Tate Bremenkamp valued for his positive and upbeat demeanor
The Quinton's bartender loves shaking up new cocktails for customers.
Pop, fizzle, clink: these are the sounds Tate Bremenkamp hears on a daily basis at work.
Quinton’s, a popular bar at 615 Massachusetts St., is where Bremenkamp, a senior studying chemical engineering from Lawrence, spends his nights, serving customers drinks and refreshments as a bartender.
“I absolutely love it,” he said.
From being a Subway sandwich artist, to a KJHK DJ, to a Starbuck’s barista, a Hy-Vee cook then a Quinton’s bouncer, Bremenkamp has worked his fair share of jobs. But his current job as a bartender is definitely his favorite.
“Being a bartender is making a job out of going out with your friends,” Bremenkamp said. “I’d say as a bartender, you usually don’t have to directly deal with much with that [craziness]. Worst thing, as a bartender, is someone puking on the bar.”
Bremenkamp said that his favorite drink is called the “horse feather,” which is a bourbon cocktail. The most popular drinks requested by customers include beers, a whiskey Coca-Cola or a vodka cranberry, he said.
Bremenkamp said that he loves to play with recipes and create unique cocktails based on customers’ tastes and preferences.
Even though there is a focus of making drinks, there is a lot other activities that a bartender does, he said.
“I would say 50 percent of bartending is customer service, just being personable,” he said.
Organization skills are also important — keeping a clean bar space and putting things back where they go, especially when working with another bartender on a busy night.
While at work, Bremenkamp is valued for his cheery personality and ability to go above and beyond, according to one of his supervisors.
“His personality is just one of a kind,” said James Stephenson, assistant general manager and the director of bar operations of Quinton’s. “I can see a customer that would come in, sit down, not knowing Tate, and Tate will just interact with that person. By the time that person leaves, they will be on a first-name basis, basically almost friends.”
Stephenson, who has worked with Bremenkamp for about two years, said that Bremenkamp stands out from other bartenders and individuals his age because of his ability to bring new ideas to the bar, reliable work ethic and always being positive and upbeat.
“He always puts a smile on someone’s face,” he said.
When Bremenkamp is not serving drinks at Quinton’s, he said he sleeps a lot, and studies and catches up on classes and schoolwork.
“Working evening and nights really completely changes your schedule,” he said.
He said he is working to pay his way through school, on top of paying for rent, utilities and other expenses. So bartending at Quinton’s is essential for his livelihood.
“I don’t have a choice to just not work during the week,” he said.
Since he works on Massachusetts Street, Bremenkamp said that the bars and bartenders on that street, in particular, have formed a bond.
“I would say in general there’s a really good sense of camaraderie between all the bar employees, especially along Mass. Street, but in Lawrence as a whole too,” he said. “Between bars, it’s really friendly… Everyone knows we all share the same pains.”
— Edited by Brenna Boat
Andrew Bentley's job keeps him exploring and traveling for new discoveries
Every day is the different when you're discovering and cataloguing specimens in the University's Natural History Museum.
Entering the private, vaulted storage room, you notice something immediately. Thousands of jars that sit on shelves upon shelves that extend infinitely across. Brightly colored fins, tails, skin, all perfectly preserved by a process called cryogenics. In total, four floors include jars, vats and containers full of specimen compiled in the Natural History Museum, located in Dyche Hall on Jayhawk Boulevard.
Collections Manager Andrew Bentley handles 680,000 specimen found among those shelves: the fish. These are items that are logged and kept in preservation. SPNHC, or, the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, is an organization Bentley has been the previous president of. He won the President’s Award in 2011 for his work in studying the best ways to store specimens.
Before the specimen makes it to the jar, the South Africa native starts in the preparatory lab where all the material comes in from donations by students and researchers from the University. All the specimen are from different categories, ranging from herpetology, plants, mammals, birds and fish.
Bentley spends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. going through the tedious process of preparing these specimen to be available to researchers and students around the world. In total, Bentley said the University has 10.5 million catalogued specimens.
Each and every one is tagged, put in jars of alcohol and logged into a computer database. Not only does Bentley work daily to upkeep the current specimen in the storage rooms, but he also has a hand in preparing and logging DNA samples of the different specimen to be kept frozen in storage units underneath the collection rooms.
“20 years ago we were just glorified bottle shufflers,” Bentley said. “All we’d do is fill up jars and stick them up on shelves, but now, our job has become a lot more diverse with all of the computer work that we’re doing, and making these collections accessible, and interacting with other people, and it’s now become a true profession. It’s a really rewarding job.”
As a collections manager, Bentley has the opportunity to travel the world and collect specimen himself and bring them back to prep them for researchers. The specimen kept at the University come from 73 different countries around the world, Bentley said, and he has been able to visit several, discovering three completely new species of fish along the way.
Bentley currently keeps a collection of coelacanth, a fish found predominately off the coasts of Africa, and what he calls “the pride of the ichthyology collection,” an extremely rare and endangered fish known as a “living fossil.”
Fossils exist of this fish dating from 60 or 70,000 years ago, he said, and is known for it’s strangely human like bone structure in its fins, potentially showing the evolution of fish to smaller land animals.
Bentley received his education at three different universities in South Africa. He was originally interested in marine biology, living near a diverse range of fish, but took to working as a collections manager after a storm wiped out a species he was working on. He said it left him with no choice but to look for a job he could begin immediately.
Bentley then made the move to the University.
Collections Manager of Herpetology Luke Welton works closely alongside Bentley on a daily basis also agrees that a collections manager has a diverse range of tasks, and that Bentley’s work specially is exceptional.
“Andy has a knack for being able to juggle a number of responsibilities in addition to his management of the ichthyology collection, particularly with his involvement with Specify and SPNHC,” Welton said.
Having such a vast amount of work and opportunities is what Bentley said he enjoys most. In the last two and a half months, Bentley has traveled to Guatemala, Australia, Canada and Hawaii to participate in leading training courses for Specify, a database that he uses to log the specimen.
“What I like about my job is that no two days are the same,” Bentley said. “I couldn’t say to you that I get in at 8 a.m. and do this or that. Every single day is different, and it’s very open-ended.”
—Edited by Paola Alor
Alison Dover uses photography to speak out about social issues
Dover uses her camera to tell a story.
During her time at the University of Kansas, Alison Dover has learned and honed her skills on photography. In her senior year, Dover has used the power behind the lens to speak up on social issues.
One of her projects, started last semester, is called “Sick of This,” and is a series of photographs featuring women who have experienced sexual harassment or rape.
It all started after she read an article about Taylor McTague, a woman who was stabbed after a man catcalled her. This prompted Dover to think of instances such as how she feels when she has to walk alone to her car at nights.
“What surprised me is how common situations like this [sexual harassment and rape] actually are,” she said.
She went to a friend’s house, the friend brought in a roommate, and the roommate went and got more women in the same apartment complex.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Dover said. “I’m thinking, ‘are you kidding me?’ I have a room with like 10 or so girls spewing stories out.”
With a topic like this, she understands that there are things she needs to be careful on, such as making an accusation on someone.
“I’ve had to be careful on what I say and who I say it to,” she said. “I’ve even covered my basis by meeting with a lawyer.”
For Dover, a Lawrence native, photography is her way to connect with others.
“I find work I’m passionate about and then use my camera as a tool,” she said.
Stemming from her project, she organized a protest earlier this semester at Wescoe Beach. Around 50 people came and went during the time it happened. Dover said she had a photo booth set up where she asked people to write down what they were sick of in relation to campus rape culture.
“The Emily Taylor Center brought a group over for a bit, we held signs,” she said. “I was happy with how it turned out.”
For Daniel Coburn, photo media design assistant professor, who has taught Dover for two years, Dover is a person that accepts this role of leadership that comes with being a voice to others.
“She’s become really socially conscious,” he said. “She has a willingness to engage with the public.”
Dover used to photograph graffiti around Lawrence. She wanted to give “artists that don’t have a face” an even bigger platform, she said.
“I like to give people a voice,” she said.
Living all her life in Lawrence, she never considered going anywhere else but the University for college.
With graduation a few weeks down the road, Dover said she doesn’t have any definite plans. She hopes to find a job and will probably stay in Lawrence.
She’s working toward preparing her senior gallery show in April, which will feature her “Sick of This” project, along with the protest and a project on the February Sisters she has been working on.
The February Sisters were a women’s rights advocacy group in 1972 who occupied the East Asian studies building for 13 hours looking to obtain resources to meet pressing needs of women like the establishment of a women’s health program and a free day care center paid for by the University. They issued six demands and only left the building when administrative officials agreed to give them an audience.
Dover said her desire to use photography to address social issues comes from her sense of empathy towards others, which is also inspiration for her work.
“What inspires me is giving them space to share their stories,” she said.
— Edited by Mara Kubicki
Brandi Beeson creates life-like digital paintings of sports icons
The sophomore illustration and animation major has received widespread praise for her detailed paintings, which include Kansas basketball's Devonte' Graham.
When Brandi Beeson checked her phone at 11 p.m. on Feb. 11, her Twitter notifications had blown through the roof.
Earlier in the day, Beeson tweeted out a photo of a digital painting she spent more than 30 hours sketching, erasing, drawing and tweaking. Her subject? Kansas junior guard Devonte’ Graham.
She’d posted images of her artwork before to social media, but the reactions had never been that large. Beeson said that first night she gained more than 100 twitter followers and she had more than 500 notifications, thanks to Kansas football coach David Beaty and Graham himself for sharing her work on their profiles.
Beeson met Graham in the lobby of McCarthy Hall a short time later, giving him a poster of the painting. It now hangs on his wall, sometimes making a background appearance on his Snapchat stories.
“It was nice,” Graham said. “It’s a real good piece.”
Even though her digital painting of Graham took more than 30 hours to create, the work was years in the making.
Beeson was surrounded by sports, starting at an early age. The daughter of former Kansas football great Terry Beeson, Brandi grew up with photos of her dad everywhere, as he played in the NFL for a few years.
Using her father as inspiration, Beeson began to draw. She drew photos of him and photos of football players in general. She started out with pencil drawings, bringing pieces of paper to draw on while she attended football games with her dad.
Beeson moved to digital paintings when her dad bought her a tablet in 2011 after a trip to Kansas City, Missouri.
“Once I got the tablet, it opened up a whole other world,” Beeson said.
But, it took time to master the technology. Beeson said it takes plenty of hand-eye coordination, as you’re drawing, you’re not looking at your hand. You’re looking at a computer screen. She said it took her approximately two years to finally figure it out.
Once she learned how to use the tablet, Beeson began creating digital paintings in 2012, after one of her classmates asked if she could draw them.
“I was like, ‘OK, I can try that,” Beeson said. “‘I don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not. And before you knew it, I had a lot of people asking.”
Beeson, currently a sophomore illustration and animation major at the University, is self taught. She never took a high school art class. The last art class she had before studying at Coffeyville Community College was in eighth grade.
Even though she takes classes specializing in illustration and animation every day, much of what she learns is at home in front of her workstation, as the technology Beeson uses wasn’t completely integrated into the curriculum at Coffeyville. The technology is implemented here at the University.
