Posts tagged with Kansas University

Kansas University Law School applications drop 23 percent

As Kansas University’s School of Law deals with a national slump in the legal job market, admission applications to the school have fallen sharply.

And KU students and recent graduates are expanding their job searches.

This year, the school received about 850 applications, which is down from about 1,100 the year before, a nearly 23-percent drop.

“This trend of double-digit drops in applications, nearly every school in the country is experiencing this,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of KU’s law school.

KU’s drop-off is still well above the national average, which was around 12 percent to 13 percent in February, but has probably increased since then, Mazza said.

“What has happened is the game has gotten much more competitive for getting applications and retaining students,” he said.

KU will be stepping up its own game. After the law school’s director of admissions left for a new job at the University of Connecticut, KU will be adding not just a new director, but also two new positions — an assistant director and a seasonal recruiter — in the admissions office, Mazza said.

Sparkle Ellison, who will be a third-year law student this fall, said she’s not as concerned about landing a job after her schooling because she’s looking to enter a specialized field. She said she’s not surprised to see the drop-off in applications this year.

“With the job market, it’s easier to keep whatever job you have than go back to law school,” she said.

Ellison said she has advanced degrees in science (including a chemistry doctorate) and is considering patent law. She keeps up on the market in her field by talking with professors, reading patent-specific blogs and by word of mouth.

Todd Rogers, assistant law dean for career services at KU, said he’s seen more students applying for positions that prefer a law degree, rather than those that require bar passage.

KU reported 62 percent of 2009 law graduates whose employment status was known were working in a bar-required position nine months after graduation. That same statistic fell to 59 percent for the class of 2010.

Meanwhile, 9.2 percent of that same pool of students were working in J.D. preferred jobs in 2009, rising to 10.7 percent in 2010.

Those jobs often pay similar to a mid-size law firm, said Rogers, who wrote a blog post for the law school on the topic. Examples of institutions offering “J.D. preferred” that 2010 KU law graduates accepted include NCAA member institutions, federal agencies and the World Bank.

“People are much more open to it now, and I think that’s mostly out of necessity,” Rogers said.

By Andy Hyland


KU proposes tuition increases for 2011-12 school year

The price of an education at Kansas University and all the regents schools would go up this fall semester under a proposal before the Kansas Board of Regents.

KU has proposed increasing tuition and required fees from $4,012 to $4,234, a $222 or 5.5 percent increase for an undergraduate taking 15 hours. The tuition for a non-Kansas resident would increase from $9,504 to $10,179, a $675 increase or 7.1 percent.

Graduate students would face a 5.5 percent increase for residents and 5.9 percent for non-residents.

Tuition and fees under the KU Compact -- first-time, degree-seeking freshman -- which would be fixed for four years would increase from $4,366 to $4,611, or $245, which is a 5.6 percent increase. Non-resident students would see an increase from $10,769 to $11,304, or 5 percent.

The regents will hear the proposals on Thursday and vote on them in June.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the increases are driven by budget cuts and demand from students to continue to improve the university.

“Students are very much in favor of trying to maintain excellence,” Gray-Little said.

Students at KU Medical Center would see a 4.9 percent increase.

Because of the KU Compact, 65 percent of returning undergraduates would have no tuition increase, according to KU officials.

The increased tuition and fees would generate approximately $14 million in additional revenue, according to a memo from KU submitted to the regents.

The additional revenue would go toward retaining faculty and staff, covering mandated cost increases and increasing the availability of high-demand classes.

“We are facing a growing crisis when it comes to retaining excellent employees,” said Gray-Little. “Private university endowments have recovered, giving them and public universities in faster-growing states the ability to recruit away our top faculty members. If we are going to give our students the high-quality education they expect, we must be able to compete.”

All the regents schools were seeking increases. For a resident undergraduate, the increase at Kansas State would be 3.8 percent; Wichita State, 5.1 percent; Emporia State, 6.8 percent; Pittsburg State, 6.5 percent; and Fort Hays State, 3.6 percent.

By Scott Rothschild


Cellular biology major will graduate as candidate with distinction nearly two decades after being kicked out of KU

Perhaps the first thing you need to know about Jennifer Kissinger is she thinks tapeworms are cute. And she searches through the guts of fish to find them.

