• UMKC to Conduct Virtual Commencement in May

    Students will also have opportunity for-in person celebration in December
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City is planning a virtual commencement for May graduates, with details to be influenced by a survey of graduates and their families. The decision is in keeping with the announcement by the University of Missouri System that all four UM universities were postponing in-person spring commencement exercises, with each university making individual plans to celebrate graduates. UMKC will conduct a two-pronged commencement celebration, with May graduates invited to participate in both the virtual commencement in May and to walk the stage in traditional cap and gown in December. All students who completed requirements for graduation will still have degrees conferred upon the regular schedule.  In a letter to pending graduates and their families from Chancellor Mauli Agrawal and Interim Provost Jenny Lundgren, they said: “We know what a treasured tradition and milestone commencement is for our graduates who have worked long and hard for their diplomas. At the same time, we must address the need to keep our campus community, as well as our graduates’ families and loved ones, safe and healthy.” The university plans to distribute a survey to pending graduates and their families during the week of April 6, soliciting ideas and input to help plan the virtual commencement. “In May, we fully intend to find a fun, creative way to celebrate graduation and commencement virtually, with survey input from our graduates,” they wrote. “In December 2020, we also will plan to host our biggest in-person commencement celebration ever, inviting May and December grads to march across the stage and receive their diplomas.” Apr 02, 2020

  • UMKC Researcher Awarded $3.3 Million Grant to Prevent Diabetes

    Jannette Berkley-Patton will focus on overcoming health barriers with African Americans
    The National Institutes of Health awarded a $3.3 million grant to Jannette Berkley-Patton, professor, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, to help improve diabetes prevention outcomes with African Americans. “This is an extension of what we’ve been doing in the School of Medicine with Project FIT, which stands for Faith Influencing Transformation” says Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute and the Community Health Research Group. With Project FIT, nearly 900 people have participated in the program and more than 200 medical, physician assistant, nursing and health studies and psychology students have been trained as FIT health coaches to help deliver the program. At UMKC, Berkley-Patton has won other significant grants that focus on improving the health of African Americans, and each centers on health inequities and community-engaged research with African American community-based organizations, including places of worship because of their cultural importance. This new five-year grant, which starts on April 1, will include similar strategies. To date, Berkley-Patton’s work has been supported by more than $10 million in federal grants over the past 14 years. The grant will tailor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, an evidence-based lifestyle change intervention, with 360 African American pre-diabetic participants recruited from Truman Medical Centers. The program includes 22 group sessions that take place over one year and primarily focuses on eating healthier and exercising regularly. Preventing diabetes can help stave off other associated chronic health issues including blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.  People who participate in the CDC program aim to lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight and exercise 150 minutes per week, which have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes by up to 60 percent. The program has also been found to outperform pre-diabetes drugs such as Metformin. However, African Americans typically don’t fare as well, especially women and those with low incomes. Some of the issues include barriers such as cost of the program, transportation, childcare, access to healthy food and places to exercise. These barriers are often referred to as social determinants of health. “With the grant, we’re trying to address every barrier related to social determinants,” Berkley-Patton said. “The most successful outcomes are correlated with attending the sessions – the more sessions attended, the better the outcomes.”  The grant will support linking Truman Medical Centers patients to FIT Diabetes Prevention Program classes in their home communities via church, community center or neighborhood association settings. The program will be culturally-tailored for African American adults. The program is at no cost to the participant – typically it costs $450 per year. In addition to Truman Medical Centers, program partners include several urban Kansas City churches, Calvary Outreach Network, YMCA, Chestnut Resource Center, KC Care Health Center, Children’s Mercy and the University of Kansas. Although the grant begins this week during a pandemic that has Americans sheltering in place and working from home, the first year of the grant is a planning year. “With this grant, we are looking forward to further refining our current Project FIT program to have trained UMKC students and community members working side-by-side as FIT coaches,” says Carole Bowe Thompson, project director, UMKC Community Health Research Group. The program will be launched by this time next year. “We are looking forward to getting started,” Berkley-Patton said. “We want to show participants that here’s a premiere program designed just for you.” Mar 31, 2020

  • A Pioneer Woman in Medicine

    Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., was a champion for women in medicine and a fixture at the UMKC School of Medicine
    In recognition of Women’s History Month, we are recounting the impact of women in STEM at UMKC. A deep appreciation for medical humanities and an emphasis on empathy and compassion for her patients were hallmarks of Marjorie Sirridge, M.D. They are also bedrocks of the curriculum at the UMKC School of Medicine, where Sirridge was a fixture from time of its inception until her death. Sirridge earned her medical degree in 1944, graduating first in her class from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She dropped out of medicine for a time when told it was improper for women to become pregnant while doing their post-graduate residency. She later returned to medicine and had worked for more than a decade in private practice and on faculty at the University of Kansas School of Medicine when she and her husband, William, received a new calling. They were recruited to serve as two of the three founding docents for the new University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine when the School opened in 1971. Sirridge spent the remainder of her career in numerous leadership roles at the school including a tenure as dean. While serving as a docent, Sirridge established the UMKC Program for Women in Medicine to help female students and physicians succeed in a male-dominated system. Due in part to her influence, the UMKC School of Medicine boasts one of the highest rates of female students among the country’s co-educational medical schools. Longtime School of Medicine Dean Betty M. Drees, M.D., remarked following Sirridge’s death in 2014 at the age of 92, how Sirridge had enriched those around her. “We have all been extremely privileged to have worked with Dr. Sirridge for many years and have been enriched by her tremendous wisdom and guidance,” Drees said. “Her contributions to the School of Medicine are many and are sure to have a lasting and positive impact on future generations of physicians.” Sirridge was honored in 2010 by the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine with the Alma Dea Morani, M.D., Renaissance Woman Award. In 2003, the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) created a traveling exhibit called Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating American Women Physicians. Sirridge was one of the pioneering women included in the exhibit that now exists online to honor the achievements of women who excelled in their medical careers. Marjorie and William Sirridge endowed the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Marjorie Sirridge became its first director in 1992, building a program of courses in medicine and the humanities that other medical schools in the country have copied. She later endowed a professorship in medical humanities. In 2011, the Kansas University Women in Medicine and Science organization established the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Excellence in Medicine and Science Award. “There have been many ups and downs,” Sirridge said in her Changing the Face of Medicine biography. “But I have never felt that I made the wrong decision when I decided to be a physician.” Mar 31, 2020

  • UMKC Researcher Helped Lead Studies Published in New England Journal of Medicine

    John Spertus is renowned for his work in cardiac outcomes
    UMKC School of Medicine researcher John Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., is part of two large NIH-funded clinical studies published Monday, March 30, in the New England Journal of Medicine. The studies indicate eliminating unnecessary surgeries for cardiac patients could save the United States hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Spertus serves as professor of medicine and is the Daniel J. Lauer, M.D., Endowed Chair in Metabolism and Vascular Disease Research at the School of Medicine, and Clinical Director of Outcomes Research at Saint Luke’s Hospital. The studies looked specifically at coronary-artery disease patients who had high-risk blockages with at least 10 percent or more of the heart muscle being at risk. One focused on patients with preserved kidney function and the other targeted patients with end-stage kidney failure. That latter group has largely been excluded from almost all cardiovascular trials, despite having a high prevalence of coronary artery disease and death, Spertus said. Both studies, conducted in unison, examined the most important outcomes for patients, hospital visits (including heart attacks and death) and patients’ symptoms, function and quality of life. Participants were randomized to undergo invasive angiography and surgeries with aggressive medical therapy or aggressive medical therapy alone. The goals of the medical treatment were cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control, aspirin and medications to treat chest pain. The studies in patients with preserved kidney function showed that invasive medical procedures provided no reduction in hospital visits, but did improve patients’ symptoms and quality of life, if they had chest pain within a month of entering the trial. These health status benefits were evident within three months and sustained out to four years. “Importantly, this benefit was only observed in patients who had angina, chest pain, and not in asymptomatic patients,” Spertus said. “There is no indication for these procedures in patients whose symptoms are well-controlled with medications alone. If we avoided revascularization in asymptomatic patients, we could potentially save about $500 million to $750 million a year in the United States alone.” Among patients with very severe kidney disease, there was no significant difference in hospital visits or in patients’ symptoms and quality of life.  “While disappointing, this is a very ill patient population for whom an aggressive, invasive treatment strategy does not seem to offer much benefit,” Spertus said. The NEJM published four papers from these two studies, one for each trial focusing on the clinical events and another for each trial focusing on the quality of life outcomes. Spertus was involved in writing all four and is the lead author on the two quality of life papers. He and his team designed, analyzed and led the health status, quality of life components of both trials. Spertus is the author of the Seattle Angina Questionnaire (SAQ) that used in the studies. It is widely recognized throughout the world as the gold standard for quality of life measurement in cardiac medicine. “Our group has led its use and analyses in multiple studies and quality improvement efforts,” Spertus said. “In light of these findings, the SAQ may start becoming a routine part of clinical care in cardiology.” Mar 30, 2020

  • Luke Bryan Steps Up for UMKC Students

    Country music superstar makes gift to student emergency fund
    Country music superstar Luke Bryan has donated $8,000 to a new emergency fund set up to help students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City cover unexpected expenses related to returning home, food, housing and other issues stemming from the coronavirus epidemic. The donation came from the proceeds from Bryan’s annual Farm Tour. Bryan typically makes contributions to colleges and universities near Farm Tour stops. Bryan was scheduled to perform at a farm in Louisburg, Kansas in October 2019, but the concert was moved to the Sprint Center due to weather issues. “UMKC is extremely grateful for the gift provided by the Luke Bryan Farm Tour in helping launch our emergency support for our students,” said Lisa B. Baronio, chief advancement officer and UMKC Foundation president. “Luke Bryan represents the values of many in the Heartland and has always generously supported the communities where he has performed. “Many of our students are strongly impacted by this pandemic and are in need of resources such as food, funds to travel home, and even support to pay their bills,” Baronio continued. “Students often work in the service industries that have shut down, including restaurants and retail stores, and need your help. Within the first 24 hours of launching this site, multiple students have reached out asking how they can apply for a micro-grant. We encourage you to do what you can to help our students during this challenging time.” Bryan has been named "Entertainer of the Year" by both the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association. Donate to the Student Emergency Fund Mar 27, 2020

  • Engineering Alumnus Uses Tech Experiences to Track COVID-19

    Riddhiman Das (B.S.C.S ’12, M.S.C.S. '19) is part of a Kansas City team developing White House-endorsed app designed to track users’ locations
    From student entrepreneur to product architect for Kansas City’s renowned EyeVerify (now Zoloz) to co-founder and CEO of six-month old digital startup TripleBlind, School of Computing and Engineering graduate Riddhiman Das has set off on yet another groundbreaking venture that, this time, could help solve the global COVID-19 pandemic. The seven-member TripleBlind startup was recently featured in Startland News following the White House’s expected endorsement of a new coronavirus tracking app, Private Kit, they designed to help the government keep tabs on where the contagious disease is spreading while maintaining the privacy of everyday citizens. “Solutions for COVID-19 are top-down. The government wants to track everything from where you’ve been to who you’ve encountered, but that can be overreaching,” Das said. “Our team wanted to install citizen-first private tracking to keep users’ data private while still helping to track the virus.” Private Kit is a voluntary app that smartphone users can install to track where they’ve been in recent days without having to rely solely on their memories. Should they need to get tested, they can choose to make their data available for health experts to determine if they need to test others as well. Das said the added benefit of the app is that if users decide not to download it immediately, they can do so later and allow it to import their location data from Google or Apple maps applications. In addition to the White House, foreign governments around the globe are also endorsing the use of Private Kit, as well as, the city of Kansas City, Missouri; Boston; Washington, D.C.; the World Health Organization; the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control. TripleBlind enables entities to safely provide and consume sensitive data and algorithms in encrypted space, without compromising privacy or security. The company worked on 100% of Private Kit’s development until recently when they began working with students from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help bring the app to life. Das credits his career successes to his student experiences at UMKC. “UMKC has been phenomenal,” Das said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for Bloch E-Scholars or the skills I learned at the School of Computing and Engineering and Zoloz, which also started at UMKC.” His advice for students following his footsteps? “Optimize your resume. Do a lot of internships. And a variety of them so that you can diversify your experiences.” Mar 26, 2020

  • UMKC School of Education Launches Major Expansion and Fundraising Efforts

    The Institute for Urban Education kicked off a $15 million capital campaign to help support enrollment growth and programming additions for student...
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education is launching major efforts to expand its Institute for Urban Education, which prepares students and teachers for success in urban classrooms. The institute recently kicked off a $15 million capital campaign with support of the newly appointed Dean's Fundraising Council, co-chaired by Leo Morton, UMKC chancellor emeritus and DeBruce Companies COO; and Jerry Reece, former CEO of Kansas City real estate agency ReeceNichols. The $15 million campaign aims to support enrollment growth, programming additions and staff support for the Institute for Urban Education as it works to address the need for more highly motivated, exemplary teachers in K-12 classrooms in greater Kansas City area school districts. Programming additions include: Adding a graduate education component to the Institute for Urban Education's existing undergraduate program Opportunities for career changes — the Master of Arts in Teaching, a four-semester program for people with bachelor's degrees in any area interested in teaching Additional services to partner schools, professional development in diversity, equity and inclusion and culturally relevant instruction, masters degrees and certifications Enrollment-growth tactics include: Grow Your Own: a comprehensive approach to developing pipeline programs for future Institute for Urban Education students/teachers in local K-12 schools. The program aims to add more teachers of color, particularly males, who view urban education as a social justice profession. Expanded scholarship opportunities, including the Sherman Scholars program, which will provide more than 150, $15,000 annual scholarships over five years to support students in both graduate and undergraduate teacher prep programs. Staffing additions: new associate director for urban education, 2.5 staff coordinators and a recruiter “Supporting urban education continues to be a top priority for UMKC,” said Justin Perry, dean of the UMKC School of Education. “The expansion of the Institute for Urban Education provides us unique opportunities to help address the teacher shortage in Kansas City, and help place more well-equipped teachers in classrooms who reflect the population of the students they serve. We are excited to continue working with our partner schools as we support our community's efforts to shape the future of the Kansas City education system it deserves.” The institute partners with the following greater Kansas City school districts to develop pipeline programs for future teachers: Kansas City Public Schools, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, Center School District and Hickman Mills School District Founded in 2005, the Institute for Urban Education prepares and supports teachers for success in urban classrooms by focusing on social justice, multicultural education, diversity and equity. The institute has remained a locally focused program, recruiting students from neighboring communities who want to remain in the greater Kansas City area for their careers. Mar 26, 2020

