America, it takes a lot for one in KU’s backyard to stand out. Brandon Petz does that and more for local alumni as the Lawrence Network leader. The KU Alumni Association is proud to name Petz, b’06 g’07, a Dick Wintermote Network Leader of the Year Award recipient. The annual award recognizes volunteers who brought extraordinary leadership to their network.

“I am so honored to be named a Wintermote Award recipient. All the years volunteering for various networks has been so much fun and I cherish being a part of the KU Alumni Association and all it stands for,” Petz said.

Uniting local alumni

Petz’s work to bring together a group of alumni that already feels connected to the University due to their proximity to campus has impressed many inside the Alumni Association.

“Brandon Petz has gone above and beyond to revamp the Lawrence Network in the shape of the new alumni network strategy,” said Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and network programs. “He has recruited a team that have provided diverse events and continues to move forward engaging alums to make KU better. This is no easy task in Lawrence, where opportunities to connect with KU are so plentiful.”

Fellow Lawrence network volunteer Tom Larkin, a’09, echoed Kallail’s comments, noting Petz’s enthusiasm for KU “that clearly started before he became president of our Lawrence network. He’s extremely organized and focused, and has a knack for getting everybody energized about the current mission or task at hand. His leadership and positive disposition makes him a joy the be around and a true asset to the Association.”

Petz, a Cimarron, Kansas, native, lives in Lawrence with his wife, Bonnie, and his daughter, Eleanor. Petz is chief financial officer of Grandstand Glassware and Apparel, a local custom screenprinting company that specializes in glassware and apparel.

About the award

The award is named for Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983. His legacy represents the importance of building a strong volunteer network, the need for a dues-paying membership program and establishing the KU Alumni Association as one of the premier associations of graduates in the country.

—Ryan Camenzind

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Houston Jayhawks join forces to help after Harvey

Posted on Sep 5, 2017 in Alumni News and News

With the Houston floods receding, local Jayhawks are mobilizing to get to work.

The Houston Jayhawks Facebook group has been active with posts from Houston residents asking for help, with even more posts by locals asking how they can help. With their positive energy and willingness to get their hands dirty, Jayhawks assisted the family of Allyn Risley, e’72, 2016 Fred Ellsworth medallion recipient. Risley’s step-daughter, Erica Frost, sustained serious flooding at her house. Frost’s sister, Natalie Morgan, j’06, reached out to the Facebook group from her home in Kansas City.

Morgan’s request for help for her sister was met with multiple Houston-area Jayhawks joining friends and family of Frost for a day of hard work removing damaged flooring and drywall. The altruism of the group of alumni impressed Frost, who even overheard a friend say “the Houston Jayhawks must have some sort of emergency whistle that they sound, because they all showed up and jumped right in!”

Houston Demolition

Watch party for a cause

Megan Gile, c’11, organized the annual watch party for the first KU football game, but knew she had to add something to give back to their community.

“We decided to host our annual football kickoff watch party to add a piece of normalcy to Houston,” Gile said. “It’s an event we host every year and even with the hurricane and terrible flooding across Texas and Houston, it’s important to stay united and give everyone something to look forward too. We added the donation drive as way for Houston Jayhawks to give back to Houstonians. Beyond donating their time, donating items for shelters is a great way for Houston Jayhawks to give back.”

KU Cares Box

The Houston Jayhawks set up a donations box at their alumni bar and asked attendees to fill the box with new socks and underwear.

“The watch party and donation drive was incredibly successful,” Gile said. “We had Jayhawks drive in from all across Houston to attend. More profoundly, regulars at Coaches Pub, our alumni bar in Houston, left the bar and returned with donation items once they found out what we were doing. Houstonians, Jayhawk or not, are really banding together to help each other during this time of need.”

KU Houston Watch Party

When asked about the strong turnout and even stronger support for the people of Houston, Megan pointed to their alma mater.

“I think it’s about helping our own and how our bond as Kansas alumni is different. Being in a state so far from home for most of us, as most of us are not Texas natives, we really stick together and are proud to be Jayhawks. We are proud to be Kansas alumni and proud to be Houstonians, helping anyway we can. Come hell or high water, we will get through this.”

-Ryan Camenzind

The University of Kansas, Kansas Athletics, Inc., KU Endowment, and the KU Alumni Association support relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Alumni and fans should work directly with their preferred charity to support relief efforts. For Jayhawks looking for groups to support, four organizations were suggested to fans attending last Saturday’s football game: Team Rubicon, Save the Children, Texas SPCA, and the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

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KU Alumni Association student programs evolve to Student Alumni Network

Posted on Aug 15, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Students with Baby Jay at Hawk Fest
In order to better serve the students of the University of Kansas, the KU Alumni Association’s student program is evolving from the Student Alumni Association to the Student Alumni Network.Student Alumni Network logo

Replacing the term “association” with “network” highlights a renewed focus on connecting KU students with the vast network of KU alumni around the world. In addition to the name change, Student Alumni Network memberships are now free for all KU degree-seeking students due to support from KU Endowment.

