Doing it all: Pharmacy student stays involved in activities he’s passionate about outside of the classroom
By: Alana Flinn | @alana_flinn
Standing in his apartment kitchen, 4P pharmacy student Alex Kong adds a splash of whiskey to his apple cupcake mixture. For Kong, baking is a way for him to turn the science he studies into something fun.
“I started baking when I was working on an experiment I couldn’t get down,” Kong said. “I was frustrated with it because I couldn’t get it to work. During this time, I gained my appreciation for [baking] because so much of chemistry and experiments go into baking.”
However, baking is just Kong’s hobby to help him unwind, following a day of working on a large variety of activities.
Kong conducts pharmaceutical research in two labs on campus, is the business director and member of Genuine Imitation A Cappella and the 4P pharmacy class president.
Beyond that, Kong is the chapter president of Mortar Board Honor Society, the founder and president of Society of Scientists and a co-founder of ResearchRx. He’s also an ambassador for the Center for Undergraduate Research, an ambassador for the Honors Program and a Scholar for the Hall Center for the Humanities.
Kong is also working on writing a personal memoir about his life as a second-generation Chinese American and on Thursdays, Kong reads the University Daily Kansan to the blind.
And how does Kong manage to have time for each of these organizations and events?
“Not well,” Kong said jokingly.
However, Kong said he thinks he has done a “pretty good job of making sure everything goes smooth so far.”
For Kong, being involved with so many organizations on campus is less about building a resume and more about pursuing his passions.
“I’m involved in a lot of things, but what’s cool about that is I’m involved in so much because I really do care about every activity I’ve committed to,” Kong said.
While it may seem like Kong does it all, he does tend to avoid certain types of activities.
“Pretty much anything that requires physical coordination and gracefulness,” Kong said.
Luckily, Kong’s passions are less about physical ability and more about brainpower. Looking to the future, Kong said he thinks engulfing himself in activities, events and organizations will pay off in applications for scholarships and graduate school, but that is not his priority. Long term, Kong sees himself as a professor at a university.
“I hope to work at a university where I can research and teach,” Kong said. “It’s hard to pinpoint a certain topic, especially since I know that I have so many more professors to work with in the future and areas to discover, but it will be in some way related to drug development. [Being involved] has helped me to become a more well-rounded person. For me, it’s never really been about boosting my resume so much as doing the things that I legitimately enjoy.”
But, for now, Kong is encouraging younger students to pursue their own passions.
“A lot of the time, when I meet with these prospective students, they talk about how they’re really passionate about a sport or their religion or music, but they don’t know if they can manage it on top of their studies,” Kong said. “And what I like to tell them is to not let their passions die, because even though you’re switching to college and have these preconceived notions about what college will be like, it’s really a shame to let these passions go.”
Kong, who finds that everything he has been involved with at the University has truly shaped him into the person he is now, really encourages others to do the same.
“All of these experiences that I’ve had have become part of who I am,” Kong said. “All of these things come together and having something to be passionate about, whether it be one thing or several, has been a really defining moment in my KU experience and I feel like it should be in others as well.”
While Kong spends more time in the lab than the kitchen, he does have a baking specialty.
“Alcoholic cupcakes,” Kong said. “I have this huge alcohol collection, but I don’t drink. I just put it into food.”
— Edited by Miranda Davis
Right on time: For Stowers, new family trumps football
By: Christian Hardy | @HardyNFL
Keon Stowers awoke in his apartment at Jayhawker Towers and glanced at the clock. He hustled out of bed, grabbed his things and sprinted as fast as a 6-foot-2, 324-pound defensive lineman can.
Stowers overslept during a nap in the beginning of his first summer at the University and showed up to practice five minutes late. But Stowers has been fighting against the clock his whole life.
In high school, when Stowers decided he wanted play football, his grades were poor. But when he decided he wanted to turn that around, one teacher at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., wasn’t on the same page.
“I went to a teacher and was like, ‘Can you help me? Can you do this?’ because he was already helping other students after school,” Stowers said. “He basically told me, ‘It’s too late. You should have thought about this a year or two ago.’ I kind of used that my whole life — a teacher telling me it was too late and they couldn’t do anything.”
After high school, he spent two years at Georgia Military College, where he earned his associate degree and caught the eye of multiple Division I colleges. At Georgia Military he was given a rigid and orderly schedule.
Being on time was the most important thing he learned from his time there.
“I was late to one workout ever here at KU, my three years here,” Stowers said. “Everything else, I’ve never been late, never missed anything, always been on time.
“I take pride in that,” he said.
‘Nothing but good things to say’
Now, ready to graduate from the University in May with a Bachelor of General Studies in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a minor in history, he has a lot more to be proud of than being on time.
Stowers was courted by a handful of NFL scouts at Kansas’ Pro Day on March 25, including the Texans, who said they wanted him in their training camp.
On Saturday, Stowers proposed to his longtime girlfriend and mother of his son, Carley Baker, during a two-day vacation — their first together since their son was born — in Branson, Mo. In May, their son, Dallas Anderson Stowers, will celebrate his first birthday.
Baker, who works at her son’s day care, has given Stowers the structure that he needs but lacked for the first part of his life.
“She’s been instrumental,” Stowers said. “She’s been to almost all of my games from high school to junior college to here. It’s been great to be able to have someone like that. When I’ve been up, she’s been there, and when I’ve been down she’s been there. It’s been really good to have support and her family.”
His parents were both in and out of jail when he was growing up, and, without structure, Stowers started to follow that same path. Soon, he realized he didn’t want that, so he turned to football and started improving his grades.
“I definitely think I would be selling drugs, in jail, dead, somewhere, if I didn't choose to go the right way,” Stowers said. “I probably — definitely wouldn’t be with her, because, I mean, she liked the bad boys a little bit, but what I was doing was too much. I don’t think her parents would have accepted me.”
Stowers didn’t meet Baker’s family from South Carolina until the two had been dating for a year. When they started dating, Stowers was a senior and had already picked himself up out of the hole he was in, but Baker, who is white, wasn't sure if her parents would accept Stowers because he is black.
"I knew my dad wasn't going to go for that,” she said.
But when Stowers went away to Georgia Military, Baker knew she had to tell her parents something. The next weekend, when he was back in Rock Hill, Baker’s dad, Anderson, wouldn’t let Stowers come into the house, and he told him to get into his truck for a ride.
“He went and and told him, ‘I’ll kill you if you hurt her,’ ” Baker said.
“He did say that,” Stowers interrupted, laughing. “With a shotgun in the back of the truck.”
But after seeing Stowers, Anderson, who died last year, started to seek out more information about this kid who was dating his daughter.
“He was trying to find something bad about him, but nobody could say anything bad,” Baker said. “He talked to our football coach at our high school, and he had nothing but good things to say about him.”
Since Stowers didn’t have a home in Rock Hill when his mom was in prison, Baker’s home became his own when he was in town. But his family from his hometown — eight brothers and one stepsister — are still struggling, for the most part.
“They’re still there, and it’s kind of like you almost feel like survivor’s guilt,” Stowers said. “I’m onto bigger and better things and making a life with my family now, and they’re still there living the life that people live there.”
Stowers’ past has influenced his outlook on life.
“You can be successful in what you do and what you love, and I think they definitely saw that,” Stowers said. “Keep going. Keep trying. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it, or don’t let one incident mess up everything else that you’re trying to do.”
Stowers’ name isn’t expected to be called in the upcoming NFL Draft, though he’ll be highly sought after; he’s expected to be a priority undrafted free agent.
When he gets the call from a team, he’ll send his dad an email or pick up a phone and call him, as he does almost every week. And he might pay per minute to talk to his mom in a state penitentiary.
But everything Stowers has done since he’s been at Kansas is to benefit his new family, Baker and Dallas, who have supported him and always been there for him.
After he injured his pectoral muscle on Pro Day, he said he realized how fleeting a career in football can be. And he doesn’t want to be late preparing for his future.
“If I have to get the surgery and I’m unable to get picked up by a team this year, I’m going to probably retire from football,” Stowers said. “I have a family, and a life to attend to. You can’t spend it chasing a silly dream. You have to enjoy it when you’re in it, but once you’re out, you’re out.
“Now I’ve got to start prepping my little guy to get up there and to be a Jayhawk,” he said.
— Edited by Emma LeGault
By: Ben Felderstein | @Ben__Felderstein
It’s 5:15 in the morning when her alarm goes off, but she has already been up for hours. For Kiley Dombroski, the inability to sleep on the mornings before dance workouts is a typical routine.
Dombroski is a junior from Lakewood, Colo., and a member of the Rock Chalk Dancers.
“On the days that I have workouts, I’m usually waking up anxious every hour,” Dombroski said.
Dombroski is a journalism major with focus in strategic communications, and is minoring in creative writing. She has spent her last three years on the University’s dance team.
Dombroski juggles dance, school work and classes, and being a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
“I make it work,” Dombroski said. “You have to sacrifice sleep sometimes, but I’m the type of person that needs to be staying busy.”
Growing up in Colorado, most of Kiley’s high school friends attended local schools such as the University of Colorado. Dombroski wanted to get away from home and start a new chapter in her life.
Kiley came to visit Kansas during the final Kansas-Mizzou basketball game in 2012. Following the victory, Kiley and her father rushed to Massachusetts Street to see many students and Kansas fans celebrating in the street.
“My dad looked at me and said, ‘This is where you’re going’,” Dombroski said. “I fell in love with the campus, the tradition, everything.”
The dance team plays a large role in the University’s tradition, and they have a big presence at sports events happening throughout the year.
Dancing at basketball games will always be one of Kiley’s most cherished memories, from building relationships with the other dancers to getting to lead fans in the Rock Chalk chant on one of the most famous basketball courts in America.
“It’s the best, most unreal feeling, standing out on the court doing the Rock Chalk chant,” Dombroski said. “It gives me goose bumps every time. It’s something only a few people will experience in their lives.”
The Rock Chalk Dancers serve as ambassadors to the University, and have a lot of responsibility to keep up a strong public image. Kiley and her team run camps for children and make many public appearances.
With the hectic schedule of a dancer, things are often subject to change.
“We have a motto on the team,” Dombroski said. “It’s cope and adjust. We say ‘Okay, reset and go on with whatever you have to do’.”
Kiley and the rest of the Rock Chalk dancers have developed bonds that are as strong as familial ties. Dombroski attended a former dancer’s wedding this past summer with close to 30 other dancers.
Seeing seniors at the center of the court on their senior night is always an emotional experience. For Kiley, this year’s senior night meant that she is one year closer to her last game dancing at the Fieldhouse.
She got a call that night from her former teammate that had just gotten married saying how crazy it is that the next last game will be her last.
“They’re going to have to drag me off the court crying,” Dombroski said. “It’ll be hard to get me out of Allen [Fieldhouse].”
After Kiley’s senior night this next fall, she hopes to graduate the following May and start another chapter in her life in sports marketing. Dombroski hopes to stay around the University and live in Lawrence for a little while.
