The importance of giving back. How a chance to meet with professionals can jumpstart a career. And a friendship that naturally developed into a mentorship.
In a video that premiered at the 2019 Rock Chalk Ball, students and alumni shared stories of how one Jayhawk connection changed their world.
“It’s strength in numbers. The more people we have engaged in the Jayhawk Career Network in Kansas City will help everybody network,” says Jason Booker, d’99. “It’s helped me in my career in KC, and there are lots of people who would benefit from the same opportunity to connect and work together.”
Six Jayhawks describe how mentoring and making connections have helped them succeed.
These stories are just a few of the many made possible through the Jayhawk Career Network, which gives students and alumni access to career resources, jobs, events, programming and connections at every stage of their career. Services include KU Mentoring, a job board, informational articles and more. For more information about the Jayhawk Career Network, contact Kristi Laclé, assistant vice president of the Jayhawk Career Network, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For years, University of Kansas students have used a Twitter account to find a slice of pizza here or a hot dog there.
Kristopher Velasco’s idea for getting the word out about free food turned into a staple for student-campus synergy. Students got the free food they wanted, and campus organizations got students to their events—all thanks to the succinctly named @FreeFoodAtKU account.
“When I was at KU, I spent nearly all of my time in the Union, and I saw so many events offering free food,” Velasco, c’13, said. “Over time, I became convinced that you could probably get free food every single day on campus if you just knew where to look. And as a poor college student, I knew that there were a lot of students out there like myself who would love to have this information.”
Soon after the first tweet, Velasco realized it wouldn’t have to be a one-man show.
“At first, I thought the account would primarily be successful because everyone loves free food,” he said. “I knew students would be interested in knowing about giveaways, whether it be pizza from the Dole Institute of Politics, hot dogs from the Alumni Association, or tea and cookies from SUA.
“What I didn’t expect was the support the account got from those giving out free food. As the account grew, organizations or departments holding events with free food would tweet at the account, hoping it would be shared and increase attendance to whatever they were promoting. That really helped the account take off because I became aware of so many more opportunities for free food. Even random students would tweet at the account letting us know about opportunities. It quickly felt like this was a tool everyone could benefit from, with students wanting food and organizers wanting students.”
As the man behind the curtain, Velasco faced a choice about revealing his identity.
“It was generally a secret. People close to me knew who was behind the account, but not a lot of people knew at first,” he said. “As the account became more prominent, though, and I would run into people I never met before talking about it, I would start to divulge. So over time it became well known who was behind it.”
Today, Velasco is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin working on a PhD in sociology. (No word yet on the quality of free food at UT.)
Free Food today
@FreeFoodAtKU is still active on Twitter today, tipping off students to campus events with giveaways. With food insecurity a growing issue, more options are now available for the campus community. The Campus Cupboard, a grocery store-style resource organized by the Center for Community Outreach, is open to anyone in need.
This year, the Student Alumni Network introduced the Free Food Finder. The calendar feed sends a push notification to students’ phones when there’s a bite to eat available. The Free Food Finder is available to all students at kustudentalumni.org and in the KU Alumni app.
Free Food Finder
Students, to find free food resources on campus, follow these steps:
Enable push notifications. We promise we won’t blast you with too many!
Register. Just tap “Register,”and enter your name and student ID number.
After you register, you’ll see a tile in the app called “Free Food,” which features a calendar that includes upcoming opportunities to find free food!
If your campus event offers free food and you want to include it on the app’s Free Food Finder, fill out our submission form. Events are added to the Student Alumni Network’s Free Food Finder calendar and promoted to KU Student Alumni Network members through email and push notifications. Only campus entities and KU Alumni partners are allowed to submit events for promotion. The KU Alumni Association reserves the right to decline submissions that don’t fit or align with our mission.
With masses of students milling outside the Adams Alumni Center at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10—15 minutes before Finals Dinner was scheduled to begin—Ally Stanton, director of student programs, opened the doors at 1266 Oread Ave. and welcomed the crowd inside.