  • On A Mission: Personal Protective Equipment for Those on the Front Line

    So far, UMKC has found and donated needed PPE to area hospitals
    The need for personal protective equipment — called PPE — is one of the most serious challenges facing healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every healthcare institution in the U.S. has a critical shortage of PPE and no help is on the way in terms of federal stock to replenish the supply. The call to inventory PPE at other sites that have available stock is one way to provide the help needed by hospitals, and that is why the University of Missouri-Kansas City is on a mission to find and share currently unused PPE. So far, UMKC has located and given about 20,000 masks, tens of thousands of pairs of gloves and hundreds of gowns to local hospitals. “What we are doing on the UMKC Health Sciences Campus is working with our colleagues across the university to identify PPE that can be deployed to those hospitals most in need, and we are sharing that precious equipment,” said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., interim dean at the UMKC School of Medicine. Jackson, who specializes in infectious disease, is a national expert on the new coronavirus. She said proper PPE is crucial. "Caring for patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals requires institutions to provide explicit guidance so staff can identify patients that need hospitalization and use all measures to prevent spread to other patients, and to themselves.” - Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.   “As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs the United States, there are gaps in our scientific knowledge to tell us how many have been infected, and to identify the full spectrum of symptoms and signs. Adequate and reliable testing to help us correctly identify cases has not been widely available,” she said. “Still, the patients come and we care for them. Caring for patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals requires institutions to provide explicit guidance so staff can identify patients that need hospitalization and use all measures to prevent spread to other patients, and to themselves.” To date, Italy, the hardest-hit country in the world, has seen an enormous number of cases; 20% of those infected are the doctors and nurses caring for the patients, Jackson said. “Across the country, we are already seeing New York in a desperate situation,” Jackson said. “California, Washington state and now Louisiana, all are seeing a steep uptick in cases that threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system within the next week, and states like ours are only weeks behind unless we strictly enforce social distancing to reduce spread. That is why schools and businesses are closed and our mayor has issued a stay-at-home order. We face caring for patients without bed capacity, ventilators or the PPE needed to keep our workforce safe and operational.” “What we are doing on the UMKC Health Sciences Campus is working with our colleagues across the university to identify PPE that can be deployed to those hospitals most in need, and we are sharing that precious equipment.” - Jackson, M.D.   Within minutes of being asked if the UMKC School of Dentistry had surplus PPE it could part with, Dean Marsha Pyle and her colleagues rounded up a large inventory of boxes filled with gowns, masks and gloves that are not being utilized as the dental clinics have closed to all but emergency patients. Later, the UMKC schools of Nursing and Health Studies and Biological and Chemical Sciences also donated. KC STEM Alliance at the School of Computing and Engineering gave 500 pairs of goggles. These were brought to local hospitals where staff said supplies were critically low. “We do know that everyone wants to help and there has been a grassroots effort to have the community sew cloth masks. A recent study of cloth masks cautions against their use...so these are not the protection that healthcare workers can use in the healthcare environment at this time." - Jackson, M.D. Students from the UMKC Schools of Medicine and Dentistry led by Stefanie Ellison, associate dean for learning Initiatives at the School of Medicine and Richard Bigham, assistant dean of student programs at the School of Dentistry, are collaborating to identify other sources in the community and coordinating efforts to collect and distribute these vital supplies to local healthcare workers on the front lines. Others in the community that may be willing to donate their supplies include: Nail, hair, tattoo and piercing salons Local carpenters and maintenance workers, especially if contracted with apartment complexes, professional painters, drywallers, construction/machine operators, welders Professional colleagues in veterinary medicine Others in the local and regional dental community Warehouses (such as UHaul), mechanics, auto shops Cleaning services, or any organization that employs janitorial services or cafeterias Any organization with nursing stations (pools, gyms, schools) “We are also aware that our colleagues at Missouri S&T have developed a prototype for a face shield and N95 respirators (a protective mask designed to achieve a close facial fit with highly- efficient filtration of airborne particles) that could be mass produced, and we’re actively looking for community resources to do so,” Jackson said. “We do know that everyone wants to help and there has been a grassroots effort to have the community sew cloth masks. A recent study of cloth masks cautions against their use: moisture retention, reuse and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection so these are not the protection that healthcare workers can use in the healthcare environment at this time." Shortages of PPE are severe and increasing because of hoarding, misuse and increased demand, according to the World Health Organization. There is clear data that pricing for surgical masks has increased sixfold, N95 respirator prices have tripled and even gown costs have doubled. The governor of New York has criticized the price gouging that prevents him from getting the masks he needs in the most urgent of situations there. The WHO has shipped 500,000 sets of PPE to 27 countries, but supplies are rapidly depleting and that stock won’t nearly cover the need. It estimates that PPE supplies need to increase by 40%, and manufacturers are rapidly scaling up production and urging governments to offer incentives to boost supplies, including easing restrictions on the export and distribution of PPE and other medical supplies. This from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: "This cannot be solved by WHO alone, or one industry alone. It requires all of us working together to ensure all countries can protect the people who protect the rest of us." To donate to the UMKC PPE initiative, please email Stefanie Ellison at ellisonst@umkc.edu and Richard Bigham at bighamr@umkc.edu. Mar 25, 2020

  • A Match Day Like No Other

    School of Medicine conducts virtual Match Day celebration
    Match Day 2020 was like no other. Because of coronavirus concerns, the usual bustle bordering on bedlam at the School of Medicine was replaced by quiet, empty hallways. There also was a video-streamed and email presentation of where the more than 100 graduates-to-be will serve their medical residencies, leaving them to smaller individual celebrations. Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., addressed students, their families, faculty and friends with a video message. She congratulated the UMKC Class of 2020 for its hard work of the past six years and called Match Day a rite of passage that is this year all the more significant in light of the pandemic gripping the nation. “When facing pandemics in the past, physicians have recognized a professional duty to care for patients, even in these difficult circumstances,” Jackson said. “That is why today I emphasize the human side of medicine. Today you promise to commit to put patients first, to always try to be worthy of the privilege of caring for patients, and that you will continue to pursue the education that ensures the care you provide is cutting edge and the best practice.” Students and their residency matches were revealed as part of the on-line video production. Just more than half of the UMKC class will be headed to a primary care residency in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, or pediatrics. That exceeds the national average and is in line with the school’s mission to provide primary care for the Kansas City area, Missouri and the rest of the Midwest. While students celebrated at home, some took to social media to share their good news. Student couple Mike VanDillen and Ariana Foutouhi were excited to find that they matched together. See their post below.  The students won assignments in 27 states and the District of Columbia, from Massachusetts to Hawaii and California to Florida. Missouri had 31 of the placements, followed by 11 in Illinois, 10 in Florida, eight in Texas, five in Kentucky and four each in Kansas and California. And, as usual, some are headed to the top names in medicine, including Mayo, Stanford, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard, the University of Chicago and UCLA. Twenty-two will stay at UMKC and its affiliate hospitals; a baker’s dozen will be elsewhere in Missouri and Kansas. Internal medicine was the top category with 39 placements — eight of whom will move on to sub-specialties after a year — followed by 14 in pediatrics or medicine-pediatrics, nine in family medicine, seven in general surgery, six each in anesthesiology and emergency medicine, and five in obstetrics/gynecology. Jackson said in her message that the soon-to-be residents will join the front line of physicians and health care professional across the country playing a key role in caring for patients and responding to the current health crisis. “Know that you as resident providers will take the knowledge you’ve learned here, that you will be a partner in the preparation and response that is critical at this time, that you will be the calm that stabilizes those who are afraid, and that you will be the kind, compassionate physician that is the hallmark of our School of Medicine,” Jackson said. “Congratulations as we celebrate with you today, Match Day 2020.” Mar 23, 2020

  • UMKC Cited for Commitment to First-Generation College Students

    First-gen Forward designation recognizes universities that improve experiences and advance outcomes of first-gen students
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City has been included in the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward Institutions in recognition of its efforts to support first-generation students. The First-gen Forward is a designation given by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and the Suder Foundation. The designation recognizes colleges and universities that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the Center’s research and resources. About 40 percent of current UMKC undergraduates are first-generation college students, defined as those who do not have a parent with a college degree. UMKC initiatives for first-generation students include a First Gen Roo program designed to increase student success and satisfaction, with targeted goals for GPA, retention and graduation rates. Program goals are to facilitate campus navigation and integration, academic preparation and success (expectations, time management, note-taking, study skills, test-taking strategies); and social preparation (decision making, financial literacy, culture of higher education and strategies for success). The program begins with a week-long First Gen Roo Summer program immediately prior to the start of the fall semester which include early move-in, meals, resource workshops, academic sessions, one-on-one meetings with program staff, social events and more. During the fall semester, first generation peer mentors provide additional support in meeting the program goals. The program was pioneered by the College of Arts and Sciences and will be expanded to all UMKC academic units in Fall 2020. The university was also cited for the First Gen Proud program, a campus-wide initiative for first generation faculty, staff, alumni, and current students as well as supporters who were not first gen themselves, designed to recognize and celebrate the supportive, energetic, and inclusive first-generation community at UMKC. “Now in its second year, First-gen Forward institutions continue to lead the nation by their commitment to first-generation student success. The 2020-21 cohort consists of diverse institutions across the nation and we are pleased to welcome UMKC for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for scaling first-generation student initiatives,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said support for first-generation students is a key component of the mission of UMKC.“We respect our first-generation students as trailblazers for their families and communities,” Agrawal said. “Their success is our community’s success, and as Kansas City’s only public research university, we play a critical role in enabling and empowering that success.”“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for UMKC to join an elite community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know that UMKC will be a significant contributor,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. Mar 23, 2020

  • UMKC Innovation Center Resources for Business Owners During COVID-19 Outbreak

    The place for entrepreneurs offers a hotline, help and advice
    The UMKC Innovation Center is always a go-to for small-business owners and entrepreneurs, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more than ever. The center, which includes KCSourceLink and the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UMKC, has added resources to help businesses throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for funding updates and business help during the coronavirus outbreak? KCSourceLink has created a portal of business resources to help business owners navigate these challenging and uncertain times. Updated regularly. In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Funding became available for businesses in Kansas and Missouri on March 21. Call the KCSourceLink hotline at 816-235-6500 or email info@kcsourcelink.com to get connected with resource partners that can help complete paperwork and answer your questions. Are you an entrepreneur? Take this survey from KCSourceLink to help community leaders and decision makers assess your needs and activate resources during the coronavirus outbreak. The Missouri SBDC at UMKC continues to offer online classes to help entrepreneurs and business owners start businesses and navigate challenges. “Typically, economic recessions trickle down to small businesses, but with this situation, restaurants and retailers are on the front end,” said Maria Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center and founder of KCSourceLink and SourceLink. “Even when their doors might be closed, we’re here to keep financial advice and resources open.” Entrepreneurs and small businesses create 58% of net new jobs in the Kansas City metro area. These are young and small firms with fewer than 20 employees. According to the the KCSourceLink survey data so far, our small businesses are hurting right now. 75% need financial assistance. 60% are worried about revenue dropping. 15% are concerned they may have to close. What consumers can do to help small business right now: Buy curbside lunch/dinner from local restaurants. Shop local – buy gift cards, order online What government officials can do to help small businesses right now: Provide immediate financial support that enables small business to continue paying their employees – consider community/corporate supported short-term grants Help small businesses manage cash flow by delaying tax payments Extend benefits to solopreneurs What Kansas City area entrepreneurs are saying: The pressure to adapt quickly is immense. Our cashflow depends on clients coming in every day, there is no reserve. We have had to close up shop and file for unemployment. We adjusted our food service offering to delivery/pick-up/to-go only and this week had to close up completely. We won’t be in business without capital help. We will have to find online work to support ourselves and our business, leaving us unable to gear this back up when the virus has run its course. Once things settle down, my clients will likely be busy recovering and they may have to adjust their budgets which may cut my work. Mar 23, 2020

  • Managing the Transition to Online Courses

    Professor Leigh Salzsieder shares his thoughts on the move
    University of Missouri-Kansas City students and faculty are wrapping up their first week of exclusively online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We checked in with seasoned online instructor Leigh Salzsieder, chair of the department of accountancy and associate professor of accounting at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, about making the move to online. How long have you taught online courses? How has the technology improved since you began teaching online? I have been teaching online since 2017 and have seen a couple of big improvements. First, the textbook publishers’ ability to run their digital content native in Canvas makes designing and delivering a course significantly easier. Another big improvement is the development of high-functioning apps for mobile use. Canvas and Zoom both do very well on a mobile device. Did you have any concerns when you started teaching online? My biggest concern moving from in-person to online teaching was that I would lose the ability to connect with my students. While things are different online, I can honestly say that in many ways it is more humanizing. For example, I have never met so many of my students’ children and pets. In an online synchronous environment where students are logging in from home, it is common for a toddler or pet to wander on screen. Those sorts of interactions allow for student-to-student and student-to-faculty interactions to have more personal meaning. It probably sounds silly, but it is really cool! What did students think of the switch to online classes? Any surprising reactions? Most of the students have really enjoyed the online synchronous delivery. The added flexibility has been the students’ favorite part. In previous classes, I have had students join class from all over the world, and even from airplanes (although the connection wasn’t great). What are the benefits of online courses? Challenges? The biggest benefit for students is flexibility. It also allows them to pause and replay course content that they’re struggling with and need to revisit. In addition, having a significant portion of the material online allows students to interact with it on their terms. I have had students tell me they listen to lectures while working out, while driving, etc. Online integrated content also allows students to get quality feedback on content at any time day or night. That’s not to say I’m answering questions at 2 a.m., but my online content is answering their questions with detailed feedback on practice sets. There are challenges to moving online, particularly for faculty. The change from in-person to online instruction can be a little scary. There are also costs to learning and adopting new technology, training and course certification, learning and creating new ways of assessing student outcomes, etc. Managing students online is also different than managing students in-person. It takes some time to get used to using discussion boards and other tools that facilitate meaningful interaction both peer-to-peer and with the instructor. "Most of the students have really enjoyed the online synchronous delivery. The added flexibility has been the students’ favorite part."—Leigh Salzsieder You're a member of eLearning Online Faculty Advisory Committee for UM System. What type of things do you work on for that group? Our group is advisory to the eLearning Strategy and Implementation Oversight Committee which is the actual decision-making body for eLearning and includes provosts for the four system campuses and system-level representatives. Our group was created with the intention of providing a faculty voice directly to the Oversight Committee regarding the eLearning enterprise. Any tips for students who are new to online learning? Professors? I think my tip for students would be to establish a routine. Having content available 24-hours-a-day often leads to procrastination. When I ask successful students how they do it, having a routine is the most common response. For professors, I would say try not to make your mind up about eLearning before you give it a chance. I’d also recommend that faculty utilize the resources available to them. We have faculty all over campus that are extremely effective online in areas you might not realize. For example, I serve on the eLearning Online Faculty Advisory Committee with Amanda Grimes from the School of Nursing and Health Studies and Kati Toivanen from Art and Art History, both of whom have excellent online courses.  Mar 19, 2020

  • UMKC School of Computing and Engineering Announces New Center for Urban Stormwater Research

    The research consortium will tackle flooding issues in Kansas City
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering is teaming up with KC Water and other stakeholders — including FEMA , Unified Government and the Army Corps of Engineers — to launch the Center for Urban Stormwater Research (CUSR), a research consortium focused on tackling urban flooding in Kansas City. John Kevern, Ph.D., professor and civil and mechanical engineering department chair will serve as director of the center. Kevern regularly works with KC Water, including School of Computing and Engineering alumni like Tom Kimes (B.S.C.E. ’87), manager of stormwater engineering, and Jose Lopez (B.S.C.E. ’15), watershed planner. “Climate change is rapidly impacting engineering designs related to flooding across the globe,” Kevern said. “The Center for Urban Stormwater Research will help provide novel and innovative solutions to those challenges in Kansas City.” The center’s first project will focus on a FEMA grant exploring ways to educate the public about the risks of flooding.  “Our hope with the center is to see Kansas City manage stormwater in a way that leads the nation and turn the city’s ‘wild rivers’ into community assets,” said Tom Kimes, manager of stormwater engineering at KC Water.  The School of Computing and Engineering will recognize KC Water as Organization of the Year at its annual Vanguard Awards, originally scheduled to take place on April 2. The new event date is to be determined. The Vanguard Awards celebrates excellence in computing and engineering and will also recognize Sherry Lumpkins, principal at Blue Symphony, LLC; George White Jr., civil engineer at GLMV Architecture; and PREP-KC. Mar 19, 2020

  • Enactus’ FeedKC Launches New Web App

    UMKC students help direct food from restaurants to food banks, especially needed now
    With the demand at food banks growing, UMKC Enactus students have developed a new app to help restaurants donate excess food to local pantries for people in need. Three years ago, UMKC Enactus students discovered 1 in 8 Kansas Citians struggles with hunger daily. Meanwhile, over 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is thrown away. For the past two years, the team of UMKC students has been manually transporting food from local cafeterias, including at UMKC and Rockhurt University, to food banks across the city. To date, they have created 6,000 meals for those in need. Now they’ve developed an app that connect locally-owned restaurants and cafeterias with excess food directly to food banks serving Kansas Citians in need. And with that need growing, due to coronavirus complications of schools being shut down and some employees getting fewer hours, the demand for food is higher than ever. The new app provides a safe, tax-deductible way for restaurants to donate food and help feed the hungry. Restaurants can post produce close to its sell-by-date, prepared food that hasn’t been used, is still in the kitchen or was a leftover. A local food pantry can request it and work out a time to transport it. When the food is picked up, you’ll receive a form detailing the donation which can be used for tax purposes. You can learn more about the process on the FeedKC website. The app was developed by a member of the team and graduate of UMKC. FeedKC is currently recruiting both restaurants and food banks to begin using it. “With the launch of the web application, the team hopes to see an increase in their number of community partners,” said Caitlin Easter, who inherited the project from the former project leader, Andrea Savage, earlier this year. “Our team has been working so hard to perfect our web application so that we could launch a product that we are truly proud of!” Learn more about the FeedKC app online. Check out the team's story on KCTV5.  Mar 19, 2020

  • Schools of Pharmacy, Medicine in U.S. News Rankings

    Pharmacy in top 25%; Medicine makes debut
    The UMKC School of Pharmacy was tied for 31st in U.S. News and World Report Best Grad Schools rankings released Tuesday. That put the school in the top one-quarter of the 134 U.S. pharmacy schools that were rated. “This is a testament to the quality and resilience of our hard-working students, and to the dedication of our faculty and staff,” said Dean Russell Melchert. “It’s great to be recognized nationally as we pursue our mission to improve health throughout our state and region through education, research and community engagement.” The U.S. News pharmacy rankings are based solely on surveys of academics at peer institutions. The UMKC School of Pharmacy ranking was up from 36th in 2016, when U.S. News last surveyed for pharmacy programs. The UMKC school also has had great success matching its graduates. The Class of 2020 had an 81% initial match rate, the program’s best ever. In addition, “pharmacist” tops a CNBC list of top-paying professions right out of school, with a median annual salary of $123,670. The UMKC School of Medicine also joined the rankings for the first time this year, placing 75th for primary care medical schools and 88th for research medical schools. U.S. News said its rankings covered 122 accredited medical and osteopathic medical schools that participated in the rankings, out of 189 that were asked. “Our school is known for excellent clinical training and great success in residency matching. We also offer expanding research opportunities.” — Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. UMKC, whose innovative six-year program takes most of its students right out of high school, has not participated in past surveys because its program is so different from others in the United States. Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, a 1978 graduate of the program, thought it was time to join the survey. “Our school is known for excellent clinical training and great success in residency matching, throughout the Midwest and at Mayo and other top institutions,” Jackson said. “We also offer expanding research opportunities and have placed students in the top National Institutes of Health student research program for several years in a row.” The medical school rankings were based on a weighted average of indicators, seven for the primary care rankings and eight for research. Some indicators were quality assessments by academic peers and residency directors. But most were objective data submitted by the schools, such as research activity, student test scores and acceptance rate. The UMKC school rated in the top one-third, for example, in faculty-student ratio, on a par with Stanford, the No. 4 school overall, and ahead of 78 other schools. It also did well in the percentage of its graduates going into primary care. Dean Jackson said it took a "yeoman's effort" to compile and submit the required data for the first time, and she thanked the school's leadership team including Vice Deans Steven Waldman, M.D. '77, J.D., and Paul Cuddy, Pharm.D., M.B.A., for their efforts.    Mar 18, 2020