“I’ve had to teach my teachers,” Beeson said of her community college instructors. “They’re like, ‘this is a whole new world of technology.’”
When Beeson’s creating a digital masterpiece, she closes herself off in her room. She listens to music or throws on a sports movie — “Coach Carter,” for example — and opens up Photoshop. On one side of her computer screen will be a high-resolution photo of her subject, and on the other is a blank file.
Sometimes the creativity flows off her fingers the second she sits down. But that’s not always the case.
“When I’m sitting there, I have a vision in my head of what I want it to look like,” Beeson said. “I want to see vibrance in the colors. The hardest thing is when I’m sitting there looking at it, and I’m thinking, ‘how am I going to do this?’”
For Graham’s painting, she sat in her chair for an hour staring at the movement of the jersey.
“I just love sports pictures, the emotion in them,” Beeson said. “I love the challenge of them, because moving bodies are really hard to draw.”
Over the course of her time as a digital artist, she’s drawn Jeff Withey, Rio Adams, Jamari Traylor, Lagerald Vick, Graham, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas and others. She finished her painting of Vick in a day with 10-15 hours of work.
“Seeing the finished work? I want to do this again,” Beeson said. “I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to do it, challenge myself and do it again.”
— Edited by Mara Kubicki
Leslie Soden juggles pet-watching, Uber-driving and the mayorship of Lawrence
After a career in IT, Soden set after her dream of owning a home, a dog and a garden. She found herself in Lawrence, where she's now the mayor.
Soden, a Topeka native, moved to Lawrence in 1999 to settle down after having lived in Topeka; Kansas City, Kansas; Phoenix and San Francisco.
“I’m going to have my own house, and I’m going to have a dog and a garden. That was the extent of my dreams,” Soden said.
At the time, Soden worked with computers, and she got her wish of owning her own home in 2003 — which inadvertently led her to City Hall.
“I bought my house in 2003, and then I joined the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association,” Soden said. “That’s where I first started learning about zoning, neighborhoods and how City Hall works. It just kind of came naturally to me. I understood the legalese. I understood the hierarchies, so I was able to learn how to get things going. I just liked it.”
By 2015, Soden became a city commissioner, and in January she became mayor. However, much of her daily activities are entirely unrelated to her duties at City Hall.
When she’s not working for the citizens of Lawrence, Soden manages her pet-sitting company “Pet Minders,” which she founded in 2006. Soden founded the pet care business because she could never find anyone to watch her own dogs.
Since becoming a city commissioner, Soden said she’s slightly dialed down Minders. However, after attending a National League of Cities conference in Pittsburgh, she became interested in another service: Uber.
“I’d been with people that used Uber before, but I’d never really used it myself,” Soden said. “So, it was just like I need to figure out how to do this: I could totally do this. So, I came back and did it.“
Soden drives for Uber a few times a week, which she says is a nice change of pace compared to her other duties.
“It’s very part time,” Soden said. “I don’t even have to think about it when I go home, which is nice because when you own your own business, you think about it constantly.”
As mayor, much of her time is spent communicating with Lawrence citizens, where she helps to decode the often-arcane workings of City Hall for constituents.
“Acting as the funnel is really helpful because it shouldn’t be a requirement for the average citizen to understand all the departments of City Hall and what they do,” Soden said.
Additionally, one of Soden’s most important jobs is leading the City Commission meetings. Soden said her style is different from others, and that it allows her to see the bigger picture.
“I’m different,” Soden said. “Sometimes, I’ll lapse, and I’ll call people by their first names. I’m not as annoyed when people start railing against something, and I don’t take it personally. I’m better at not taking things personally. It’s just, people express themselves in different ways. It’s important to not take that personally.”
Soden also said that her style is more outward and informal.
“I also tend to kind of think out loud more, which some people really like because they want to follow what you’re thinking or your decision-making,” Soden said. “Some people don’t like that, though. Some people want this kind of formal distance between themselves. Some people prefer a banker look, but I’m not a banker.”
Furthermore, Soden said making decisions can be difficult, but trust plays a key role in decision-making.
“You have to have faith that legal knows what they’re talking about,” Soden said. “You have to have faith that [the] DA knows what he’s talking about and then try to somehow give everyone what they want without making it worthless. It’s really hard.”
Diane Stoddard, Lawrence’s assistant city manager, has known Soden since her days at the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, and says she’s good to work with.
“She’s a very enthusiastic person,” Stoddard said. “She is driven by causes and her interests in neighborhood issues, which is how she really got involved in working with the city in the first place, and I think that really drives her. I think she cares about how things affect the regular person in Lawrence and cares about Lawrence and the community.”
Stoddard said that Soden’s unique background serves her well in many ways.
“I think she does have an interesting perspective with her life background, her view of issues and it’s always helpful to have those different viewpoints when people are looking at an issue,” Stoddard said.
Despite the stress, Soden said she enjoys working for the people of Lawrence and talking about issues, but she especially enjoys the nonpartisan nature of city issues.
“The city is not partisan,” Soden said. “What we do is not partisan. Streets are not partisan.”
Moreover, Soden said she hopes that citizens feel connected to their officials.
“I’d like people to think that they’re connected and that not everyone here is just a professional that’s not interested in what they think, and I know from personal experience that there’s a really high bar that feels unachievable in understanding issues,” Soden said. “Because once you start getting into them, it’s like this black hole is what you enter. You just keeping going farther and farther and farther. That can be very overwhelming. I don’t want people to feel like that.”
— Edited by Allison Crist
Ousmane Sy dedicates his life to helping others
The valet driver at HERE apartments is known for his friendly demeanor and devotion to others.
“Have a blessed day,” isn’t a typical catchphrase, but for Ousmane Sy, it captures his friendliness in just the right way.
“I think his trademark is he always tells everyone to have a blessed night,” his coworker Quentin Aker said.
Sy and Aker are both valet drivers at the HERE apartments, located near the Oread Hotel on Indiana Street. Sy has worked with SP+, the valet driving company at HERE, since April 2009. Sy said that he has never once called in to miss work.
“[SP+] knows I work hard,” he said. “I like to work, never be late, never call in.”
As a Kansas City, Missouri, resident, Sy commutes to Lawrence four days a week, and works nights from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. parking cars and interacting with residents. Aker, a December 2016 graduate from the University, often works nights with Sy at HERE.
“[He is] always in good spirits,” Aker said. “We always laugh together and have such a good time together, even if we don’t say a lot. Just how he acts, as like a coworker, very compassionate, very funny, very friendly, just someone you’d want to be around.”
When Sy clocks in on a typical night at work, he works with one other person, like Aker, or just by himself. He will not only park cars, but also pull cars down when residents request to have their car. On his off time, he watches Nigerian movies, according to Aker.
When he clocks out, he travels home to Kansas City for some much needed rest.
Sy is from Mauritania, a country in west Africa, and has lived in the United States since December 2000. He started working in February 2001 in the United States.
Sy speaks many languages, including French, English and his native language of Pulaar. In Mauritania, Sy served as an elementary school teacher and even wrote his own book in the 1980s.
“When I was at Senegal, I didn’t stop. I tried to help the refugees,” he said. “I created, with the help of other teachers, we created one school, with teachers and refugees. I taught there.”
As a result of a war between Mauritania and the neighboring country of Senegal, Sy was deported to Senegal in 1989. Sy said he lived there until December 2000, before he moved to the United States.
Sy said his family has always motivated him to work hard, especially his four sons, who live in the United States. He also assists his nephews and nieces following his older brother’s death.
“Now, I don’t work for myself, I work to help other people back home,” he said.
Outside of work, Sy enjoys reading, studying and assisting others by donating clothing and shoes. Sy said that he has donated close to 1,000 pairs of shoes recently to people in need.
“I like to help,” he said.
While at HERE, Sy emphasizes the importance of customer service.
“Any kind of job, is not for the owner … no customers, no job,” he said. “Because [clients] don’t park here, no cars, no job … [clients] give you the job, you have to respect them.”
He always enjoys greeting his customers, and making sure they are happy.
“I know I have a problem with languages, to talk to people, maybe they don’t understand me,” Sy said. “But, however, I try to make them happy ... when they are happy, I am happy.”
— Edited by Erin Brock
Simon Bates combines fine dining flavors with a fast food vibe
As owner of the The Burger Stand at the Casbah and bistro establishment BonBon, Bates has established himself as a staple in the Lawrence food community.
Immediately, his mind is racing at a blistering speed. His elbows perched on the Australian timber oil stained table in one of the many booths at The Burger Stand. His hands are gesturing with a swagger like he’s prepped for this moment his entire life. Words like “spicy harissa barbecue,” “rough chopped tender duck,” and “watermelon radishes” shoot from his mouth as if they were locked and ready, sitting patiently on the back of his tongue. His mouth a smoking gun.
At around the age of 15, Topeka native and owner of The Burger Stand at the Casbah, Simon Bates worked his first cooking job at a neighborhood steakhouse. Bates was eager to get as much experience as possible, but it wasn’t just for his love of food.
“It had this little mafia family vibe. The owners were so fancy. I was like, ‘that’s cool. I want to drive around in a limousine,’” he said.
Bates looked up to the poise and class he saw in the owners. It was a level of respect he said he aspired to attain. Now years later, as Bates explained his special duck spring roll he would make later that day for his bistro establishment BonBon, his charisma demanded the attention he once yearned for.
He isn’t riding to work in a limousine, but it’s because he doesn’t have to.
Bates along with his wife Codi opened the popular Massachusetts Street restaurant The Burger Stand in 2009. Originally the restaurant was a temporary project after Bates got word that the job waiting for him at a Topeka bakery was no longer available. He had just moved after working in Chicago.
“I opened The Burger Stand on the fly, and it was just my wife and I working the first day. We had about 60-70 customers. Then every day since, we’ve just gotten busier and busier. We’re still growing,” he said.
With extensive experience as a line cook and sous chef, Bates saw the growing popularity of the location as an opportunity to introduce to Lawrence a new food palette while still delivering an American staple. His initiative included bringing in local fresh produce with an eccentric twist.
“Why would you pair dates with cauliflower? And on a burger,” Bates said. “Why would you do that?”
The answer, it seems, is simple.
“We’re trying to introduce people to new flavor combinations that work really well,” he said. “I know how combinations work together in fine dining, and we’re trying to bring that flavor to the mainstream.”
Bates has built the knowledge to execute this mission by going to culinary school in New York, in addition to working over 20 jobs in the food industry and traveling across the globe. Liz Tally, a longtime kitchen manager at The Burger Stand — or as Bates likes to call her, “the kitchen mom” — sees Bates’s ability to cultivate new and exciting flavors as a main player to the restaurant’s success.
Bates said they currently average about 1000 burgers a day.
“I love cooking with him because I learn flavors that I would never put together myself, and he puts them together and “I’m like ‘wow that’s so amazing.’ I love watching him cook and tasting all his food,” she said. “I’m not trying to brown nose him.”
But not everything can be a guaranteed hit. To ensure quality for the Lawrence community means a morning to night commitment even to this day. Days will often begin for Bates at around 7 a.m., when, as he puts it, he has to go out and “put out all the fires.”
