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Our Foundation Begins with Our People

September 10, 2018

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 28 seconds

KU Professor of Law Uma Outka, right, with assistant professor Uday Shankar of the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law at the Indian Institute of Technology KharagpurAs I’ve met with you in conversations across campus, I’ve talked about the foundational priorities for the University of Kansas and the importance of supporting the things that are most crucial to our success. We can talk for hours about the need for financial stability, but what really matters most — what it all comes down to — is supporting our people and recognizing their impact. KU’s faculty, staff, graduate students and other students leaders are our unsung heroes who are doing great things and are dedicated to this institution. They are indeed the foundation of our University.

It’s important to me that we know a little more about the people all across campus who infuse life into our efforts. I’m talking about our colleagues who are fighting for advances — maybe on a big scale, maybe on a smaller scale — and putting their hearts and their minds into the job. Today, I want to focus your attention on a handful of individuals who through their work and their spirit create a foundation for great things to happen.

Michael Engel

At a research institution of KU’s stature, it is only natural we would highlight one who is pushing the boundaries of discovery and knowledge. University Distinguished Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and KU alumnus Michael Engel has expanded the world’s understanding of insect origins and historical behavior. His work has revealed the earliest fossil evidence of insects, unraveled the origin of wings and flight, documented the extinction and diversification of major bee lineages, and explored the fossil record of insect behavior, camouflage and pollination. His discovery of giant fleas that likely fed on feathered dinosaurs was listed by Discover Magazine as one of the top 100 stories of 2012. His scholarly efforts are recognized both in his field and by his students. A Guggenheim fellow, Michael has also received the International Cooperation Award for Young Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and KU’s William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

Mulu Lemma

Mulu Lemma, McNair Scholars Program directorAs director of the McNair Scholars Program Mulu Lemma helps prepare selected students for doctoral study. McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Quite often these students, who begin in the program as early as their sophomore year, are unfamiliar with the path or the opportunities available to them. Mulu, who has been at KU for nine years, works to ensure student success by providing personal and academic support, connecting students to resources and mentors, and preparing them to successfully land jobs and research opportunities. Individuals who interact with Mulu have said she is tireless in her commitment to the students and other co-workers in KU’s TRIO programs. She even works to stay in touch with KU’s McNair Scholars long after they’ve left campus.

Uma Outka

Uma Outka, KU Professor of LawWe also have faculty who routinely participate in the collaborative nature of scholarship in a global setting. Take the example of Professor of Law Uma Outka. In May she co-taught a short course in India on renewable energy law and policy. The program gave her an opportunity to provide insight on the intricacies of federal and state policies and law on renewable energy — as well free market trends — to an international audience. At the same time Uma was able to glean greater understanding of the energy policy efforts and practical challenges of one of the world’s most populous countries. This type of engaged cross-cultural work offers direct benefits to KU students and advances KU’s research endeavors.

Shima McCurdy

KU Parking Administrative Associate Shima McCurdySometimes our greatness becomes readily apparent to others when we work through extraordinary circumstances. Normally, Administrative Associate Shima McCurdy manages the KU Parking booths at the entrances to campus and supervises several student hourly employees. More recently, she stepped up in a critical way to do more than what is expected of her. When the parking garage gates were dismantled at the end of summer it meant an accelerated transition to the license plate recognition system already used elsewhere on the Lawrence campus. When Shima saw others in the office were swamped by tasks related to the transition, she took it upon herself to reach out to departments and offices, establish a department portal for each and ensured their staffs were aware of the new way to accommodate guest parking. It is great that she had the ability to recognize a problem and a solution and, equally important, that she had been empowered to see it through.

These four Jayhawks are amazing in their own right, and are symbols for the hard-working, dedicated KU faculty and staff we see everywhere we go. Each possesses unique strengths and talents, and they all share a dedication to purpose and a passion for the community they serve. They are the foundation for our current success and the future we are working to build at KU.

I know there are many, many others on our campuses who deserve a moment of our consideration so we will try to revisit this theme later in the semester. If you know of someone we should share with the larger community, please tell me a little about them. I would love to spread the word so our whole community can start to know them as you know them.