  • Political Science Professor Awarded Carrie Chapman Catt Prize

    Research focuses on women and politics
    Rebecca Best, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, was one of seven awarded a Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for research on Women and Politics from the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. Best is also an associate faculty member of the UMKC Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Best’s research study, “Gendered Reintegration of Veterans and Political Representation of Women in the United States,” will examine whether there are gender differences in how certain types of reintegration experiences influence a veteran’s interest in and willingness to vote, run for office or engage in activism. The study will also explore whether factors such as marital status and dependent children have a gendered effect on the willingness of veterans to engage in politics. The award, valued at $2,000, will be used to fund a survey of military veterans, at least 40% of whom will be women. We spoke to Best about her research on women and politics. What got you interested in researching women’s military service? Several years ago, I went to Fort Leavenworth to give a presentation on women in rebel groups. Through that visit, I got connected with Kyleanne Hunter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver who had previously served as a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. We had similar ideas about why women engaged in political violence, in that we both believed that women’s reasoning was not fundamentally different from that of men, though their circumstances and the options available to them might be different. We started studying veteran women because it turns out to be much easier to survey and interview military veterans than to interview women in rebel groups (though scholars like Mia Bloom and Angie Nichols among others have been doing excellent work interviewing former rebel women).   What do you hope happens as a result of your research? Primarily my research goals are to better understand social science phenomena, but I also think that there are often important policy implications of social science research. With this project I am interested in better understanding how gender creates unique challenges for veterans reintegrating into society. I hope that a better understanding of these challenges will contribute to the development or programs and support networks designed to ease the transition out of military service. I also hope that this research can call attention to the contributions of the many women who have served and are serving in the United States military – including political scientists like Dr. Ky Hunter, Dr. Angie Nichols, and Dr. Theresa Schroeder. Finally, I hope that we can get a better sense of the causes of the gender gap in political representation and the types of policies that might help to further reduce this gap. Tell us about the research this award will help with? This award will help me to fund a survey of veterans of the United States military (both male and female). The purpose of the study is both to understand the gendering of reintegration experiences and how different reintegration experiences influence the willingness of veterans to run for office. This project builds on work by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox who find that an important cause of the gender gap in political representation is that women are less likely to run for office – for a variety of reasons including concerns about their own electability, family concerns and not being recruited to run. Specifically, Lawless and Fox surveyed men and women from several backgrounds that are common among lawmakers (law, education, entrepreneurship and political activism). The money from the Catt prize will allow me to extend this work to military veterans, tailoring the survey to experiences of veterans. Who are the women who influence your work the most? I have been lucky to be surrounded by supportive women here at UMKC and in my field of political science. Within my department, Beth Vonnahme, Debra Leiter and Mona Lyne have all been important mentors, sounding boards for new ideas and friends. There are many women doing exciting work in political science and international relations right now – and more than I can name here have impacted my own work. A few influential women include Cynthia Enloe, whose work on women, gender and international relations is both a lot of fun to read and incredibly insightful; Mary Caprioli, whose work evaluates links between gender inequality and armed conflict; Barbara Walter who uses strategic theory to resolve puzzles surrounding civil conflict resolution; Kelly Kadera who both consistently promotes other women in conflict studies and publishes innovative research on interstate conflict as well as women and gender in international relations; Carla Martinez Machain who studies arms transfers, military deployments, and air strikes, in addition to being an excellent mentor and friend for other women in political science; and Jakana Thomas, Alexis Henshaw, and Kanesha Bond, who have all published really interesting empirical evaluations of women in rebel groups. How do you influence others? The most impactful part of my job is teaching UMKC students. In doing that, I hope to help students see the relevance of academic work to both public policy and their own lives. For example, in my conflict resolution class students read academic literature on negotiating strategies and we discuss examples of implementing these strategies both in larger scale political negotiations (like peace processes) and in negotiations over salary and benefits. Similarly, I ask my students to consider how the theories we discuss in class are reflected in the stories they read in the news from negotiations with the Taliban to protests in Iran. I’ve published some of my own thoughts on these and other issues in public forums such as the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, the Conversation and Political Violence @ a Glance. Mar 18, 2020

  • Alumna Driven by Passion for Patients

    Theresa Maxwell to receive the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies Alumni Achievement Award
    Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2020, UMKC is honoring Theresa Maxwell (M.S.N. ’01) with the School of Nursing and Health Studies Alumni Achievement Award. Theresa Maxwell (M.S.N. '01) Maxwell’s 30 years in nursing has been driven by her expertise in gastroenterology — disorders of the stomach and intestines — and her passion for its patients. As an ostomy specialist and nurse practitioner at Digestive Health Specialists in St. Joseph, Missouri, Maxwell works closely with physicians to provide the best specialty care in the region. She even started her own business, Image Specialties, when she felt that companies were substituting items where they shouldn’t, overbilling and subscribing to generally unscrupulous practices. Additionally, Maxwell contracted with nursing homes, home health agencies and hospitals to provide pre-operative teaching, in-services and educational programs. We spoke with her recently about her path in nursing. How did you choose your specialty of gastroenterology? I liked surgical nursing and any procedures that I could do. I identified a need for an ostomy and wound-specialized nurse and became one. The ostomy specialty was by far the most rewarding nursing that I had ever done, much to my surprise. Most of my patients, especially the ones who are ostimates, appreciate me. Nursing is frequently an underappreciated profession and I like being where I feel needed and appreciated. You’ve worked in a variety of settings, including a hospital, surgeon’s office and as a home health clinician. Did you enjoy one workplace more than the others? I really enjoyed having my own practice, except I was the worst boss that I have ever worked for! I believe each job that I’ve held had its role in making me more well-rounded and independent. Tell us about your role at Digestive Health Specialists. What is a typical day like for you? I have clinic every morning which includes seeing patients for a variety of issues including office procedures. Most mornings, I am the only provider in the office, so I will usually triage any calls or walk-ins that occur as well. I do another clinic in the afternoon, then I go to the hospital for rounds or work in my office charting and doing administrative duties. Mar 06, 2020

  • Alumnus Provides Specialty Care to Those in Need

    Kevin J. Blinder to receive the UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award
    Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2020, UMKC is honoring Kevin Blinder (M.D. ’85) with the School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award. Kevin Blinder (M.D. '85) As an ophthalmologist, Blinder is a leading specialist of vitreoretinal diseases — which affect the back of the eye and fluid around it. A partner at the Retina Institute in St. Louis, Blinder is also a professor of ophthalmology at Washington University and has trained countless residents and fellows in retina education. In addition to teaching, operating and seeing patients, he has an interest in clinical research and has been an investigator in more than 30 clinical trials dealing with a variety of vitreoretinal pathology. He spoke with us about his specialty and time at UMKC. Did you know you wanted to pursue ophthalmology while getting your degree? I had no idea what area of medicine that I was going to specialize in early on. All I knew is that I wanted to be a physician and that I wanted to be in the six-year medical program that UMKC offered. I had an interest in ophthalmology throughout medical school and chose my specialty after taking the elective offered at UMKC with Dr. Felix Sabates. You find time to participate in clinical research in addition to your other roles. Where does your passion for research stem from? We learned early on in medical school the way to advance medicine is to ask questions and pursue answers. Clinical research attempts to answer these questions, from the simplest to the most complex. We can offer our patients cutting-edge technology that otherwise may not be available outside of the research protocol and benefit those that participate in the students and many other future patients. You travel monthly to Quincy, Illinois, to serve patients without access to specialty care. How did you get involved with the clinic there? I was approached many years ago by one of my former roommates from medical school, Eric Sieck, to come to his office in Quincy and provide retinal care. I take an entire crew with me for what is usually a 15-hour day to provide care for patients who would otherwise potentially go untreated. It has been very fulfilling to provide this service and to work in the same office as one of my classmates and dearest friends from my medical school days. What is a memory that stands out from medical school? I think the most vivid and profound memory that I still have nightmares about is the night I was on call during a docent rotation when the Hyatt Regency walkway collapsed. We were asked to first assist in the ER, triaging and treating survivors as they were brought in over from the hotel. Then they asked for volunteers to go to the scene where people were trapped underneath tons of concrete to assist with rescue efforts; 114 people were killed, and 214 people were injured. I would like to think that we played a role in saving those 214 people who survived. Meet the rest of the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees Mar 06, 2020

  • UMKC Staff Awarded for Excellence in Service

    Annual ceremony recognizes contributions
    Excellence at UMKC is not just the standard for our students, it is the standard for everyone who lives, works and visits our university. For more than 1,300 staff members, excellence in customer service and quality of work are not just university values, they’re personal ethics, and the annual Staff Awards event gives our campus community a chance to recognize those who make a difference at UMKC. On the morning of March 4, hundreds of staff members gathered for the annual Staff Awards celebration in the James. C. Olson Performing Arts Center to celebrate a commitment to student success, diversity and inclusion, engagement and outreach and research and discovery. The celebration also included milestone anniversaries, staff who were a part of the 2019 graduating class and staff who completed leadership development courses offered through the university. “Whether you work directly with our students, coordinate programs and services for the greater Kansas City community or provide support to keep this university running, what you do here matters.” - Interim Provost Jenny Lundgren Congratulations to the 2020 Staff Awards recipients 40-year Milestone Anniversary Kevin McCarrison 2019 spring, summer and fall graduates Emily BrownCynthia ChristyMegan FrasherRussell FriendHilary McNeilJulie MyerBailey WaltonSybil Wyatt Supervisory Development Series Graduates Casey BauerLaura BegleyKenneth BledsoePetra BrickerAndrea BrownEmily BrownLauren ButlerAllan DavisKinglsey KakieJessica KeithBridget KoanAlia KrzyzanowskiTamica LigeDerek LongDea MarxAshley MasonBrenton McCoyAngela McDonaldLaura MoorePatricia MullinMike NorrisNikhilia Donti ReddyEmily ReebHea Kyung ShoemakerAmber SotoCasey StauberRichard ThomasSeth TracyJodi TroupAlmaz Wassie Administrative Leadership Development Program Graduates John AustLaura BegleyChad BristowAmber DaughertyJeffery HeckathornMakini KingBecky MarkleyKady McMasterSarah Mote Staff Council Dedication Award Alexandra Schumacher Living the Values Awards Selena Albert, School of Computing and EngineeringSilas Arnold, School of Biological and Chemical SciencesNancy Bahner, School of PharmacyAyleen Bashir, Innovation CenterJennifer Parker Burrus, ConservatoryElizabeth Couzens, School of LawRoland Hemmings Jr., Student AffairsKristen Kleffner, School of MedicineRandy Krahulik, Intercollegiate AthleticsAudrey Lester, College of Arts and SciencesJennifer Lyles-Maqsood, School of Nursing and Health StudiesGuadalupe Magana, School of EducationShana Malone, Office of Registration and RecordsLindsey Mayfied, Strategic Marketing and CommunicationsTanya Moore, School of DentistryGene Pegler, Henry W. Bloch School of ManagementHeather Swanson, Finance and AdministrationLaura Taylor, National Museum of Toys and MiniaturesGail Williams, University LibrariesSandy Wilson, Office of Research Services University Staff Awards Excellence in Student Success – Kaitlin Woody, External Relations and Constituent EngagementExcellence in Research and Creative Works – Stephanice Griffin, School of Computing and EngineeringExcellence in Engagement and Outreach – Christina Davis, School of Computing and EngineeringExcellence in Multiculturalism, Globalism, Diversity and Inclusion – Anthony LaBat, University LibrariesExcellence in Planning, Operations and Stewardship – Kevin Mullin, College of Arts and SciencesChancellor’s Staff Award for Extraordinary Contributions – Ted Stahl, Office of Human ResourcesRising Star Award – Ivan Ramirez, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs Learn More About UMKC Mar 05, 2020

  • ‘The CEO’ Leads On and Off the Court With Her Own Business

    Jonaie Johnson juggles the demands of college basketball and the rigorous Entrepreneurship Scholars program
    Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Jonaie Johnson ‘22 Hometown: Chicago, Illinois Degree Program: Business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship High school: Kenwood Academy Jonaie Johnson has a history of success. The sophomore women’s basketball guard is recognized as a team leader following a high school basketball career where she was recognized with All-Conference honors her sophomore and junior years, and earned All-City, Second Team All-State, Chicago Tribune Third Team All-State and Kenwood Academy Player of the Year during her senior season. But not all of her accomplishments were on the court. Johnson was valedictorian of her 8th grade class and graduated 5th in her high school class with a 5.1 GPA. Johnson is seen as a leader on the Western Athletics Conference champion Kansas City Roos women’s basketball team, but is also excelling in the Bloch School Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) program. She is developing her first product, Interplay, a dog crate designed to provide remote interaction – including video and audio access, locking and unlocking features and the ability to provide food and water – for a dog and its owner through a mobile app. Why did you choose UMKC? It was a combination of things. I was recruited for basketball, but I really had no idea about what UMKC was like. I had other schools recruiting me, so I wasn’t sure UMKC would be for me. But once I came here and was on campus, I loved it. And then once I realized that it was one of the few schools where you could major in entrepreneurism on the undergraduate level, that was the decision maker for me.  Why did you choose your field of study? I developed the idea for Interplay for a project when I was in high school. My aunt was always leaving our family events to go home to feed her dog. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to do that remotely?” I want Interplay to be the Apple of dog crates. My freshman year, I attended an event and was seated with Mary and Tom Bloch. They mentioned the Entrepreneur of the Year program at the Bloch School and asked me if I was going to be there. I actually didn’t know about it, but I offered to volunteer to help people to their seats. I was wondering about the companies that were presenting and someone told me that they were part of the Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) program. I had a clipboard with the seating assignments, but underneath I had my business model. That night I had the opportunity to talk with Ben [Gruber, director Regnier Institute] and I was able to show him my plan. That’s how I ended up in E-Scholars. “I want Interplay to be the Apple of dog crates.”- Jonaie Johnson What are the challenges of the program? The biggest challenge for me is time management. On top of the course work, in college you have a lot of events and activities going on around you and you want to hang out with friends. The freedom itself is an adjustment because you don't necessarily have your parents guiding you and telling you what to do and what not to do. Being able to stay focused and manage my time is a challenge. But I do have fun! I enjoy school and working on my company. I’m kind of a nerd. I love learning.  What are the benefits of the E-Scholars program and participating in athletics?  There are a lot in both cases. The E-Scholars program laid the foundation for my company. They took me from a simple idea to a viable business. When I came into the program, my company was nothing more than a cool idea for a product. Their resources, connections and mentors took me from an idea to a viable business. Their coursework taught me how I should strategically go about starting my venture to avoid many mistakes entrepreneurs make when starting a company. Their continuous support and help throughout the program, and even after I graduated from E-Scholars, has been a major key in the success I’ve had thus far with my company.  When it comes to starting my career, I know companies are always looking for college athletes. Even some of my mom’s managers at Eli Lily are always asking when I’m going to graduate. We have the time management, discipline and the ability to work with others that we learn in the team setting. Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself? I've learned how hard I can work, what I can really do and how mentally strong I am. I've always known it about myself, but my experiences in college have enhanced that. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor? When I went to talk to Jonae Hone, who is a mentor in residence in the E-Scholars program, about my company, she told me, “Do what you do best and hire the rest.” That’s the thing that keeps me going. I know I can’t master and be strong at everything, but I can understand what and how things need to be done and work with others who can complement my skills. What is one word that best describes you and why? Driven. Because I consistently strive to be the best me in any and everything I do. I’m very goal oriented, and I don’t stop until I achieve my goals. What’s your greatest fear? Not reaching my greatest potential. “"I enjoy school and working on my company. I'm kind of a nerd. I love learning.”- Jonaie Johnson Do you have a role model? Absolutely. It’s my mom. I’m an only child, and we have a really tight-knit relationship. From a young age, she was one person that I could look up to. She was a Mary Kay director and got the pink Cadillac in a short amount of time. Now she’s a pharmaceutical rep and she’s always one of the top sales representatives. She always goes above and beyond. Were you always interested in sports in general or basketball specifically? I’ve always been a competitor. Growing up, I loved sports. I started out playing baseball. I was the only girl on the all-star baseball boys’ team and I made the all-star game. When I had to transfer over to softball I didn’t really like it. It was softer to me, and I liked baseball more. But in between seasons when it was cold outside, my mom put me in basketball. It took off from there.    When you started playing did you think you would play in college? When I started playing competitively, I was determined to play in college. My mom was so worried about how she was going to pay for college and where the money was going to come from. I always told her “Mom you’re not going to have to worry about college. I’m going to get an academic scholarship or a basketball scholarship.” I was pretty confident about that. We’ve heard that sometimes your teammates call you “the CEO.” Do you see yourself as a leader? I do, but my mom always tells me that I don't necessarily walk in the room and try to take charge and take the lead. People just naturally flock to or look to me as a leader. I usually don’t want it, but it comes. There are a lot of young girls who come to watch your games. Do you see yourself as a role model? What would you tell them about pursuing sports in college? I’m usually so focused during the game, that sometimes I forget that they may see me as a role model. But, I would tell them that if they find a passion and have a heart for it, to work hard and just let it happen. If it’s meant to be, everything will fall into place.   Mar 05, 2020