With the networks of over 28,000 students and 300,000 alumni around the world available, the Student Alumni Network will help students develop their own professional networks for career advice and opportunities long before they leave the Hill.

“As the largest student group and the premiere networking organization on the KU campus, the rebrand of the Student Alumni Association is a precursor to a much more robust plan to launch new programs to foster high-level career connections across industries,” Heath Peterson, KU Alumni Association President, said. “The effort will include a dynamic KU alumni mentoring platform, programs featuring industry leaders across the country, new internship pipelines and job connections, enhanced career data, and new partnerships across the KU enterprise.”

In addition to these new and upcoming initiatives, traditional Student Alumni Network events such as Home Football Fridays and Finals Dinners will be offered to all students, and the Student Alumni Leadership Board will continue to serve as the student representatives of the KU Alumni Association.

To activate a student membership, simply complete the online activation form, download the KU Alumni mobile app and register, or attend any of the numerous SAN events throughout the year.

To learn more about the Student Alumni Network, visit our website.

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Alumni Programs team travels across America boosting network activity

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 in Alumni News and News

New York City Jayhawks network meeting at a rooftop happy hour
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.

-Ryan Camenzind

P.S. If you’re on Twitter, follow Nick Kallail at @NiXstyle and Danny Woods at @dcwoods89. They won’t disappoint.

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Chicago alumni, students connect with local business leaders

Posted on Jul 24, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel: David Grossman, Todd Holmes and Sherry Scott

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.”

—Ryan Camenzind

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Dallas Jayhawk named Wintermote Award Recipient

Posted on Jul 21, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Kate Feller McSwain, b'12, 2017 recipient of the Dick Wintermote Award
Kate Feller McSwain faced a big challenge taking over as network leader for one of the largest University of Kansas alumni groups. Her hard work bringing Dallas Jayhawks together will be honored with the Dick Wintermote Network Volunteer of the Year Award, to be presented at a wine-tasting event July 26. The annual award recognizes volunteers who provided extraordinary leadership to their network.

McSwain, b’12, a fourth-generation Jayhawk, has four years experience volunteering with the Alumni Association, including serving as network leader for the past year. Fellow Dallas Network volunteer John Jacobs praised her leadership, saying she “consistently looks to empower members to lead their projects but is willing to help out herself where and when she can.”

McSwain’s work in establishing more frequent network gatherings year-round, such as the Jayhawks & Java breakfast, has impressed Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni & career programs.

“The Dallas Jayhawks Network has led the way on providing compelling and diverse events that connect Jayhawks from all walks of life,” Kallail says. “Kate has been a huge part of our network growth in Dallas and was able to amplify programming even more in her first year as Network Leader. We are fortunate to have many great Jayhawk volunteers across the nation, but Kate is truly a star of stars.”

McSwain works at Match Group, a Dallas-based company that owns several online dating websites and apps including Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder.

The award is named for Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983. His legacy represents the importance of building a strong volunteer network, the need for a dues-paying membership program and establishing the KU Alumni Association as one of the premier associations of graduates in the country.

—Ryan Camenzind

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Looking back on another great season

Posted on Mar 30, 2017 in Alumni News and News

IMG_news_sactowatchparty
 

Always proud to be a Jayhawk!

The KU men’s basketball season ended abruptly in Kansas City when the Ducks of Oregon ousted the Jayhawks from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite 8. While the road to the Final Four has ended for the ‘Hawks, the accolades keep rolling in, including first-team AP All-American honors for senior Frank Mason and third-team honors for freshman Josh Jackson. That adds to the team’s haul of Big 12 honors, including Player of the Year (Mason), Freshman of the Year (Jackson) and Coach of the Year (Bill Self), in addition to KU winning its thirteenth consecutive Big 12 title. Obviously, it’s been a busy year.

The KU Alumni Association also kept busy connecting fans and alumni for watch parties coast to coast. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president for alumni and career programs, tallied up his attendance at KU basketball gatherings during his first year on the staff, sharing the total with friends and alumni volunteers on Facebook:

Reflecting on an incredible first basketball season with KUAA –
3 home games
4 games in KC
5 road games – Las Vegas, Ft Worth, Norman, Waco, Austin
14 watch parties – LA (3), Denver, Chicago (2), Manhattan Beach, Seattle (2), San Francisco (2), San Diego, Houston, Dallas

And loved every second of it… because of the time spent with so many of you. Heading home!