Kiley has loved every moment she has spent dancing for Kansas, but does not see that as a part of her life going forward after graduation.
“A lot of girls try out for the Chiefs or Broncos,” Dombroski said. “But I don’t really think that’s for me.”
With the semester winding down and the summer growing near, come next fall, it will be Kiley’s last year as a Rock Chalk Dancer.
It will be her last year waking up at 5:15 a.m. for workouts, and her last year making public appearances and posing for pictures with little kids; it will be her last year dancing on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium, and her final season leading 16,300 people in the Rock Chalk chant from the court of Allen Fieldhouse.
But it won’t be the last time she practices the traditions of being a Jayhawk and spends time with her teammates; it won’t be the last time she gets goose bumps inside Allen Fieldhouse, or has that familiar eerie chill running down her spine that everyone feels during the Rock Chalk chant.
“I’ve learned so much about life from being a Rock Chalk Dancer,” Dombroski said. “And to know that the way we do things is the same as we’ve always done it at a school that is so rich in tradition and basketball history is really special.”
–– Edited by Lane Cofas
By: Ben Lipowitz
Visiting design Assistant Professor and Kansas native Tim Hossler uses what he learned under the guidance of Rolling Stone photographer Annie Leibovitz as inspiration in and out of the classroom
How did you get started?
“Well, I grew up in Dodge City, Kan. From really early on, like age 11 or 12, I really wanted to be an architect. Because I’m an only child, I guess, all of our family vacations were based on Frank Lloyd Wright houses because that was the only architect that they knew of. It became this really great experience of traveling and visiting real architecture. So I went to Kansas State to study architecture. Kind of in the middle architecture school, I realized that I loved everything about school, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I loved all the other parts like doing posters and books and doing all the other models. Then I realized that graphic design and art directing was what I was really interested in. So after K-State, I moved to New York City. After several years of working for various design firms, I made contact with the Annie Leibovitz Studio.”
Who is Annie Leibovitz?
“She started off working for the Rolling Stone magazine in the very early 1970s. She was really young and the magazine was really young. She was just a celebrity music photographer that … through the ’70s and the ’80s became more and more famous for taking portraits, but more unusual portraits where something about the personality with the people would come into the shoot.”
What was your role with Annie Leibovitz?
“I always described it as: I did everything after the photographs were taken. We did a lot of photo editing with her or piecing stuff together with her. We did a lot of compositing of images. And then I would do the layouts for the magazines and for the books. I would go with her to Vogue and Vanity Fair and meet with the editors and art directors, and basically, we would just tell them what she wanted.”
What was working with her like?
“Well I mean it was amazing. It was kind of like the best graduate school I could have ever had because you’re standing next to one of the most famous photographers in the entire world, just hearing her comments about stuff or hearing the stories about the shoots. Sometimes I would actually travel with her and be on set and just see how the photographs were made. She’s just like a genius, and not only is she a genius with photography, but she is very interested in the history of photography and other forms of art such as architecture, which is really why I got the job in the first place. She was such a big fan of architecture, so we had that immediate connection.”
What do you take from that experience with Annie that you give to your students?
“One thing is, hopefully, teaching by example. Like follow your dreams and push yourself to do the best thing you can do, even if that thing might seem super crazy. Find the people you want to work with. Find the cities you want to live in. But then also be flexible enough. There’s going to be your dreams, but then there’s also going to be those paths that come along and be willing to take them and be willing to change your goals.”
What is your favorite thing to design?
“Well I love doing books. I love working with museums, artists and photographers. Last spring I did a book for the Nelson Atkins Museum that was about their anniversary of their sculpture garden, and it was about the new Robert Morris glass labyrinth. The book is made out of the glass panels and then it has this bronze cap on the top of it. Its really exciting and really neat. The projects that have been the best are the ones when you are working with a group of people that are very confident and who are excited about what they are doing. Also the time schedule was super fast and I like working on those faster quicker projects because I feel like the longer ones, you are just kind of spinning your wheels for too long. I don’t know if it was my favorite project of all time, but it is one that I feel really good about.”
What is a day in your life like?
“I have two daughters, so in the morning we’re always rushing around to get breakfast and get them ready for school. My wife also teaches here at KU. She teaches a freshman design class so our mornings are sort of on and off. So some mornings I am teaching, so she is getting the kids ready for school, and sometimes she is teaching, so I am the one to do it. ... And then there’s teaching. The design classes are studio classes, and they are three-hour blocks. I love teaching that way because I love getting to know my students and having one-on-one communication with them. When I am not teaching, I am working on other projects. Right now I am working on a guidebook for Havana, Cuba. So it feels like all my time outside of class right now is trying to figure out what that is going to be and doing research and reading and looking. Feels like most of my day and then I get home and have dinner and prepare for my next day.”
What else are you working on right now?
“I am doing a book for the museum I used to work at before I came to KU, which is called the Wolfsonian down in Miami Beach. It’s an academic journal about souvenirs and photography and about memory. [It] should be out on press in early May, so I’m in the middle of that process.”
Is it tough to balance the outside of school projects with teaching?
“Yeah, a little bit. It’s one of those things that I am constantly trying to figure out the timing of. For 20 years I worked on the outside of academia. I worked for artists or museums, so all of my attention was focused on those projects. And then I feel like with academia, there’s the teaching, the research, the service that it’s never quite as defying timewise.”
What is the main thing you want your students to take away from all of your classes?
“I just hope that I teach to look and look and look as a designer and photographer because you’re making stuff. You’re creating and developing things so you need to look and be inspired by things maybe you’re not even studying. Like if you’re a photographer, look at other photographers and know the history of photography, but also look at art, look at culture, look at films. Even everyday kind of stuff that normal people wouldn’t be looking at. What that will do is enrich your ideas, and that will give you a different point of view that anyone else has.”
— Edited by Yu Kyung Lee
By: Kate Miller | @_Kate_Miller_
Like those of his native country, graduate architecture student Bakary Suso always has a smile on his face.
“The Gambia may be the poorest in the world, but one thing I know about them is their resilience,” Suso said. “You can see somebody who doesn’t have much, but they’re always smiling. That makes me really want to do a lot of things because people smile no matter what [in the Gambia.] And that lights a fire to keep me going.”
Suso, the founder of the nonprofit KINitiative, is currently working to bring affordable and sustainable health care centers to the African country of the Gambia. The nonprofit aims to bring community centers like health clinics and playgrounds to rural areas of the country, as well as employment and empowerment for residents of the area.
Suso, who lived in the Gambia until he was 18, founded KINitiative as a response to his own childhood experiences in the country. Growing up, Suso lacked a public playground, explaining that he and his friends played in the streets — the same streets through which traffic ran every day.
“Growing up, I didn’t have that protected space,” he said. “Granted, growing up, we were able to be kids and run wild, and we were given that playtime. But we were not in a protected area.”
Suso’s main focus in founding KINitiative was to create those spaces for the people of the Gambia. He wants to build playgrounds that also double as youth centers.
“Last time I was in the Gambia to do my research, in terms of playgrounds, we only had two public playgrounds for 1.8 million people,” he said. “So, I think this is something that I will pursue eventually, but through architecture, I’m trying to see how I can help not just Gambia, but Africa as a whole.”
Currently, KINitiative is in the process of building and designing a Reproductive Child Health (RCH) center for communities in the Gambia. Suso said this project came out of his recent visit to the Gambia, where he saw the lack of available health services for people in rural areas.
The healthcare system of Gambia is divided into three sectors: hospitals, health centers and RCH centers. The 280 RCH centers are located in rural areas of the country without access to other health care.
Suso said two health care providers visit each RCH center once a month to cater to women in need of prenatal care and children under five. The conditions are far from ideal.
“The spaces they go to sometimes are almost falling apart,” he said. “Some of them are pretty much nonexistent. Some of them have a nurse assistant sitting under a tree, and there’s a long line. One of them was so bad, it had animal feces all over the floor. Some women actually have their children in these places. As soon as I saw that, I knew this takes more of my attention.”
Suso and KINitiative recently presented their proposals for a new RCH design to government officials in the Gambia. At this point, KINitative’s design is set to be the new standard for RCH centers in the country.
The new design aims to make the centers as sustainable and affordable as possible. While concrete is the usual construction material in the Gambia, it is too expensive to maintain for the poor living in rural areas. Suso said a bag of cement can cost $10, while the typical monthly salary for a Gambian in this area is $30.
In addition, the new design will provide a community space when it’s not in use as a health center. Because the Gambia can lack accessible electricity, Suso wants the centers to provide a guaranteed area for children to work on homework. A playground will also be built around the structure.
“I talk to [the community] about the ideas and what these spaces should look like,” he said. “It’s not me just imposing my ideas but listening to them. We can design together. Our goal of KINitiative is to involve communities in this design process. We want to empower them.”
KINitiative is composed of several University students and alumni, with several professors acting as advisors. Eddy Tavio, an architecture student who graduated with his master’s in 2012, is Suso’s co-founder.
“[Bakary] definitely has a way of keeping things calm,” Tavio said. “It’s kind of a crazy process; it’s very chaotic in that we’re not only trying to figure out how to do the work but also how to manage it.”
Tavio, a native of Venezuela, shares with Suso the desire to empower the communities KINitiative serves, not to just impose their own ideas.
“We want to talk about solutions,” Tavio said. “We want to be perceived as an organization that provides support.”
When Suso graduates in May, he looks forward to continuing with KINitiative. He will continue to oversee the design and construction of his first RCH center in the Gambia this semester, as he anticipates sending the final designs at the end of April and receiving the estimated cost for the building. After that, the fundraising process begins.
Suso said he is extremely thankful for the opportunity that his studies at the University have provided. Coming to study in the United States from the Gambia has given him an even greater appreciation for education than he had in the Gambia.
“Students don’t know the power they have,” he said. “I wish I thought about this three years ago rather than just last year because as a student, people are willing to help. People are really willing to listen to you because they see themselves in you, or they see themselves and something they wish they could do. It is good for students to really take leadership roles and be passionate about something. Students have more power than they know they have.”
To Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, all Jews are family
By: Mackenzie Clark | @mclark59
When a student mentioned his plans to spend Passover in Oklahoma with a friend’s grandparents, Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel wouldn’t let him leave the Chabad Center empty-handed.
Instead, Tiechtel used tissue paper to wrap some delicate handmade matzos, or unleavened bread eaten during Passover. He placed them in a cardboard box with a note wishing the family a happy holiday and sent the student on his way.
To those who don’t know him, this may appear to be an act of kindness toward strangers. For Tiechtel, it’s simply a message of love to his extended Jewish family.
Along with his wife, Nechama Tiechtel, the rabbi directs the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Life. The center serves as a “home away from home” for Jewish students at the University and is open to all who want to learn more about the faith and culture.
The center’s motto is “labels are for shirts, not for people,” and its services are not limited to members of a particular denomination of Judaism.