“I have a lot of areas where I have to be and where I want to be. There’s times when I end up plumbing a toilet, where I rather be making a duck roll,” he said.
Meetings with upper management in his company take up another good portion of his morning. These meetings usually taking place in their recently opened downtown office. This is where he’ll often find the managing director, director of operations and kitchen director. The hub oversees all their locations, including The Burger Stand in Topeka.
When not on the go, Bates currently spends time at BonBon, which just opened last year, making sure things are moving the way they need to and also dipping his hand in fine dining again by making the specials, like the duck spring roll.
Bates said he usually heads home around 8 p.m., or whenever he feels exhausted, and gets to spend quality time with Codi, or as Simon likes to call her, “the real boss.”
“We have a lot of boundaries, a lot of rules that help us through our marriage. We don’t talk a whole lot of work talk at home. This is one of those jobs that you don’t ever turn off. It’s like 24/7, so it’s hard for us to be able to focus on our marriage sometimes and treat each other like a couple rather than business partners,” he said. “We actually opened Burger Stand a couple months before we got married, so we’ve been through a lot.”
— Edited by Frank Weirich
Theatre professor Peter Zazzali balances life as both a scholar and an artist
With 30 years of experience as an actor, director and scholar, Zazzali wants to cultivate a new generation of theatre-makers in his students.
Before anything else, Peter Zazzali is someone who loves theatre. The theatre department professor has 30 years of experience as an actor, director and scholar.
As the recently appointed director of the Kansas Repertory Theatre, his packed schedule just got busier.
The Kansas Repertory Theatre has existed in its current form for three years, co-founded by Zazzali. The Theatre brings in professional actors, directors and other experienced theatre makers every summer to work with University students on two productions. Last summer it was 20th-century plays “Harvey” and “Angel Street.”
Katherine Pryor, the managing director of University Theatre, said Zazzali is bringing something new to the table. It’s been around for decades, but Pryor said it hasn’t existed in a way that’s provided such a valuable experience to students and the Lawrence community.
“This is different,” Pyror said. “We’re bringing professionals in.”
Zazzali likes to bookend his day with the two components of his job as a scholar/artist. After breakfast and an early morning run, he arrives on campus and works on the scholarly part of his job — planning theatre seasons, working on his book or other academic endeavors. He spends the rest of his daylight hours teaching and grading.
He ends his day creatively. In the late afternoon or early evening, he does theatre work, often directing the latest University Theatre play.
Zazzali has been an assistant professor at the University since 2013, teaching acting, directing and theatre history. He spent the bulk of the preceding decades as an equity actor and student, primarily in New York and Los Angeles, where he was a part of numerous acting companies and more than 45 productions of works by Shakespeare.
Zazzali completed an undergraduate degree in acting at the California Institute of the Arts in 1990 and went on to earn two master’s degrees, followed by a Ph.D. in theatre from the City University of New York in 2012.
Being an actor in New York was painful, Zazzali said. As a member of the New York-based The Acting Company, Zazzali acted in productions of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” “As You Like It” and numerous other works of contemporary and classical theatre.
New York is arguably one of the most competitive places to try to be successful as a theatre talent. Working at the University allows him to balance his love for theatre scholarship with his love for theatre production.
“I think the balance of the scholar/artists, you don’t find that in most places, and that’s what makes this place exceptional and such a delight to be in,” Zazzali said.
University junior Andrew Hafling starred in last semester’s University Theatre production of “Pooter McGraw is Not Dead Party,” directed by Zazzali. Hafling said Zazzali is the kind of director who knows what he wants out of a production and prioritizes quality above all else — except, maybe, for the opportunity to give his students an educational experience.
“Rather than just saying ‘this is the way we’re going to do it,’ he says ‘let’s work together to get what you see out of this as well,’ which I think is really important in a theatre environment — or any arts environment, really,” Hafling said.
Hafling has had Zazzali as a professor for two theatre classes. During lectures, Zazzali rarely has to refer to notes or a textbook to recall the name of a director or a bit of theatre history. Hafling said he’s like a walking encyclopedia.
Zazzali said that he wants to cultivate a new generation of theatre makers in his students. He wants to see work that is creative and progressive, both politically and structurally.
“[Theatre] is part of my life — a big part of my life, in fact — and I want to help it grow, and part of helping it grow and merge and develop is in no small part being a teacher, being here at KU,” Zazzali said.
— Edited by Brenna Boat
Student parent Frank McGuinness still finds time to support nontraditional students
McGuinness, a father of three, studies biochemistry while also representing nontraditional students in Student Senate and serving as president of the pre-dental society.
When he talks about touring with Snoop Dogg or seeing over 1,000 concerts, Frank McGuinness smiles nostalgically about his former life of long hours and sound checks. When he talks about his kids, dentistry or the scholarship he found the funds for, McGuinness’s eyes shine at the thought of helping others.
“When he’s got his mind made up and wants to stick up for a group, a student group or his [nontraditional] students, he’s not going to back down. He’s pretty passionate about that,” said Aaron “Quiz” Quisenberry, the senior associate director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center and who works with McGuinness on the Student Senate Finance Committee.
McGuinness, a father of three, studies biochemistry while also representing non-traditional students in Student Senate and serving as President of the pre-dental society. He will be graduating this year with hopes of going to dental school.
McGuinness has a passion for music, which led him to work in the concert industry during the early 2000s. McGuinness said he was involved with “everything from booking concerts to hospitality to going out on tour with bands,” but the long hours didn’t work well with his three children.
“The reason I left the concert industry to begin with was because it inherently is an evening, late-night gig,” McGuinness said. “Having kids is not conducive to getting home at two, three in the morning.”
McGuinness tried other jobs to spend more time with his kids, but after a dental filling fell out when he didn’t have health insurance, he realized how he wanted to impact others.
McGuinness lived with radiating tooth pain for two years without treatment before a friend, who was a dentist, worked with him financially to fix his tooth.
“Two hours later I felt like a new human. It was really incredible,” McGuinness said. “Tooth pain can really impact the quality of your life and so seeing that somebody could help others with the same issues felt more rewarding than what I had been doing.”
Now McGuinness is applying to dentistry school and will be graduating in May, but he said it has been a challenge to raise his three children while attending classes.
“It’s probably a struggle because I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like, but I think that they understand that long-term, this is better for everybody for me to pursue my goal of becoming a dentist,” McGuinness said.
As a parent and nontraditional student, McGuinness understands that University life can be challenging. After a 2016 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report that showed a minority retention rate half the size of the other students’ retention, he decided to work with Student Senate to help students who might not have the same support he did.
“It’s hard navigating this place if you have a lot of support. If you don’t have any support or very little it can be almost impossible to navigate university life,” McGuinness said. “For them to stay here, they need extra support.”
The scholarship totals $11,000 and will start accepting applications in the fall. McGuinness said it has been one of his “greatest accomplishments” at the University, apart from graduating.
Quisenberry said that he appreciates how passionate McGuinness can be about Senate issues and his constituents, even though he has other priorities in his life.
“He’s been busting his tail trying to graduate and when you have those extenuating circumstances, when you have dependents, when you’re coming back to school at a later age, when you’re commuting, when you’ve been laid off at your job and trying to come back in a new skill set — all of those are [nontraditional] students and that’s the group Frank works with,” Quisenberry said. “He’s trying to do anything on the campus to just help make their lives better.”
Even though McGuinness has enough on his plate with grades and children to worry about, he said he took on the extracurricular activities because he wants to make the University better for future students.
“All I ever wanted to do in my life growing up as a kid was to go to KU, graduate and now that I’m here and I’m on that path I kind of want to make it a better place for maybe my kids or the other students who are coming behind me,” he said.
After graduating, McGuinness hopes to be accepted to the dental school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, but has also been looking at schools in Colorado, Florida and California.
Until then, Quisenberry said he is excited to continue working with McGuinness to represent nontraditional students.
“I just know that where he’s coming from, it’s all from his heart because he truly, genuinely cares about the students that he’s really looking out for,” Quisenberry said.
—Edited by Paola Alor
Activist Rayfield Lawrence is driven by compassion for others
Lawrence has been involved in student activism since he was in high school. Now as a University student, he says he is focusing on making the world more equitable for people of all identities.
“Queen of all trades” is how Chloe Secor describes Rayfield Lawrence.
“He’s very sharp, in so many ways,” said Secor, graduate assistant with the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and an advisor of SPECTRUM KU. “A lot of times you see people who are just book smart, or just street smart or just one smart, but he balances all of that so well. He’s so socially adept and he’s so sharp and on top of the really academic side of things as well. Instead of being like a jack of all trades, not to make a joke, but because he does do drag, like a queen of all trades.”
Lawrence, a sophomore studying sociology from Kansas City, Kansas, and SPECTRUM KU president, calls himself an activist, dancer, Buddhist, lover, warrior, fighter and a feminist.
“I don’t really think that I could ever say, ‘this is what I am,’” he said. “But that encompasses everything that I am.”
Prior to arriving at the University, Lawrence engaged in activism against at his high school when they refused to allow him to be on the dance team.
“They said that boys couldn’t be dancers and we had an argument there,” he said.
Although Lawrence has been an activist across campus for awhile now, he said he was not always aware of it like he is now.
“Activism was never a thing that I ever thought I would do,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of protests, I wasn’t aware of social movements, I wasn’t even really aware of the different waves of feminism. But once you start educating yourself, and you start learning, and you begin to see there are things that are not okay that still happen, it’s like you have to do that work.”
His activism became stronger within the last few months as he participates in discussions of free speech and safe spaces on campus.
“Activism is more of just a way of life and a mindset,” he said. “You can’t just wake up one day and be like, ‘I’m going to do activism today.’ It’s just something that is always going to be a part of your life and is always going to be that way. I guess I’ve always been an activist. It just wasn’t clear to me what that meant until I came to college and how to deal with that.”
One attribute that makes Lawrence stand out is his compassion for others, Secor said.
“I think that one thing that we a lot of times associate with college students is we assume that they’re very apathetic, or they’re very single-minded, or they’re very into themselves, and I think that with Ray, you don’t see that,” she said. “He’s very passionate about activism. Specifically, I’m referring to like his big campaign with Trans Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, and the big protest on Wescoe. I would never, ever describe him as an apathetic person.”
Not only is he proficient in activism, he also excels in his academics, Secor said. Recently, he was named one of the University’s Men of Merit.
When Lawrence is not on campus, he works at Chipotle, volunteers around the community, shops and socializes with friends and family.
“The thing about being queer, being intersectional, you get to pick your family,” he said. “And so being with my friends is basically a family time.”
One of Lawrence’s favorite activities is participating in drag shows, which he has done for about two years.
“Drag, as an art form, is essentially there to familiarize or to make audiences more comfortable with gender performance,” he said.
After Lawrence leaves the University, he hopes to make changes that are going to last and make a positive impact for others.
“I want to make changes that can make everyone equitable and comfortable on campus,” he said. “Why do our Hijabi women not have equality on campus? Why do our brown bodies get disrespected on campus? There’s broader issues that do affect me. But I can do work to where it stops affecting others as well.”
Secor said that Rayfield has brought a lot to the University in the past two years and she believes he will continue to do so until he graduates.