  • Honoring a Pioneering Pharmacist, Educator and Researcher

    Jerry L. Bauman to receive the UMKC School of Pharmacy Alumni Achievement Award
    Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2020, UMKC is honoring Jerry Bauman (Pharm.D. ’78) with the School of Pharmacy Alumni Achievement Award. Bauman has had a distinguished 40-year career as a pioneering clinical pharmacist, educator, practitioner, researcher and leader. Currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Bauman was dean and distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy for nearly 12 years. His research on the clinical pharmacology of cocaine and cardiovascular drugs, specifically anti-arrhythmic medicines, earned him international recognition. He recently spoke with us about his career. You were the first pharmacist elected as a fellow of the American College of Cardiology (ACC). How did that feel? I was extremely proud to be elected as such. Today, there are quite a few pharmacists who have been elected as fellows in the ACC and I feel as if I, in part, paved the way. Shortly after I was elected, the ACC office called me because they thought I had misprinted my degree — that is how I knew I was the first. "The Pharm.D. program transformed me into a confident and competent clinical pharmacist."—Jerry Bauman Tell us about your internationally-recognized research on the clinical pharmacology of cocaine and cardiovascular drugs. I developed an interest in arrhythmias at UMKC and Truman Medical Center and then at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I was fortunate to be working with an incredible group of electrophysiologists. There, I began to study drug-induced arrhythmias and eventually saw the similarities between cocaine and anti-arrhythmic agents. We then defined the electrophysiology of cocaine and found agents that could reverse its effects. The agent was sodium bicarbonate, which is still recommended and came from my experience at Truman Medical Center. How did UMKC contribute to your success? I can’t overemphasize how it contributed to my success. The Pharm.D. program transformed me into a confident and competent clinical pharmacist. I used the knowledge and skills I developed there to create my academic career, including research programs and teaching style. Meet the rest of the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees Mar 05, 2020

  • Swan Lake Challenges Conservatory Student’s Mental and Physical Stamina

    Erica Lohman performs in one of the most recognized ballets of all time
    Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Erica Lohman Anticipated Graduation: 2021 Academic Program: Dance, Conservatory Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana High School: Mt. Vernon High School Erica Lohman, a senior studying dance, chose the UMKC Conservatory because she knew the dance department allowed students to take leaves of absence to participate in professional performances. Since she’s been a student she’s toured with had the opportunity to perform with the Kansas City Ballet in The Nutcracker, and most recently, Swan Lake.  Have you performed with ballet companies like this before? Yes! I grew up dancing at a ballet school in my hometown that put on two full-length ballet productions a year, so I definitely have a soft spot for these types of productions. I took a leave of absence to dance professionally with Albany Berkshire Ballet in 2018, where I performed in their annual tour of The Nutcracker in the northeast United States. I also performed with the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company last fall before participating in Kansas City Ballet’s productions. Lohman, left, rehearsing for Swan Lake; image courtesy of Kansas City Ballet, photography Courtney Nitting What does it feel like to be on a stage with seasoned professionals?  I have looked up to the dancers in Kansas City Ballet for many years, so at first it felt very strange and a little intimidating to be dancing alongside them. That being said, both the dancers and the artistic staff were encouraging throughout the rehearsal processes for both The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Once I got used to dancing the challenging choreography with these professionals, I really enjoyed myself. I feel inspired by these amazing artists, and dancing with them has motivated me to keep working hard and pushing myself to someday reach their level of skill and artistry. Was the experience what you expected it to be? Swan Lake is a very popular ballet with iconic music, so I knew what to expect with the structure of the choreography. I also knew just how hard it was going to be and how much we had to get done in rehearsals. I was part of the corps de ballet, or the 24 women who dance as the swans. We had to be precisely together and in line at all times. We spent a lot of time in rehearsals going over details like which way to tilt our heads and which wrist to cross in front of the other. It even gets as specific as how we place our fingers.  “I realized that half the battle was learning to trust myself and stay mentally calm.”- Erica Lohman Because of this precision and how much the swans dance, doing a full-run of the ballet takes immense mental and physical stamina. For me, I realized that half the battle was learning to trust myself and stay mentally calm. It’s easy to get caught up in being “perfect” and not making any mistakes. Once I let go of those negative emotions, stayed present on stage with the other dancers, and turned to the music to carry me through, I enjoyed myself so much. The music at the end of Swan Lake is so beautiful, and it’s empowering to finish strong alongside 24 women who I admire more than anything. I was so moved during my last show I actually ended up crying tears of joy during that moment onstage!  Have you performed with other Conservatory students in professional productions?  There were three of us in Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker this year. But UMKC dance students really get awesome professional gigs all the time! I am so proud to be a part of this dance department and feel as though it keeps getting stronger and stronger.   Mar 04, 2020

  • Vision Researcher Awarded $1.16 Million Grant to Battle Glaucoma

    Peter Koulen receives third NIH grant in the past year
    UMKC School of Medicine vision researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., has received a $1.16 million grant for a study to battle vision loss and blindness. Backed by the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute, his research will investigate how a mechanism that allows nerve cells to communicate effectively could lead to the development of new treatments for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a major cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in the United States and worldwide. The disease causes degeneration in the retina and optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Preventing the death of these cells is currently the only feasible way to prevent vision loss due to glaucoma. In the past year, Koulen has won two other major NIH research grants. His current study of new chemical compounds to treat and prevent age-related macular degeneration received a $1.16 million grant. He is also part of an innovative $1.5 million project exploring a novel tissue-preservation method that could help meet far-reaching clinical needs in ophthalmology and other fields of medicine This new glaucoma research will focus on alternative strategies directly targeting the damaging effects of the disease on the retina and optic nerve. “Just like elevated blood pressure predisposes patients to stroke, high pressure inside the eye is a predisposing factor for glaucoma,” said Koulen, professor of ophthalmology and director of basic research at the Vision Research Center. “There are currently several therapies available to patients to reduce abnormally high eye pressure, but when these therapies fail or cease to be effective, glaucoma and the accompanying vision loss continue to progress.” Koulen’s project will determine how to boost the cell-to-cell communication that retinal nerve cells use to defend themselves from disease and injury. The hope is this will protect these cells from the damaging effects of glaucoma. If successful, Koulen’s research will result in new drug candidates that would contribute to “neuroprotection” as a strategy to treat and prevent glaucoma. New therapies could potentially act in concert with current eye pressure lowering drugs. Other areas of medicine, such as cancer treatment, have effectively employed the concept of using complementary drug action in combination therapies. Mar 04, 2020

  • School of Education Cancels Annual Urban Education Forum

    Recognition of former mayor Sly James will postponed
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education has cancelled its annual Urban Education Forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 12. Featured speaker Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Ph.D., is unable to travel to Kansas City due to Coronavirus concerns. The School will postpone its presentation of the Hugh J. Zimmer Award for Excellence in Urban Education to former mayor Sly James. Details regarding the new presentation date are to be determined. The biennial award is given to individuals who have affected a systematic and broad-reaching impact on urban education through policy development, program design and implementation and philanthropy.  The Urban Education Forum brings together teachers, administrators, school counselors, social workers and community members to learn from thought leaders about expanding quality education in the greater Kansas City community and is sponsored by the School of Education. Mar 04, 2020

  • Alumnus' Business Focuses on Craft Beer and Community

    College of Arts and Sciences selects John Couture to receive Alumni Award
    Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2020, the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences is honoring John Couture (B.A. ’96) with its Alumni Achievement Award. In 2012, Couture launched Bier Station, the first spot for sampling and enjoying craft beer in Kansas City. In addition to being an award-winning nationally recognized destination for beer enthusiasts, he’s worked hard to make his business a civic asset with an emphasis on giving back to the community. He spoke to us recently about his time at UMKC. Your major at UMKC was communication studies. How does that help you in running a business? Communication is vital to everything we do. Our relationships with breweries are dependent upon strong communications. We try to always be professional, but friendly, and collaborative, which goes a long way to helping keep a business healthy. How did you come up with the idea for a craft beer shop? How did you put it in motion? I went to Europe with my best friend in 2006. We were always big craft beer fans, and we really appreciated how laid-back European pubs were. They were much more family-friendly than America. A few years later, I was researching online and saw the craft beer tasting/bottle shop concept that was hot in the Northwest, but not in the Midwest yet. Bier Station was the Midwest’s first craft beer tasting/bar/bottle shop, and we’re definitely known for our family-friendly neighborhood vibe. Selfishly, I also wanted to make sure my daughters would feel comfortable visiting me at work. Couture, pictured right, stands with representatives from Children's Center for the Visually Impaired as they receive their donation check. Bier Station maintains an ongoing, community-focused charitable fundraising program. Since January 2017, the pub has raised more than $160,000 for causes ranging from veterans’ programs to animal shelters to suicide prevention – as well as the UMKC Women's Center, Kansas City Athletics and Kansas City’s NPR affiliate station, KCUR. Why is it important to you to support and be active in the community? Sometimes I still can’t believe I have a job that revolves around beer. I feel very fortunate. I also feel we have a duty to give back to our community. It helps give our staff a sense of pride to know when they come to work and pour a beer for a fundraiser, it’s for a great cause. What advice do you have for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps? Be confident, but respectful and always think of others in everything you do. I’ve found that a little bit goes a long way when you take others’ wellbeing into consideration with your everyday work life. Meet the rest of the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees Feb 26, 2020

  • 5 Questions with a Prison Researcher

    An interview with Janet Garcia-Hallett
    The Urban Institute recently awarded grants to improve the conditions of prisons in five states including Missouri. University of Missouri System researchers are playing a central role, including Janet Garcia-Hallett, assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The 4.5-year research project will be piloted at Moberly Correctional Center, a 1,800-bed minimum/medium-security facility located 35 miles north of Columbia, Missouri. It houses two intensive therapeutic communities for individuals committed to personal growth and sobriety. It provides opportunities for incarcerated individuals to give back through programs such as Puppies for Parole and Restorative Justice. It also offers 48 courses and groups that build skills in areas such as anger management, parenting, employability preparation, cognitive interventions, addiction management and understanding the impact of crime on victims. We spoke to Garcia-Hallett about the research project. What got you interested in researching correctional facilities? It was personal. Growing up in Harlem in the 1980s and 1990s, I saw how mass incarceration affected the community. I saw the adversity my community faced with rampant substance abuse, and when encountering the criminal justice system. I’d see people go missing when they were incarcerated. And I’d see people return home from incarceration, and try to regain stability. I grew up with friends who became wrapped up in the criminal justice system or who were killed or committed suicide as a result of the systemic oppression. Because of this, I became interested in finding ways to address the systematic oppression embedded in carceral systems. What will your role be in improving the Missouri correctional center? What do you hope happens as a result of your research? We will work using community-based participatory research — getting involvement from not only those who live there, but also those who work there. The first step will be interviewing and conducting focus groups to inform climate surveys about the prison environment. I hope that our research will encourage data-driven change and help all people impacted by the system — establishing a more humane and rehabilitative environment for those who live there and also improving the working conditions for those who work there. Tell us about the book you’re writing. “Invisible Mothers” (scheduled to publish in 2022 by University of California Press). It’s about mothers who were incarcerated; I interviewed 37 mothers in New York City about their experiences navigating motherhood after incarceration. I saw much of incarceration research was based on men, and I was interested in researching formerly incarcerated women. Over two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers, and this book is about them and putting them at the forefront to show how their gender, racial-ethnic background, and maternal roles make their experiences unique. As I’m navigating motherhood myself now, this resonates even more with me. Who influences you the most? My mother, Sandra Garcia, who is Afro-Latina. She endured the hardships of Honduras and came to the U.S. to find a better life and to establish better circumstances for her children to excel. She has always motivated me to aim high, to do things for the greater good and to give back to my local community and home country. How do you influence others? I’m a first-generation college student, and I list that on my email signature at UMKC – ‘First Gen Proud.’ Many of my students are first gen, too. By seeing that I finished college and went on through graduate school to obtain a Ph.D., this often serves as a source of empowerment. I also find that, as a woman of color, many of my underrepresented students come to me for information, advice or solace, and I am more than happy to serve in this capacity.   Feb 26, 2020

  • Interest in Helping Native Americans Leads Student to Dental School

    Shanon Black, mother of three, pursues healthcare field to work on reservations
    Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Shanon Black '22Hometown: Lawrence, KansasDegree Program: Doctor of Dental SurgeryHigh school: Lawrence High School An interest in healthcare and a focus on making a difference for Native American communities led Shanon Black to the UMKC School of Dentistry.  While the program is as challenging as she expected, the mother of three is successfully juggling school and life. Shanon Black knew she wanted to be on the frontline of health care and make a difference for Native American communities. Initially, she was focused on medical school because of the shortage of native doctors on reservations. But one of her professors suggested she explore dentistry. “I decided to take a look,” Black says. “A representative from the UMKC diversity office visited Haskell University later that week.” Black, who had completed her associate’s degree, had enrolled in Haskell to finish her bachelor’s degree in environmental science when the youngest of her three children went to school. But it didn’t take her long to realize that her heart was in healthcare. After attending the informational meeting, Black realized that many of her interests were a strong fit with dentistry. "I could tell that this school cared about the students and not just student numbers." - Shanon Black “Dentistry is on the frontline of healthcare, which is important to me. And I used to make jewelry and really enjoyed it, so I’m familiar with crafting small objects and the need for perfection.” That night, Black researched the need for native dentists. At the time there were fewer than 100 native dentists in the United States. According to the American Dental Education Association, of the more than 11,000 dental school applicants in 2018, only 23 were Native American. “There are never enough Native American dentists to reach all the geographically isolated reservations,” she says. “So there is a great need. After I discovered that, I decided that dentistry was where I needed to be.” Black shadowed dentists and dental specialists as part of her research to decide if dentistry was right for her. She was fascinated by pretty much everything she saw. “I learned that dentistry is awesome. I knew I was moving in the right direction.” She applied to the dental program at UMKC and other schools. After her interview, she knew that UMKC was where she wanted to be. “Everyone was so enthusiastic, kind and accommodating,” she says. “I could tell that this school cared about the students and not just student numbers. The prospect of dental school was a little daunting, and everyone at UMKC made me feel like I was already family and I hadn’t even been accepted to the program yet.” Black has discovered that academically dentistry is similar to medical school and challenging on many levels. Last semester she was enrolled in 25.5 credit hours and managing the lab work from three labs.  “It’s a lot of pressure,” she says. “But there are a lot of support programs, too. As intense as it can be, it’s good to know that there is tutoring, administration and peer groups that can see me through the rough times. No one has ever made me feel like a burden when I have gone to them with fears. I have only ever been met with concern, compassion and problem solving. This attention has been vital in navigating the coursework.” Beyond coursework, the dental program has taught Black a lot about herself. “I’ve learned that control is an illusion and my fight to be in control is and will always be a losing battle. So I need to be able to roll with what comes my way and stop trying to master plan everything. I also learned that I can’t accomplish my goals alone.” From staff members to upperclassmen to her fellow classmates, Black is constantly inspired by their dedication and service to others. “I’m surrounded by people who entered the program to care for people. All of them want to make the world a healthier, happier place for everyone. It makes me want to constantly do better.” Feb 25, 2020