“What defines your Jewishness has nothing to do with your level of practice, your affiliation, how you label yourself — it is simply the fact that you are part of the Jewish family,” he said.
Born and raised alongside 12 siblings in Brooklyn, N.Y., Tiechtel experienced major culture shock when he, his wife and his firstborn daughter, Mina, moved to Lawrence 9 years ago. (Listen more about his move here: https://soundcloud.com/mclark59/rabbi-zalman-tiechtel-on-moving-to-lawrence-kansas)
“I remember the first time I saw what happens at a four-way stop sign in Kansas,” he said. “In New York, it doesn’t work, because everyone would try to go first; in Kansas, everybody’s waiting for you to go first. That is something which I really appreciate.”
Although it was difficult to leave behind his neighborhood — one abundant in kosher delis, kosher bakeries and synagogues — Tiechtel said he believes his life in Lawrence is his destiny, and he was brought here by faith and fate.
“Everybody has a calling, and if we’re willing to listen and hear it, then we will be able to achieve our life’s purpose,” Tiechtel said. “I believe that me being in Lawrence, Kan., is not by default. This is the purpose of my soul’s journey into this world.”
Tiechtel said he learned of the University’s need when he met a rabbi from Kansas City “by divine providence.”
“I had this dream of moving anywhere — it made no difference to me where — where there was potential to contribute to the community,” he said.
Tiechtel and his family “fell in love” with Lawrence and signed a lease on the spot when they stumbled upon a duplex near campus. He said at that point they didn’t even realize this would be a prime location for students.
Two months later, the students who lived on the other side of the duplex moved out and the Tiechtels leased the other side. The Chabad Center’s popularity grew, and in 2008 the family purchased the property.
“The only mistake we made is that we underestimated the potential for success,” he said.
The Chabad Center, 1201 W. 19th St., offers Jewish students Shabbat dinner every week. At the first dinner in March 2006, the Tiechtels welcomed just a handful; now, an average of 50 to 80 students attend each week.
His family has grown as well; he is a proud father of four daughters and three sons, ranging in age from 4 months to 9 years. He also calls himself a “proud Jewhawk.”
Tiechtel said his daily schedule varies, which he likes. Some days he visits hospitals and prisons, and he is in charge of fundraising for the Chabad Center. He often talks to concerned parents of students at the University. He frequently meets with students for personal talks or to plan events, which is a major part of the Chabad Center’s purpose.
“The biggest obstacle for growth for college students today is stigma, and we are here to rewrite the experience,” he said.
Tiechtel said no matter what his schedule holds, he aims to do three things each day: make time to pray three times, have a personal interaction with a student and do something outside his comfort zone.
Despite his honest smile, life is not always easy for Tiechtel and his extended family. In 2008, he lost a fellow rabbi and childhood friend from his neighborhood in Brooklyn. The friend and his wife were killed in a terrorist attack at their Chabad house in Mumbai, India.
Last April, a shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park shook the Jewish community. “The J,” as its attendees call it, is where three of Tiechtel’s children attend school.
Tiechtel said in times of challenge, what drives you will determine how you move forward.
“The only way we were able to overcome that hardship in 2008 was by remembering why we’re here,” Tiechtel said. “If you focus on the purpose and the mission, you win. You keep on going.”
— Edited by Yu Kyung Lee
Chasing the Cup: Senior chaser Bradley Vonada finds niche on the pitch for Kansas Quidditch team
By: Brian Hillix | @DoubleHillix
Armed with a broom in one hand and a quaffle in the other, senior Bradley Vonada steps onto Robinson field as his team begins the day’s practice for the looming World Cup Championship.
Vonada, a chemical engineering major from Shawnee, is a chaser and the vice president for the Kansas Quidditch club team. This is Vonada’s third year playing the sport inspired by the popular “Harry Potter” book series.
Looking to join a club at the student fair his freshman year, Vonada spotted the Quidditch club. He enjoys playing sports, and he likes Harry Potter, so the decision to join wasn’t a difficult one.
“I thought, ‘Let’s try something new,’” Vonada said. “‘Let’s try something that not every kid says they played growing up.’”
Life on the pitch
Vonada said a typical week for him includes three practices that last about two hours each. Practices include a warmup, stretches, position drills and usually conclude with a short scrimmage. The team practices at Robinson field off Sunnyside Avenue.
Kansas has competed in three tournaments and a head-to-head matchup this season. Depending on the size of the tournament, Vonada said he has played in as many as six matches in a single day, and as many as 10 in a two-day span. A typical Quidditch match lasts about 25 minutes, but Vonada said one can last as long as an hour and a half.
As an outdoor sport, the team doesn’t always play in ideal conditions. Vonada said the temperature for one tournament bottomed out at 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
“If the temperature was anywhere in the 20s or above, we were practicing because we needed to get used to what it would be like,” Vonada said.
To stay in shape on off-days, Vonada spends a lot of time at the Rec Center. He said players are responsible for conditioning on their own, as practices are mainly devoted to enhancing skills and simulating game situations.
Vonada needs that conditioning as a chaser, which is the position responsible for scoring by throwing the quaffle, or in Muggle terms a volleyball, through one of three hoops.
“I like the chaser position because it’s a lot more pass-oriented and it’s a very offensive position,” Vonada said. “I’ve always enjoyed the teamwork aspect.”
Senior year success
With a 14-2 record this season, Kansas Quidditch is currently ranked No. 13 in the country, according to the US Quidditch organization. Vonada said the team peaked at No. 2 earlier in the season behind the University of Maryland.
In October, Kansas finished first in the Kansas Cup tournament, where it went 4-0 and defeated the University of Minnesota in the championship.
The team is now preparing for the Quidditch World Championship, which Vonada said is the March Madness of Quidditch. The tournament will be in Rock Hill, S.C., on April 11-12, where 80 teams and 1,600 players will compete for the Quidditch Cup. The University of Texas took home the cup in 2014.
His best quidditch moment
Two years ago, that setting provided Vonada with what he said is his “best time at KU.”
Up against a heavily favored Baylor squad that had been ranked No. 1 in the country, Kansas pulled off the upset by snagging the snitch to end the match with a narrow 10-point victory in front of hundreds of spectators.
“All the writers had us getting slaughtered,” Vonada said. “But we kept them close throughout the game and eventually pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Quidditch at the time.”
That momentum carried to the next round against a Marquette team that took first place at the Midwest Regional Championship that season. Kansas again caught the snitch to claim the match and advance in the tournament. The team ended up making the Elite Eight, losing to eventual runner-up UCLA.
Makeup of the quidditch team
Kansas’ team consists of 41 players: 29 men and 12 women.
Vonada said a lot of players on the team played sports in high school, but the team also includes people who hadn’t competed athletically before college.
“[Those players] are outstanding for having never played sports,” Vonada said. “They’re taking some of our top spots.”
In addition to the 41 players on the team, Vonada said other students will occasionally practice with the team to simply try out the sport. He said you don’t have to travel with the team to participate.
“That’s something we encourage,” Vonada said. “We want to spread the sport, and we want everyone to have fun and try something new.”
Not everyone on the team is a Harry Potter fanatic, but a good portion of the team likes to stick to its roots, Vonada said. The team’s captain, senior Kate Cooley of Topeka, owns a Christmas tree covered in Harry Potter ornaments, complete with a sorting hat at the top.
Vice presidential duties
As vice president of the club, Vonada assists the president with tasks like deciding which tournaments to compete in, planning trips and planning how to fund them.
The club primarily relies on merchandise sales to help fund its trips to tournaments. It sells items like T-shirts, jerseys and sunglasses.
Vonada also helps to promote the sport on campus and in the community. He organizes appearances at University fairs and local elementary and high schools. He also wears his Kansas Quidditch jersey on campus, sparking conversations with strangers who are interested in the club.
Future of quidditch
Vonada said the sport has continued to grow in popularity nationwide, noting the recent creation of Major League Quidditch, a national league composed of teams from Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Rochester, Indianapolis, Detroit and Ottawa.
When Vonada sees the “Harry Potter” characters playing Quidditch in the movies, he wonders if the sport will evolve to the point where it can be played with flying brooms and a floating snitch.
“Maybe we could be the next sport on TV,” Vonada said. “In 20 years, I could definitely see Quidditch becoming a big deal.”
— Edited by Paige Lytle
Football coach Clint Bowen balances family life with 12-hour work day
By: Kate Miller
It would be safe to say that Clint Bowen lives, breathes and eats football. Rather than a normal nine-hour workday, Bowen’s days include 12 hours of football practices, planning and administration. Bowen looks forward to every day he gets to do what he loves — coach football.
“When the players walk in the building, and you actually start to get to the part of the job that we all signed up for — to coach football and to be around the players — that when it’s a good time,” he said. “The four hours of the day that the players are here — that’s the best part.”
On a typical weekday, practice is the first item on the list, with players arriving early in the morning. During the first practice of the day with the whole coaching staff, game plans and travel schedules are solidified, injuries and personnel are accounted for, and, of course, the players get a tough workout, supplied by Bowen.
After practice, Bowen prepares for upcoming games — watching game reels and perfecting game plans. Practice rolls around again in the afternoon, and Bowen shares his games plans with his players, reports on recruiting efforts and sends his players off for another two-hour practice. While afternoon practice ends at 6:30 p.m. for the team, Bowen and the coaching staff spend the next couple of hours reviewing videos and notes from that practice. A few recruiting phone calls are made in the evening, game plans are once again revised and Bowen leaves the Anderson Family Football Complex late in the evening, well after the sun has set.
Born and raised in Lawrence, Bowen has been a Jayhawk and a football player since birth. Part of a football family dynasty — his father was a high school All-American and his brother played football for Lawrence High and the University — playing football was inevitable. Despite this, Bowen did not settle into the family sport at the very beginning.
“I tried all the sports,” he said. “[Football] was the one that seemed to work for me the best. I tried to play basketball, I tried to play baseball, and the success wasn’t the same. It was pretty evident where my body and my physical skill set was meant to go.”
This skill allowed Bowen to make a name for himself as a player, first in high school and then as a defensive back at the University. Now, as a coach, Bowen brings his own personal experience into his practices.
“I think it helps to understand that there is a part of this that is difficult,” he said. “It’s physically and mentally difficult to go 12 weeks of a college football season. Your body is beat up, you get yourself on these emotional highs and emotional lows with wins and losses during the course of the season.”
Bowen has experienced his fair share of wins and losses at the University. The program’s success has varied over the years, but Bowen remains optimistic, largely because of the team’s improvement when he was a player here.
“When I first got here at the University of Kansas as a player, we weren’t very good,” he said. “We won three games my first year; we had won one the year before. By the time I left, we won nine. So I get the comments that get made on campus. I understood what those comments meant — I heard those same comments in the classroom. I think that’s been helpful to explain to you guys that there is a chance for success. You have to work hard to get it, but we’ve turned it around before, from not being very good to being very good. It can be done.”