“KU is really lucky that he is choosing to spend his four years here,” she said. “KU is gaining a lot from having four years of Rayfield.”
—Edited by Paola Alor
Bruce Hopkins gets third law degree at age 72
He's not only a student at the University, but also a professor at the School of Law.
You can say you’ve had an interesting professor and a great classmate, but only a few in the School of Law can say they have had both, and with one person.
Bruce Hopkins is a professor of the practice at the University, teaching students on nonprofit organizations and law while practicing that same law in Kansas City. Hopkins boasts almost 50 years of experience within nonprofit and tax-exempt law, working with a wide range of nonprofit organizations.
In 2013, at the age of 72, Hopkins decided to enroll back in classes at the University to pursue his third law degree.
“I saw this degree as a goal. I saw it as an objective,” Hopkins said.
The SJD (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor) is seen as the law equivalent of a Ph.D,
Although he said the degree does not have much of an impact to his career, Hopkins said experiencing the University setting as both a student and professor was well worth the journey.
“I really don’t see them as law students, in a way. I see them more as budding lawyers,” Hopkins said.
The respect goes both ways. Jacob Wilson, a University law student from Park Ridge, Illinois, expressed his thoughts on Hopkins’ teaching.
“When you compare his lecturing style to other professors, he has a wealth of real world information,” Wilson said. “He seems to know all the ins and outs of what clients will need and really infuses real world applications into the lectures that he gives every week.”
Hopkins said the road to earning the degree was difficult, because he not only teaches and practices law, but is both an author and speaker.
He has written over 30 books and spoken at events for nonprofit law across the nation. In fact, Hopkins wrote a memoir discussing his journey for the SJD titled “SJD: What’s the Point of Three (Law Degrees)? The Adventures of an Older Lawyer Who Returned to Law School for the Third Degree.”
The memoir explores Hopkins’ experiences in teaching his classmates, learning from those years younger than him and why he decided to pull the trigger on his dream.
“The ultimate point of the book is that if there’s something out there that somebody wants to do, then by all means, do it. As long as it’s lawful,” Hopkins said.
Many of his colleagues at the law school, who just so happened to end up teaching him, were very supportive of his journey. So supportive that Hopkins dedicated the memoir to two University law professors: Stephen Mazza, the dean of the law school and Michael Hoeflich, the former dean of the law school.
“Both of them, they were just extraordinary to me,” Hopkins said. “Extremely helpful, and it was a remarkable experience just to be able to work with them by itself.”
Hopkins said that the experience of earning a third degree was life changing for him. He said he now understands what exactly will help students the most instead of just lecturing for his two hour class period. The classes Hopkins took also improved his writing.
The degree may not have progressed Hopkins further into his career at his law firm, but he was able to accomplish his dream.
—Edited by Paola Alor
Singer-song writer Kathryn King spent four years breaking into the Lawrence music scene
King finds time between work and school to play in the band "Spencer Mackenzie Brown"
As a child, learning Mozart and Beethoven on the piano, Kathryn King couldn’t have imagined where her love for music would lead her. From playing 100-year-old pieces to creating her own, King has spent her four years in Lawrence breaking into the music scene as a singer, songwriter and collaborator.
King, an Osage City native, has a schedule that includes work in the morning at the warehouse Sophia Global, classes in the afternoon, work again in the late afternoon and then homework.
Rarely does King have time outside of school and work, but on Monday nights she makes time for band rehearsal.
King is a film & media studies major as well as a religious studies minor, but what she really loves about Lawrence has more to to do with its thriving music scene.
While King is a solo artist, she lends her talent for guitar, piano and back-up harmonies to the band Spencer Mackenzie Brown. King described her sound as an indie-pop sound and the band as a folk-rock type.
“I actually knew them in middle school and we reconnected when I came to KU and they asked me to join. I joined them about two years ago,” she said.
John Benda is an Atwood native who serves as the drummer for Spencer Mackenzie Brown.
“Kathryn is one of those people who can actually play everybody else’s instruments just as well as they can,” Benda said. “It is incredibly easy to work with her because she speaks everyone’s language. She also has a real knack for arranging someone else’s songs, which plays a huge part in the band.”
Writing with Spencer Mackenzie Brown is a collaborative effort. The band contributes to the melody or the song structure and write until they are satisfied. Personally, King said she writes the most when she needs to express her emotions.
“I will usually start by playing my guitar and something will come to me and I just roll with it.” King said. “Rarely do I sit down to try and force myself to write a song. I just kind of let it happen.”
King said she feels the most motivated to write after a hard day or after something bad happens to her. She is able to use writing as a form of self-care and starts writing how she feels and then adds the music.
She said her mother, also a songwriter, is her biggest influence. Musicians she listens to daily include Regina Spektor, Paramore, Tallest Man on Earth and Chance the Rapper. Her biggest one is Brandi Carlisle.
Though getting through school and graduating is her goal, her long-term goals mean more to her.
“Realistically, I see myself in Kansas City and hopefully I will continue with Spencer’s band.” King said. “If things keep picking up like they have been, I’d love to maybe go on a tour. I could see us getting asked to be an opener for someone.”
She said a vision for herself is being able to combine her love for music and her aspiration for films.
“Hopefully I can get a following in Kansas City. And also, I will hopefully be working in some kind of documentary company for my real job,” King said.
Whether music ever becomes her career or not, King is already following her dreams with her a clear vision for what she wants.
And her go-to karaoke song?
“Sunday Morning by Maroon 5 and Airplanes by B.O.B.,” she said. “Oh, and Hips Don’t Lie.”
But, only when she’s feeling ambitious, she said.
—Edited by Paola Alor
Kala Stroup blazed a trail for women in higher education
As a graduate of the University and the last dean of women, Stroup has held many positions in higher education and still works with students to make the University an inclusive place.
Kala Stroup first accepted a position as Hall Director for the University of Kansas in 1959, the first of many firsts for the iconic educator and administrator.
Over the next 36 years, Stroup became the first woman vice president of academic affairs in the Kansas Board of Regents system, the first woman president of the Kentucky system of higher education, the first woman president of Southeast Missouri State University and the first woman president of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.
Stroup also served as Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education from 1995-2002 and as president of the National Nonprofit Leadership Alliance from 2002-2010.
Stroup made a career as a trailblazer for women in higher education and as a national leader in the nonprofit sector.
Stroup says she owes her career to the University of Kansas, and more specifically, the University’s honors program.
“I was a Kansas girl from Great Bend, Kansas. Thinking about being a university president was not anything I had ever thought about in high school or even college,” Stroup said. “It was thanks to all those people. I owe this University a lot.”
Stroup retired in 2010 and has since taught for the University’s Honors Program, where she has developed and introduced several courses on nonprofits. She also currently advises 65 honors students in addition to serving on several regional and national nonprofit boards.
Stroup says she hopes to inspire students the same way her mentors inspired her.
“I thank the Honors Program and people like Emily Taylor and Chancellor Wescoe and Chancellor Murphy and Francis Heller, head of the honors program, for saying to me as I went through, ‘You can do more. You can do more,’” Stroup said.
Stroup holds a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama, a master’s degree in educational psychology and a Ph.D. in speech communication, all from the University.
Stroup began her professional career at the University in 1959, and by 1975 she succeeded Emily Taylor — the namesake of the University’s Center for Women and Gender Equity — as the University’s last dean of women.
“I had two mentors. One was Emily Taylor and the other was Martha Peterson,” Stroup said. “They were the highest-ranking women in the KU administrative system. They were both deans of women.”
Stroup has been working toward gender equality in higher education since the 1960s, and she personally advocated for the passage of Title IX.
“Once Title IX passed, I was one of the few women in the country that had the credentials — both the teaching, the Ph.D. and the academic credentials — to be considered to be a provost, or vice president or president of a university,” Stroup said. “I thank this University for getting me ready.”
Stroup left the University in 1978 to become the vice president of academic affairs at Emporia State University. She returned to the University of Kansas 30 years later, where she now serves as a beacon of knowledge to those around her, including Bryan Young, director of the University’s honors program.
“She’s a force of nature,” Young said. “She has an incredible amount of energy and passion and drive, and all of that is focused on students and the student experience.”
Young says that Stroup has been a mentor to him as a result of her extensive experience.
“She’s extremely generous with her time,” Young said. “To have someone in the building who has served in higher education in pretty much every capacity and at the highest level is a tremendous resource for all of us in the building and at KU.”
In addition to teaching and advising, Stroup also helps students apply for internships and compete for national scholarships, such as the Rhodes, Udall and Truman scholarships.
“Kala is fantastic at helping us identify students that we should keep in mind, have on the radar for those opportunities,” Young said. “She helps work with the students on their applications. I’m sure she’s written stacks and stacks of letters of recommendation for students of those types things.”
Though she is officially retired from her administrative career, Stroup still works with students because she believes education is the gateway to a good life.
“I have really always enjoyed that part of it,” Stroup said. “I wanted to work with students. I knew I could open doors for students. I wouldn’t get the job for them. They have to do that, but I could open doors and let someone from Kansas be considered, and I enjoy doing that and I’ve done that my entire life.”
Paramount to Stroup’s mission is ensuring that equitable education is provided to everyone, regardless of gender, race or creed. She said she is pleased by the inclusive conversations taking place at the University today.
“I’ve been gone 30-some years. When I came back I thought that the place had changed. It was great,” Stroup said. “The Honors Program was still doing well, our basketball team was still doing well, our debate team was still doing well, but I noticed that there wasn’t some of that same passion for inclusiveness. Recently, that’s really surfaced again. That’s something I think we can never forget in higher education: that we left someone behind.”
— Edited by Paola Alor
Chris 'Big Chris' Cantwell addresses social issues through comedy
Cantwell finds joy in all forms of comedy in his spare time, from stand-up to acting to sketch writing
From sketch writing, acting and doing his own stand-up routines, junior Chris “Big Chris” Cantwell has done it all in comedy. He just recently finished working on a slapstick comedy film, and regularly goes to open mic nights at venues in Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City.
To Cantwell, performing comedic routines is much more than a hobby. In a world filled with negativity and struggle, he said he uses these issues to connect people with one another, in a way only comedians can.
“People have problems,” Cantwell said. “You have problems, and I have problems. We go to shows to get out of the house. It gets you out of your life to go see something like a comedy show. You can forget about all your problems and hear this guy or girl talk about their problems or something relatable. Like, ‘Why do people treat their dogs like children?’”
He also said he thinks that comedy is one of the last remaining lines for people to truly speak freely on any issue that they see fit.
“You can’t do anything these days,” Cantwell said. “Like Colin Kaepernick taking the knee. He’s a football player. Why do people care about his social stance on the anthem? These days, you can’t say anything. But you can go onstage... and you can talk about this and that as long as it’s in a relatable, funny way.”
Like all the other students around him, Cantwell recognizes that life in college involves balancing tasks that seem impossible. But unlike others, he said he feels like he has a good grasp on his studies and the rest of his life.
“My spare time [involves] doing stupid stuff, you know?” Cantwell said. “I’m a goofy individual at heart, so I just like to spend time thinking of dumb or just observational stuff. Not like Jerry Seinfeld observational, but I do my own stuff, and essentially it’s like an outlet. It’s really like a natural thing. I think I balance it decently.”