  • Making Black History

    ‘Doing something so remarkable that it does not fade from people's minds.’
    In celebration of Black History Month, we asked student leaders to reflect on the idea of making history – as opposed to studying or celebrating history. Participants include: Jordan Grimmett, president, Men of Color InitiativeHometown: St. LouisAge: 20Major: Six-year BA/MD program at UMKC School of Medicine  Justice Horn, SGA presidentHometown: Blue Springs, MissouriAge: 21Major: Business Management  Alexis Jackson, secretary, The African American Student Union (TAASU)Hometown: St. LouisAge: 22Major: Health Science Cameron Johnson, president, Multicultural Student Organization CouncilHometown: St. LouisAge: 21Major: Biology  What does it mean to you, personally, to “make history”? Grimmett: Making history can be attained in countless ways, but there are commonalities between them: inspiring others, making change or doing something so remarkable that it does not fade from people's minds. So, to me, making history means giving back to the less fortunate, staying true to yourself and fighting for what's right. Johnson: To me, making history means leaving a legacy that people who come after you can use to be better versions of themselves; and to get to places that, before you, they would have a harder time reaching. Horn: As UMKC’s first multicultural, openly gay student body president, making history means that I represent my community, but also those who came before me. I represent several disenfranchised communities, and representation matters. That is why I make history: to break through barriers in sectors that have never seen anyone from my community. Who are the people alive today who have made black history? What have you learned from them that you apply in your own life? Jackson: People like Beyoncé, LeBron James, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith have made black history. These major figures have taught me that the sky is the limit and not to hold out on my dreams for anyone. Grimmett: A few that have inspired me frequently are Barack Obama, LeBron James and Oprah Winfrey. They all have been leaders in their respective careers and have paved the way for others like them to be successful in similar ways. As a future health-care provider, I take these lessons personally because I’m aware of the disparities that exist in certain communities and I know that I will have a strong platform and resources to support and fight for those that are less fortunate. Johnson: Barack Obama, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Jay Z, Simone Biles, Claressa Shields, 50 Cent. What I have learned from them is to raise the bar against all odds. I have also learned to follow your dreams, even if the people around you won't understand at the time. Do you know anyone personally who you would call a black history-maker? What have you learned from them? Johnson: Every person that breaks down barriers for people in their family is making black history. We come from generations of overcoming oppression, so yes, if you are doing things that you never thought you could do, then that is black history. Congratulations are in order. Grimmett: Dr. Kevin McDonald, the vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Virginia. I was fortunate to meet him through a program called MOCHA (Men of Color, Honor and Ambition) that strives to provide development in various aspects of life and academics to men of color in high school and college in an effort to increase academic success, retention and future success as leaders. Horn: I know a lot of people I would call history makers and many of them are here at UMKC, leaders such as Athletic Director Brandon Martin, NAACP President Kayla Pittman, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Susan Wilson, MSA President Cameron Johnson, TAASU President Brandy Williams and many more. Those are people I look up to because they are making history every day.  Why does making history matter? Horn: For our community to advance and make strides, we must have a seat at the table. When big decisions are being made and/or policy is set, there must be someone from our community representing us and advocating for us. Always. Grimmett: We need acts of excellence to continue inspiring others to follow their dreams. There have to be leaders and innovators who aren't afraid to take risks for the advancement of mankind. Do you believe that you will make history? As an individual? As part of a community? Horn: I believe I will continue to make history because I’m pursuing a career in a profession that hasn’t seen a lot of people like me. I plan on pursuing a career in politics, and my end goal is being Missouri’s first African American governor. Grimmett: There is not a lot of African American representation in medicine, so in part I hope to make history as an individual, but also make history by building a community of African American physicians that can be the face for aspiring individuals in younger generations. Johnson: I do believe that I will make history, not because I seek to be famous but because everything that I do is for the benefit of those around me. That kind of dedication to the cause has a good chance at getting recognition, and if it doesn't, that doesn't make the contribution to my people any less historic. Jackson: I believe I will make history by contributing to our society, by volunteering to make change and helping keep policy makers in office that support all people and recognize their struggles. What are your goals in terms of making history? Jackson: My goal is to excel in my career, to let other black and brown girls know that anything is possible. Grimmett: Graduating medical school and becoming a physician will open many doors. I want to create scholarships and programs that will help increase the population of underrepresented minorities attending college and entering medical school. Feb 25, 2020

  • Community Leaders Taking Nominations for Prestigious Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

    The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes Kansas City women of distinction
    Every two years, an independent panel of Kansas City community leaders selects local women of significance for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. This year, the panel is once again seeking nominations for women with noteworthy ties to the Kansas City area who have historically or more recently made important and enduring contributions in their fields of work. The nomination form and full directions for making a nomination are available online. The deadline for submitting a completed nomination packet is June 30. Twenty-six Kansas City women have been inducted into the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame, half of them posthumously. Members of this select group include philanthropists, business executives, women’s and civil rights activists, political leaders and more. You can read more about the inductees online. The Women’s Hall of Fame is named after Martha Jane Phillips Starr. A Kansas City philanthropist and women's rights leader, Starr was one of the first women to serve on the UMKC Board of Trustees. She played an important role in establishing the university’s Women's Council and the Graduate Assistance Fund, which today provides financial assistance to female students. UMKC’s annual Starr Symposium is named after and endowed by her. Starr died in 2011 at the age of 104. The Starr Women's Hall of Fame is funded by her family, the Starr Education Committee and the Starr Field of Interest Fund. It is also supported by 27 leading women’s organizations throughout Kansas City. Make your nominations for Starr Women’s Hall of Fame by June 30. Submit a nomination Feb 24, 2020

  • Father's Struggle Leads to Daughter's Success

    Tamica Lige’s father overcame poverty and discrimination to provide his daughter an avenue to success
    Tamica Lige, STAHR program coordinator of diversity at the School of Medicine, feels fortunate to have been inspired by so many people in her life, from her childhood clarinet instructor to writer Toni Morrison. But her biggest influence was her father. What about your father’s accomplishments inspired you? My dad, Henry Edward, Lige Jr., was one of six kids who grew up in the projects of Montgomery, Alabama, in extremely impoverished and segregated conditions. He was 11 years old at the time that Martin Luther King Jr. led the Selma to Montgomery march. Dad lived through the civil rights movement, experienced the rampant racism of the Deep South and watched his parents struggle to gain equal rights. Like so many young black men who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and underperforming schools, my dad saw sports as the ticket that would give him a chance at a better life. He played football in high school and was recruited to play collegiate football at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. "Dad lived through the civil rights movement, experienced the rampant racism of the Deep South and watched his parents struggle to gain equal rights."-Tamica Lige I can only imagine the culture shock he faced with upon arrival to the predominately white town we called home. While in Manhattan, my dad met my mom, a white woman from Shawnee, Kansas, and began his family with her. My parents came from two completely different worlds. My dad’s family was disgusted with him for dating a white woman, and my mom’s ridiculed her for dating a black man. It was commonplace for my dad and us kids to be addressed with racial slurs by our own family members. The constant microaggressions, blatant acts of racism and mistreatment could have broken my dad’s spirit, but instead, he used it as fuel to be a better man. He was one of the most kind, caring and accepting people I have ever known. He embraced any and every one he encountered and made a conscious effort to have genuine exchanges of experience with people who were different than him. My dad overcame so much adversity in the 54 years he walked on this earth that I can’t help but be inspired by him. His soul smiled so bright despite all of the terrible things he had gone through. He was my biggest cheerleader. He was always right there on the sidelines to tell me I could and would be able to do whatever my heart desired.    Feb 24, 2020

  • Everyone Counts

    UMKC community encouraged to complete U.S. Census
    UMKC – and Missouri – needs your help. March 12 is the first day you can respond to the 2020 census. And for the first time in American history, individuals will complete the U.S. Census online. The state of Missouri needs everyone to complete the survey. The count impacts federal student loans; federal research grants; campus funding; campus improvements, including labs, buildings and classrooms; health and social services; federal legislation; and students’ future careers. Many professionals working in medicine, social work, nursing, science, research or public health are also heavily dependent on federal funding. College students benefit from federal student loans, legislation, campus funding, campus improvements, and health and social services. The U.S. Census Bureau has made an internet link available. The department will also mail cards with PIN numbers to be used for filling out the census. People can still answer census questions by mail. By responding to the census, you can help bring resources and representation to your community and campus. To help ensure everyone is counted, including hard-to-reach communities such as college students, a number of campus and community events will be scheduled. One event will be April 1, which is Census Day. Specific activities are still in the planning stage and will be announced soon. The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years. The census covers the entire country and everyone living here. The Census Bureau conducts the decennial Census, the American Community Survey, the economic Census and many other surveys and is the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties, academia and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. Individuals’ data are confidential and federal law protects census responses. Answers can only be used to produce statistics. The census is also important for redistricting and fair representation. Every 10 years, the results of the census are used to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets. Quick facts about Missouri Missouri has nearly 6 million residents, and is the 18th most populated state in the U.S. 338,515 students were enrolled at universities, colleges and community colleges in Missouri in fall 2019. In 2017-18, 104,364 Missourians were awarded $431,411,598 in Pell Grants based in part on census data. Census survey data are one factor to determine the funding for many programs in higher education. Feb 24, 2020

  • Bobby Watson's Inspiration in Life and Music

    Watson’s father instilled love and respect of music and family
    Bobby Watson, renowned saxophonist and retired UMKC jazz studies professor, grew up with four brothers all one year apart. His father, who quietly and consistently taught his children to create an interesting life and value their relationships with each other, has been his lifelong inspiration. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the Kansas City, Missouri City Council issued a resolution for Watson at the Feb. 27 meeting. The resolution stated: “Honoring Bobby Watson on the occasion of his retirement for his twenty years of dedicated service to the Conservatory and UMKC as the Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies.” He thinks his father’s influence was critical to his success.  Who was one of your greatest inspirations when you were either a child or young man? My father. He flew airplanes and taught pilots to fly at ground school for the Federal Aviation Administration. He was an artist and an inventor – he held patents on several of his inventions. But everything centered on his love of music. He played saxophone in church and at home. He would stand in a corner and play because he thought the sound was the best there. What about his accomplishments inspired you? He wasn’t a boastful man. He taught us humility. As young black men he wanted me and my four brothers to be good public speakers, so we had Toastmasters at home. We stood at a podium and spoke with no microphone. "He really taught me how to listen."-Bobby Watson He kept us safe. When we wanted to play basketball, he built a basketball court for us and our friends at home. When we wanted to play pool he put a pool table in the basement so we wouldn’t go to pool halls. When we wanted to ice skate, he made a skating rink in the yard. Usually, I thought he was right. There were five brothers in my family and he taught us that you don’t fight with your brother. Once when we were young, I got in a tiff with one of my brothers. He told us to sit on the sofa and hug each other. Then he went out to cut the grass. And then he trimmed the bushes. Then he stopped and fixed himself a glass of lemonade – all while we were holding each other looking out the window and crying and wondering when he was going to let us let go. We didn’t fight after that. How have you incorporated his values into your life? He really taught me how to listen. When I talk to people, I listen. If you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, you’re not listening. I don’t want to go back and forth like you see today. I’ll talk, you listen. You talk, I’ll listen. Feb 24, 2020

  • UMKC Students Awarded for Program that Detects Fake News

    Five interdisciplinary RJI Student Innovation Competition teams tasked with developing tools to fight against deep fakes and fabricated content pit...
    UNEWS - Digital media has made all sorts of information increasingly accessible, and as a result, the deliberate spread of disinformation has become an increasingly important issue. Known by the relatively new term “fake news,” this false information rose to prominence during the 2016 election, with governments and internet companies desperately making efforts to fight it. Fortunately, students in the UM system are now working to combat fake news by creating programs that can recognize fabricated photos, videos and audio. Students developed verification software as a part of the Student Innovation Competition at the University of Missouri’s  Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). Read more. Feb 21, 2020

  • Student Team Wins Journalism Innovation Competition With Deepfake Fighting Tool

    Two School of Computing and Engineering teams pitched their ideas for fighting fake news during the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s D...
    Columbia, Mo. — A web-based tool known as Deeptector.io, which harnesses artificial intelligence to detect synthetic or deepfake videos and images made with AI, won the 2019-20 Missouri School of Journalism’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute student innovation competition and a $10,000 prize.  Defakify won second place and $2,500, while Fake Lab received $1,000 for third place. Deep Scholars also participated, but did not place in the competition. Read more. Feb 21, 2020

  • Superheroes Don't Always Wear Capes

    Alumnus Vladimir Sainte addresses mental health in children through writing and social work
    Our ongoing story starts with people from around the world, converging here at UMKC. Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Vladimir Sainte, LCSW Hometown: Queens, New York UMKC degree program: B.A., sociology ’07, Master of Social Work ‘10 Vladimir Sainte is helping children by carrying forward the mentoring he received as a young man. Originally from Queens, New York, his mother sent him to live in Kansas City with his uncle, William Jacob, hoping he would be a good mentor for Sainte. Her strategy was a success; Jacob instilled a love of learning and a desire to give back. Could you tell us a little about your work? I’m a team leader for client care in mental health at Truman Behavioral Health, and worked previously as a counselor and crisis clinician. I also write children’s books to create inclusive literature to increase awareness of diversity and tolerance.   "With power comes great responsibility."-Vladimir Sainte Why did you choose this career/field? As an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree.  I took Introduction to Social Work with Grey Endres. He’s this great guy who wears Hawaiian shirts and superhero belts to class. He showed me that social work can be a profound and beautiful career – where you get to play with kids all day!    How did you become an author? I was working with a black boy who was struggling with his identity. I was looking for a book that might help him and I couldn’t find anything, so I decided to write one myself. I wrote “Just Like a Hero” – a story about Will, a black boy who is coping with daily struggles – to highlight the importance of personal value. I didn’t expect it to escalate, but I’m happy it’s been recognized. My books are designed as a reminder of how important we all are. The other reason I focused on a young black boy in my first book is because I wish I’d had something like this growing up. Throughout my career, I’ve seen that some people in the African American culture can treat mental health issues as taboo. If we know someone who has mental health issues – that person is crazy. We don’t talk to them. It’s like a plague. And we act as if we ignore it, maybe it will go away.  I wanted to reach diverse backgrounds through boys or girls who look like me.  "We need to accept people as they are – shine the flashlight on that – and let them know if things are difficult that it’s not going to be this way forever.” What did you most appreciate about UMKC? Meeting my wife, who was in the social work program with me. We were friends first. She has been my rock and my pillar through my career and my books. I can be in the clouds – she is analytical. She’s instrumental to my process. How did UMKC and your UMKC connections help prepare you for your career? Elaine Spencer-Carver, School of Social Work’s director of field education, saw the potential in me. I saw Grey Endres as a mentor. He taught my last undergraduate class and I told him I’d applied to the MSW program. He helped place me in my practicum at Gillis Center my last year in the program and it became my first job. Do you have a personal motto or words you live by? I love comic books, and Spiderman’s motto has always resonated with me. “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a social worker, I am an agent of change – that has great power. Kids learn through their environments. If we’re stressed, they feel that. We need to show acceptance, support and compassion.  We need to accept people as they are – shine the flashlight on that – and let them know if things are difficult that it’s not going to be this way forever. Who has been a great influences in your life? My uncle, William Jacob, who was an engineer in Kansas City, was very influential. When I was a 16-year-old kid living in New York, I hung out with kids who weren’t interested in school. I wasn’t interested in school. I had terrible grades and was searching for connection, which I found with the wrong group of people. He and my mother came up with the plan for me to move to Kansas City so he could mentor me. He saw my potential, even though I didn’t. Every Tuesday night after watching The Andy Griffith Show, he’d sit down with me to do one hour of algebra. I hated it, but he pushed me. He made me enjoy education. With his influence, I saw a future for myself. "Every Tuesday night after watching The Andy Griffith Show, he’d sit down with me to do one hour of algebra.  I hated it, but he pushed me.  He made me enjoy education. With his influence, I saw a future for myself.” How are you now using your influence to impact others? I hope I’m helping to break down the stigma of mental illness by raising awareness in children. For me, that’s through creating books that talk about mental health. It’s important for kids to understand that it’s OK to be anxious or depressed, but you have worth. You are important. Mental health struggles don’t signify or create a boundary. My first book, “Just Like a Hero,” is about a young black boy, and the second, “It Will be Okay,” is about a Latina girl. The third and fourth books also feature children of color with their own challenges. Recently, I spoke at Turner Middle School. A girl came up to me after my presentation and thanked me. She said she’d struggled with feeling sad for herself, and that she doesn’t feel important. My presentation helped her understand that she can talk about that. It was breathtaking to hear. Feb 19, 2020

  • UMKC Theatre Again Named a Top 10 Costume Design Program

    Hollywood Reporter names UMKC to its Top 10 list
    For the third year in a row, Hollywood Reporter has included UMKC Theatre in its list of Top 10 Costume Design schools. “Many incoming grad students think that they can only have significant training and careers on the coasts,” said Lindsay W. Davis, UMKC Theatre professor of costume design. “Three times in a row validates our training program, because we already know that all our graduates work in the entertainment industry.” UMKC Theatre offers a single comprehensive M.F.A. degree in costume design and technology, which has been key to its success. Students learn many skills including drawing, painting, sketching and learning how to construct a garment with techniques in fabric manipulation, millinery, tailoring and pattern drafting. Doug Enderle was the first M.F.A. costume design graduate from UMKC in 1981. He received an Emmy for his work as a senior lead costume designer for The Walt Disney Company. Other notable alumni include Tom Houchins, costumer on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy;” and Jonathan Knipscher, lead tailor on the Hugh Jackman film “The Greatest Showman.” Pheobe Boynton (M.F.A. ‘08) is a freelance costume designer and technician. She was costume supervisor on the Norwegian and Oceania cruise lines; and also designed for the Discovery channel group, YouTube Red, The Los Angeles Opera, Kanye West, Kansas City Repertory Theater, Legendary Digital, Relativity Media and Theatrical Arts International.  Here’s where other UMKC Theatre graduates are working: HBO, The Metropolitan Opera, The Los Angeles Opera, on Broadway, London’s West End, the Market Theatre in South Africa, as well as opera companies in Brazil, Italy and throughout the U.S. Recent graduates have worked at regional theatres such as Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., The Roundabout Theatre in New York City, The Cleveland Play House and The Old Globe in San Diego. Feb 17, 2020