“The food was ready,” she said, “so why not?”
Within minutes, students were flashing their cell phones to show their Student Alumni Network membership cards—or downloading the KU Alumni app to activate their memberships—and dashing upstairs to feast on a scrumptious barbecue meal provided by Bigg’s BBQ.
During the two-hour event, students were also treated to 15-minute aromatherapy massages and were invited to visit with therapy dogs John Wayne, Siena and Layla, who were stationed in the lobby, where they shamelessly flopped over for belly rubs. Students also received snack bags provided by HyVee and Jayhawk bag tags, which enable students to receive prizes when worn on campus.
Gwendolyn Sibley, a Garnett junior who’s majoring in English and rhetoric, arrived at the center for the free food but was delighted to discover therapy dogs were on site. “I’m so happy they’re here,” she said. “I’m allergic, but I can pet them for like five minutes.”
The annual tradition continues to grow in popularity, and Stanton, j’10, g’12, estimates that nearly 600 students attended this year’s event. “We host so many events throughout the year, all of which feature free food, but there is something special about Finals Dinner,” she said. “We simply want students to enjoy dinner with other Jayhawks and to be able to take away the planning of one meal during a hectic and oftentimes stressful week. It’s the simplicity of giving students a space to take a breath, recharge and refuel.”
Students are also encouraged to stop by the Adams Alumni Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during finals week for a quiet space to study. Free coffee and a snack bar will be provided by HyVee.
Seven Lawrence restaurants will participate in the KU Alumni Association’s Student Alumni Network Restaurant Partner Program, which offers students a variety of food selections for network events throughout the academic year. The restaurants featured in the program are the exclusive provider in each cuisine category.
Returning as partners for the second consecutive year are Bigg’s BBQ (barbecue), Hot Box Cookies (dessert), Jefferson’s Restaurant (burgers and wings), McAlister’s Deli (sandwiches), Papa Keno’s Pizzeria (pizza) and The Salty Iguana (Mexican).
New this year is the addition of Hy-Vee supermarkets, with two locations in Lawrence, which will serve as the official grocery store partner.
Students also will be able to win gift cards and receive discounts, special offers and giveaways from each of the restaurant partners at Student Alumni Network events and through the network’s social media channels.
The Restaurant Partner Program is one of many benefits offered to KU students in the Student Alumni Network, the largest student organization on campus. Other benefits include access to the Jayhawk Career Network, which includes an online mentoring platform and networking events; free food at student events; discounts with local and national businesses; a free mobile app; and other exclusive gifts.
Membership in the Student Alumni Network is free for all KU undergraduate and graduate students, thanks to funding provided by the Alumni Association and KU Endowment.
“We are thrilled to have the support of these popular Lawrence businesses,” said Heath Peterson, Association president. “Thanks to these partnerships, KU students will receive more programs, benefits and opportunities throughout the school year, as well as delicious food at many Student Alumni Network events.”
Far above the golden valley, the University of Kansas will celebrate its “Home on the Hill” as the theme for the 2018 Homecoming celebration. KU’s 106th Homecoming begins Sunday, Sept. 23rd and culminates in the KU football game against Oklahoma State on Saturday, Sept. 29.
The theme is selected by the KU Alumni Association and the student-led Homecoming Steering Committee. Ally Stanton, director of student programs, and Keon Stowers, assistant director of student programs, will coordinate the week’s events with the five-member committee.
Students on the steering committee include:
Allyson Bellner, a sophomore majoring in Biology
Ashley Dunn, a junior majoring in communication studies
Logan Hotz, a junior majoring in mathematics and economics
Mary Claire McLaughlin, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and business administration
Rebecca Seldin, a junior majoring in strategic communication
As Homecoming preparations continue, the Alumni Association will post details about specific events at www.homecoming.ku.edu. Jayhawks also can follow the Alumni Association on Facebook and Twitter.