Not only does Cantwell notice his dedication to his own craft, but others have taken notice, including Theatre Department Graduate Teaching Assistant Rachel Blackburn.
She first met Cantwell last year after he decided to tag along with her and comedian Josh Blue, who had just finished performing at the Lied Center, for dinner.
“I went to see his performance, and afterwards I wanted to interview him,” Blackburn said. “So, he told me to meet him at this restaurant, and when I showed up there, it turned out Chris had been listening in and showed up there hoping to sit down with us all.”
Soon after, Blackburn invited Cantwell to enroll in the comedy class she planned on teaching in the following school year, which he accepted right away.
Blackburn sees Cantwell’s dedication to listening to and taking in all kinds of people’s advice not just in this one scenario, but in his classwork as well.
“He really cares about the way his work comes across to others,” she said. “I think he’s a lot more concerned with that than some of the other students. I had a friend of mine who’s a professional sketch writer and performer, and in that instance Chris was taking notes on what he had to say and really taking his advice to heart more than other students.”
For Cantwell, when not performing at night, his typical days start off with a 35-minute commute to Lawrence from Topeka.
His commute differs from others in that he spends that time listening to up-and-coming stand-up comedians, taking in as much as he can before starting the daily grind.
“I like to hear new material from new artists,” Cantwell said. “Right now, the field is so saturated with these big names. There’s so many people doing comedy and they’re doing it differently. They all have their individual takes, so I like to hear the new stuff.”
Cantwell’s love for listening to material from new comedians, even if for short periods at a time, is a reflection of his devotion to his own work on comedy.
At the end of a long night, Cantwell said he remembers what he loves about performing comedy is more than just going up onstage.
“It’s like the Wild West,” Cantwell said. “You’re just staring down hundreds of barrels of eyes, and everybody’s like, ‘Make this worth my money.’ It’s a game, it’s a challenge. You’ve got to break the ice, set the tone, set the pace, keep it rolling. It’s like a constant battle. You versus the room. It’s adrenaline, and it’s a rush. It’s just awesome.”
— Edited by Ashley Hocking
Susan Tabor inextricably connected to Audio-Reader, a program helping visually impaired people
Tabor, who was born blind, works for a service that provides both readings and information to those who are blind, visually impaired or print-disabled.
Susan Tabor spends her time assisting the same program she has been a listener of since she was a student at the University over 40 years ago: Audio-Reader.
Audio-Reader is a service that provides both readings and information to those who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled. 24 hours a day, the network reads newspapers, books and magazines to individuals who need it.
Tabor, who lives in Lawrence, is currently an administrative assistant at Audio-Reader, and she has been working for the network since 2003. However, Tabor, born blind, has been listening to the program for longer than she has been working for it.
“I remember some of the early days,” Tabor said. “I remember when the Watergate tapes were published in book form, Audio-Reader had people reading all around the clock to get it read, so that [Audio-Reader listeners] could have it at about the same time.”
Tabor began working at Audio-Reader as a volunteer, with most of her work involving proofing braille material. But Tabor began to get more involved when she served on the Audio-Reader Development Committee. After working as a volunteer, Tabor became the assistant coordinator of volunteers before arriving to her current position, administrative assistant.
As an administrative assistant, Tabor said she forwards phone calls and emails to whoever needs the information. Tabor is able to read emails sent to her with a text-to-speech software installed on her computer, which reads the text on the page into her headphones. She said she also gives feedback to the volunteer readers on their broadcasts.
“[Tabor] offers a different perspective that an organization like ours needs,” Lori Kesinger, the outreach coordinator at Audio-Reader, said. “We tend to go, ‘Well this is what we think needs to get done,’ and it’s great to have someone that can give first-person experience to some of the situations.”
Tabor said she was born without sight after a two-month premature birth. Her father was a student at the University at the time, so she was born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
“I was supposed to be born after my dad’s finals, but was born in the middle of them instead,” Tabor said.
Tabor’s family lived in Lawrence for the first three years of her life before moving to California for about a year, only to return to Kansas and live in Wichita. Tabor said she was the first blind student to graduate from the Wichita public schools.
“I always tell people that that’s where I learned to B.S., because I always had to pretend like I knew what I was doing because my books were always late,” Tabor said.
After graduation, Tabor went on to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degree in social welfare at the University of Kansas. She used her degrees to work as a benefits advocate for Independence Inc., the local center for independent living, for about six years.
Tabor lives with her husband and cats, who she said she makes sure to feed every day before going to work at the Audio-Reader Network.
Tabor said she is currently very active with her community at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. She is the chair of the Social Justice Committee, reads passages from the Bible in braille, and sings in the church choir.
“I coordinate a ministry to people who live in the parish who are elderly or disabled,” Tabor said. “That and the social justice stuff probably keeps me busiest.”
Tabor constantly works to make the world brighter, whether it is helping Audio-Reader in every way she can, or spreading her faith to those in need.
— Edited by Ashley Hocking
Storm chaser Jacob Asherman enjoys a nontraditional twist on the typical college experience
Growing up, Asherman was terrified of tornadoes. Now, he has turned his fear into a passion for storm chasing.
Relishing in blissful freedom from papers, projects, and exams, most students will be sleeping in on the first morning of summer break in May. Meanwhile, sophomore Jacob Asherman and two experienced atmospheric scientists will be scanning the day’s weather data as the sun peeks up over the horizon.
With their camera equipment and laptops in tow, the three-man team will hit the pavement, traveling in the direction of the day’s most promising storm.
For the atmospheric science major, the semester’s closing marks not only the end of the school year but, the beginning of his second chasing season. Asherman, a part of the storm chasing group Extreme Inflow Media and a San Diego native, will take advantage of the season’s three remaining weeks to pursue a group of large thunderstorms, known as, mesoscale convective weather systems, which develop across the plains.
Asherman has not always shared the admiration for the storms he so frequently chases today. In fact, the enthusiasm he exhibits presently actually began as a childhood fear.
“Originally, I was terrified of tornadoes,” Asherman said. “It’s scary, the sirens go off and they’re destructive. I think my terror eventually just turned into fascination and from there I became obsessed.”
He has had aspirations of becoming a storm chaser since elementary school, but Asherman’s first foray into the world of storm chasing began during his senior year in high school.
“I started going out locally and looking at storms and kind of trying to see what I was reading about in textbooks and online,” he said.
Asherman’s aspirations were realized during his first year at the University when he was introduced to Taylor Wright, a mechanical engineering major and senior at the time with years of chasing experience. The two connected through the school’s chapter of the American Meteorological Society, after which Wright took Asherman under his wing and the two began chasing together.
“[Jacob is] passionate, laid back and intelligent,” Wright said. “He once made a last minute navigating decision that allowed us to barely avoid getting hit by a possible tornado, and instead, we got to watch it a couple hundred yards away in the field next to us.”
Following his partner’s graduation and departure, Asherman began chasing alongside retired combat veteran James Wilson, and Kansas City Star freelance photographer and videographer Brian Davidson, whose streams, which Asherman has occasionally appeared in, have been broadcasted live on the Weather Channel.
Tapped to be the team’s wheelman for the day, Asherman saw his first tornado on a chase in Eva, Oklahoma, in April of last year. Their chase was pulled short, however, after a sudden mishap, which caused him to lose control of their van.
“Shortly after that I put us in a ditch,” he said. “We were stuck and AAA wouldn’t get us for a long time so we were sitting there and night came, and storms started to rotate around us, so we were fiercely looking around trying to see if there was a tornado developing right next to us.”
Fortunately for the crew, no such tornadoes developed and they were rescued shortly after. An inoperable chase vehicle, however, is just one example of the many dangers that Asherman and crew must account for during a chase.
Other less-innocuous threats include lightning, hail, flooding and the storm itself. However, the deadliest threat, Asherman said, is driving.
He referenced three chasers that suffered fatal injuries in an auto accident while chasing on March 28.
“When you drive that much, you put stress on your car [and] you get tired, so you are increasing your risk factors for an accident,” Asherman said.
Yet another hazardous element for chasers are nighttime tornadoes. Spawning from strong winds low in the atmosphere, these storms are particularly dangerous as there is no light to illuminate them as they move. This forces chasers to rely on lightning and power flashes to reveal a storm’s location. Asherman and his crew experienced the threat firsthand during a nighttime chase in Eureka.
“We’d heard a report of a tornado but we couldn’t see anything,” Asherman said. “We started to drive into town and we noticed the wind shift, which is never a good sign. Ten seconds later the sirens go off, we look behind us and there are power flashes about 200 to 300 yards away, so we got out of town.”
Aside from capturing storms on film, chasers often pick up where radars leave off, helping to track a storm’s movement and warn communities in its path. In this particular instance, Asherman recalled that the town’s sirens had not been sounded until the tornado had already begun doing damage. Unfortunately for the town of Eureka, the lack of light prevented Asherman and his team from being able to track the storm’s location and warn the community.
“When we see severe weather we feel obligated to report it,” Asherman said. “So, if we see a tornado on the ground, we’ll call the National Weather Service’s office and let them know, and give them some ground truth as to what’s going on.”
Though alerting communities of an approaching storm is a role he feels obligated to fill, it is not the sole factor driving Jacob’s desire to chase.
“Storm chasing to me is all about getting out there,” Asherman said. “It’s such a humbling experience, just witnessing the power of nature in all of its glory.”
While chasing may occupy much of his time, mind and effort during the spring and summer, Jacob is still a student and must balance his hunt for storms with his quest for meteorology degree. In order to succeed in his increasingly difficult courses, he has had to find ways to maintain the balance.
“I’ve met a lot of people I never would have without it,” he said. “I think chasing has given me a lot more appreciation for the power of meteorology and because meteorology is a hard science and seeing all of this cool weather has been like ‘OK, these classes might be hard but this is what I’m working towards, to better understand this.’ So, I would say it certainly helps my resolve.”
The unique experience of storm chasing has provided Asherman with has not only made him a better student and individual but will undoubtedly aid him in his quest to become a meteorologist.
“There’s no better way to learn ... than getting to experience the storms firsthand,” Wright said. “I hope I helped spark a passion that Jacob will enjoy for the rest of his life.”
“Chasing has done a lot for me as a person,” Asherman said. “It’s introduced me to so many great new friends, taken me places I’d never thought I’d have seen, and it’s a great way to get away from daily life. When you’re standing there watching a massive supercell develop in front of you, there’s no feeling quite like it.”
— Edited by Casey Brown
Jonathan Peters juggles busy schedule of teaching, writing, practicing law
Although working as a professor in journalism is only one of the many hats he wears, Peters describes it as the most fulfilling part of any day.
The first time Jonathan Peters stood in the professor’s spot at the front of a collegiate level class with all eyes on him, he was wearing a pinstripe suit and it was at Ohio University — he was six years old.
It was his father’s classroom, which he often frequented, briefcase in hand, no doubt preparing for the things he would be doing later, more than 750 miles away as a professor in the School of Journalism at the University.
“I swore I would never teach because everybody in my family teaches,” Peters said. “It’s the family business. I just thought it would be cliche to go into education.”