  • Students Sink Their Teeth Into School of Dentistry Discounts

    Half-off prices on many basic procedures now are available for anyone with a valid UMKC student ID
    The pace and costs of college can make getting good, affordable dental care seem daunting, but at UMKC, the School of Dentistry can help. Services at the school’s clinic often cost less than what private practices usually charge, and now the school is offering further discounts to UMKC students. “University students often avoid visiting the dentist for financial reasons,” said Yasmin Hussein, a fourth-year dental student. “However, what many UMKC students do not know is that UMKC’s dental clinic provides very affordable prices for dental care. UMKC students receive a 50 percent discount on top of the already low prices, not to mention the convenient location and excellent facility.” The added discounts for students, which started this semester, offer a basic evaluation with X-rays for new patients or an emergency visit for just $10 and, as Hussein noted, half off any further basic services needed, such as taking care of a cavity. Hussein’s classmate, Rachel Slenker, also agreed that the clinic’s location, just a few minutes north of the main campus, was ideal for busy students. “The dental care they receive is very thorough,” Slenker said. “Because it's a learning environment, all of our work is getting checked by a dental professional, sometimes multiple. Many of my patients have said our close attention to detail and the ‘many eyes that see their teeth’ are the main reasons for attending the clinic.” “I have worked with several dental students who are seeing UMKC students receiving the new discount. They are so grateful to be able to take care of their dental needs at an affordable cost.” — Linda Seabaugh, DDS, clinical assistant professor One of their supervisors, Linda Seabaugh, DDS, said it was particularly rewarding seeing her students provide care for other students. “I’ve seen many UMKC students come through the clinic, but one stands out to me,” said Seabaugh, a clinical assistant professor and director of ergonomics at the dental school. “He was a patient of one of our students and had quite a bit of dental work done. He would have benefitted greatly from reduced fees at that time. As it turns out, he is now a first-year dental student. He already has a unique perspective as a dental school patient, which will serve him well when he sees his own patients.” Seabaugh, who taught at the school in the 1990s and returned about three years ago, added, “I have worked with several dental students who are seeing UMKC students receiving the new discount. They are so grateful to be able to take care of their dental needs at an affordable cost.” The clinic’s patients get high-quality care at a good price, and they help the next generation of dentists prepare for their careers. “Most of my time is spent working with students in the clinic as they treat patients,” Seabaugh said. “The clinic is a critical element of dental education … when dental students transform into dentists. It is amazing to watch how much the students learn and how their skills develop. Not only do they advance their knowledge and skills, they provide much needed dental services to members of the community, many of who would not otherwise be able to afford dental care. In addition, our students have the privilege to work with many diverse individuals and apply our core values of excellence, compassion, integrity and justice.”  Affordable Dental Care for UMKC Students $10 – Initial screening, examination and X-rays for new patients only $10 – Emergency visit 50% off – UMKC’s already low prices (does not apply to care in Advanced Education Program clinics) Call 816-235-2100 for an appointment. More details on the program are here.     Feb 13, 2020

  • The Couple That Rules Together, Stays Together

    Law graduates navigate work and love — at home, at the office and on television
    If you ask Dana Tippin Cutler (J.D. ’89) and Keith Cutler (J.D. ’89) whether they thought, in their wildest dreams, they’d ever have their own television show, they’d tell you “heck no!” In fact, Dana says when she first got the call from a production company several years ago looking for a husband-and-wife team to preside over a new courtroom TV show, she hung up. “I thought it was a joke. I have a friend who likes to jerk my chain and I thought he was pranking me,” Dana says. She didn’t buy it until the production company called back and confirmed they were not, in fact, pranking her. Dana was sure her husband, Keith, wouldn’t go for it, but to her surprise, he agreed to learn more. Two years later they’re the hosts of the Emmy-nominated daytime TV show Couples Court with the Cutlers, the first time a married couple has ever presided over a TV courtroom. Finding the balance in law and love Couples Court with the Cutlers specializes in, you guessed it, couples — helping them find resolutions and move forward. The Cutlers travel back and forth to Atlanta, where the show is filmed, several times a year to shoot new episodes. This allows them to keep up with a demanding TV schedule while still managing the family law practice they manage with Dana’s father and another associate. On the show, the Cutlers are given a little more leeway than regular courtrooms allow; they’re able to laugh and keep up their natural banter, show expression when they hear wild stories and provide real advice to the couples standing before them. On the show, they draw from their experiences practicing law, but also from practicing marriage. Left: The couple on their first date during college in Atlanta, Georgia. Right: Keith and Dana on their wedding day in 1989, at the Second Baptist Church in Kansas City. “As lawyers, you learn a lot with different experiences, and the trial work we do in our regular jobs has trained us to think on our feet. We were building up for the show and didn’t even know,” Keith explains. He adds that after 37 years of being together — or as Dana puts it, joined at the hip — “we know a little something about relationships.” The Cutlers met in the 1980s while getting their undergraduate degrees in Atlanta — Dana attended Spelman College and Keith attended Morehouse College. They have enjoyed joking and pestering each other ever since. Despite living and working together every day, the Cutlers say they don’t think that’s too much time together. They truly enjoy each other’s company. “We’re like the columns of a church. They’re working together but not on top of each other,” Dana says. “We have different hobbies and interests at home, and when we’re in the office we’re working on different things as well.” Dana works primarily as an education attorney, representing charter schools, while Keith works as a civil defense trial attorney. Keeping a community focus The Cutlers don’t think of themselves as celebrities, but their unique job does require them to occasionally play the autograph-and-selfie game at the movies or the grocery store. Most times, the Cutlers say, people are just surprised to discover that two of their favorite TV stars live in Kansas City. The show currently airs in more than 100 U.S. television markets, and episodes are also available on YouTube. Dana and Keith on the set of their TV show, Couples Court with the Cutlers. Kansas City is important to the Cutlers, though, not just because they live and practice law here, but because they care about the community and being civically engaged. “At UMKC, they stressed being a good lawyer for the community,” Keith says. “One of the best things about UMKC is their emphasis on the practical side of law, which contributes to the learning experience that a lot of students don’t get until after law school.” As you can imagine, the Cutlers are big supporters of the UMKC School of Law. Both have been honored with the school’s Alumni Achievement Award — Keith in 2008 and Dana in 2018 — and Keith is an adjunct professor. It’s important to them to help young lawyers achieve the same level of success they have, wherever that may be. “We’re like the columns of a church. They’re working together but not on top of each other. We have different hobbies and interests at home, and when we’re in the office we’re working on different things as well.” —Dana Tippin Cutler “I didn’t appreciate how accessible and relatable the faculty were at UMKC until I realized that law school wasn’t like that for everybody,” Dana says. “It’s the same thing we enjoy about the judges we work with in Kansas City.” Their advice for future attorneys? A law degree is one of the most versatile degrees you can have. Even if you don’t want to go to court, which is one small part of the job, there are plenty of other things you can do. A TV show, perhaps? This story originally appeared in the UMKC magazine, Perspectives, vol. 29. Feb 13, 2020

  • Changing of the Guard at a Prized Literary Institution

    Editor-in-Chief Robert Stewart is bringing 44-year career to an epilogue
    As critically acclaimed longtime editor Robert Stewart prepares his final issue of New Letters, successor Christie Hodgen, Ph.D., reflects on the past and future of the award-winning UMKC magazine and its publishing house partner, BkMk Press. New Letters was founded just one year after the University of Kansas City, which became UMKC, Hodgen said, “so it might be said that in a sense, we are the most enduring living artifact to the university’s intellectual life and ambitions.” The English department faculty member makes a compelling case for her bold assertion. Indeed, New Letters has published some of the nation’s greatest 20th and 21st century authors, including J.D. Salinger, e. e. cummings, Marianne Moore, Pearl S. Buck. Edgar Lee Masters and May Sarton. In 2008, Stewart was awarded the magazine industry’s highest honor, the National Magazine Award in Editing. The magazine has regularly placed original work in the highly regarded annual award anthologies the Pushcart and Best American. Together with partners BkMk Press and New Letters on the Air, it is the only literary enterprise in the country boasting not only a magazine and book press, but also a weekly radio program. “It might be said that in a sense, we are the most enduring living artifact to the university’s intellectual life and ambitions.” - Christie Hodgen Hodgen credits Stewart for the magazine’s ongoing sterling reputation. “Robert Stewart has worked for New Letters magazine for more than forty years. As editor-in-chief for the last eighteen years, he has not only maintained but in fact furthered the magazine’s reputation for excellence,” she said. “Under the surface of these awards—which are flashy and exciting—is an almost monk-like devotion to the work. A tremendous amount of care is given not only to the selection of the content for each issue of the magazine, but to the integrity of its presentation. Bob is publishing with posterity in mind. “It is worth mentioning, too, that Bob is also an accomplished poet and essay writer, with multiple critically acclaimed books of poetry and essays to his credit. Like many great editors, his eye for talent is so honed because he possesses so much himself.” “The magazine’s mission is to ‘discover, publish, and promote the best and most exciting literary writing, wherever it may be found’ and frankly, I can’t think of a better job.” - Christie Hodgen New Letters and BkMk play a significant role in the university’s educational mission. Working with the departments of English and Communication Studies, they offer UMKC students internship opportunities in magazine and book publishing, and radio production. “These internships have introduced countless students to the skills they require to enter the workforce as editors, writers, publishers, and producers,” she said. Stewart praised the choice of Hodgen as his successor. “After spending 44 years on the staff of New Letters—the latest 18 as editor of the magazine, press, and radio series—I am heartened, relieved, and overjoyed to know that UMKC literary publishing and broadcasting will be led by someone I so much admire,” he said. “Christie Hodgen is a great writer, herself; her love and understanding of literary art will reshape and invigorate our work.” Hodgen recognizes the weight of responsibility she is taking on, to students, to the community and to American literature. “We are an important part of the arts community here, sponsoring and co-sponsoring a number of prizes and readings, and hosting the region’s most robust calendar of literary events,” she said. “The magazine’s mission is to ‘discover, publish, and promote the best and most exciting literary writing, wherever it may be found’ and frankly, I can’t think of a better job. I am looking forward to both continuing to publish the voices that already make New Letters a great magazine, and also scouring through the slush pile to discover new voices. “We really do read all submissions, hoping to discover and promote those new voices.”  She is looking to add more than just new voices. “First and foremost, I see my job as maintaining the magazine’s tradition of excellence. In addition, I am undertaking a project of digitizing our 86 years of back issues, with the hopes of being able to host these online, making our rich history available to the public,” Hodgen said. Readers can also look forward to a user-friendly digital version of the magazine. New Letters is a not-for-profit entity that depends on donations for a share of its funding. Feb 13, 2020

  • UMKC School of Dentistry Offers Free Dental Screenings

    Need free work done on your teeth? UMKC dental school is looking for you
    The School of Dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was featured in the Kansas City Star while needing a few good — or not so good — mouths for student's clinical exams. Fox4KC also highlighed how patients could be eligible for free dental work and cleaning while helping UMKC dental students earn their degree. Feb 13, 2020

  • Engineering Faculty Develops Technology to Remove Harmful Chemical from Wastewater

    Professor Megan Hart received $354,000 from the Department of Defense to continue work on PFAS
    PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) solutions can be found everywhere, even in the places you least expect. It’s a lab-made compound of synthetic material that has been in use since the 1930s. Wrinkle-resistant clothing, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam are just a few of the many things that contain this material, incorporating it into our daily lives and, quietly, causing harm.  Assistant Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering Megan Hart received $354,000 in funding from the Department of Defense’s Strategic and Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) for a two-year project focused on destroying PFAS in concentrated liquid waste streams through a series of lab-based tests. Though the actual project won’t begin until May, Hart is already hard at work conducting chemical engineering experiments in her lab as she figures out the best way to destroy the harmful material, which she said is no easy feat. “Traditionally, people incinerate the wastes containing PFAS, but there is growing evidence that it becomes airborne and redeposits in the soil around the smelters,” Hart said. “This is the first time a SERDP grant has been awarded at UMKC and we are very excited,” - John Kevern, civil and mechanical engineering department chair One of Hart’s research focuses is groundwater and geochemical influences on soil stability, so she’s naturally excited by the opportunity to put on her gloves and experiment in the lab. She developed a treatment technology that combines two major methods for PFAS removal in water – pH and free-radical destruction. The technology is engineered to release hydroxyl radicals (a type of free radical with the most active chemical properties. They have a high reaction rate and cause the most harm among the free radicals) into a solution that passes through it. Those radicals are then excited with UV light to form free radicals, which attack and destroy the PFAS in groundwater and waste water solutions. Hart says that some PFAS are easier to destroy than others but all of them are destroyed using the method she developed. “Traditionally, people incinerate the wastes containing PFAS, but there is growing evidence that it becomes airborne and redeposits in the soil around the smelters.” - Megan Hart Hart was able to leverage an existing relationship with Geosyntec, who funded previous work on novel remedial treatment technologies for PFAS. “This is the first time a SERDP grant has been awarded at UMKC and we are very excited,” said John Kevern, civil and mechanical engineering department chair. PFAS has been part of a larger conversation surrounding environmental sustainability and its negative effects on the human body. As an example of how serious the issue is, Hart mentioned an ongoing lawsuit where airline employees claim their uniforms — containing PFAS for wrinkle-resistance — are making them sick. The issue has also been raised in some ongoing presidential campaigns. “I’m excited to start working on this project, and can’t wait to get back more results to share,” Hart said. In addition to the SERDP grant, Hart will be working on a separate project to remove PFAS material from consumer-based products including popcorn bags that contain PFAS material to keep them from combusting in the microwave. She said that she’s equally excited to begin that work in the near future. Explore research at UMKC Feb 12, 2020

  • UMKC Seeks Developer to Restore One of KC's Most Endangered Properties

    UMKC is seeking submissions to develop the Epperson House
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City is looking for a developer that would work with the university through a public-private partnership to restore a historic home on its campus. Read the Kansas City Business Journal story. Feb 12, 2020

  • UMKC Conservatory Professors’ Podcast Explores Pulitzer Prize in Music

    Andrew Granade and David Thurmaier invite you to join their music conversations
    So, you don’t have time to read about all 73 winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Music? No problem. Just download the new podcast “Hearing the Pulitzers,” hosted by two UMKC Conservatory professors. The first episode, which launched Feb. 1, is an introduction to the podcast and the hosts Andrew Granade, associate dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs and professor of Musicology; and David Thurmaier, chair of the Music Studies Division and associate professor of Music Theory. They gave opening thoughts on the history of the music prize and the concept and meaning of the Pulitzer Prize. Going forward, each 30-minute episode will examine and analyze a Pulitzer Prize in Music composition and composer. The discussion, interspersed with musical segments from the award-winning piece, will review the composer’s work and why it was chosen for the award. At the end of each episode, each will share whether he thought the piece was a “hit” or a “miss” for winning the Pulitzer Prize. “The list of winners is fascinating because it features classical music household names like Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and Samuel Barber,” Thurmaier said, “but there are also quite a few obscure or forgotten composers that will allow us to discover new music alongside our listeners.” Zhou Long, Bonfils Distinguished Research Professor of Composition at UMKC, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his first opera, “Madame White Snake,” in 2011. His work will be a featured episode. Granade and Thurmaier have been teaching together for several years and enjoy the experience of bouncing ideas off each other from their different discipline perspectives. Granade is a musicologist and researches music in its historical and cultural contexts. Thurmaier is a theorist and studies the way musicians and composers make music. “Dave and I are both scholars of American music and were discussing, especially after Kendrick Lamar’s win two years ago, why the Pulitzers in music seemed largely irrelevant to American culture when the prizes in writing were so important,” Granade said. “That lead us to think about what we could learn about American music culture by exploring each winner in turn. We thought it might be fun to make a podcast where we could invite other people outside our classroom into the conversations we regularly have together.” The podcast series starts with the first award in 1943, “Secular Cantata No. 2. A Free Song,” by William Schuman. It posted Feb. 8. With 73 award winners to explore, Granade said he expects the project to take three years. New episodes are available every two week. After all 73 award winners have been featured, Granade and Thurmaier will update the podcast yearly when new prize winners are announced. Dale Morehouse, associate professor of voice-opera, recorded the introduction used for each episode. Tristan Harris, UMKC music composition undergraduate student, recorded the podcasts. Granade and Thurmaier received a Sight and Sound Subvention from the Society for American Music to cover the costs of equipment and hosting the podcast online. “Hearing the Pulitzers” is available on iTunes, Google Play and Podbean. You can also follow “Hearing the Pulitzers” on Facebook and Twitter. Feb 10, 2020