The 36-year-old undergraduate student will be graduating from Kansas University this year with a degree in cellular biology. And she’s a candidate with distinction.

She’s a Lawrence kid, she said. Her family moved here when she was 9, and she’s been here ever since.

That part about being a candidate for distinction, by the way, is a long way away from her first effort at going through KU, which she tried right out of high school. The first semester she did well. The second semester, they told her to straighten up. After the third, they told her, “You’re out.”

“I was terrible,” she said. “I wasn’t focused. … I was just a kid. Boy, I wish I knew then what I know now.”

After leaving school, she met her longtime boyfriend Tim Richards, who’s an auto mechanic. A master mechanic, she corrected herself.

They had a son, Ben, who’s now 14. She worked for years with children with special needs and operated a day care out of her home.

She got tired, though, of no sick days, no benefits and no vacation.

So she decided it was time for a change. She had been shadowing a veterinarian, and thought she wanted to be a vet. So she applied to go back to KU.

“They said, ‘Oh, no way,’” she said.

Actually, they were a lot nicer than that, she said. They suggested she try to go back to Johnson County Community College. Which she did. She earned much better grades. Mostly A’s, in fact. KU took her back. But they were watching. Watching to make sure she didn’t slip up.

This might be a good time to mention this: Kissinger said she knows some people can see her as a sort of dumb-blonde type. She’s got a high-pitched sort of voice, a friendly, bubbly personality and when one professor asked her to give a presentation to a bunch of other professors, she knew the material, but didn’t even know how to use PowerPoint.

But, the bigger point is, Kissinger is not to be underestimated. Here’s one semester’s worth of courses for her: Western civilization (KU’s read-a-book-a-week class on philosophy and the human condition), organic chemistry, calculus and something called “parasitology.” (That one featured the cute worms, she said.)

In the middle of that semester, her grandmother went to the hospital, and later died. She took it hard. She comes from a close family.

Then, her father was diagnosed with liver cancer, and had a long fight that Kissinger and her two sisters had to help fight through, because her parents were divorced. He died, too.

Kissinger said she’s paid for school using loans, mostly. Her family has had to sacrifice, living in a duplex instead of buying that land Richards always wanted, for example.

While at KU, Kissinger got connected with Kirsten Jensen, a professor who studies the cute worms, and Kissinger began to research them herself.

She noticed some similarities between a few of them, and presented her findings at a parasitology conference (after she learned how to work the PowerPoint).

She practiced and practiced her speech while traveling to the conference, and was quite nervous. She was the sixth person to talk, she remembered, and everyone else seemed like they were bombing.

But she talked about the cute worms. And how she’s found four kinds of them that have similar characteristics, and it could be (“could be,” she stresses) a new genus — a new classification of cute worms that no one else has noticed before.

And when she got done, that room filled with professors was clapping. Clapping for her. One gave her a hug.

“I was on a scientific high,” she said.

She’s enjoyed her research, and several of her professors and peers have suggested she become a professor. (She still wants to be a vet.)

In the course of a two-hour conversation, it’s clear she’s still a little conflicted as to what she wants to do next. Her bachelor’s degree alone doesn’t get her to many of the career paths she wants, but more degrees means more debt.

She’s not making the decision alone, she said. Tim and Ben will be involved, too.

“It was tough at times,” Richards said. “It’s tough with her going to school, just juggling everything else.”

But he encouraged her to go, and helped her through the tears, and celebrated her successes, too.

“I didn’t expect,” Tim said, before taking a cautious look in Jennifer’s direction, “for her to do as good as she did.”

By Andy Hyland


Running down dream: Grenada Olympic team goal for sprinter

For a man so young, Keron Toussaint has seen the world from many angles.

First, he saw it as a boy growing up without his mother, under his father’s supervision in the small Carribean island of Grenada.

Then, as he entered his teenage years, he moved to The Bronx, N.Y., where he joined his mother and sister and became a potential recruit coveted by hard-core street gangs. His mother looked into the future, didn’t like what she saw for her son, and ordered him off to Lawrence after about a year, to live with his Aunt Netheli, then a professor at Kansas University.