Peters, who has earned both a bachelor’s and Ph.D. in journalism, as well as a law degree, is a practicing first amendment attorney, as well as a full time professor focusing on first amendment law.
Peter’s said it wasn’t until his second year of law school that he considered teaching and that he realized he “wanted to teach sooner than later.”
Although working as a professor in journalism is only one of the many hats he wears, Peters describes it as the most fulfilling part of any day. These days involve short breaks to catch up on news, educate, listen and read. They start early and end late, something Peters acknowledges and is OK with.
“I work too much,” Peters said. “There’s probably little doubt about that among my friends. But for me, most of it doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do.”
He said another important element of his life is the writing he does, which includes his work as a free press correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review, blogs, and for outside newspapers and magazines on topics that involve news media and the law.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are Peters’ biggest writing days, as those are the days he doesn’t teach. He said he uses the time as a creative space to write monastically, without music, guests or other deterrents, in order to simply immerse himself in the work he’s doing.
Any time he’s on campus and not teaching or in meetings, Peters said, he’s in his office always with an open door, where many students go to get advice from Peters on any number of subjects.
Similar to these students who seek his advice, Peters has his own confidant who he said he often uses as a sounding board. This person is current friend and previous professor of his from Ohio State University, Mark Weaver.
“Some students stand out because they’re willing to answer questions over and over again, and you can tell that some students are following a lecture as opposed to texting or playing on their computer,” Weaver said. “Jonathan was always one of the most engaged students who understood the issues and had something interesting to say about them.”
Two other people that Peters’ said are the ones who have never batted an eye at any of his many jobs or ever-changing plans for the future are his mother and father.
“Anything I have ever wanted to do, no matter how fanciful or frivolous, they’ve always jumped right behind me and said, ‘you go, we’ll push,’” Peters said.
Peters’ father, Tom Peters, the one whose classroom and office he used to spend endless days role-playing in as a child, is a professor of journalism and business at Ohio University. Tom said that he noticed his son’s love for the things he does as early as grade school, where he received awards for writing, and in high school, when Jon wrote for daily newspapers.
Tom said when people in Peters’ hometown of Athens, Ohio, learned that he was going to law school they were surprised to see him leaving journalism. These people didn’t know the niche but paramount intersection of media policy and the law Peters’ would find, and eventually practice, Tom said.
“He always said, ‘I’m not leaving it — what I’m going to is combine law and journalism in the form of media law in particular’ which is exactly what he’s doing,” Tom said.
Peters’ admits he likely didn’t know then either of the things he would be doing now. However long the hours, he is still happy to be the boy with the pinstripe suit and the briefcase.
“I got into this to teach,” Peters said. “It has been a very happy coincidence for me that I also really enjoy the research, and I also really enjoy the writing and the service to the community.”
— Edited by Ashley Hocking
Public Safety Officer Kendall Freeman incorporates education with policing
What it's like to be an officer on the University campus.
Officer Kendall Freeman pulls over and gets out of his car. He assesses the situation — three damaged cars, one with a crushed bumper, at least one person injured. After calling for backup, Freeman ensures that everyone is OK and waits for EMS to arrive.
Accidents like this are uncommon for Freeman, a University public safety officer, because the speed limit in his patrol area is under 30.
Freeman has been with the Public Safety Office for the past three years. He came to the force after working for Lawrence Animal Control because of a family history in law enforcement. His father works for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
“Him being an officer made me want to do it,” Freeman said.
According to Sgt. John Dietz, the job of a policeman is predominantly meticulous paperwork.
“Everything has to be done a certain way,” Dietz said.
According to Dietz, Freeman takes this part of the job as well as he takes the rest.
“He’s a good guy, he does what needs to be done,” Dietz said.
Before the paperwork begins, a typical night on the job consists of driving the streets of campus, making traffic stops, foot patrols in buildings and parking lots, and responding to calls. These jobs, however, bring a variety of different interactions and experiences for Freeman.
“It’s never boring because it’s never the same thing,” he said.
Freeman enjoys the job because of the variety of people he talks to throughout a shift.
“With the variety of everything KU brings, you learn things every day when you talk to people,” Freeman said.
He said that the job has helped him understand other cultures and learn from the students and other individuals he encounters on campus.
As a part of PSO, Freeman also works basketball and football games, as well as special details when important people come to campus. This includes working on the detail when former president Bill Clinton came to campus in 2015, and guarding the rules of basketball during the game against Kentucky last year.
“It was really cool that I was in charge of a document worth a couple million dollars,” Freeman said.
Freeman is a lifelong sports fan, so working athletic events is one of his favorite parts of the job.
Not every part of a PSO officer’s job is as fun as athletics, though. Like any other police department, PSO has to go through a large amount of safety training in order to protect themselves. In everything they do they must be conscious of the risks and that they are putting themselves in danger.
“It’s always a thing in the back of your head when you pull someone over,” Freeman said. “You never know what they’ve got going on.”
As a result, Freeman tries to ensure that in his interactions he is as friendly as he can be and tries to understand the other person’s situation so he can offer assistance.
“When we see someone that’s often the worst part of their day,” Freeman said. “If I can get someone to realize that I’m there to help that’s always good for me.”
At the end of the day, the University is still a place for education and Freeman likes that he is a part of that mission.
“We’re not viewed as educators, but if I can help educate someone that’s good for me,” he said.
— Edited by Casey Brown
Rachel Kim on school work, crazy sleep schedules, and her job as a late-night desk assistant
Kim is a desk assistant at Corbin residence hall where she works the 2:30 a.m.shift on weekdays.
While many University students struggle to wake up for an 8 a.m. lecture, sophomore Rachel Kim starts her day much earlier: 2:30 a.m.
A double major in math and music, Kim began working night shifts at the all-girls dorm Corbin during Thanksgiving break of last year. This semester, she’s enrolled in 19 credit hours and has had to develop a rigid routine to manage her packed schedule.
“It’s not really the most ideal combination, but it works out more or less,” she said.
Kim said her most difficult days are Thursdays. After getting out of her Wednesday lecture at 7:30 p.m., she returns home to Margaret Amini Scholarship Hall and goes to sleep right away. She then wakes up between five and six hours later to make it to Corbin in time for her three-hour shift, she said.
“She definitely has to plan out when she sleeps,” Taylor Webb, a fellow music major and friend of Kim’s, said. “It’s crazy. I always ask her how she does it.”
Kim said she generally spends her shifts trying to keep up with schoolwork, a trend Webb noticed as well.
“Every time I’ve ever gone to see her there — which is not a lot of times, because she works at three in the morning — she’s always doing her homework,” Webb said.
Though Kim said resident traffic is scarce on weeknights, her front desk responsibilities include watching the entrance and checking in guests and residents.
Desk workers aren’t allowed to take phone calls or leave the front desk, but are otherwise generally able to choose how to pass the time during their shift, she said. Corbin desk staff are even allowed to stream Netflix as long as they remain aware of their surroundings at all times.
“As long as we look up when we hear the door open and know what’s going on, we’re pretty much given free range,” she said.
Desk workers rarely have to deal with crisis situations, Kim said, and are much more likely to face troubles such as hectic crowds returning from a night out, and the occasional fake ID.
Kim hasn’t dealt with much late-night drama in her months at Corbin, but said the most difficult part of the job is balancing her work schedule around her rigid school schedule.
After working until 5:30 a.m., for example, Kim returns home to sleep for a few hours before her 9 a.m. class. The real trouble comes when work and exams fall on the same day, Kim said.
When an early-morning exam was recently scheduled for the morning after her usual middle-of-the-night shift, she asked to switch to the more preferable 5:30 a.m. shift.
“I’d rather start my day early than have my sleep schedule disrupted [on exam day],” she said.
Kim, who has an emphasis in flute and piccolo, hopes to work as an actuary after graduation and eventually return to school to study music at the graduate level. She has also considered getting a Ph.D. in math to study the “fascinating” relationship between music and math.
“There’s a lot of talk about that, but there’s not a lot of actual research,” she said. “You really have to kind of tear it apart and really understand both of them.”
With two years remaining as an undergraduate, though, Kim said she’s not planning on continuing night shifts after this year. Next fall she begins working as food board manager in the University scholarship halls.
“I probably wouldn’t have continued either way, though,” she said. “Just with my schedule, it’s not sustainable.”
— Edited by Ashley Hocking
Monica Carvajal Regidor plans to use her musical abilities to help others
Carvajal Regidor, a sophomore from San Jose, Costa Rica, currently studies music therapy with an emphasis on clarinet.
Monica Carvajal Regidor experienced a defining moment in her life when she met a man with down syndrome who would always play guitar in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. Carvajal Regidor said that the man always seemed joyful when he was playing.
Watching him, she envisioned herself using music to help others.
It was the moment that sophomore Carvajal Regidor realized she wanted to be a music therapist. Carvajal Regidor, from San Jose, Costa Rica, currently studies music therapy with an emphasis on clarinet.
Carvajal Regidorhigh school in San Jose. Carvajal Regidor was involved with band and choir at a young age, and has been playing clarinet for almost 13 years.
Carvajal Regidor said that playing music and singing was always something she was passionate about and always felt like somewhere she belonged.
She used that passion and found herself back in Lawrence to attend the University. Her older brother, two older sisters and dad all once attended, so she came back to keep the Jayhawk legacy alive.
“I pretty much always had my mind set on KU, especially after I realized I wanted to do music therapy, because KU has one of the best music therapy programs in the U.S.,” Carvajal Regidor said.
She is currently taking 11 classes — a 17-credit-hour load for her. Between practicing her instruments and classes, she works as a peer advisor at the Undergraduate Advising Center and is a part of the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity.
Her day typically starts when she wakes up to get ready for her music theory class. She then has a short break until her women’s choir class. At noon, she attends a choral clinic and then piano lessons. From 2 to 4 p.m., she has band.
In her free time she enjoys painting, drawing, dancing and has a passion for makeup, she said.
Both of her parents are musically inclined, so she said she feels like they passed down that love for music and the arts. Carvajal Regidor said that her parents always encouraged her to pursue music, but it was her passion that kept her going.
“Music has always been a really big part of my family because its always been a social thing,” she said. “I think the Latin American culture is pretty musically inclined — like salsa dancing, and I grew up dancing.”
Dr. Stephanie Zelnick, an associate professor of clarinet, has known Carvajal Regidor for about three years now through private lessons and classes at the University.
“Monica is a wonderful combination of extremely high work ethic, intellect and compassion,” Zelnick said. “That’s really such a winning combination.”
Zelnick added that she feels very fortunate to have Carvajal Regidor as a part of the studio because the clarinet community is close knit, and she has seen Carvajal Regidor playing an important role in that setting by giving constructive comments and being an overall insightful musician.
That compassion for others has carried through to Carvajal’s aspirations in the plans for her future. She envisions herself working with patients who have Alzheimer’s and dementia because teaching that population intrigues her.
After working as a music therapist, she wants to return to Costa Rica to implement a music therapy program at one of the local universities, if one hasn’t been started yet.
“She has the potential to really be an innovator and maybe even come up with new ideas in music at this point, which is pretty cool,” Zelnick said.