Although Bowen coaches 99 dedicated football players every day, his favorite athletes aren’t on the KU team roster. In fact, these athletes haven’t even made it out of elementary school.
Bowen’s two sons, Baylor and Banks, are the youngest of many generations of sports-playing Bowens — 10 and eight years old, respectively. Their father spends most of his free time watching his sons play various sports.
“My life right now seems to be going to youth sports events year-round,” he said. “Both of [my sons] have taken a liking to that kind of world.”
Specifically, the Bowen boys enjoy playing basketball, baseball, and, of course, football. While their father has not had the opportunity to coach them as of yet, he looks forward to the possibility of doing so in the future.
“I kind of wish I could [coach them] at some point in time, but this job situation doesn’t really allow for that,” he said. “But it’s also good to sit back and watch other guys deal with the things that come with coaching.”
Coaching has always been a staple in Bowen’s family life. He met his wife at the University when he was a graduate assistant working on the coaching staff. Bowen has been in the coaching profession for the entirety of their relationship, something he says is a good thing for the two of them.
“This job can be taxing on relationships, what with the time commitment it takes,” he said. “The travel, the recruiting time — it can be hard on a relationship. The first time we ever met, that was what I was doing, that’s where we’ve been the whole time. My boys — that’s the hardest part. When I leave, they ask ‘When am I going to see you again?’ That part’s tough, but they understand. The season is the rough part, and we always say we’re going to make up for it in different ways after the season.”
While Bowen’s job limits some of what his family can do, they make the most of it in the little breaks that he has.
“We try to do as many fun things as we can,” he said. “We like to hit the lake, do a little boating. We like to do some speed golfing, where I hit it, and [the boys] just chase their balls all over the course — it’s like a marathon for them. We’re kind of a little day-trip kind of family. We’ll hit little goofy places around the state and do different things.”
Despite the time constraints that come with the job, Bowen looks forward to the opportunities presented to him through his profession. His love for the game and the community where he grew up motivate him to make a difference with the chance he’s been given.
“Any time you get to represent the University of Kansas, and you get to wear that jersey and helmet that say KU on it, there’s a special privilege that comes with that,” he said, recalling his favorite part of playing and coaching football. “I think there’s a lot of pride in that.”
— Edited by Emily Brown
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
What you haven't heard about Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
By: Hannah Barling | @hannahova2me
You know her as Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, the woman who oversees the University of Kansas and its entirety. But have you ever wondered what a typical day in the life of our 17th chancellor is like, besides the dozens of meetings and events she attends?
Each morning she wakes up between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., showers, eats breakfast and gets dressed. She takes her coffee black with sugar or sweetener, but, “If I’m feeling very expensive, I’ll put cream in it,” Gray-Little said.
She reads the newspaper — print edition, not online — and drives to her parking spot behind Strong Hall by 8 a.m. She walks from her big white house on campus only when she doesn’t have to go anywhere else that day, which usually isn’t the case.
After morning business meetings, it’s lunchtime. Soup is usually her lunch of choice — the Italian wedding and Thai chicken soup are her two favorites, but the tomato soup is something Gray-Little isn’t too fond of. “If they have that, I don’t have soup,” Gray-Little said.
Her arrival at the University
Like many little girls, she wanted to be a dancer when she was younger. By the time she reached high school, she didn’t have a particular plan or specific area she wanted to go into.
“I just wanted to go to college,” Gray-Little said.
The chancellor received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marywood College in Scranton, Pa. She then went on to earn a Ph.D in psychology from St. Louis University.
After working 38 years at the University of North Carolina, Gray-Little interviewed for the position of Chancellor of the University in 2009. She didn’t even get the chance to see the Lawrence campus until she was in her final interview and being offered the position.
“I was being interviewed in Topeka and my husband was there and I said, ‘Let’s go and look at the campus,’” Gray-Little said reminiscently with a smile.
Gray-Little and her husband only made it as far as the visitor’s center on Bob Billings Parkway and Iowa Street when she received a phone call from the search committee, offering her the job. They talked on the phone for about 15 to 20 minutes, and told her she had to come back to Topeka immediately for a press conference. So they turned around and drove right back.
“I didn’t get to see the campus until later that day, and I was so happy it was gorgeous,” Gray-Little said.
Her favorite time of year on campus is a tie between spring and fall. The way the streets are laid out, the hill the campus sits upon and the vibrant colors are reasons Gray-Little pridefully thinks campus is “just beautiful.”
A few of her favorite things
Owning between 20 and 30 blazers, Gray-Little is a very poised and put-together woman. She maintains a vegetable garden at home and tomatoes are her favorite vegetable to plant and eat. She is one of eight children, and celebrates the holidays eating and spending time with her family.
Italian sausage is her favorite type of pizza, although she doesn’t eat it often, and See’s Candies peanut brittle is her go-to guilty pleasure.
“If I have See’s peanut brittle, I’ll eat more than I should,” Gray-Little said.
Gray-Little said she has traveled all over the state, the region and the coasts for work, and doesn’t have a particular favorite getaway. But there is one vacation she tries to take each year.
“I like to go to the ocean at least once a year, and spend some days there,” Gray-Little said. “The Atlantic Ocean, some of the beaches on the outer banks of North Carolina.”
Chancellor Gray-Little also likes to sing. She listens to jazz, rock and roll, a little bit of broadway tunes and coffee-house music, but rock and roll is her favorite genre, which she sings along to in the car. However, even though she usually sings in the car, she’s not afraid to belt out a tune in front of others.
Retired faculty were given a surprise when they first met Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. During a meeting in which they were celebrating some birthdays, Gray-Little got up and sang a birthday tune from a Saturday morning radio show she and her family used to sing.
“I got up and sang that song, and they were just flabbergasted,” Gray-Little said.
Being the Chancellor and being Bernadette
“It’s not a balance in a sense of ‘you have time to do this and you have time to do work’,” Gray-Little said when asked how she manages her time between being the chancellor and living a normal, everyday life.
Because of the way things are scheduled and the times of events, she said even if it is a fun activity it might also be work, so fun and work is a true mixture for the chancellor.
“The balance has to be in the perspective that you bring to work and the way in which you approach the work. More than in terms of the time,” Gray-Little said.
Gray-Little and her husband do a variety of things together, many of which connect to the University and its offerings. Home games, plays on campus and events at the Lied center are a few examples. She said there are more opportunities to do things here than in a bigger city because they’re all so close.
Being the chancellor isn’t a part-time gig. Even when she’s at home, Gray-Little still deals with University issues. However, she said there are many enjoyable aspects of being the chancellor.
“The ones that come to mind as most memorable are the ones in which we are celebrating, such as celebrating an achievement or a performance,” Gray-Little said in an email. “This includes events such as Commencement where we celebrate four or more years of work on the part of our students, as well as events honoring our faculty, students, or staff for outstanding accomplishments.”
“There is no typical ending time of the day,” Gray-Little said. She might leave at 5 p.m., and come back to an event at 5:30 p.m., then leave again at 9 p.m. She’s always going somewhere or moving around.
When she finally does reach home for the evening, Gray-Little changes her clothes, eats a light dinner and rarely turns on the television. In her free time, she usually chooses to read.
Gray-Little just finished reading the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction novel “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson, and is currently reading “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
The chancellor said her favorite part of the University is the sense of community it encompasses and the collective identity among the students, faculty, staff and alumni. You may only know her as “the chancellor”, but she is also Bernadette Gray-Little — the woman who likes to read, drinks coffee every morning, occasionally splurges on candy and loves her Jayhawks.
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
A minimalist, mountain man
By: Amelia Arvesen | @AmeliaArvesen
As Andrew Vogel flicks a 6-foot graphite rod effortlessly over his shoulder, yellow fishing line follows the motion of his arm, unfurling over Lake Henry’s surface.
Vogel’s fingers were almost too stiff from the cold to tie a fuzzy fly to the end of his fishing line. It was a 20-degree Friday afternoon in November, one year since Vogel visited the Lawrence lake’s shore for a game of catch and release.
“It's very zen and very introspective and contemplative,” Vogel said. “It's a good thing to get out and hang out alone on some water.”
He left that evening with an empty net but planned to hunt whitetail deer the next day in Coffey, Miss. This type of weekend Vogel looks forward to most.
Vogel, a fifth-year senior, grew up in the mountainous terrain of Greenwood Village, Colo. Even without peaks in Lawrence, he’s been able to maintain an outdoor lifestyle for the last five years.
“When you have access to mountains like that all the time, you just do everything there is to offer,” he said. In Kansas, “you have to look harder, but it's still out here.”
He said he’d consider himself a fisherman though he also hikes, runs, camps, skis and hunts. Vogel, a minimalist, has one rod, one reel and a few flies he knows will hook a decent sized trout, brown or rainbow. In the back of his Jeep Wrangler, decorated with a Kavu and Browning Rifle decal, he packs only what he needs, including a thermal sleeping bag, a hammock and, of course, a fishing rod with tackle.
“There's no preparing,” Vogel said. “You just go out there.”
Despite his mellow disposition, Vogel said he's always restless for the next adventure. During the semester, Vogel said he tries to get out once every month, savoring the season and sounds of the ecosystem to last him until the next time he can escape.
He said that for a while, it was hard not to drop out of school. In nature, he finds himself the happiest and feeling the most authentic. The whole point of immersing himself in the wilderness, he said, is to release control. He said it’s wasted energy to try to predict the environment.
“If you ask too many questions, you miss out on the experience,” he said.
In the Altitude
In August 2012, Vogel ventured from familiar mountains into new territory when he climbed Africa's 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro with strangers. He was dropped off at the base where he met his guide for the first time.
Five days and several climate changes later — tropical rainforest, timberline, rock, arctic tundra — they reached the top. Different worlds, Vogel said.
“Every once in a while, you'll catch yourself. You'll look over a big drop and think, ‘Wow, I'm actually here,’ ” he said.
He said he remembers feeling like he was floating in the clouds and thought it was surreal that the same ice his boots touched had been there for thousands of years. It’s what he’d imagine Mars would look like.
"It's a cathartic experience to feel that small and insignificant, yet at the top of something,” he said.
And in only one day, he was at the bottom again. It wasn’t the first time he had journeyed into higher altitude. He trained that summer, hiking six 14,000-plus-foot peaks in Colorado’s range, some on his own, some with friends like Sam Ancona, a fifth-year senior from Centennial, Colo., and a middle school pal.
Together, with one other friend, they hiked Mount Bierstadt in the Rockies.
“I think it’s a sense of accomplishment, and you want to relive it over and over again,” Ancona said.
Next on his Vogel’s list is the 20,000-foot Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park. But he has also set his sights even higher. He said he will one day climb Nepal’s monster, 29,000-foot Everest, no matter how long it takes.
“My body is just used to knowing that little air doesn't mean you're going to die,” Vogel said. “It just means you have to work a little bit harder.”
On the plains
In Lawrence, in Kansas, the air is different, but nonetheless, Vogel said he appreciates what the land has to offer. Even in winter, snow won’t deter him from fishing. When he does catch something, he said he prefers to toss it back, out of respect for the fish and the game.