Today, Toussaint is in Norman, Okla., where as a senior he’ll run, among other events, the 400 meters for KU in the Big 12 championships. Toussaint hopes the future holds a spot on Grenada’s 2012 track-and-field Olympic team. As for the present, he’s thankful he has one.

“Moving to Lawrence was what’s best for me,” said Toussaint, a former Free State High standout. “I was kind of mad my sister and my mom were gone, but if I stayed in New York, I probably would have ended up dead or in jail.”

Strong words, but he meant them.

He shared insights on what it’s like straddling the fence of gang life.

“You can go up to someone, ‘Hey, are you part of this gang? What do I have to do to join?’ Or, you may have a friend who’s part of a gang who will tell you, ‘I think you should join,’ and might offer you money or protection,” Toussaint said. “A couple of my friends joined gangs in New York.”

He never stepped onto that slippery slope.

“Often, you have to do something bad to get in,” Toussaint said. “If that requires you robbing someone, if that requires you beating up someone just for the fun of it, or the gang will jump you in, which basically means they beat you up and that’s your way in. Getting out of the gang is even worse and often results in death.”

He would like to take all the credit for not starting on the road to ruin, but added, “I kind of couldn’t because my mom and my aunties were always on my back. I really appreciate coming to Lawrence. It’s a big difference. I don’t have to deal with as much crime. The life is a lot slower. New York is so busy. New York was just too much for me.”

Initially, upon enrolling at Kansas and joining Stanley Redwine’s track program, Toussaint second-guessed himself. He was not used to doing any distance running during training sessions and didn’t at first see the value in lifting weights three days a week.

“I was always tired,” he said. “I thought I made a mistake. Now, when it comes down to it, I made a great decision. All the things I’ve done are paying off. My body’s finally used to it and I’m a lot stronger, running a lot faster.”

Last week in Arkansas, Toussaint ran a 46.8, knocking nearly a second off his personal-best time. He wants to drop another second, compete in the nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, ultimately represent his first country in the Olympics.

By Tom Keegan


KU students raising money to go help tornado-ravaged Alabama

Rick Farrier sat at home and watched news reports of the destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

He knew he couldn’t stay at home. He had to go help. That sparked years of volunteering for the Red Cross. Now Farrier, a Eudora resident, has traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to help distribute supplies to people displaced by a traumatizing tornado April 27.

Farrier isn’t the only one from the area lending a hand. A group of 13 Kansas University atmospheric sciences students are traveling to Tuscaloosa next week to help with debris removal.

Farrier, 56, is a retired disabled U.S. Army veteran who also volunteered in the aftermath of hurricanes Wilma and Rita. He said it was an excellent use of his free time.

“I recommend anyone who has any time at all. It'll change your life,” Farrier said. “It really made me want to do it more and more.”

Farrier arrived in Alabama on May 4 and immediately started distributing donated supplies to people displaced from the storm. He is assigned to a new task each day, and most are requests from the community. Piles of rubble still litter the streets, and many people no longer have houses to go home to.

“The people can’t thank you enough. People break down and cry because they don’t have anything,” Farrier said.

Adam Smith, who’s helping organize the students’ trip to Tuscaloosa, said the students felt an instant need to help those affected by the storms they so often study in school and chase. He said the group, named Rock Chalk and Roll Tide, felt the storm held a different meaning because they knew of all its weather traits.

“You can’t watch these things and chase storms and not feel something for these people who lost everything,” Smith said.

Originally the group planned to do only a fundraiser, but later decided to drive to Alabama to help. On the list of required equipment: chainsaws. The group, which will not include Smith, will help clear streets and work on debris removal.

The students will stay with host families whose homes were not damaged, but they must raise $2,000 to cover travel expenses. They’d like to raise even more to give a donation, though.

Smith said it’s important for college students to understand the damage the storm did. Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, a school similar in size to KU.

“Imagine if it went through Lawrence. What would we be experiencing right now?” he said. “Imagine what that would do to our student body.”