  • Former Exchange Student Listed Among 2020 Forbes Under 30 in Brazil

    Mateus Borges studied mechanical engineering at UMKC from 2014 to 2015
    Research and discovery is not just a goal at UMKC, it’s who we are. It’s what we do. Through hands-on learning experiences – undergraduate and graduate research, internships, volunteerism and real-world classroom assignments – our students are prepared to excel anywhere. One-time Roo, 2014-15 mechanical engineering exchange student and agribusiness entrepreneur, Mateus Borges was listed among the 2020 Forbes Under 30 in Brazil for his entrepreneurship and innovation in helping farmers purchase fertilizer, seeds and chemicals online. Borges credits his research experience with civil and mechanical engineering professor Travis Fields on parachute and aerial vehicle systems as the inspiration that led to his interest in using drones to support agricultural work in Brazil. Though he isn’t currently working with drone technology, Borges used his business and technology background to co-found a tech company in 2016 – shortly after graduating from the State University of Campinas – that later became Orbia, a joint venture with Bayer CropScience. Through Orbia, medium to large-scale farmers have a seamless way to purchase the supplies they need for growing and harvesting their plants. Borges said the platform provides supplies for nearly 140,000, or 65% of the land of, soybean farmers in Brazil. “UMKC was empowering for me to be able to use technology to solve real-world problems,” Borges says. “That changed the way I saw internships and I’m able to use that in my career path.” Borges was part of a Science without Borders exchange program, a partnership between the School of Computing and Engineering and the State University of Campinas. He was nominated in the e-commerce and retail category of Forbes Under 30 and still has plans for his company to expand. “Our goal is to become a global company and help reshape how agribusiness is done around the world.” Feb 10, 2020

  • UMKC Seeks Partner to Restore Historic Epperson House

    University wants to reopen century-old mansion to campus and community
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City is seeking a developer to engage in a public-private partnership to restore and reopen the historic Epperson House on Volker Campus. The Gothic Revival style mansion, designed by architect Horace LaPierre and constructed from 1919 to 1923, was originally built as a large single family home of approximately 24,000 gross square feet on five primary levels. The home originally had 54 rooms, six bathrooms, multiple elevators, a swimming pool, a billiard room, a barber shop, an organ loft and a tunnel linking the east and west basement levels. A Request for Interest document, issued Jan. 9, seeks proposals to develop building uses and programming that support the goals of UMKC and the community and provide financial resources for the restoration and operation of the facility, plus design and construction services. Responses will be accepted through Feb. 20. The house was acquired by UMKC (then called the University of Kansas City) in the 1940s and originally served as a dormitory for Navy pilots in World War II, then as housing for university students, then as home to a number of university schools and programs. The building has been closed since 2011. The Request for Interest calls for proposals “to complete the historic restoration of the Epperson House exterior, interior public spaces and grounds; along with a strategic renovation and repurposing of the private spaces for compatible market-rate revenue-generating office or hospitality uses that support the urban engagement mission of UMKC, the desire of the community to see the house restored and the interests of the developer while covering the operating costs of the facility.” Interested parties should contact Robert A. Simmons, associate vice chancellor for administration, at simmonsr@umkc.edu or 816-235-1354. “One of our responsibilities as a public university is to be proper stewards of our legacy. Epperson House is a treasure for not just our campus, but for the Kansas City community,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “With this invitation, we are seeking a team of partners to work with us to bring that prominent and grand building back into the daily life of our campus and our community.” Feb 10, 2020

  • Kansas Voters Moving Away From Caucuses For Presidential Primary

    UMKC political science chair says traditional primaries have their drawbacks
    While caucuses can cause issues, UMKC Political Science Chair Greg Vonnahme explained on KCTV5 that traditional primaries also have their drawbacks. Feb 08, 2020

  • Nontraditional Engineering Alumnus Gives Back With a Scholarship

    Jason Painter builds solid future for his family and future students
    Our ongoing story starts with people from around the world, converging here at UMKC. Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Jason Painter '12 Academic Program: Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering Hometown: North Kansas City, Missouri Jason Painter (BSME ’12) always liked school, and math was his strong point. But following high school graduation, he decided college wasn’t for him. He married his high school sweetheart and started working in residential construction. But after a few years, he began to reconsider his decision to forego a college degree. “I felt like I was failing,” Painter says. “I went through a spiritual awakening and realized college was the answer.” Painter talked to his wife, Tiffany, and she was supportive, even though it meant Jason would have to work nights and go to school during the day to make it happen. But the couple agreed college was the right decision and that they needed to stay close to home. “We weren’t going to uproot our family, so I went to visit UMKC. I fell in love with the campus the first time I walked around.” While the Painters were committed to his getting his degree in engineering, the reality was more challenging than they anticipated. “Going to work, going to school and having a family at the same time was incredibly emotional and physically and mentally draining.” Painter was a third-shift janitor at an elementary school. He did his homework in a closet during his breaks.  “I am so glad I had the opportunity to go to school, but the saddest part was coming home at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning when my wife was getting ready to leave for work. I’d be able to see my son for five minutes.” While it was a challenging situation for his family, was it justified? “Absolutely. Hard – but worth it.” Experiencing this challenge inspired Painter to give back, even while he was in school. UMKC Missouri Society of Professional Engineers coordinator Jane Vogl recalls that he invigorated the MSPE student chapter while he served as president. “He tripled the membership and was always looking for ways for the SCE engineering students to gain hands-on knowledge through field trips to super structures,” Vogl says. “He arranged visits to the Harry S. Truman Dam in Warsaw, Missouri and the Iatan Power Plant in Weston.” In addition, Painter volunteered for competitions and the E-Week blood drive. His giving did not stop when he graduated. Painter has recently established a $5,000 scholarship for non-traditional students in engineering. “Knowing that there are other people who are struggling inspired me to give back,” Painter says. “I had people cut me down and tell me I couldn’t do it. But I had a lot of help from my professors. I graduated cum laude. Sometimes, I can’t believe I got through it. I just want to help other people.” Dahn Phan is the first recipient of the Jason and Tiffany Painter Scholarship. Phan is a non-traditional student who is studying electrical and computer engineering. “My family immigrated to the United States during the Vietnam War with nothing besides the clothes on their back hoping for a fresh start to life,” Phan says. “Growing up, my parents did everything they could to provide food on the table and to give me and my brothers the necessities to succeed in life. With their sacrifice and dedication, I am proud to say I will be part of the first generation graduating from college.” “I had people cut me down and tell me I couldn’t do it. But I had a lot of help from my professors. I graduated cum laude. Sometimes, I can’t believe I got through it. I just want to help other people.” -Jason Painter Painter’s scholarship helped make that success possible.  “Receiving this scholarship motivated me to maintain my GPA and has given me the opportunity to complete my final semester in engineering school,” Phan says. “I’ve been able to take time off of work and be more involved with school organizations and activities. This helped me build leadership and team-working skills, which I knew employers wanted.” Phan met Painter during the School of Computing and Engineering scholarship luncheon last semester and they had the opportunity to learn more about each other’s families and their personal paths. “I got to know a little more about Jason’s family and his history as a non-traditional student. After meeting him and learning that he works as a controls engineer at Kiewit, he inspired me to becoming a controls engineer as well.” Phan is anticipating graduating this spring. He has accepted a job with the Global Product Development Division of General Motors in Detroit. Painter’s future is also bright. He is in the midst of a 2-3 year power plant project at Kiewit. His goals are both simple and significant. “I feel as if I made it already!” he says. “My goal is to be a good father and be there for my son.  I missed out on a lot of the early years. My wife deserves a lot of the credit. She gave me constant affirmation that it would all be worth it. I’m just looking forward to our life together.”   Feb 07, 2020

  • School of Computing and Engineering Touts Most IEEE Student Scholarship Recipients In United States

    Eight from UMKC were selected to receive $7,000 in scholarship funding over the course of three years
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering has more IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Power and Engineering Society scholarship recipients than any other school in the country. 135 students — eight from UMKC — across the United States were selected to receive $7,000 in scholarship funding over the course of three years to help defray educational costs. “It's a great honor — 'a feather in our cap,' as the saying goes — for us to have eight PES Scholars within the School of Computing and Engineering, the largest number of scholarships among all US engineering programs. IEEE is highly regarded within the engineering community around the world, and this accolade speaks to the quality of education we provide our students at UMKC,” said SCE Dean Kevin Truman. The goal of the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative is to encourage undergraduate students to pursue careers in power and energy engineering. In addition to scholarships, the program also facilitates internship/co-op experiences, mentorship opportunities and special recognition as a PES Scholar. Scholarship amounts are $2,000 for the first two years and $3,000 the third year. Feb 07, 2020

  • KCUR Leading ‘America Amplified 2020 Election’ Initiative

    KCUR leads community engagement efforts as part of 2020 election season
    As the election season kicks off, the “America Amplified: Election 2020” initiative, led by KCUR 89.3, a service of University of Missouri-Kansas City, announces eight public media networks that will produce innovative journalism from community engagement efforts. Yahoo Finance reported the story $1.9M ‘America Amplified: Election 2020’ initiative announces partner stations. This story was also picked up by Investor Network. Feb 04, 2020

  • Chiefs Are Super Bowl Champions

    UMKC joined in the celebration of the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl
    The UMKC victory tweet for the Kansas City Chiefs was featured. ‘Meant to be’: Leaders, celebrities react after Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory KSHB – February 2, 2020 Feb 02, 2020

  • UMKC Law Student Doubles As Super Bowl Broadcaster

    UMKC law student Hannah Bassham was a sideline reporter for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory.
    University of Missouri-Kansas City law student Hannah Bassham had a sideline view of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 2. Missouri Lawyers Media reported the story ‘The greatest experience of my life’: UMKC Law student doubles as Super Bowl broadcaster. (Subscription required)   Feb 02, 2020

  • Donors Strike a Chord with New Scholarships Honoring World-Renowned Faculty

    Individual and foundation giving have common theme for UMKC Conservatory student success
    Bobby Watson and Vinson Cole have been influential professors at the UMKC Conservatory in addition to being internationally recognized musicians. Cole recently retired from his role as Professor of Voice and Watson will step away from his role as the William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Professor and co-coordinator of Jazz in the fall of 2020. In recognition of their outstanding commitment and contributions to the UMKC Conservatory, local donors have created scholarships in their honor to provide future students the opportunity to follow their passions.  Bobby Watson A renowned saxophonist, composer and native Kansas Citian, Watson has worked with jazz icons such as Max Roach, Louis Hayes and Wynton Marsalis. For three decades, Watson lived in New York City and performed with and composed for some of the most acclaimed jazz performers in the world. He has recorded 28 records and appears as a leader on dozens of recordings.  In 2000, he returned to Kansas City and joined the faculty of the UMKC Conservatory. While teaching at the Conservatory has been a passion – “I bleed blue and gold,” he says – it has never been his intention to stay forever.  "I bleed blue and gold." - Bobby Watson  “I thought after 20 years I’d stop and reflect,” Watson says. “It seems like the right time. I’m still young enough to go on the road. And we’ve brought the school to a high level.” Long-time Conservatory and Watson enthusiasts, Sarah and Jim Weitzel, have shared a passion for music since they first married. When they learned of the musician’s retirement, the news was bittersweet.  “When Bobby announced that he was retiring so that he could play, we wanted to honor that,” Sarah Weitzel says.  Wanting to recognize Watson’s contribution to the Conservatory and provide opportunities for future students, the couple decided the timing was right to establish an endowed scholarship in Watson’s name. “We didn’t need to name the scholarship after us,” Weitzel says. “We don’t have a legacy in jazz – Bobby does. We are hoping other people will contribute to the scholarship in his honor.” Watson was overwhelmed by the gift. “I was speechless, humbled, honored and flabbergasted,” Watson says. “It’s a great honor and a great gift. Every scholarship that we can award our students is life changing.” Vinson Cole Vinson Cole, (BM ’72) is an American tenor and retired Professor of Voice. He was flattered when he received the news from Michael Fields, on behalf of the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts - Commerce Bank trustee, that the foundation wanted to establish an annual scholarship in his name to benefit students at the Conservatory. “Vinson Cole was the perfect choice for a named scholarship at the UMKC Conservatory,” Fields says. “The Richard J. Stern Foundation is committed to excellence in the arts in Kansas City, and Vinson definitely represents the highest standards of excellence.” "I listen for what someone can do – open their heart, their soul, their body and mind.” - Vinson Cole Fields notes that Cole is perhaps better known internationally than he is in the city where he was raised, however Richard Stern certainly knew Cole and followed his career. “It’s nice to be recognized for what I’ve done, especially in Kansas City,” Cole says of his hometown. Cole began singing as a young child and has fond memories of his voice teacher. “He had so much knowledge,” Cole remembers. “I wanted everything. I would ask and ask and ask. All I wanted was the work.” Cole’s career has been successful by any measure. He is internationally recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation. A frequent guest of the most prestigious orchestras throughout the world, he has collaborated with some of the greatest conductors of this era.  When he teaches, his focus is firmly on his students. In auditions, he pays attention to the voice, but his focus is broader.  “I listen for what someone can do – open their heart, their soul, their body and mind.” Beyond the honor of the recognition of his dedication, Cole knows first-hand how significant scholarships are to students. “It’s great that there is help for people who want to come to school who can’t afford it,” he says. “I know a lot of students who come to school and always need money. I was always spending my money on music when I was in school – mounds of sheet music.” While today’s students usually store their music on iPads, their expenses are still significant.  “These scholarships will be significant awards for talented students, and we are grateful for donors like the Weitzels and the Stern Foundation who generously support Conservatory programs and students,” says Conservatory Dean Diane Petrella. “Bobby and Vinson have been valuable members of our community and we look forward to keeping them involved with the Conservatory. Their legacies at UMKC will live on through the students who receive the gifts of these scholarships.” For additional information on the Bobby Watson and Pamela Baskin-Watson Scholarship or the Vinson Cole Scholarship contact Mark Mattison at mattisonm@umkcfoundation.org Jan 31, 2020

  • TeamSmile Gets a Kick Ahead of the Big Game

    UMKC dental students provide care through the efforts of Chiefs player Dustin Colquitt and TeamSmile
    There are plenty of reasons to smile with the upcoming Chiefs’ Super Bowl. Chiefs’ punter, Dustin Colquitt, has long championed TeamSmile, a national advocacy group that provides children in need with a life-changing dental experience through the power of sports. Since the organization’s inceptions, UMKC School of Dentistry students and faculty have also worked hand-in-hand in this amazing effort. TeamSmile is in the news due to the generosity of Colquitt, who went above and beyond for a recent patient and a longtime Chiefs fan. At a recent home game – for which they were his guest – he surprised the family with a trip to the Super Bowl. Little did they know, it’d also be the first Chiefs Super Bowl in 50 years. Each year, UMKC students and faculty team up to volunteer at three TeamSmile events – at Kansas City Chiefs, Royals and Sporting KC. The students see about 300 children, providing provide initial screenings, X-rays and recommendations for what care the kids need for that day. Accompanied by UMKC School of Dentistry faculty members Becky Smith, Eileen Cocjin and Michael McCunniff; 18 dental students from two dental student groups, Students Take Action and the Pedodontic Dentistry Club, volunteer at the outreach events. According to Smith, it’s the breadth of care provided at TeamSmile events that impresses her when she participates. “The impressive thing about TeamSmile is the variety of procedures that are provided,” Smith says “They don’t limit themselves to just preventative care like fluoride and sealants. These kids are getting everything from extractions to root canals.” “They look in the mirror and see what we’ve done, and they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, this kind of changed my life.’” — Dustin Colquitt Started in Kansas City, TeamSmile has gone nationwide, partnering with oral health organizations as well as professional and college athletic teams. It began in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot now has partnering with 17 NFL franchises, providing millions of dollars in free dental care. "I have participated at four Team Smile events including at the Chiefs stadium," says Tara Craven, D.D.S. '21, and president of Students Take Action. "The kids love coming to get their teeth checked and the program has a whole day of activities planned for them. When the players come to visit they all light up! They love the high-fives and fist bumps offered by the players — including Dustin Colquitt! The volunteers all love seeing the players as well and it’s an amazing day full of giving back and helping kids get jazzed about taking care of their teeth!"  So why is Colquitt involved? For him, it’s the kids’ reactions that really drive home the importance of dental care and how TeamSmile can help. “We feel like in 20 minutes, we can change a kid’s trajectory, meaning that a lot of our kids are hiding what they have going on in their mouth,” Colquitt says in a promotional video. “They look in the mirror and see what we’ve done, and they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, this kind of changed my life.'” According McCunniff, UMKC became involved with TeamSmile nearly at the inception of the organization. In 2007, co-founder Bush was planning his first one-day outreach event at Arrowhead Stadium but needed portable equipment since his existing dental practice equipment wasn’t going anywhere. Not only did UMKC provide the equipment, but also student and faculty volunteers. For McCunniff, he hopes the opportunity inspires his students to come up with their own initiative. “I challenge the students that when you get out in the field, make your own legacy with an initiative like this,” McCunniff says. Although he hasn’t heard, yet, of a former student take him up on that challenge, he has received the next best thing. According to McCunniff about half of the participating dentists in the Kansas City-based TeamSmile events are alumni of UMKC. “The kids love coming to get their teeth checked ... When the players come to visit, they all light up! They love the high-fives and fist bumps ... it’s an amazing day full of giving back and helping kids get jazzed about taking care of their teeth!” — Tara Craven, D.D.S. '21 According McCunniff, the school even has an alum who worked on both sides of the organization. Prior to dental school, alumni Caitlin Silverstein (DDS ‘16) was a staff member for TeamSmile. Once in school, she continued to volunteer at every event and now as dental practitioner herself, McCunniff sees her at nearly every event. The example of the commitment to TeamSmile is a testament to the UMKC School of Dentistry, says Dean Marsha Pyle. “Instilling in our students the importance of volunteerism is a pillar of our institution,” Pyle says. “By showing our students how meaningful these experiences can be, we hope to encourage a lifelong passion for giving back.” Jan 30, 2020