— Edited by Ashley Hocking
Timeka O'Neal draws inspiration from her father, love of basketball
O'Neal has one of the best three-point shooting percentages in Kansas history — but getting there wasn't easy.
If you’ve been to a women’s basketball game in the past two years, you’ve likely witnessed tenacious defense, undeniable quickness and an ability to knock down a clutch three from one player in particular — senior guard Timeka O’Neal.
While her contributions to the team throughout her time at Kansas have been noteworthy, what you don’t see, is the sizable adversity O’Neal has overcome to put herself in the position that she is in today.
What you don’t see is her pregame personal ritual. What you don’t see is the deep love for basketball that was instilled in her by her supportive father and grandparents, ever since she first picked up the sport in middle school.
If you look closely, O’Neal has her father’s name — Timothy L. O’Neal — written on the back of her basketball sneakers.
“[It shows] that he is always with me,” O’Neal said. “My father also told me this scripture: ‘walk by faith, not by sight and leave the devil behind.’ He always told me to leave the negativity behind, so I always put that on the back of my shoe.”
On Tuesday, May 27, 2014, a few months before O’Neal began her career at Kansas, tragedy struck the family. Her father died after suffering from a heart attack.
“That day, I mean nobody was expecting that to happen,” O’Neal said. “My father passed away and it was probably one of the most traumatic days of my life to this day, but I feel like everything happens for a reason and I know he’s still here, he watches me.”
The meaning behind O’Neal’s writing on her shoes brings her a sense of pride and comfort on the hardwood.
“It’s just something that I will always keep in mind when I’m out there playing,” O’Neal said. “He’s always on my mind when I’m out there.”
Heading into her first year at Kansas, O’Neal would be faced with overcoming her recent loss and preparing for a new level of competition in the Big 12.
Yet, before the season was in full swing, O’Neal experienced another sizable hardship. In practice, she had attempted a layup and landed in an awkward position. When O’Neal heard a pop, she immediately knew something was wrong. She suffered an ACL tear that brought her highly-anticipated season to an abrupt end.
“At that moment, I was just like ‘Really?’” O’Neal said. “I just got here, this is not how it’s supposed to be. But I had Ann [Wallace] on my side and she helped me through my rehab. As far as me going through my surgery, my family was there with me 100 percent.”
While the injury also caused O’Neal to fall into depression, Ann Wallace, the women’s basketball athletic trainer, made sure to not only help O’Neal’s physical rehabilitation but her emotional and mental recovery as well.
“Ann had her baby Addie at the time, and she would use her as a weight for me,” O’Neal said. “That just brought light to me because she was so cute and always laughing and giggling.”
Although O’Neal admits some days were tougher than others, Wallace continued to push her through the workouts with one goal: getting O’Neal back out on the court.
While the workouts were difficult, O’Neal was determined to not let the injury define her.
“To say [O’Neal] is a tough kid, doesn’t give her enough credit,” Wallace said. “She came in every day ready to work. She did everything that was asked from her from a rehab standpoint and did it with an intent. She ended up getting cleared early to return to basketball because she worked so hard.”
It’s easy for a person to let their downfalls tear them apart, but to overcome them, hard work and undeniable ambition are required. O’Neal indisputably possessed both of those qualities.
“I think some days she did it for herself, but I think on low days she was doing it for her dad,” Wallace said. “I am very proud of, not only all that she has overcome but also the woman she has grown to be.”
As a child in Raytown, Missouri, O’Neal’s talent was immediately noticed and admired by her father, a man who worked to positively direct inner-city children’s interests toward the city’s scholastic football league. While the sport of basketball may not have been in line with his teachings, O’Neal’s aspirations were instantly molded into interests of his own.
“I’d be ready to get out of school just to watch [Candace Parker and Seimone Augustus] games’ later on that evening with my dad,” O’Neal said. “It was really exciting for me. I had dreams of playing at a higher level than high school and potentially going to the WNBA when I was younger.”
Although O’Neal has been known to dominate from the beyond the arc in college, in middle school, this skill was nonexistent. Believe it or not, at the time, O’Neal was taller than most girls her age. Despite her current 5-foot-4 stature, O’Neal’s post play in middle school was propelled by a variety of now unprecedented moves.
“I couldn’t shoot when I was younger,” O’Neal said. “I shot a lot of layups, got steals and went on fast breaks. My go-to was just the turnaround, spin, jump and hook.”
Nevertheless, O’Neal was able to develop her now well-known perimeter shooting ability during her senior year of high school and college days, as a freshman and sophomore at Johnson County Community College.
In her senior year of high school, while anticipating calls from universities looking to add her talents to their roster, O’Neal instead failed to receive offers, but not because of her talent.
“I was actually still looking for a school to go to,” O’Neal said. “I was in a point where I was stuck and didn’t know where I wanted to go. My letters were actually hidden from me in high school, so I was held back as far as trying to figure out where I wanted to go.”
The hidden letters resulted in many schools making the false assumption that O’Neal was uninterested in attending their university.
However, after having O’Neal refute false reports stating that she had already made her college decision, Johnson County Community College coach Ben Conrad provided O’Neal with an offer.
“I wasn’t looking forward to going to junior college at first, but at the end of the day, I felt it was one of the best decisions of my life,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal averaged over 10 points, three rebounds and four assists in her two years at JCCC, while being named a National Junior College Athletics Association Division II third-team All-American her sophomore year. In that same season, JCCC posted a 30-2 record en route to a conference title.
In spite of her success at JCCC, the time had come for O’Neal to take her talents elsewhere.
“After I was done with JCCC after my sophomore year, I still didn’t know where I was going to go,” O’Neal said.
That was until she received one of the most memorable calls of her life.
“Kansas contacted me out of nowhere,” O’Neal said. “You just never know who is watching your games, really.”
When O’Neal received a call from Conrad about Kansas’ interest in her, she could barely contain her excitement.
“This was huge,” O’Neal said. “It was one of my dreams and I remember going upstairs, telling my grandparents and they were like ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ They were actually just mentioning where I might go next after junior college and they said it would be nice for me to stay home, so they could watch me play. Kansas was just the perfect fit.”
After settling on attending Kansas, O’Neal was anxious to fulfill her aspiration of being a collegiate basketball player in the Big 12. With her father by her side on signing day, O’Neal officially made the commitment to further her basketball career as a Jayhawk.
“I knew I had made so many friends [at JCCC] and gained so many relationships with my coaching staff, but I just knew it was time for me to go and explore this new journey,” O’Neal said.
Since O’Neal’s 2014-15 recovery, she has become one of the most clutch three-point shooters to ever come off the bench for Kansas. In her junior season, O’Neal shot 41.1 percent from the perimeter, giving her the seventh-best three-point shooting percentage in Kansas history.
This past season in O’Neal’s final year at Kansas, perhaps her most notable performance came in the fourth quarter of its 76-71 overtime win against North Dakota. With seconds remaining on the clock, down 65-62, O’Neal hit a last-second three at the top of the key, sending the game into overtime and allowing her team to close out the hard-fought matchup in extra minutes.
Throughout all of her games this season, O’Neal has embodied what it means to leave it all out on the floor. Though many acknowledge her valiant efforts in each game, what many don’t see, is the writing on her sneakers that has fueled her imperative contributions.
Today, O’Neal’s father continues to play a substantial role in her mindset as a player and overall person. Before, during and after games, O’Neal knows that no matter where she is, her father is with her, watching over her.
Although Kansas may have lost in the first round of the Big 12 championship this season to Oklahoma State, it’s safe to say that Timothy O’Neal was as proud as a father could be, watching in spirit, as his daughter stepped on the court for one last time.
Now that Kansas’ season has now come to an end, O’Neal will be forced to leave her jersey, teammates, friends and coaching staff at Kansas behind, but O’Neal’s father and loved ones will never leave her side.
“[Before games] Towards the end of the national anthem, I talk as if I’m talking with my dad,” O’Neal said. “People always think I’m praying, but I’m not. I’m actually having a conversation with him.”
Many may wonder how O’Neal has been able to continuously perform on the hardwood with all that she has endured, but with her determined mindset and the love of her father, she has shown that anything is possible.
“There’s a saying me and my dad used to do before my games when I was little, he would go, ‘You ready? You ready?’ And I would say ‘yeah, I’m ready dad, I’m ready,’ and we would pound fists,” O’Neal said. “So I say that towards the end of the national anthem, say I love you and picture him saying it back. So that’s how I do it.”
— Edited by Allison Crist
Kira Stahly doesn't let anything hold her — or her service dog, Roxy — back
Stahly, a freshman studying elementary education, met Roxy her sophomore year of high school. They've had an unbreakable bond ever since.
After finally finding an organization that would fit her needs, Kira Stahly application to get a diabetic alert dog was accepted at the very beginning of her sophomore year of high school.
Roxy, a four-year old, basenji and terrier mix arrived to her home in Lincoln, Nebraska shortly after that. At first, Stahly recalls, the transition was hard for Roxy. She was rescued from a shelter by the organization and then trained for three months.
“She was really stressed out for weeks,” Stahly said. “Then, we started getting a connection and now it’s just this craziest bond that I have with her.”
Stahly is now a freshman at the University pursuing a degree in elementary education. Leaving her hometown for the first time was both exciting and intimidating at the same time, she said.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I met a lot of people right away and they helped me adapt.”
But the transition to college was difficult for Roxy. Stahly said Roxy was really nervous, but that fortunately, after a while, they both felt comfortable.
Stahly was originally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes — a disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to get people energy from foodCQ — when she was two. Her mom had noticed the symptoms and pressed the doctor to test Stahly.
Now, Roxy helps her manage her blood sugar. She will paw at Stahly if she smells in her breath that her blood sugar is either dropping or rising too fast.
Having Roxy by her side everywhere she goes attracts a lot of attention. They both get stared at a lot, Stahly said. Many people will come up to her with questions or even try to pet Roxy, even though they’re not allowed to.
“Sometimes it can be kind of frustrating because if I’m in a rush or I’m not in a great mood, and people try to come and try to pet her even though it says on her vest do not pet her,” she said.
But Stahly hasn’t let this — or anything — hold her back.
At the beginning of her freshman year, she even rushed a sorority. Stahly saw it as a great opportunity to meet people, and her high school cheer coach had been a mom in a sorority house, so she would talk a lot about it.
“It seemed like a really great idea because it was a way for me to not only make lifelong friends but also a way for me to get involved in the community and KU,” she said.
She ultimately joined Delta Delta DeltaCQ, which she felt was the best fit for her.
“It’s been really nice having people who I know are there for me all the time,” she said.
It was during rush that Stahly met Kiauna GarmanCQ, her best friend and now roommate. By the fourth day of meeting each other, they were already close friends, Garman said.
Over winter break, Garman, a freshman from Salina, spent a week at Stahly’s house in Lincoln.
“Her family was so welcoming and kind,” Garman said. “I can see where she gets it from.”
This could also be why Stahly enjoys helping and working with people. She’s involved with the Big Event, volunteers a few hours a week at Central Elementary School and is always looking for other ways to help those who need it.
“I think that kind of stems from me having type 1 diabetes all my life, and me educating people about that, educating my friends and my family about it.”
