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Translate Your Passion into Life-changing Experiences for Students

November 4, 2013

David McLeod, director of anatomy labs and lecturer in KU’s Undergraduate Biology Program, has two passions: mentoring students and, in a word, frogs.

Last January, he found a unique way to combine his passions when he led a group of students on a trip to Malawi through a partnership with the Global Orphan Project and Global Health Innovations.

A herpetologist on a medical mission to Africa?!  McLeod made the connection by noting that his human anatomy courses included hundreds of pre-health care students who may not immediately connect with a herpetology research field trip but whose interests and potential careers would greatly benefit from this type of service trip.

Now he is collaborating with local medical practitioners and faculty and students from the KU Medical Center on a program that provides inter-professional mentoring of students, real-world training, and the opportunity to partner with Malawian health care workers and researchers to serve the needs of a community.

In addition, several of his undergraduate researchers are working on Malawian amphibian and reptile projects, thus integrating McLeod’s passion for herpetological research. His next trip to Malawi is in January 2014.

McLeod is one example of KU faculty and staff finding ways to combine their research passion with projects that make a real difference in the world and fulfill each part of our mission to educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world.

KU faculty engaging in experiential learning

There are several examples across campus you may be familiar with:

  • Chris Depcik, associate professor of mechanical engineering, oversees EcoHawks, an interdisciplinary undergraduate student group focused on a sustainable approach to automobiles and energy infrastructure. The new EcoHawks facility on west campus was a Studio 804 project.
  • Nils Gore, associate professor of architecture, connects his teaching on construction with design/build projects, including a trip to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the award-winning Rockefeller Trailhead at the University of Kansas Field Station.
  • Mary Banwart, associate professor of communications, coordinates the leadership studies minor, which mixes coursework with co-curricular experience as a student leader with the Student Involvement and Leadership Center.
  • Burdett Loomis, professor of political science, is director of the KU Political Science intern program in Washington, DC, an intensive, semester-long experience in our nation’s capital. Since 1984 more than 600 undergraduate and graduate students from all majors have earned credit while interning in congressional or executive branch offices, independent agencies, lobbying organizations, political consulting firms, campaigns, and administrative agencies.

Faculty utilize experiential learning in their courses to expand their passion for teaching and research beyond the classroom and to create direct benefits for campus, the local community, and beyond.  Students who participate often continue pursuing the subject after their project is completed.

Expanded support

A key aspect of the KU Core curriculum is how it incentivizes these potentially life-changing experiences for our students.  To assist faculty, we’ve established the Experiential Learning Collaborative by combining and focusing the work of a number of offices on campus, including Undergraduate Research, Civic and Social Responsibility, Study Abroad, International Programs, and the University Career Center.  The collaborative’s top priority is to work closely with the University Core Curriculum Committee to develop a vetting process for potential KU Core units that are not course-based.

The members of the collaborative are the primary source for faculty looking to enhance their teaching and research through experiential learning.  A list of KU Core experiences is online, and faculty and departments will soon be able to nominate an experiential learning experience to meet one of the goals of the KU Core.

Working with the UCCC, the Center for Civic and Social Responsibility developed the Plus One Option in Social Responsibility to fulfill Goal 5 of the KU Core. This service learning experience allows students to pursue individualized service learning connected to a non-service learning course. This innovative option allows students to explore a subject matter and discipline by creating real-world solutions.

Additionally, last month the collaborative announced that our first KU Experiential Learning Symposium will be held Friday, Feb. 21 beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Kansas Union. I encourage you to attend this important campus conversation on experiential learning.

Bits and Bytes

  • The Dean of Graduate Studies search committee has selected four candidates from an outstanding pool of applications. As part of the interview process, each candidate will give an open presentation and take questions from the KU community:
    • Michael Roberts, Applied Behavioral Science, Thursday, Nov. 7, 4 p.m. (Big 12 Room, Kansas Union)
    • Doug Wright, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m. (Malott Room, Kansas Union)
    • Joshua Rosenbloom, Economics, Thursday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m. (Kansas Room, Kansas Union)
    • Marta Caminero-Santangelo,  English,  Monday, Nov. 18, 4 p.m. (Kansas Room, Kansas Union)
  • The November schedule for the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series includes two inaugural lectures by KU distinguished professors:
    • David Nualart, the Black-Babcock Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mathematics, will present his inaugural lecture “The Roughness of the Random” on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Bruckmiller Room in the Adams Alumni Center.
    • Matthias Groszer of the INSERM Institut du Fer à Moulin at the University Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris will present his lecture “Neurodevelopmental disorders — molecular perspectives” on Monday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. at the Commons followed by a reception at 5 p.m.
    • Douglas Walker, the Union Pacific Resources Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geology, will present his inaugural lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the Kansas Room in the Kansas Union.
  • Research and Graduate Studies is hosting a KU Research Open Forum for Arts and Humanities on Wednesday, Nov. 13 from Noon–1 p.m. at The Commons.  Faculty in the arts and humanities are invited to learn more about the current and future outlook for sponsored research at KU from Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies.
  • Please join me in thanking Fred Pawlicki, executive director of KU Continuing Education, for over 21 years of service to the university and to wish him well upon his upcoming retirement.  Fred was brought to KU to serve as the first director of operations for the Lied Center in 1992. In addition to his 14 years of service to the Lied Center, he served as interim director of the Spencer Museum of Art prior to taking leadership of KU Continuing Education in May 2006.  Fred indicates he and his wife Cathie plan to remain in Lawrence.
  • KU is again providing mandatory training on sexual violence and sexual harassment.  All KU faculty and staff will receive an email asking them to complete a brief online training titled “Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment: NOT ON OUR CAMPUS!”  This mandatory training will only take about 15 minutes.  It must be completed by November 22, 2013.  This training will improve our campus environment, and will satisfy federal compliance obligations to ensure that every employee has completed the training.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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