Farrier said it was important to help each other, and he recalled a tornado that cut a wide swath through Topeka on June 8, 1966. Damage estimates from that monster tornado hit $100 million, making it at that time the costliest tornado in U.S. history.

“It could happen to you tomorrow. You never know. Your house could be wiped out tomorrow,” he said.

But none of the help he’s giving would be possible without donations.

“Keep things coming in for the people who need them,” he said.

By Brenna Hawley


KU says door-to-door solicitors in metro area aren’t working on behalf of university

Kansas University says door-to-door sales of magazines, supposedly to fund university-related functions, are not legitimate.

In a news release today, the university said it has received reports of people posing as KU students and selling magazine subscriptions in the Kansas City area. The individuals have claimed to be Edwards Campus students and that they are selling the subscriptions to raise funds for needy schoolchildren or to fund School of Music trips.

KU’s Public Safety Office urges the public to exercise precaution if they are approached by such individuals. Anyone making door-to-door sales should have a solicitor’s license and be able to present it if questioned. Do not allow anyone you do not know into your home and do not give personal information to strangers.

Individuals should also contact their local police department if they believe someone is soliciting illegally.


Bill would give $65 million boost to KU engineering school

In a last-minute scramble, the Legislature on Friday pushed through an initiative designed to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

One bill would provide $10.5 million per year to be split equally between Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State. The program would start in 2013, last 10 years, and the funds would have to be matched by non-state funds from the schools.

Another bill would give KU the authority to issue $65 million in bonds to build a 100,000 square-foot classroom building for the engineering school. This would be built adjacent to a 34,600 square-foot engineering lab currently under construction.

Both measures were approved by the House and Senate and sent to Gov. Sam Brownback for his consideration.

"KU has a good problem," said state Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City. "They are bursting at the seams," in the engineering school, she said.

Some legislators weren't sold on the idea that the annual allocations were needed. "I don't think anyone has made the case that throwing money at this is going to solve the problem," said state Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.

But House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said, "I think the need has been demonstrated," for increasing the number of engineers educated and working in Kansas. "These are highly trained, highly educated, high paying jobs," O'Neal said.

The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of engineering graduates from 875 per year to 1,365 graduates per year by 2021.

The $10.5 million annual allocations would come from gambling revenue from state-operated casinos.

The repayment of the $65 million in bonds would come special revenue funds of KU, legislators said.

The engineering initiative was pushed by higher education and industry officials, who said they needed a steady stream of engineering graduates to stay in Kansas.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little met with legislative leaders early Thursday to discuss the engineering initiative.

By Scott Rothschild


Natural Ties partners dance the night away at annual prom

When Cole Brown walked into Abe and Jake’s Landing on Wednesday for the Natural Ties annual prom, he was ready to mingle and bust a move.

“Yeah,” Brown said about getting on the dance floor. “I like being active.”

He wasn’t alone Wednesday, as more than 100 Kansas University students and participants with the Natural Ties program grubbed and grooved during the year’s final event.

The KU program, which pairs students with area residents who have physical or mental disabilities, called ties, has been a mainstay in Lawrence since its founding in 1988. Weekly events and activities highlight the program’s work each semester.

Brown, who’s been participating in Natural Ties events for years, said he enjoyed the social nature of the program, for which he is an honorary member of the executive board.

“It’s all about being there and giving back,” Brown said. “It’s just hanging out with people, socializing and having fun.”

KU senior Mary Tunakan has been working with Natural Ties for four years and said the connections she’s made are what make the program special.

“It’s the ties,” she said. “They give you a perspective on life you never would have imagined.”

And as the evening’s hour-long festivities wore on, there were few who didn’t find their way onto the dance floor. Students and ties alike were smiling, moving and conversing while music played under the lights and disco ball.

KU junior Tyler Setter, coordinator for the Natural Ties program, said seeing the ties enjoy themselves was a big part of why he got involved and plans to stay involved.

“I feel like all the volunteers just love it,” Setter said. “When they get really excited it makes it worth doing all the work we do. I’d say that’s the best part.”

By Joe Preiner


Service learning courses at KU provide real-life lessons

For Kansas University students in assistant professor Ken Fisher’s mechanical engineering course, learning goes beyond taking notes in lecture.