“If I catch a good fish, I hope one day someone else gets to experience that too,” Vogel said.
Maybe it has something to do with seeing the fish bite the fly, but David Franco, one of Vogel’s fly fishing buddies from Kansas City, said it’s an intimate sport. The rhythm is meditative, and even when they’re together, Franco said it’s easy for him to forget he’s with someone.
“The best thing you can do for a fly fishing partner is when you hit the river, you walk the other way,” Franco said.
Out on the river in their waders, Vogel and Franco exchange knowledge of trial and technique. Vogel said a lot of what he knows is either from observation or self-taught, but he’d never consider himself an expert.
“You just subject yourself to things, and you learn through doing it what works what doesn’t work,” Vogel said.
Vogel said he has replaced survivalist guides — what he considers childhood reading — with more existential writings like Walden and Kerouac. He said he connects with the idea of a wandering soul.
When he graduates in May with a psychology degree, he’ll have a year off before attending medical school to become a surgeon and “cut people open,” a job he has always wanted. He said he plans to use the time off from school for exploring, preparing for Alaska and finding meaning in life.
“It’s a constant search, the whole search is romantic in itself,” Vogel said. “I think that's what makes it fun.”
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
The Magical Duo Behind the 8th Horcrux
By: Lyndsey Havens | @LyndseyAlana
Surrounded by books, youthful grins and skeptical glances, the duo that is the 8th Horcrux prepares to dive into the beginning chords of “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks. Trina Sieg, singer and guitarist, introduces the song.
“This song is about Hermione Granger and how she liked Ronald Weasley, but he liked someone else, so here’s a song about that,” she said.
Sieg, a senior from Ottawa, said this is her favorite parody to perform, properly titled, “Witch.” Sieg said when they start to play this song she can see parents’ worried expressions fill the children’s section of the given library, the duo’s primary performance space.
“When we play at our library shows, every show is different,” Sieg said. “You never know who’s going to be there, if there’s going to be two people or 200 people. You never know if your performance is going to inspire one kid to create their own band or try to do something creatively with the media that they like.”
“Witch” isn’t Sieg’s favorite song purely because of the shock factor though; she said the song also has sentimental value. It was the first song she presented to her musical counterpart and boyfriend, Paul Thomas.
“It’s really one of my favorites to perform because it has that sentimental value,” Sieg said. “And then the parents, they’re nervous about it at first, but then when I start singing the chorus and it’s just about witches, they start laughing with relief.”
Sieg met Thomas, a senior from Ottawa, during their sophomore year of high school through extracurricular activities. Upon realizing they shared a mutual interest for music and Harry Potter, the two starting having jam sessions together. It wasn’t until the summer of their junior year, when they went to see “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” that an idea materialized.
“We reached out to each other and were like, ‘Hey, you like Harry Potter, I like Harry Potter. I can play music, and you can produce music, whoa,’” Sieg said.
What started out as a humorous and fun thing to do and to show their friends at school quickly took a turn when the Ottawa Library reached out to Thomas and Sieg and asked them to perform and present their Potter parodies at the library’s Summer Reading Programs. The duo made connections through the series and embarked on a mini library tour of some of Kansas’ libraries the following summer.
“That really got me going about presenting to [the children] about how books are cool,” Sieg said. “It’s cool to like books and be enthusiastic about what you love and ‘Look at me, I’m a teenager, back then, and now 22, and I’m up here with my guitar being silly singing songs about Harry Potter.’”
Thomas is an anthropology and classics major and Sieg is an elementary education major. She said the fusion of her passions for music, children and reading fuels her desire to teach, and the library shows have really changed the way they thought about their band.
“At first we were like, ‘Oh we’re a parody band that sings about Harry Potter,’” Sieg said. “And then, eventually we just started promoting reading creatively and really reaching out to kids to just tell them that it’s ok, it’s ok to like stuff.”
What started as a jam session in a basement with a lone Logitech microphone attached to a music stand with duct tape has since evolved into over 60 songs.
“It was a pretty punk-rock setup,” Sieg said. “To be specific, because I remember things, I believe it was on Harry Potters’ birthday.”
“July 31, 2009,” the two said in unison.
Sieg said Harry Potter was at its peak of popularity during that time because the sixth movie had just come out. Since its release, the two said it’s possible people may be less interested since it is no longer in the public eye.
“We released an album and we were kind of like, well this might be sort of our last album,” Thomas said. “We didn’t say it was our last album but we sort of thought it. But the problem was we kept writing parody ideas; we kept having them.”
The lack of equipment that started it all proved to be insignificant when compared to the creativity shared between Sieg and Thomas. While Thomas draws his inspiration from Weird Al Yankovich and a band called Harry and the Potters, the duo also cites the White Stripes dynamic as a primary influence, as well as Lennon and McCartney in terms of their songwriting process.
“At first we were just writing parodies and recording them in the basement, and then we moved onto playing shows for kids and [the kids] were able to see us connecting with a crowd and telling our message to be enthusiastic about what you like,” Sieg said.
With graduation looming, Thomas said he is really happy with where the two are currently at with their music.
“We’re not super big so that it takes up all our time and we don’t have any fun and we’re working for The Man or something,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, we’re still successful enough that every once in a while I’ll walk around and someone will recognize me, who I don't know, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, are you from a wizard rock band,’ and I’m like, ‘Why yes, yes I am.’”
— Edited by Rob Pyatt
Photos by: James Hoyt/KANSAN
Basketball player Devonte' Graham shares the ins and outs of time management for a student athlete
By: Alana Flinn | @alana_flinn
Bundled in his warm-up sweats on his way to class, freshman guard Devonte’ Graham tackles the stairs to Wescoe. As he does so, many passersby do double takes at the freshman basketball player.
For most freshmen, the first months of school are dedicated to figuring out the right ways to study, what parties to go to and where to park without getting a ticket. For Graham, it’s finding a way to balance school and playing for one of the top five basketball schools in the country.
“You’ve just got to find it in yourself to stay on top of your homework and stuff,” Graham said. “It’s hard with basketball and traveling, but you’ve just got to keep up with it.”
Graham grew up in a single-parent household with his mom and sister in Raleigh, N.C. As the man of the house from a young age, Graham immersed himself in athletics in hopes of earning a scholarship so his mother wouldn’t have to pay for his college.
Graham played basketball, football and baseball through middle school, before deciding to focus on basketball in eighth grade.
Graham said basketball was the best sport for him to pursue as a career.
“It’s something I enjoy and love to do,” Graham said. “Once you figure out something you’re good at, you just like to do it all the time and I just love to play. That’s one thing I can count on.”
Now as a freshman student athlete, Graham is starting to learn the ins and outs of focusing on both basketball and school.
“So far it’s been great,” Graham said. “A lot of people know us around campus and just being in this program has been pretty fun so far. At times it gets overwhelming, but that comes along with it, and you prepare for it.”
Graham said the most overwhelming experience he has had involves a female on campus.
“There’s this one girl I always see and every time I see her she’s like ‘do you remember me? I told you to come here and follow your heart.’ Every single time I see her,” Graham said.
The transition from being a high school athlete to a college athlete majoring in sports management has been a big change for Graham.
“[College] is way harder. The stage is way bigger and it’s like a lifestyle now,” Graham said. “In high school you could always goof around, but now practice is more serious and intense and so is the competition.”
Graham estimates he spends 40 hours a week on basketball, classes, school work and tutoring.
“Time management might be the biggest challenge,” Graham said. “It’s hard to balance your time throughout the day with class, practice and tutoring.”
If he didn’t decide to play basketball in college, Graham said his life would be very different.
“I think about it all the time,” Graham said. “Me and Kelly [Oubre] were just talking about that the other day, saying we’d probably be at some junior college at home.”
Graham said that basketball has presented many opportunities for him.
“It’s given me the opportunity to travel the world, play high level competition and do things I never thought I could do,” Graham said. “I go places I never imagined growing up that you always see on TV, and it’s given me the opportunity to get a free education.”
Even with the daily pressure and busy schedule, Graham is content with his decision to attend and play basketball at Kansas.
“I felt like it was the best place for me,” Graham said. “I loved it when I came to visit. It felt like home.”
— Edited by Rob Pyatt
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
Senior engineering student Graham Stevenson shares his daily life
By: Haley Regan | @haleygracen
Graham Stevenson wears a tie everywhere he goes. He has not left his house without a tie, except for work — he works at a company downtown where it would be unsafe — since the second week of his freshman year of college. When Graham Stevenson takes out the trash… Graham Stevenson wears a tie.
“I liked to dress up in high school, but it always felt like people cared and I didn’t want them to care. Once I got to college, I got about two weeks in and I realized that no one gives a shit,” Stevenson, a senior from Leawood, said. “I’m ready for an interview whenever. Also I feel like I’ve never regretted putting effort into anything.”
Stevenson says that he has never counted his ties, but assumes that he has more than fifty that he’s purchased mostly at thrift stores over time. But Stevenson does more than just wear ties everywhere he goes. He has hobbies that include brewing beer, playing guitar, traveling, cooking, carpentry and his biggest passion, engineering.
“Ever since I was very small, my dad and I have taken apart everything we can, and then we would put it back together, so I knew I wanted engineering. Then I had this teacher in high school, he taught us like we were taking a chemical engineering course — it was a chemistry class — and I was convinced,” he said. “Ever since then it’s been my passion. All those countless nights awake don’t even phase me because I know it’s what I want to do.”
One of Stevenson’s main hobbies coincides with his major, chemical engineering. He brews his own beer out of his garage. Stevenson has been brewing for about a year now and says that he enjoys the challenge of making his own alcoholic beverages because even the smallest mistakes can cause huge errors. As a result of this fact, he mentioned that he once accidentally brewed a beer that tasted “exactly like bananas.”
“As a chemical engineer, it’s just fascinating trying to optimize it [the beer] and get it all efficient — that’s what I’m all about,” he said. “It kind of became an obsession.”
Stevenson says that his future plans consist of finding a good job, living near the mountains and continuing to pursue diverse hobbies. He believes that by pursuing various hobbies and by trying new things, he is using his time efficiently. Stevenson mentioned that he was raised to be jealous of his time: he doesn’t believe in investing his time in something unless he genuinely believes it is a productive way to spend it.
“I feel like, the more you do, the more you do. Which sounds weird, but I think it’s true,” he said. “If you don’t do anything, you kind of become accustomed to not doing anything. You do nothing. So the more packed your schedule is, the more things you’re stressing out about, the more productive you are.”
Stevenson said that this theory has worked out for him thus far. He also said that since being in college, he has learned to care less about what others think of him, which he believes has also helped shape his current philosophies.
“Don’t care what others think of you and you can do a lot more things. If people don’t like what you do, other people might,” he said.
Stevenson was asked how he came to the conclusion that he shouldn’t care about what people thought.
“Honestly, I think it was the tie.”