IMG_news_crowncarKCNick ended the season with our L.A. Jayhawks, where halftime festivities include a highlight video celebrating our loyal alumni and fans (see below). Similar celebrations took place all season every place Jayhawks flock, from Maine to Seattle, and last Saturday was no different. All told, the KU Alumni Association hosted 68 watch parties during KU’s Elite 8 contest with Oregon in Kansas City.

And throughout the postseason, our staff was able to travel in style, thanks once again to our postseason partner Crown Automotive. The Crown Jayhawk Car didn’t log as many miles as we had hoped, but fans loved seeing it and snapping pics with it when we hit the road to Tulsa and KC.

More awards and recognition will continue to come before Monday night’s national championship game, and we have one more to add, for the Best Fans and Alumni in the Nation, always proud to be a Jayhawk.

Rock Chalk!

 
 

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Changes to network branding streamline alumni participation

Posted on Mar 20, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Danny Woods and Nick Kallail pose with the bronze statue of James Naismith outside the DeBruce Center

Staff members on a mission

When Nick Kallail and Danny Woods joined the Alumni Association as staff members in August 2016, their mission was simple: Grow the Association’s 59 national networks and connect more alumni with KU. Less than a year into their new roles, the two Jayhawks have found a distinct way to accomplish that.

Kallail, d’04, l’07, assistant vice president of alumni and career programs, and Woods, j’12, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, developed a new volunteer support strategy that makes it easier for Jayhawks to volunteer their time and service and participate in alumni events across the country.

“We took everything that was already in place and put a brand on it,” says Woods.

Event buckets

That meant funneling popular alumni events like watch parties, networking breakfasts and community service projects into clear, concise categories, or “buckets.” They are:

  • Hawk Happenings, which gather Jayhawks to enjoy live sports and entertainment events;
  • Rock Chalk Cultivate, which gives alumni the opportunity to learn a new skill—often from other Jayhawks;
  • KU Cares, which rally Jayhawks to give their time and service to a community cause; and

A few of the more memorable events Kallail and Woods have organized in the past year include a KU vs. Iowa State men’s basketball watch party for 180 Jayhawks at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and a toy drive in Tampa, Florida, that raised more than $2,000 in gifts for foster families.

New roles for volunteers

The two also created new designations for alumni volunteers who serve their networks. Instead of assigning traditional titles like president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, Kallail and Woods developed roles based on the volunteers’ primary responsibilities in their respective Jayhawk communities, including social media and event coordinators and admissions and legislative liaisons.

“We wanted to empower more people within the network,” says Woods.

Communication is key

Each alumni network maintains its own Facebook page to promote local events and share photos and updates. Network leaders also share a private Facebook page, which Kallail notes is a great way for networks to learn what other Jayhawks are doing across the country and discuss best practices for alumni engagement.

“I look at our network leaders as a family,” Kallail says. “They need to know each other and see what others are doing.”

Preparing future leaders

Also important to Kallail and Woods is preparing current KU students to become active alumni when they leave the Hill. The two meet regularly with the Student Alumni Leadership Board and other student groups in KU Admissions, Endowment and Athletics. They also are planning an event to introduce students to the Lawrence alumni network.

As evidenced by the enthusiastic turnouts and strong alumni response to events in the past few months, Kallail and Woods are confident they’re on the right track.

“This isn’t a new plan,” Kallail says. “The house was already built; we’re just tricking it out.”

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Nominations underway for the KU Black Alumni Network Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators Award

Posted on Jan 19, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Black Alumni Network | www.kualumni.org

Each year, the African-American Leaders and Innovators Project recognizes leaders from the University of Kansas community for their impact on society. These talented and sometimes controversial individuals helped shape the University as well as the cities, states and nations their work touched.

“The award is a great way to honor African-American individuals who have done such extraordinary things in their communities and for KU,” says selection committee member Rosalind Gumby Bauchum, c’74, g’76. “I’m reminded of the first African-American student to graduate from KU in 1895—just one generation beyond slavery. What an educational statement and achievement for other African-Americans.”

The African-American Leaders and Innovators Project, made possible through gifts from KU alumnus Mike Shinn, e’66, who passed away in 2015, was initiated in 2006 and brought to fruition through the coordinated efforts of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Alumni Association, Spencer Research Library and KU Endowment Association.