The Student Alumni Network recently partnered with Hawk Link to hold the first Hawk Link Alumni Lunch. The goal was to connect at-risk students with potential mentors from the vast network of KU alumni.
Hawk Link, a program based out of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, supports students of color, queer students and undocumented students while they navigate their first two years on campus. “It’s building on the components of what students need while they’re here and how we can set them up to be successful into the future,” said Jordan Brandt, academic advisor in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
One of their programs, Study in the States, takes students to different cities to explore historical sites that tie in with their curriculum. A recent field trip to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City brought a unique opportunity for Hawk Link students to connect with members of the Black Alumni Network in the area.
“It just made sense to invite the Alumni Association on our Study in the States trip,” said Brandt. “Students were already engaging with faculty, staff, and peers through Hawk Link but we were lacking an alumni piece. It’s great having folks who care about the population of students that we serve and want to invest in them.”
“I first learned about OMA through a tour with KU,” said Camille Moore, a freshman studying pre-med. “Through the Hawk Link program, we all live in Oliver on the third floor and have all gotten close with one another. I learned a lot talking to alumni about how to get through the process of college, and I now have the chance to reach out to them in the future.”
Jeainnie Brown, b’94, enjoyed the opportunity to both give back to students of color and connect with black alumni. Luke Bobo, Ph.D, e’82, was effusive in his praise for the students and their poise.
“The young people I interacted with are bright, articulate and aware,” Bobo said. “I look forward to these students making their mark on the KU community and I also look forward to them making a mark on our society-at-large.”
The Student Alumni Network is expanding its on campus reach with both KU and student organizations by offering usage of the Adams Alumni Center and helping connect students, alumni, and the Lawrence community. SAN’s other on-campus partnerships include a ‘trunk-or-treat’ for Lawrence area children with the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, and Big Jay’s Recess, an upcoming event with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and SILC.
To learn more about the Student Alumni Network and to see upcoming events, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or visit the website.
The 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.
Students of all majors and graduation years will not only be able to hone their networking skills, but have free professional headshots taken, learn LinkedIn pro-tips and get a sneak peek at the new Alumni Mentoring Platform. In addition, Mark Mears, j’84, and Portia Kibble Smith, c’78, will provide a master class for both novice and advanced networkers.
Smith is the owner of PKS Executive Search & Consulting and an experienced talent in executive search, diversity & inclusion, and career development. I asked Smith to share three reasons why students should attend this event:
Network with your fellow classmates who you may not know but also with alumni that you’ve never met.
Enhance your ability to practice your elevator speech by introducing yourself to others.
Ask questions of experienced networkers on how to leverage these types of events.
So, students: Come to the Adams Alumni Center from 6-8 on Monday, Nov. 27, and learn how to plug in to the power of the Jayhawk Network.
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.
Halloween is fast approaching, and we have some treats—mostly the sugar-free kind— for our favorite Jayhawks! Read on to find out about a new community event the Student Alumni Network will co-host this week. And, we have some updated printables to help make your holiday prep a little easier!
The origin of these popular events is a mystery, but what’s not to love: less walking for the little ones and a safer environment for trick-or-treaters. KU student groups will decorate the trunks of cars parked in the Adams Alumni Center lot. Parents are invited to bring their kids to go from car to car to ask for candy.
Trunk or Treat takes place Friday, Oct. 27, from 6-8 p.m. Activities include pumpkin painting, games and a contest for best costume. And, Baby Jay will be available for photo opportunities!
As part of this event, we’re encouraging people to bring food donations for Just Food as part of the KU Food Drive. Most-needed items include canned proteins, beans, whole grain cereals, pasta and nuts.
Don’t let the cold weather forecast or the parking situation scare you off—plenty of indoor activities will be available! And, free parking will be available in the parking garage across the street.
Top your treats
Add some Jayhawk spirit to your Halloween treats with our printable bag toppers. Our designers created a new version this year since our original one was so popular.
Download the printable PDF, print as many as you need, and then cut, fold and staple onto your bag. They’re great for class parties or office treats!