— Edited by Kelsi Kirwin
Photos by: Frank Weirich/KANSAN
By: James Lamb
Name: Mercedes Zarich
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Home Uni: Catholic University of Argentina (UCA)
Major: Advertising and Corporate Communications
Q: Is American college life what you expected? How does it live up to/differ from your expectations?
A: I always watched TV series from here and movies, but when it gets to the American university style, I thought that American universities were going to party a lot but it was not like that. You always expect what you see in television or films but it was not like that. They show really hardcore parties [in TV and movies] but they’re not like that, they’re just chilling. I compare it to the parties I have back home, and they’re [more fun]. Here, it’s like “Let’s go to a house party,” and it’s just like a couple of friends drinking beer, while “Let’s go to a house party” in Argentina is like dancing and music everywhere!
Q: What has been the most American thing you’ve done since coming?
A: Pumpkin carving. For Halloween, it was awesome. We went to a field to collect pumpkins. We had to measure it and weigh it, and pay for the weight of the pumpkin. And then we went to a girl’s garage from the Adventure Club and we carved pumpkins. It was awesome, it was a really good experience. Halloween in Argentina is just parties and costumes but here they take it to another level.
Q: What is a typical day like back home? What are some of the main differences to here?
A: So, before coming here, I had an internship, so I had to wake up at 6am, take the train, an hour train to my work. I went to like 3 or 4 hours [of] work, then take the train back to my house, have lunch, do my homework, and then at 5, I’d take the bus to my university, and at 11pm I went back. That was a typical day during the week. The weekend was more relaxing. Here, thank God I don’t have the pressure of a lot of things, but there is a lot of homework. So, the time that I think I spent travelling back in Argentina I think I spend doing homework. But here, it’s just waking up, going to class and coming back, have time, then eat, go back to class, and then I’m free. That’s cool.
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor Brooklyn Alexander plans to start foundation to bridge the gap between cancer and treatment for children
By: Haley Regan
Q: What made you choose communications?
A: I want to have my own non-profit foundation and I want to have a PR firm. Basically I want to take cancer kids and children out to events and make them feel as normal as possible and educate them on natural health that will counteract the chemotherapy.
Q: So what inspired you to do that?
A: My tenth grade year in high school I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so basically I want to share my experience. I guess it’s kind of like my inspiration, so I want to share my story with others and help them on their journey as well, just like mine was helped by others. I’m actually two years in remission.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in overcoming that, that normally people wouldn’t think of?
A: The biggest challenge, I guess, basically would be feeling normal. Everyone looks at you differently, it’s like everyone talks to you differently, they make you feel kind of like you’re worthless. I felt like everyone wanted to do everything for me and I hated that, and people would like, come around you and they’ll make you feel like you’re gonna die-the-next-day type stuff and I didn’t like that either. I guess it’s feeling normal because I couldn’t do certain things that everyone else could do.
Q: What do you think got you through that whole process?
A: My faith. God, and believing in him and depending on his strength.
Q: So what’s the name of your foundation?
A: It’s gonna be called Brooklyn’s build-a-bridge. We’re building bridges with families, kind of filling that gap that doctor’s don’t give. Because they really tell you that you can do anything, you can eat anything you want, when in reality the food that you eat is like hurting you and it breaks down your immune system more.
Q: What’s the breakdown of your foundation? It sounds like you will have a lot of different things going on with it.
A: I want to be the one to emotionally, and in a way financially, support children who are going through cancer. I want to take them to events and places like to the movies or going to get their wigs. Like maybe shut down a whole movie theatre, because when you have cancer, you don’t want to be in big crowds because you’re more likely to get sick in big crowds. I also want to educate them on natural health because that can be really beneficial during chemotherapy. I got sick one week, that was the week I lost my hair. Basically what brought that down was stress from seeing my hair fall out—it was just a lot to handle. Other than that I didn’t feel too sick, I was tired sometimes but, not really.
—Edited by Jacob Clemen
Photo by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
Perry Ellis shares his tips to balancing a high GPA and a basketball career
By: Alana Flinn | @alana_flinn
Countless hours of practice, workouts and games are just a few of the things that consume junior Kansas basketball forward Perry Ellis’ day. However, even with an impressive basketball career to maintain, Ellis insists on achieving good grades.
“It was tough in high school, but here in college, it’s a whole other level and a lot tougher,” Ellis said. “The key thing in high school I learned was you have to knock out assignments and don’t procrastinate, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do here in college, and it’s definitely helped.”
Ellis said that he began prioritizing grades in middle school. From then on, Ellis pushed himself to achieve high grades, especially after motivation from his high school coach.
“My coach taught me how to push myself in the classroom; he’s the one who really pushed me to take challenging classes,” Ellis said.
Throughout high school, Ellis maintained a 4.0 GPA and graduated as valedictorian from Wichita Heights High School. While he managed to keep excellent grades and lead his high school team to four-straight class 6A State Titles, Ellis said he didn’t dedicate time to much else.
“I didn’t really do much,” Ellis said. “Just a lot of Xbox, hanging out with friends, basketball and school.”
However, Ellis said basketball wasn’t always his main focus. He ran track on AAU teams for a majority of his summers.
“I was real big into track at a young age,” Ellis said. “It was something I really didn’t like doing. I was just fast, so everyone just said I should do it, and I was tall for long jump. I didn’t have the love for it.”
Ellis was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team last season, which requires a GPA of 3.0-3.19. He is pursuing a degree in sports management with a minor in business. While he doesn’t know exactly what he would like to do with the degree, he knows networking as a player now will help him in the future.
“I just know I want to be involved around sports,” Ellis said. “Being an athlete and meeting all these people will really help in the end, maybe coaching or agenting or something.”
With three years of experience on the basketball team, Ellis knows that once the season begins, managing time and having a plan to study is crucial for success
“The key thing is just taking the notes and paying attention in class and studying,” Ellis said. “It’s real tough in postseason play because you have to travel so many days for games, and you’re gone for a long amount of time, and you have tests you have to make up. The key thing is getting in contact with the teachers as early as possible, and they love seeing us succeed, so they’re rooting for us and want to help.”
Ellis also knows that staying out of the public eye and limiting partying are important, especially during tournament season.
“During March Madness, a lot more people are paying attention to you, the spotlight is on you so you have to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” Ellis said.
Ellis’ time on the team has helped him be both academically and athletically successful.
“Listen to your academic advisors and coaches right from the go — that’s key because you’re going to have to learn what they want you to do whether it’s now or later,” Ellis advised. “The sooner you do that, the sooner you buy into the system and the better it’s going to be.”
To unwind at the end of a hectic day, Ellis sticks to the same routine as when he was in high school.
“I’m just real low key,” Ellis said. “I like just chilling and talking with friends and just playing an Xbox game.”
While maintaining grades, classes and a basketball career is challenging and time consuming, Ellis loves being a student athlete.
“Basketball keeps me busy doing something I love,” Ellis said. “It’s humbling to me, getting the opportunity to play basketball here.”
— Edited by Emily Brown
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
Junior baseball player Colby Wright shares his daily routine
By: Aleah Milliner
Balancing school and athletics is not easy. However, junior Colby Wright, from Castro Valley Calif., who plays second base on the KU men’s baseball team, is able to live out his passion for baseball while still managing his education. His career on the baseball team allows him to dream of big things for his future.
A typical day for Wright is scheduled from beginning to end.
“From August through November, we practice four days a week,” said Wright. “Usually I wake up and head over to Oliver to eat breakfast. I go to class from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Then, I go to the clubhouse, shower and change, and start doing early outs, which means stretching and warming up on your own. Practice lasts three or four hours, then I head straight to weights. I usually grab a muscle-milk, shower, and I attend tutoring Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. After that I usually head back to the clubhouse to study.”
During the baseball season, the team practices every day besides Monday, the day it usually arrives back in town from away games.
Wright says that the biggest challenge in balancing school and athletics is trying not to let his academics affect his game on the field, and not letting baseball negatively affect his academics.
“The key is to keep a clear mind,” said Wright. “I think the athletic department does a good job of monitoring us. And you have to schedule your time. If you want to get good grades, you can’t really procrastinate.”
Even with a tight schedule, he still manages to fit in a little bit of free time. Outside of baseball and academics, Wright enjoys reading and spending time in the outdoors.
“I grew up next to a lake, and when I go home I like to fish,” he said. “I really like to be outdoors. It’s my favorite thing to do.”
Understandably, Wright spends a lot of time with his teammates. He says they are all like a family to him.
“We have a close knit team,” he said. “It is something I think is pretty special. My favorite memory of my time so far on the team is when we traveled to the Dominican Republic. It was basically a full paid vacation. We got to play the Indians and The KC Royals, and two random club teams. We also handed out health kits to sugar cane villages, and we got to play with the kids there. After that trip happened, I knew I definitely want to travel the world more.”
Inspired by his trip to the Dominican Republic, Wrights said he would love to backpack Europe and also hopes to visit Alaska.
Wright is studying sports management and minoring in business. He plans to attend graduate school in the future in pursuit of a Masters in Business Administration. He hopes to one day be a general manager for a sports team, ideally for a league in Italy.
“I love seeing different cultures,” he said. “I would love to go to different parts of the world and experience them. I think if I was able to travel and incorporate a job into that, I would. I would try and look at the Italian and Australian baseball leagues and maybe intern first. If I could learn the language, I would be open to working there.”
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
4-year Naval veteran finds new life at KU
By: Kate Miller | @_kate_miller_
Roger Bush’s day is like any typical student’s: he’s up early, he takes his dog for a walk before class, he comes home for lunch, walks his dog again, returns to campus to finish classes and comes home to have dinner with his girlfriend. He spends most of his free time working on homework, using his weekends to master algebraic jumbles. His major is undecided, and he’s spending his first semester getting acclimated to the college lifestyle.
Bush, however, can hardly be considered a typical student. In his 49 years, Bush, a 24-year veteran of the Navy, has seen 22 years and 8 months of active duty, co-owned a successful entrepreneurial career and raised a family, including three children and seven grandchildren. Following a short retirement phase, Bush is back working full-time—this time, as a student.
“[My retirement] brought me to KU,” Bush said. “I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
Born in 1965, Bush was raised in Parsons. The U.S. military was integral to his life from the beginning: Bush’s nine uncles on his father’s side were all members of the military, and his uncle on his mother’s side was in the Navy, as well as Bush’s older brother. Bush followed the family tradition, joining the Navy as a welder after he graduated from high school in 1984.
“About halfway through my senior year, I decided I was going to join the Navy,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in school at the time, and that was one way to get on a job track.”
As a member of the Navy, Bush began to travel the country and, eventually, the world. Bush first traveled to Charleston, where he spent four years, met his wife, and had his first child. Despite this, he decided to stay in the Navy, and was transferred to New Orleans.
In New Orleans, Bush did a short tour of duty on a patrol boat. His third child was born in New Orleans (the second being born in Kansas). Bush was soon back at sea in North Virginia. From there, he began international sea tours, sailing to places like France, Italy and Australia.