Stahly also volunteered at an elementary school while in high school, tutoring second graders. Despite always wanting to be a teacher, it’s here that she realized she liked working with children and decided to pursue a degree in elementary education.
While this decision led to a few initial hardships for Stahly at the University, Garman said Stahly’s good at dealing with the difficult situations that come with having Roxy by her side.
“She has her diabetes, but she really doesn’t let that get to her,” Garman said. “She ignores the stares and makes it seem like it’s not a problem.”
— Edited by Allison Crist
ROTC students work hard, but the experience is rewarding
Even while ROTC students endure physical training and a stringent military lifestyle, two Navy ROTC freshmen said the experience has been beneficial to their college experience. One Air Force ROTC junior even had the opportunity to study abroad in Lithuania.
With a built in support system and numerous opportunities to travel and study abroad, students at the University who participate in the Reserve Officer Training Course say the benefits of a military lifestyle outweigh the rigorous physical demand.
The ROTC program was founded in 1916 and is currently offered at 1,700 universities and college in the U.S., according to TodaysMilitary.com. Students graduating from ROTC programs enter the military as commissioned officers.
Even while ROTC students endure physical training and a stringent military lifestyle, two Navy ROTC freshmen said the experience has been beneficial to their college experience. One Air Force ROTC junior even had the opportunity to study abroad in Lithuania.
Navy ROTC student Donovan Killeen, a freshman from O’Fallon, Missouri, said the week begins bright and early, when he wakes up for Marine Corps-specific physical training, or PT.
“Monday mornings I wake up at five, put all my stuff on, shave any stray hairs, then I head to campus for PT,” he said. “They have us head over to west campus or to the Military Science building and we do workouts. The workouts suck, so you start the day pretty tired.”
Beyond physical training, Killeen said Navy Cadets participate in Navy Lab on Wednesdays, as a part of their normal school day.
“The entire battalion will get together at the MSB and head over to Malott. They give us mandatory briefs we need to do, or sometimes we do breakout labs where we learn some news stuff that we can apply to being an officer,” he said.
Killeen said ROTC is demanding, and made his first semester at the University difficult to manage.
“Personally I hated it at first. I was like, ‘this is not me. I’m not used this.’ High school was really easy for me, but coming to college was a wake up call for me. You have to stay on top of your own stuff, get your homework done and stuff but then you have ROTC commitments,” Killeen said. “You have to be at a certain place, at a certain time, you have to be shaved, you have to be wearing the right stuff. There’s just a lot you have to know.”
For junior Hannah Jerome, the military lifestyle came a bit easier and helped her adjust to college life.
“It wasn’t a shocking experience having to do PT three days a week and go to class,” Jerome said. “I think it actually helped me adjust to college. It made the huge KU campus feel that much smaller, working out with 80 of your closest friends. It’s really just a great start to the day.”
Jerome, who is from Des Moines, Iowa, traveled to Lithuania last summer through the Army program Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency. During her time in the country, Jerome helped Lithuanian military officers learn English.
“They gave us our mission in Fort Knox, and we didn’t know if they had any prior knowledge of English. Thankfully they were somewhat fluent. So we were just helping them become more comfortable,” she said.
Jerome said she and her fellow cadets also participated in weekend excursions, which allowed her to experience more of the country during the summer.
“We were able to go to different areas of Lithuania and really become immersed in the culture. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had,” she said.
Jerome said she was able to serve as the Designated Public Affairs Officer for her Lithuania trip. Now, she’s considering working as a PAO during her service after graduating.
“I was able to document the trip, take photos, write articles about what we were doing, and report back to Brigade here in America,” she said. “It was a really great way for me to get my feet wet in what I want to do eventually. One of the things I’ve learned in the military is there are so many opportunities out there.”
Jerome said her experiences in ROTC have been beneficial both professionally and personally.
“I think you gain a sense of what really matters as an ROTC student,” Jerome said. “When you first get to college, it’s fun to kind of try out the party scene and let loose. As you get closer to graduation, you realize there are more important things. It just gives you a different perspective on what’s actually important.”
Richard “Joey” Procell, a freshman Navy ROTC student from Shawnee, Kansas, said the experience was initially overwhelming.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I did JROTC [Junior ROTC] in high school and it was hard, so I thought it would be similar. School is a lot harder and ROTC is a lot harder, so big difference.”
Killeen said mandatory student hours and a sense of community are some of the most helpful benefits of ROTC.
“People say you’re on you own when you come to college, but with ROTC you have the staff, the officers, and the other midshipmen who are there to help you,” he said. “Everybody accepts you with open arms. It’s hard to make friends in college, but with ROTC there’s automatically 40 people there to talk to.”
— Edited by Erin Brock
Paul Baker, KU's Omelet Chef, loves interactions with students
Chef hat in hand, Baker spends his Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings making omelets for anyone with $4.96 and an appetite.
It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. Climbing the steps of Strong Hall, you can hear the laughter coming from the crowd surrounding Paul Baker before you smell what’s cooking in his pan.
“What do you call a mushroom that goes into a bar and buys a drink for everybody?” Baker asks, as steam billows from the lobby floor to the ceiling. “A fungi.”
At the same time the punchline lands, he drops a handful of mushrooms into one of his two sizzling pans.
Chef hat in hand, Baker spends his Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings making omelets for anyone with $4.96 and an appetite. He sets up in Strong Hall on Wednesdays; Tuesdays are spent on the third floor of Anschutz Library and Thursdays at the Engineering building.
“I have a lot of fun. It’s so nice meeting the students and talking to staff,” Baker said. “Everyone is so creative and friendly.”
However, the interactions that occur over omelets are only the start of Baker’s day. After breakfast hours end, Baker, who is “officially” retired, prepares tax returns for H&R Block, ushers at the Lied Center and works security at football games. Preparing tax returns is his second favorite thing to do with his day, Baker said. His first?
“What do you call a cow with no legs?” asks Baker as a new customer approaching his table eyes the chorizo meat. “Ground beef.”
Senior Andrew Avila, a finance and marketing major from Derby, discovered the omelet chef three years ago as a freshman.
Avila said he recognized the scent of the omelets after visiting Anschutz after a class in Strong Hall. “One day I finally figured out where the smell was coming from when I saw him whipping out some omelets in the middle of Strong Hall.”
According to Avila, Baker’s enthusiasm for his interactions with students is mutual.
“He just kind of always comes in clutch if I hadn’t had any breakfast that day,” Avila said. “He always makes conversation with me as he works his magic in the pan.”
As far as Baker’s go-to breakfast? Omelets sometimes get old, he admits, but there’s one omelet in particular that he can’t turn down.
“I’m very plain. I have the Denver Omelet, [a] ham and cheese omelet,” Baker said. “I’m a good midwestern boy.”
The Iowa native’s sense of humor always remains intact despite waking up at 4 a.m., something he has enjoyed for as long as he can remember. He likes the mornings, he says, noting his wife is likely still at home herself in bed as he stands behind his grills, ingredients and hungry fans.
He has been waking up this early to serve breakfast from the table as an employee of KU Catering for the past 11 years. Before that he worked as a Certified Public Accountant and before that he earned a Bachelors and Masters degree in Physics from Iowa State as well as an MBA from Stanford.
“What’s a deer with no eyes?” asks Baker, turning down the grills for the final omelets of the morning. “No eye-dear.”
Regulars hurry by as Baker rattles off their orders without a hitch, checking to see if they want to make any changes to their usual order and making sure they know it will be waiting for them after their meeting or class with a lid on the top to keep it warm.
“Yeah, I have groupies that follow me around,” Baker says as he finishes the last of the 90 eggs he began the morning with. “Just kidding,” he adds humbly with a laugh.
Another joke. However, this one is different than the rest.
The punch line? He’ll bring fresh eggs and new jokes on Thursday, but loyal fans as well as new ones — groupies — will no doubt be waiting.
— Edited by Erin Brock
To KU data guru Deb Teeter, it’s all about the people
Teeter has been working in analytics at KU for 45 years. Not only has she changed the way the University handles the data, but she has forever impacted the lives of those that work with her.
Since 1972, seven chancellors have led the University and nine deans have headed up the College of Liberal Arts and Science. The University’s enrollment has grown from just over 20,000 students to just over 28,000. And Deb Teeter has been here through it all: nearly 45 years of working with top administration in one of the University’s most little-known offices.
As an MBA student in 1972, Teeter was offered a chance to work with one of her advisors to start a new office on campus: the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. OIRP, as it’s now known, collects all sorts of data from all over the University, compiles it, analyzes it and suggests ways to use it.
“We can see all sorts of interesting things in the data, to say, ‘Hey, you might not be aware of this, but this might be something you want to look at,’” Teeter, now OIRP’s director, said. “It’s how to create an awareness, a mindfulness, of what is happening and where we might want to put some time and attention.”
In her time, Teeter has seen OIRP data play a major part in decisions like state funding requests, affirmative action policies, expanded advising services, tuition changes and curriculum requirements. Students themselves have even used the data in efforts like the 2003 bond issue to fund the Ambler Recreation Center and in the 2007 implementation of the tuition compact.
“The opportunity students have to influence things here is tremendous,” Teeter said. “Students who can and choose to get active, they really can have a pretty significant voice. We’re helping them give voice to some of those things.”
But putting the data into action is not only about putting the numbers together, Teeter says. Working with so many top administrators, including provosts, chancellors, deans and vice provosts, means getting to know them and tailoring the data to fit their preferences.
“People say, ‘How can you do the same thing for 45 years?’ Well, I don’t do the same thing for 45 years,” She said. “What keeps it most interesting for me is all the different people I’ve worked with over the years.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is always informed by her extensive administration experience when she looks at statistics she’s presented, Teeter said. Provost Neeli Bendapudi is extremely analytical of the data, preferring to spend her time trying to understand where numbers come from.
“Dealing with an economist versus dealing with someone out of the humanities versus someone who is a physical scientist or chemist, they all approached things really differently,” Teeter said. “And that’s what’s made it tremendous fun.”
One of Teeter’s former employees in OIRP, Richard McKinney, said he’s always been impressed with her ability to read people.
“She has a very astute sense of reading people, figuring out what their needs might be,” he said. “What they’re saying as well as what they’re not saying. What they’re really trying to ask as opposed to the words that they’re using to ask it.”
Though she’s always seen people as central to her job, Teeter said the people around her have become even more important to her in the last ten years or so. She’s made an effort to reach out to her former mentors to thank them and tried to make sure she’s serving as a mentor to others.
McKinney, who now serves as the University’s budget director, is one of these people. He started working at the University almost 35 years ago in OIRP. He said he never planned to spend so much of his career at the University, but he loved what he was doing so much that he stayed, in part because of Teeter.
“She saw something in me that she wanted me to stay at the University and gave me opportunities and there have been folks subsequent to me that she has done that for,” he said. “And when you have that credibility that spills over, that’s worked to my advantage and certainly other folks as well.”
Because of the effort Teeter’s put into mentorship in recent years, she said she feels confident that when she chooses to retire, the department she’s brought from the ground up will be in good hands.
But, for now, she’s sticking around. It’s the same thing she’s done for 45 years for one simple reason: “It’s fun.”
— Edited by Sean Collins