It reaches all the way to a house in Wichita.

The students are building a simple machine that will allow a woman with cerebral palsy to accomplish her goal of getting more exercise. It’s a fairly inexpensive device, and with it, the woman — with the help of a trainer — will be able strap in her hands and feet and move them both in a circular motion at the same time.

“We’re actually working with people in the outside world,” said Katie Sanders, a senior from Lenexa studying mechanical engineering and business.

It’s an example of service learning — projects that take students outside the classroom and apply their knowledge to benefit the broader community.

In the past year, KU has continued to expand its service learning presence, and more students are picking up the service learning certification that KU offers. And more courses are adding service learning components.

KU has a Center for Service Learning that coordinates those efforts and offers the certification, which students can have added to their transcripts by taking enough service learning courses.

This fall, KU hopes to have 450 students earn that certification. Ninety-one students earned it five years ago.

The center’s director is Andi Witczak, an assistant professor of design. She said expanded service learning opportunities are part of KU’s strategic planning process.

“The university is trying to get all students more engaged with their learning,” she said. “Especially in the freshman and sophomore year.”

Today, about 150 class sections include a service learning component, she said. Colleges typically ask about community service in the application process, and are looking to extend that kind of learning as a structured part of their course work.

And, Witczak said, today’s students are typically more engaged with their communities coming out of high school.

“It’s really a bottom-up kind of thing,” Witczak said. “Students are asking for it.”

What she’d really like to do, she said, is reach more faculty on campus who can incorporate this kind of thing into their own classes.

No need to do that with people like Cheryl Lester, chairwoman of KU’s American studies department. She’s been incorporating service learning into her classes for years.

“I believe service learning is absolutely essential to undergraduate education,” she said. “Because I think that connecting knowledge to everyday experience is how people really learn.”

In her Jewish-American literature and culture course, students read literature for Audio-Reader.

“It is important to develop a focused experience and develop one that would be a meaningful experience for students,” Lester said.

Students began reading Jewish publications to serve Jewish listeners but quickly realized that many would be interested in things beyond Jews in Jewish places, too. So, today the students read materials on immigration, diversity and a range of other topics that reflect the Jewish experience in America.

“It’s what we all hope to do — get an education and do something with it,” said Hannah Vick, a junior from Lawrence in Lester’s class.

She said the service part doesn’t stop when the class is over. She hopes to continue being involved with Audio-Reader after the class.

“The best way to get an education is do real-life examples,” Vick said. “It sort of focuses the student to build that connection, which could so easily be lost.”

By Andy Hyland


Deciphera leukemia drug trials extend to KU Cancer Center

A Lawrence-based company’s first cancer-fighting drug to reach human clinical trials is returning promising results as its testing expands to the Kansas University Cancer Center.

Deciphera Pharmaceuticals LLC’s drug, known as DCC-2036, has been documented as effective against human leukemia cells and also has killed malignant cells and prolonged survival in a mouse model, as reported in the April issue of Cancer Cell, a journal.

Human clinical trials are continuing, with about 30 patients in all, at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Michigan Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Kansas University Cancer Center, which is pursuing designation by the National Cancer Institute as a national cancer center, recently joined the phase I clinical trials. The trials are focused on patients who have developed resistance to standard treatments for chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The disease strikes about 5,000 people each year, and after standard treatment, about a third suffer a relapse in which the disease becomes resistant to traditional therapy. That’s where Deciphera’s drug candidate is going to work, striving to block an enzyme that otherwise would instruct the leukemia cells to grow.

“The patients we’re seeing really have no other recourse available to them outside of a complete bone marrow transplant,” said Daniel Flynn, Deciphera’s president and CEO.

Flynn said that Deciphera, with about 30 employees in its headquarters and lab space at 643 Mass., aims to expand its approach to another form of leukemia and, eventually, to solid tumors. The company also has a research partnership with Eli Lilly and Co., plus another proprietary drug candidate in preclinical development to attack gastro-intestinal cancers.

“We have a pipeline over here,” Flynn said. “Now the excitement is how we manage that pipeline.”

By Mark Fagan