“For me, [the military] gave me a greater sense of community and appreciation for what we have here,” he said. “When you go do tours in different countries, and see how these people live, and the lack of facilities that we have on a daily basis, it’s hard to even fathom unless you’ve seen it.”
The tours abroad were tough on Bush and his family. A self-proclaimed “mama’s boy,” Bush made a point to return to Kansas whenever he could, and eventually lived in Missouri for three years as a recruiter for the Navy. However, Bush was soon at sea again due to the second Gulf War.
“I got to experience some good leadership roles [on that ship,]” he said. “This type of a ship was a smaller ship. In the first two ships I was on, we had maybe 1,000 or 1,500 people on them. This one had maybe 200 people, so it was a real close-knit community.”
That tour was Bush’s last sea tour. After a period of shore tour in Washington, during which he was responsible for overseeing ship maintenance, he was raised to the rank of Senior Chief. It was at this point that Bush began to think about retirement—and found himself in the middle of another successful career.
“One of my friends who I had served in the Navy with called me up and was trying to get me to start a business with him,” he said. “It was a spur of the moment decision. I decided, ‘This is what I want to do.’ So two days after I retired, I went and bought a drill and backhoe, and went to work.”
Bush worked for seven years in the LMB Property Group, an underground utility and construction service based in Springfield, Mo. It was a successful career—the company installed a fair amount of the Google Fiber in Kansas City, as well as miles of cable for AT&T.
“The downside [of the success] is that it caused me to get a divorce,” Bush said. “I was married to my career instead of my family. I just worked all the time.”
About a year after the divorce in 2010, however, Bush began dating his ex-wife, Dana Bush, again—the reason he would eventually retire from his career. Three months ago, Dana was made Dean of Nursing at Rasmussen College, responsible for both the Topeka and Overland Park campuses. Lawrence was conveniently located halfway between, so that became Dana’s new home—forcing Roger to make a decision: career or love.
“I decided, you know, life is too short,” Roger said. “Four and a half hours of commute was too much on the weekends, and my partner agreed to buy my part of the business out,” he said. “So I just decided I was going to go back to school, and try to figure out, for the first time in my life, what I wanted to do.”
Like many first-year students, Roger is still deciding on a major. At this point, he is interested in pursuing geology or environmental studies. A great deal of this interest comes from his past experiences.
“I’m a big proponent of the environment,” he said. “When I first joined the Navy, I just couldn’t believe that everybody just threw trash overboard into the ocean. When you go to the Philippines or someplace like that, there’s just a band of trash surrounding the coastline—it’s terrible. Mainly, I want to do something like be a national park ranger or soil conservationist—do something outside. I don’t want a desk job.”
However, at the moment, Roger is focusing on the present. After 30 years out of school, readjusting to course loads and the difficulty of schooling is his top priority. Most difficult at the moment? Algebra.
“It was never required in high school,” he said. “So I spend all day Saturday and Sunday doing algebra. Yesterday, I spent six hours on Skype with my son, because he’s a math major, while he was teaching me algebra.”
Not all of Roger’s learnings come from conventional classes. In addition to learning new updated technology systems, Roger said he gains a different perspective from his younger classmates.
“I learn a lot from [younger students.] Yik Yak, for one,” he said. “I have to go home and look stuff up sometimes, when I hear you guys talking. I’ve always been around a younger crowds in the Navy, but it’s different here. Better educated. A whole different social aspect.”
Photos by: George Mullinix/KANSAN
Voice professor's career on a high note
By: Haley Regan | @haleygracen
There’s a grand piano in the center of the room draped in a vibrant red cloth, covered almost in its entirety with music and photographs. There’s a record player against the wall, supporting a mass quantity of leaning vinyl records. The bookshelves that line the room are filled with knick-knacks, keepsakes, and recordings—lots of recordings. The room is covered so heavily with photographs, drawings, posters and programs that the wall beneath them is practically invisible. This office hosts a vast accumulation from Joyce Castle’s accomplishments over her 40 years and 135 roles as a professional opera singer.
Castle is currently in her 13th year of teaching for the School of Music, but being a distinguished professor of voice is only one small part of her career. She spent 25 years at the New York City Opera and 14 years at the Metropolitan Opera. Castle’s voice has also taken her all over the world. She lived in Paris for seven years, Berlin for a short time, and has sung in Canada and Japan. She has sung for the New York Philharmonic, and London Symphony Orchestra. Just this past summer, Castle was in Brazil.
“I just was in Brazil this summer for the second time, doing Bernstein’s Candide,” Castle said. “I sang with Bernstein—obviously when he was alive—Candide is a fabulous piece of Bernstein’s. Anyway, that’s where I got the Grammy. I got a Grammy for Bernstein’s Candide. That’s what I did in Brazil. In June. During the World Cup—that was wild.”
Castle’s performance background is evident upon meeting her. Her voice resonates and fills the room whenever she speaks due to all of the time she spent projecting her singing voice over symphonies and orchestras. She recalls details of her performances as if they just happened the day before. Her facial expressions communicate her thoughts nearly as well as her words, and she somehow managed to pose mid-sentence for photos.
Castle was born and raised in Baldwin, Kansas. Upon coming to the University of Kansas, she was given the choice to pursue a major designed specifically for her. The University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in voice and theatre can be accredited to Joyce Castle.
“I had been doing so many plays and contests, and some people in the faculty here had seen me out there, you see,” she said. “And so they just made a particular major for me. Very exciting to have a lot of theatre and a lot of voice.”
Castle has spent a large amount of her career singing, but claims to be very passionate for the theatre. When asked about her favorite role, Castle quickly responded with Mrs. Lovett, from the popular Broadway show, “Sweeney Todd.” Stephen Sondheim, the composer of the show, happens to be an acquaintance of Castle’s, and she mentioned him attending some of her shows in New York. She continued to list others, like “Candide” and “The Ballad of Baby Doe” by Douglas Moore, as her favorites to perform.
“Mostly I’m a theatre animal,” she said. “I love to go into many different kinds of roles, you see. That’s my voice type too, I’m a mezzo soprano. And we have a wonderful voice faculty here-- I did Sweeney [Todd] in Little Rock with John Stephens. John Stephens is on the faculty [at KU].”
Castle went on to talk about the opening of Swarthout Recital Hall this coming spring. She expressed genuine excitement while describing the opening event, and said that she looks forward to performing in it at some point. Famous pianist Leon Fleisher will be opening the hall on March 30.
“Anybody in piano would say, ‘wow’, because he’s 85 years old, he’s had an enormous career,” she said.
Despite the fact that Castle has already had such a successful career in music, she says that she is constantly looking for new ways to broaden her experiences and learn new things.
“I’m ever growing, hopefully. I’m ever looking at how I can be better. Looking at new works, looking at new roles, as long as I can,” she said. “I will be singing until I feel that I don’t have something to give. And it’s health. It’s a lot about health.”
Castle radiates with passion when speaking of not only her own personal relationship with music, but also the impact music has on people all over the world.
“It is my life. Music is my life,” she said. “It’s a very spiritual thing. It’s a very universal, encompassing word for me, the arts. That’s what I think. I think it’s the thing that keeps us together and brings peace where it can. Brings laughter where it can. Brings coming together where it can. I think it really can elevate a situation, or calm somebody down. Or make somebody happy.”
—Edited by Jacob Clemen
Photos by: Frank Weirich
Gabriel Andrews is a freshman from Kansas City, Kan., studying psychology.
By: Haley Regan
Q: What’s your major?
A: My major is psychology. And I’m studying to be a therapist. Over my past few years, I’ve just been like talking to people, low-key a lot of people just tell me their life stories without me even really knowing them, I could know somebody a couple days, and slowly they’ll tell me something that’s really deep that they don’t tell anybody else. So I use that as a gift, and then thinking about that, I think it would let people be more open to me if I go into that field.
Q: You just have one of those faces?
A: I mean, I guess! I mean, I like to listen to people, I like to get a feel and get a connection with people just so they can understand and be able to approach me and be like, “Hey, what’s up Gabe!”, because I always make sure I give attention to everybody, like whoever’s talking to me, I don’t try to ignore anybody.
Q: What’s your ultimate goal that you want to achieve with psychology?
A: My ultimate goal is to have my own office and be on my own. I want to be self-sufficient and be able to grow as that.
Q: You said that you had some word to say--
A: Yeah I have some words to say! I’m a local artist too, and I just dropped my whole album on Saturday.
Q: What inspires you in your music?
A: What inspires me? What’s inspired me and my music most of the time is my life. My life is just like—I get all types of experience. Like I said earlier, being like a psychologist, I already get peoples’ stories and I formulate that and tell it through my songs. That’s what I just heard from other people. I’m gonna still finish school if I become a rapper. I hope I become a rapper and then a therapist.
Q: What’s one thing you want to communicate to the whole campus besides your music?
A: Talk to each other. It’s college. Be more social. I see like JCCC the community college is more interactive to students on campus. I saw them like throwing around Frisbees and stuff. Just give me the campus feel, like I haven’t felt the campus feel for real. I be on Wescoe Beach almost everyday.
Q: And you don’t feel a sense of community?
A: Yeah, you know and then after class is just—you just gotta know somebody. If you don’t talk to anybody you don’t know anything that goes on in Lawrence. And Lawrence is too small of a town to not really—you know? But I sit here — I make friends.
Name: Drew Weidman
Hometown: Born in Little Rock, moved to KC metro at 7 years old
Major: Double major in music and sociology
By: Haley Regan
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I’m interested in composing music, performing in various ways, you know, jazz, classically, I’m also in a band and I also enjoy writing in my spare time whether it be a short story or poetry or anything like that.
Q: So what inspires you to write?
A: A lot of things. A lot of my experiences as well as just thoughts that I have about everything in life, and the experiences that I know other people have had as well as readings that I’ve delved into and a lot of the concepts surrounding existentialism and causality, things like that. I try to explore those things in my writings to try and inspire thought and to try and see if other people are inclined to think about those kinds of things.
Q: What’s your ultimate goal that you want to achieve with your music and with your writing?
A: I mean, I would love to be known within those social circles, but if anything, with music, I would just love for it to be a part of my everyday life. You know, whether it be with my career or something in my spare time, it’s just something I can’t separate myself from. With writing, I would love to be published, but if I can’t be a published author, I’d love to be able to just share my writings with people and friends that are interested.
— Edited by Logan Schlossberg
Chelsie Miller, junior from Houston, is a member of the women’s swim team. Last season, she made the Academic All-Big 12 First Team and broke five individual school records.
By: Alex Keenan
Q: How did you decide to get into swimming?
A: When I was younger, my mom put me in a lot of different sports. I started when I was five with just a summer league swim team. I think when I was seven my mom decided she wanted me to be “better” than the other kids, so she put me into a year-round program. I was doing volleyball and other stuff, but swimming is what I enjoyed the most, so I think that’s what, as I got older, I stuck to.