Recipients are selected from nominations submitted to the KU Black Alumni Network Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators Award Committee. To be considered, a nominee must be an African-American who attended or graduated from the University of Kansas and an acknowledged leader or innovator within his or her community, chosen profession or society at large. Posthumous nominations are acceptable and encouraged. The committee will accept nominations for the 2017 awards through Feb. 17.

Honorees will be recognized in the fall at the biennial KU Black Alumni Network Reunion Celebration. All nominees and their families are encouraged to participate.

To complete a nomination form and read about past honorees, visit kualumni.org/kublackalumni.

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Houston ’Hawks aid leukemia patient in need

Posted on Nov 22, 2016 in Alumni News and News

When a Houston woman needed white blood cells to help her complete an intense round of chemotherapy, her family and friends put out a plea for donors. Answering the call were members of the Alumni Association’s Houston Network, who rallied to her aid after a notice was posted to their Facebook group by alumna and family friend Natalie Bogan Morgan, j’06.

Lois Coots, a former Kansan who lives now in Houston, was diagnosed in 2009 with a form of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) that later developed into leukemia. While at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston undergoing an intensive 30-day round of chemotherapy in October, Coots developed an infection and learned that she needed white blood cells before she could finish the treatment.

“It was an emergency situation,” says Morgan, who lived in Houston before recently moving to Overland Park. “She has two daughters, and they figured they’d donate and drum up other people and it would be fine. But one by one people just kept getting rejected.”

White blood cells have a short shelf life and donors must meet strict matching requirements. Doctors told the family they needed to line up 10 donors, but after exhausting their personal contacts they had found only one match.

Jayhawk calls for help

Watching the health crisis unfold from Kansas, Morgan—a close friend of Kyra Coots, Lois’s daughter—posted a heartfelt plea for donors on her Facebook page. Longtime friend Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni programs and career services for KUAA, saw the message and suggested that she post it to the Houston Network’s Facebook group.

“I was like, Nat, you’ve got a built-in family who love you; blast that Houston group and they’ll jump on it,” says Kallail, d’04, l’07, who was a Houston Network volunteer before joining the Association staff. “It’s a great group and everyone’s always willing to help. It’s just a great combination: You’ve got Jayhawk family and Houston hospitality.”

“That was the tipping point,” Morgan says. “People who didn’t know this family just dropped what they were doing and called to set up appointments. I put the call out on a Thursday night, and several Jayhawks were there by 11 a.m. the next morning going through the screening. It was so uplifting.”

Sorority members step up

Among those responding was a group of Alpha Delta Pi alumni led by Jane Johnston Mumey, j’86, a Houston attorney. Less than 15 minutes after Morgan’s post hit the Houston Network page, Mumey wrote to say that she and her sorority sisters could report to MD Anderson immediately, because they are already screened white-cell donors.

“This was perfect for us, because so many of our members are pre-screened for the Ronald McDonald House,” Mumey says. Alpha Delta Pi’s Houston alumni group volunteers extensively at the city’s Ronald McDonald House, which supports families of critically ill children, donating blood, white cells and platelets when needed. “Within hours we had four women from our group who were already pre-screened” and ready to donate, Mumey says. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that.”

Only days after Morgan posted her request with the Houston Network, the family lined up the needed 10 donors. “It would not have happened if so many Jayhawks had not jumped in to do it,” Morgan says. “Six or seven of the donors that we knew of were Jayhawks. The family was just blown away. I think it just says a lot about the University and it just says a lot about the Jayhawk family after you graduate.”

Mumey seconds that notion.

“I knew Jayhawks would do that. We’ve all stuck together. And to be far away from campus, to have that feeling that this happened, when we’re all the way down here—I don’t think all groups respond like that. We really have a lot of spirit and it doesn’t stop when we graduate.”

A happy outcome

Thanks to the donated cells, Kyra Coots says, her mother was able to finish her chemotherapy and return home. She returned for a second round of chemo last week, and Kyra says the family takes comfort in knowing that—should complications arise again—they’ve got a list of willing donors who have their back.

“Before Natalie started helping me, we only had one person confirmed,” Kyra says. “It was a low point, because you’re thinking to yourself, How am I going to find nine people if the dozens and dozens of people who said they’d do it were turned away? I myself was turned away. It’s a very helpless feeling, knowing you can’t do anything.

“When Natalie’s friend suggested she post it on the Jayhawk board, I was like, Wow, that’s a great idea. These people definitely don’t know my mom, they may not even know Natalie, but we’ll see if they respond. The response was overwhelming. You can’t put into words—you want to thank all these people, you want to hug them, you want to get to know them and say thank you, but I just think they’ll never realize the magnitude of how it touched our family and how it saved her life.”

—Steven Hill

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