News & Notes

The Lied Center for the Performing Arts turned 25 and all of KU and Lawrence is invited to celebrate. On Sept. 14 and 15, the Lied will host Lied Loves Lawrence Community Arts & Music Festival, with free performances and events for all ages. The event will showcase the School of Music’s 19th Annual Collage Concert at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 14.

The KU vice chancellor for research search is heading into its last stages. Look for announcements about individual candidates and their public presentations.

On July 1, KU completed the transition to a tobacco-free university.  Smoking, vaping and use of tobacco products is not allowed on campus, except in one’s personal vehicle parked on campus.  Tobacco users are encouraged to be respectful of campus neighbors. For assistance quitting tobacco use or information about the tobacco-free policy please visit tobaccofree.ku.edu.

Campus Cupboard, a food pantry for the KU community, has opened in the Student Involvement and Leadership Center suite of offices on Level 4 of the Kansas Union. The pantry will be open a variety of hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the semester. Campus Cupboard is possible through the collaboration of the Center for Community Outreach, Just Food, KU Fights Hunger, the School of Social Welfare, Student Affairs, and Student Senate. A ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening is scheduled for 4 p.m., Monday, Sept. 24.

Jayhawk Student One Stop, usually found in the Sabatini Multicultural Center, will hold satellite office hours from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday this semester at the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity, room 1040 of the Burge Union. Jayhawk SOS is a resource to KU students who may be experiencing unforeseen challenges.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 10, all KU staff and faculty will have access to LinkedIn Learning with Lynda.com content through mytalent.ku.edu. LinkedIn Learning provides an on-demand library of 5,000+ courses to help improve one’s creative and professional knowledge and skills across a wide range of job functions. Visit the service page for more details.

The annual Monarch Watch Tagging Event will be from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center, 1365 N. 1250 Rd., Lawrence. Learn more about Monarch Watch, founded by Professor Emeritus Orley “Chip” Taylor, and the tagging event at its website. Monarch Watch will host an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, at Foley Hall on the West District of campus.

In conjunction with Constitution Day, Stephen McAllister, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, will moderate a Dole Institute of Politics panel discussion that explores the history, importance and enduring legacy of the 14th Amendment. The free program will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the Dole Institute.

KU Libraries are now accepting nominations for the fifth annual Shulenburger Award for Innovation & Advocacy in Scholarly Communication. Awards between $500 and $2,500 will be granted for exceptional efforts to advance innovations in open sharing and advocacy for positive change in the scholarly communication system.  The nomination deadline is noon, Sept. 17.

The Spencer Museum of Art will hold its Backyard Bash from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30, in Marvin Grove behind the museum. The event features music and dance performances, art and nature activities, games demonstrations and fun for all ages. 

The Hall Center for the Humanities and the Department of African and African American Studies present “Paul Ortiz: An African American and Latinx History of the United States,” at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Hall Center. Ortiz is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Florida and Director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.

The Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, along with several University of Kansas offices and other regional partners, is hosting a two-day event to commemorate the dedication of the first World War I memorial in the United States. Keeping Legends Alive, begins with a veteran’s program at 9:50 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21. Events on Saturday, Sept. 22, begin at 8 a.m. and include a free powwow at noon and 7 p.m. as well as workshops and presentations.

Audio-Reader’s annual For Your Ears Only benefit sale will be 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 14, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. The sale offers vinyl records, vintage and modern audio equipment, CDs, DVDs, and musical instruments. Tickets are required for Friday evening. Entry is free on Saturday.

Four academic units were honored during the Annual Teaching Summit on Aug. 16 with Curriculum Innovation Program awards to transform components of their curricula over the coming year. Congratulations to instructional teams from Environmental Studies, Geology, Journalism and Mass Communications and Linguistics.  The Curriculum Innovation Program, coordinated by the Center for Teaching Excellence, provides each team a modest grant to cover initial costs of the project proposals. Learn more about the program and the projects here.

Congratulations to Associate Dean of Business Susan Scholz who was recognized on Aug. 7 with the 2018 Deloitte Foundation Wildman Medal Award from the American Accounting Association. The honor recognizes her work “Financial Restatement Trends in the United States: 2003-2012,” published by the Center for Audit Quality in 2014.



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