Q: What’s it like being a college athlete?
A: For me, I’ve always had a routine. You get up, go to swim practice, get ready for your day and go to school, come home, eat, go to swim practice and then you take care of everything you need to for school, so doing this in college has given me a more structured day. You get to meet all the other student athletes; you feel like you are tied to the college, like you represent something bigger than yourself. I can’t imagine myself being anything other than a college athlete. I enjoy it a lot.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a college athlete?
A: Having 25 other girls that can relate to what I’m going through is probably my favorite thing. You really develop a family and you go through a lot of ups and downs with each other, and I think the best part is the bonds and experiences you get to share.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about being a college athlete?
A: There are a few things. Obviously, managing your time and your priorities between school and having to go to swim practice 20 hours a week, plus [or more]. I think sometimes if you’re not performing how you want to or don’t have the grades that you want, you really put a lot of pressure on yourself. I think that being a student athlete is being able to say that you did that in college, that you balanced everything.
Q: How has it been being such a successful swimmer? Do you ever feel pressured?
A: I would say yes, a little bit. I have continued to drop time and be successful, so I think there’s a pressure to continue doing that, but I know that no matter what happens nobody’s going to be angry with me at how I perform. I think that sometimes I get caught up in the expectations that others have for me, but I just have to sit back and tell myself that this is what I do, and I have to do it for me.
Q: Do you plan to go professional?
A: If I thought that I could go pro, I would do it already. I still have about a year-and-a-half left in college, so if in that year-and-a-half I can continue to drop time and climb, I would love to go pro. That is probably my dream.
Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: It changes throughout the week. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays we have morning practice, so for those days, we’ll swim and lift. So swim for about an hour and then we lift for about 45 minutes in the weight room, and then I get ready for school, go to all my classes. Then you have afternoon practice Monday through Friday. After practice the whole team goes to dinner at the dorms. Then I go home and do all the schoolwork I have to do, and then I go to bed.
Q: What do you look forward to most each day?
A: I think what I look forward to most is being able to get better. Waking up and knowing that today’s another day, and you have another [day] to accomplish and work toward what you want.
Q: What do you look forward to the least?
A: Honestly; getting out of bed is the worst. I hate waking up. It’s really hard for me. I have to set a few alarms.
Q: What do you enjoy besides swimming?
A: Being social is one of my biggest things. There’s not just one thing I enjoy other than swimming because swimming is what I do, but I would say hanging out with my friends and trying new things.
Q: What would your perfect day be like?
A: Honestly, it would be to wake up whenever I wanted, make breakfast with some bacon and pancakes, and just lounge around. Just have the opportunity to be lazy and just hang out with no worries. I think that would be one of my most ideal [days].
— Edited by Yu Kyung Lee
Photos by: Aaron Groene/KANSAN
By: Aaron Groene | @WatchtheGroan
While growing up in Junction City, Kevin Willmott, associate professor in the film department, watched a lot of movies. Every weekend he could be found in the Kaw Theatre watching the latest action flick.
“We never went to Disney movies, we thought Disney was corny,” Willmott said. “In my old neighborhood on 10th street in Junction, if the kids had seen you at a Disney movie they’d probably beat you up.”
Willmott knew from an early age that he wanted to go into films, but it wasn’t until he saw Gordon Parks’ “The Learning Tree” that he actually believed he could.
“I saw a thing on TV where they were talking about the making of ‘The Learning Tree’,” Willmott said. “And they were saying Gordon Parks is from Kansas, and I thought ‘Oh, wow and he is black, too!’ ”
Willmott has been writing screenplays since he was getting his master’s in screenwriting and film and video production management at New York University. He landed at the University of Kansas shortly after finishing his first film “Ninth Street”, set in 1968 Junction City, starring Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes.
Willmott teaches two classes a semester, usually the first two levels of screenwriting. He always has the classes scheduled for Tuesdays so he has the rest of the week to work on personal projects.
Teaching while working on films is a helpful balance in the classroom for Willmott. He can use his personal experiences and insight while teaching class and gets plenty of help on his films by the students he teaches. Willmott seldom shows his own films in class, though.
“I usually show someone else’s stuff,” Willmott said. “I don’t want people to think I’m trippin’.”
Growing up in the last 60s and 70s, Willmott was too young to actively participate in the civil rights movements but he saw and heard all about them. That, paired with blaxploitation films of the time, heavily influenced his films’ messages.
“The movies I liked growing up a lot of them taught you how to be better as an American,” Willmott said. “I try to make movies that point us in the direction that I think we should all be going as Americans and try to deal with some of the American problems of race.”
Of the six movies Willmott has directed, two have been selected for the Sundance Film Festival. “CSA: Confederate States of America” was selected in 2004 and “The Only Good Indian” in 2009. Willmott was on Massachusetts street when he found out that CSA had been accepted to Sundance.
“It was one of those outer body kind of deals because that was always the goal as an independent film maker to get to Sundance,” said Willmott.
Willmott is currently finishing up post-production of his seventh film titles “The Association” starring former KU basketball star Scot Pollard. Pollard stars as a selfish, womanizing, irresponsible basketball all-star whose life is a wreck and needs to finish his final season to get much needed full-retirement benefits. The film tackles the issue of the bad athlete and the bad end of the sports business world. “The Association” is set to release in 2015.
—Edited by Ben Carroll
By: James Lamb
Name: Oluwagbohunmi ‘GB’ Kolawole
Hometown: Osun State, Nigeria
Q: What made you want to come to the USA to study?
A: Architecture is a course that requires that you travel and broaden your horizons, right? So, like, if you’re stuck in one place, you won’t really know the kind of beauty that lives outside your country, so I decided to explore that. I already knew, since when I was younger I wanted to come to America. I don’t know, I don’t like traveling, but I wanted to come because I didn’t want to stay in Nigeria for my university [studies] so I could explore and get better interests for when I get back.
Q: What has been the most American thing you’ve done since coming?
A: Probably parties, because the parties in Nigeria are way different, so that’s the most American thing. They’re just different from Nigeria. The purpose of coming [to a party] here is just to meet people and collect numbers, but that’s not the same in Nigeria. In Nigeria, you just come for girls. [laughs]
Q: What is a typical day like back home? What are some of the main differences to here?
A: When I was in high school, I’d get up in the morning, go to school. [I’d] play table tennis every day. Then I’d wait for [my parents] to pick me up. But I wasn’t in halls though, so that’s very different, living in dorms and stuff. In Nigeria, I’d just get picked up by my parents. I’m more independent, so I guess that’s different. [The main differences are] the weather, the people are nicer here, they talk to you. In Nigeria, they need to know you first before they talk to you. And the food. Nigeria’s food is cultural food, but here it’s just regular stuff, like burgers and stuff.
Q: What do you miss about home?
A: My brother. That’s pretty much it. And the food. But not that much, I don’t really miss the food to be honest, not now at least.
Photos by: Anna Wenner
By: Alicia Garza | @AliciaoftheUDK
Sara Anees is a muslim senior from Wichita.
Q: What do you believe are the most important aspects about your religion?
A: Well, according to the Koran, there’s five pillars of Islam, and those are like the pillars that you are supposed to adhere to in order to be considered a devout, practicing muslim. And those are like praying every day, 5 times a day. The declaration of faith is the first pillar. Fasting during the month of Ramadan. Giving charity, based on the conditions that are set forth in the Koran. Then there’s making the pilgrimage- so going to Mecca and performing the Hajj. I remember them in order, and whenever I go out of order, it always kind of messes me up. The five pillars of Islam that are written down and recorded in doctrine are of course very important. I would say that as a practicing muslim that I think the most important value that you can demonstrate is just ultimately your intentions and being not necessarily perfect all the time, like according to the written word, but having good intentions and being as true to your beliefs as possible.
Q: Do you follow all of those?
A: Well, I haven’t gone to Mecca before, just because I haven’t had the opportunity to do so, and that’s one of the conditions. Like if you’re unable to do so, if you’re unable to make certain conditions up- like of the five pillars- it’s not being held against you. If you’re too sick to fast from sunrise to sunset, then you’re not expected to, and in that case it’s recommended that you cook for someone else so that they have a meal when they’re finished with their fast.
Q: Do you plan to visit Mecca in your future?
A: If I could, that would be really awesome. I think it would be really exciting, I’ve always been interested in going to places with historical significance. Something beyond America, like I’ve never been outside of the country. So I would like to go travel and find what’s out there in the big world.
Q: How long have you been Muslim?
A: I was brought up into the faith, but like anyone, I would say I definitely had my own spiritual journey where I’ve questioned a lot of the things I’ve been taught. And I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing because I think that through questions I’ve been able to receive a more enriching experience with my faith, and I think that I’ve learned a lot more because I’ve had to question things. Especially growing up in an area where Islam isn’t that prominent of a faith, and growing up in America where a lot of the cultural norms are not necessarily… it’s very different. My father is Pakistani, and my mom is American so those two cultures are very different, and I’ve had to learn to see both and appreciate the good from both.
Q: How does being Muslim play into your daily life?
A: I would say my practice of Islam influences the choices I make each day. I think the most rewarding experience that I have gained by practicing Islam was a realization inspired by the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, muslims do not eat or drink anything from Sunrise to Sunset for about 30 days. Forgoing meals and water proved challenging, and I often thought during the day, “I am so hungry. Why can’t I eat?...Oh right. Fasting.” Each time I felt hungry, I started thinking about the privilege that I have which added to my appreciation and gratitude for life. I thought more about how I could help others, my consumption habits, and how I could be less wasteful. I learned self-control. In the last week of Ramadan I caught myself hesitating to drink Iftar, which is the time to break fast. As I raised a cold glass of water to my lips, I noticed that the question “Why am I not eating or drinking?” evolved, becoming the corollary, “Why am I eating and drinking?” I thought “Do I really need to eat this?” throughout each meal, and I appreciated foods that I never liked before. These questions provided a great deal of perspective on how I want to live each day. I don’t think I could have learned the same life lessons in any other way, which makes this a very special experience for me.
Q: What do you want the University to know about your faith?
A: I guess I’m lucky in that KU is kind of a haven for exploration and learning all kinds of different things, and meeting all kinds of different people because our university is about flagship. We have a lot of different people from a lot of different places, and that’s really awesome. So I feel like the people who go here are especially open-minded in learning about my faith and my culture which is awesome, and actually one of the reason that I chose KU. But I guess, if I had to say something that I would like...I just appreciate KU in that everyone is so accepting and excited to learn about things that other people that I’ve met aren’t interested in at all. To KU, I would say thanks, for being interested in me as a person and for being interested in the things that I hold dear. I think Islam gets a pretty bad rap in the media about being a terrifying or hostile faith, it’s not supposed to be a vindictive faith — I don’t know why our media is so Anti-Islamic but I would say that intent is the most important thing- and anyone who has good intentions and considers being a good person important, I think that is the most appreciated value in Islam. I think it’s the foundational element that it takes to be a Muslim.