  • Student’s Fellowship with Chiefs an ‘Electric Experience’

    Meghan Dohogne, Arrowhead Art Collection Fellow, works with team, artists on community outreach projects  
    Name: Meghan DohogneHometown: Cape Girardeau, Missouri High School: Notre Dame Regional High School  Undergraduate Degree: History with minors in Painting and Art History, McKendree University, Lebanon, IllinoisGraduate Degree: Master’s Degree in Art History from UMKC in 2016UMKC degree program: Interdisciplinary PhD with a core discipline in history, secondary in humanities consortium. IPhD student Meghan Dohogne is an Arrowhead Art Collection Fellow. The position is more specific than a general internship and connotates a higher level of specialization and achievement, which is important because only graduate students are eligible to receive it.  What is the Fellowship Program with the Arrowhead Art Collection at Arrowhead Stadium and why did you apply? The fellowship is a partnership between the UMKC History Department and the Kansas City Chiefs. I applied for it as my graduate research position through the department. The length of each fellow’s tenure is dependent on a few factors and varies based on their position in the program.  What kind of work do you do? The AAC fellow is responsible for supporting the Arrowhead Art Collection. Day to day, I work with artists for the outreach events we participate in throughout the community. Recently we ran an African mask-making workshop at Central Middle School lead by AAC artist Lonnie Powell.  Another responsibility I have is to support recent acquisitions by collaborating with Sharron Hunt, chairwoman of the collection, to write the education materials. In addition to the educational materials, I support press events that are typically covered by many news outlets around the city.   Another area I have chosen to focus my fellowship around is community partnerships and raising awareness for the collection. Each day is an opportunity to support the organization that has given me so much insight into the engine that is professional sports. What are your career goals? I am excited at the number of opportunities I am preparing for, but I haven’t settled yet on exactly which direction I will pursue. I currently co-own a research company called D2 Research with fellow UMKC graduate student Poppy Di Candeloro. We pursue arts management and historical research. Working with different organizations and members of the community has been extremely rewarding.  What has it been like working at Arrowhead this season? Holy smokes, working for the Chiefs organization right now is electric. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have experienced this season with a great group of people who all want to see the Chiefs do well. As for the collection, everyone should come see it! It’s a fine example of Regionalism and a lot of care has been put into its inclusion as part of the Arrowhead experience.  What advice do you have for someone considering an internship or fellowship? Finding a place where your creativity is embraced and celebrated is great for your personal career growth. I have been able to spearhead some events that have given me the opportunity to really develop professionally. The Chiefs have placed a lot of trust in me and allowed me the space to try out some big ideas.  Jan 30, 2020

  • UMKC Offers Test-Optional Admissions

    Standardized test scores no longer required in applications
    Responding to strong evidence that high school grades are a more reliable predictor of college performance than standardized test scores, UMKC is joining the growing movement to make such test scores an optional component of the admissions process. * With this move, the university is providing more opportunities for qualified people to pursue a college degree. Under the test-optional admissions process, if applicants have performed well in high school, they do not need to take a standardized test, such as the ACT or SAT, to be considered for admission. If an applicant does decide to take such a test, reporting the scores to UMKC is optional. “This is a better way. Now it's the UMKC way.”— Alice Arrendondo, director of admissions   “We made this decision as part of our ongoing commitment to create opportunity. It is in the best interest of the people who live in our community, the workforce needs of our employers and the overall economic development of Greater Kansas City and the state of Missouri,” said C. Mauli Agrawal, chancellor of UMKC. “We are proud to be the first university in the UM System to adopt this approach, as we join a growing number of U.S. colleges and universities—more than 1,000 so far—who have established similar practices.” Applicants remain free to take standardized tests and have the scores reported to UMKC. These scores also will continue to play a role in admission to certain specialized programs and some scholarship opportunities. “This is a better way," said Alice Arredondo, director of admissions at an announcement event. "Now it's the UMKC way.” “For UMKC to become test-optional will be a game changer for students like me. I get test anxiety ... and I worried whether I’d get accepted into UMKC.” — Sadie Billings, senior  The move to test-optional admissions, however, is an evidence-based, educationally sound approach. There is substantial evidence that these tests are less-reliable predictors of the academic potential of traditionally underserved applicants. According to “Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works,” a 2018 study commissioned by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, applicants who chose not to submit standardized test scores with their college applications ultimately graduated at rates equivalent to—or marginally higher than—those who did submit scores. “For UMKC to become test-optional will be a game changer for students like me,” said Sadie Billings, a communications major who will graduate in May. “I took the ACT six times – six times! — only to score the same each time, one point short at 21. I get test anxiety anyway, and I worried whether I’d get accepted into UMKC.” Billings, who made a 4.0 in high school, eventually was accepted at UMKC with a strong recommendation to take mentoring and academic-coaching classes. Now a senior peer academic leader, she’s applying to graduate schools because she wants to work in higher education in programs that help students like her who have what it takes to succeed — no matter the test score on a standardized test.  “This is a change in admissions practices, not a change in the academic standards we enforce. The value of a UMKC degree, and the educational attainment it represents, are unchanged,” Agrawal said. “We are committed to providing every qualified individual an opportunity to leverage their talent and effort to contribute to our economic development and find life and career success.” Learn more about Test-Optional Admission *Pending University of Missouri System Board of Curators approval. Jan 29, 2020

  • Student Headed to Miami to Cover Super Bowl

    Hannah Bassham's job with Tico Sports has her covering the first Chiefs Super Bowl in 50 years
    Our ongoing story starts with people from around the world, converging here at UMKC. Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Name: Hannah Bassham Hometown: El Paso, Texas High School: Pembroke Hill Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice from Texas Christian University (TCU) UMKC degree program: J.D./MBA joint degree program Anticipated graduation year: May 2020 for my J.D. and December 2020 for my MBA Third year law and business student Hannah Bassham is also in her third year with Tico Sports, which provides the official Spanish language coverage of the Chiefs. She spoke with us recently about how she landed the job, her role in Super Bowl LIV and her scoring prediction for Sunday. How did you get involved with broadcasting and Tico Sports? I have been a big Chiefs fan since I was a young girl. After undergrad, I was searching for the perfect law school to attend. At the same time, I came across the opportunity to join the Tico Sports family. They were looking for a Spanish-speaking female who was also a football fanatic to join their broadcast team and asked if I would work for them. Since UMKC has a wonderful law school and Tico Sports had a great opportunity for me to be connected with Chiefs football, I realized Kansas City was the perfect place for me to move to and I have been pursuing these two passions ever since. What’s your role with Tico Sports? Tico Sports produces the Chiefs’ official Spanish radio broadcast. In my first year with Tico Sports I worked as a spotter and statistician in the booth to support the color and play-by-play commentators during the broadcast. I was promoted to work as a sideline reporter during my second year with Tico, and this year, along with being the sideline reporter for the broadcast, I took on the role as host of our halftime show. Our halftime show often features interviews with players and community leaders as well as commentary on other games around the league. After each game, I go into the Chiefs locker room for interviews and attend the post-game conference to hear Coach Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes speak to the media. What will you be doing on Super Bowl Sunday? On Super Bowl Sunday I will be in Miami working for Tico Sports as a sideline reporter. As a sideline reporter, I report on weather conditions, injured players, stadium atmosphere and provide general commentary on what I see from my vantage point on the sideline next to the Chiefs bench. I will also host our halftime show which I now call “El Mejor Show de Medio Tiempo” (The Best Halftime Show). You can listen to our broadcast by downloading the Chiefs app and clicking the “radio” prompt in the upper right corner to select the “Tico Sports Español Radio” option or by tuning into La Mega 1160 AM and KPPZ-LP 100.5 FM in Kansas City. Is there a way you see using both your law and broadcasting experience together in the future? I truly hope that my experiences in both law and broadcasting will merge at some point in the future. Law school has been such an incredibly challenging learning experience and along with my experience in broadcasting, I have grown so much in just three years. I can’t help but to think my experiences in both fields have given me new skills that will help me in any career to come. Guess for final score on Sunday? I anticipate seeing a high-scoring game this Sunday with both teams scoring over 28 points. That being said, if I have learned anything from these past few weeks, it is that the Chiefs are unpredictable and wildly entertaining to watch week in and week out. Bassham with her Tico Sports coworkers outside Arrowhead Stadium. Courtesy of Tico Sports. Favorite thing about covering the Chiefs? My favorite thing about covering the Chiefs is having the opportunity to see such an amazing organization at work. I love getting to work side-by-side with talented people who make the Chiefs who they are. As a whole, the Chiefs organization is humble, hard-working, brilliant and grateful to be in the position they are today. I am ecstatic just to be a spectator to the incredible achievements that the entire organization has accomplished together. Jan 29, 2020

  • Media Outlets Highlight UMKC Announcement of Test-Optional Admissions

    UMKC's announcement of a new test-optional admissions process made headline news throughout Kansas City and beyond.
    UMKC going to test-optional admissions Kansas City Star How Much Influence Will UC’s Faculty Have? Inside Higher Ed  UMKC eliminates mandatory ACT, SAT scores from admissions process KSHB UMKC makes admissions now test-optional KCTV5 UMKC decides to not consider ACT scores in enrollment. Hour 3 1/29/2020KMBZ Radio At UMKC, students are more than test scores. New admissions policy is about inclusion Kansas City Star Why are so many US universities going test-optional?Study International ACT, SAT scores are no longer required for admission to UMKCAssociated Press   Will University of California dump SAT and ACT? Not yet University Business UMKC admissions become test-optional University News Jan 29, 2020

  • Art Inspired By Worms

    UMKC Gallery of Art exhibition features a collaboration between art and science
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City Gallery of Art and The Stowers Institute for Medical Research present a new exhibition, “Body of Inquiry: The Art, Biology and Being of Flatworms,” with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the UMKC Gallery of Art, Room 203 in the Fine Arts Building, 5015 Holmes St., Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibition asks the questions, What if you could clone yourself from a small piece of your fingertip? What if you could self-regenerate? What if you were essentially immortal? Scientists have found the answers in the planarian flatworm and local scientists are sharing that through art. “For the planarian flatworm, these human fantasies are reality,” said Nowotarski. “And they’re all around us all over the world, from fountains in Barcelona, to lakes in Mexico, to nearby Brush Creek.”    The exhibition is a collaboration between art and science, two seldom, yet undeniably intertwined, fields. In the multi-disciplinary exhibition “Body of Inquiry,” sensory perception, curiosity, and creative problem-solving converge in order to provide both valuable insights into an unseen world, and beautiful art from an unlikely source. Four intergenerational local artists put the exhibition together. They include retired Kansas City Art Institute fiber chair Jason Pollen, recent KCAI graduate William Plummer, and Stowers Institute artists and research scientists Mol Mir and Steph Nowotarski. They wanted to understand and expand upon the connection between art and science, so they plunged into local waterways and emerged with a greater appreciation for the complexities found there. They explored the role of the planarian flatworm in our local ecosystem then translated their findings to a broader scope. This exploration facilitated the cross-disciplinary dialog which led to Body of Inquiry. This immersive installation celebrates the joy of discovery, inviting visitors to engage with and observe planarian flatworms in a variety of perspectives. Explore our interpretations and examine your own through the use of video projection, live planarians, and visual responses from each artist. This exploration offers insight and helps to answer the question: what can these flatworms teach us about being human? The UMKC Gallery of Art hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibition runs through March 7 at the UMKC Gallery of Art. Jan 27, 2020

  • Alumna Helps People Heal from the Inside Out

    Lauren Thompson draws on diverse background for unique brand of wellness
    Earning degrees in dance, psychology, and counseling and guidance with a minor in gender and women’s studies may sound like a meandering path to a career, but alumna Lauren Thompson (B.F.A. ’09, B.A. ’09, M.A. ’12) knew she could make all her interests come together. Thompson’s unique brand of wellness comes together at her Pilates studio, Thrive Pilates, in Kansas City’s Westside. But her work goes far beyond what happens in that cozy space. The connections she makes with her clients are aimed at benefitting the whole person — not just their body composition. So many interests, so little time  Thompson will be the first to tell you: It wasn’t exactly a straight path to her current line of work. Thompson says people were often skeptical when they learned she was pursuing such different courses of study. She got the same question many college students get when selecting a major (or two) without a crystal-clear job description: “What are you going to do with that?” Anyone asking that question hadn’t realized the connection between mind and body, she says, “but I was living it. It was so clear to me how those degrees worked together. Eventually, everyone else caught up.” As an undergraduate at UMKC, Thompson would dance for six hours a day, then go to her psychology classes. Along the way, she also decided to get a minor in gender and women’s studies. And she didn’t stop with her undergraduate degrees. A year after graduation, she was back at UMKC, pursuing her master’s in counseling and guidance, with a focus on mental health. Around this time, Thompson started teaching Pilates and yoga classes, a way to combine her backgrounds in dance and psychology that would turn out to be a crucial thread through her many work experiences. When she was offered a job working with sex offenders in maximum security at Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth County, Kansas, she took it. Though that job offered many challenges, Thompson calls it a “blessing” — just another step on the path to where she is today. Making her own way in the wellness world  During this time, Thompson was teaching and exercising less, usually taking only one yoga class a week. She was frustrated that she wasn’t moving her body more, so she put formal counseling aside and went back to teaching yoga and Pilates full-time. But even the studios where she taught brought some frustration. “I couldn’t really teach the way I wanted to teach,” she says. “And I couldn’t control the messaging, which I am hypersensitive about because of my knowledge of mental health.” She realized it was time to open her own studio, incorporating her wide range of training and experiences. She wanted to meet the multifaceted needs of women from both physical and mental health perspectives, and her diverse background gave her the skills she needed to do it. “I think the important thing is to not compare yourself to other people. There’s so much wasted energy for women on comparing. I feel lucky that I had the training early to help me block that.” —Lauren Thompson “One of the things that we address is that a lot of exercise and training is developed for the male body. That can be a problem for a number of reasons,” she says. “It’s not as if women can’t do these things, but there are times when many exercises are not appropriate.” Thompson notes that the constant physical fluctuations of women’s bodies — menstruation, pregnancy and menopause — deserve acknowledgement in the wellness world. “Men’s health is relatively linear. They don’t experience the same kind of cycles that women do,” Thompson says. “We know that girls playing soccer experience significantly more ACL tears correlating with menstruation. It’s similar to the hormones from pregnancy that cause joints to be less stable.” In addition to being in tune with individual physical needs, Thompson pays close attention to her language. “The idea of ‘skinny equals healthy’ is false, and that mentality is mostly what we hear from the fitness industry,” she says. “I think it’s shame-based, and shame-based motivation never works. Intensity is not going to treat you well.” Thompson practices the balance that she preaches. While work is important to her, she is active in the Kansas City arts and dance communities, using her Conservatory training to choreograph and participate in collaborative art projects. She also works on zoning and development issues in her Westside neighborhood, which has become popular with developers. While managing her work in wellness, art and community development, Thompson works hard to stay healthy and grounded. “I think the important thing is to not compare yourself to other people. There’s so much wasted energy for women on comparing. I feel lucky that I had the training early to help me block that.” This story originally appeared in Perspectives magazine, vol. 29. Jan 24, 2020

  • Celebrating the 30th Annual TAASU Freedom Breakfast

    Alumnus Chiluba J. Musonda reflects on his experiences as an immigrant while honoring the legacy of Dr. King
    The African American Student Union (TAASU) Freedom Breakfast was created to not only commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but to promote unity and harmony within our community and celebrate the university’s values of diversity, inclusiveness and respect. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the breakfast and saw student tributes in music and dance. Alumnus Chiluba J. Musonda (B.B.A. ’09, M.P.A. ’12) spoke about his journey from Lusaka, Zambia, to Kansas City, Missouri. Student dancers Ivyana Robinson, left, and Jayla Johnson perform during the TAASU Freedom Breakfast. Musonda’s migration to the United States began with five words in a Yahoo search: mid-sized American colleges – affordable. Sifting through more than a hundred results, he applied to four universities. UMKC was the first and only university to respond. “I am no different than any immigrant that comes to America,” says Musonda, now director of operations at Kansas City Museum and author of “Home Away from Home.” “Everyone comes seeking a ‘better life.” He stresses that what most people fail to recognize is the bravery and emotional cost that comes with leaving your family, home and country behind. Musonda recalled a moment in 2007 when he received a call from his sister saying that his mother was robbed at gunpoint in Zambia. He realized then that there was nothing he could do to help and the feeling of being alone in the U.S. sunk in. He cites UMKC and the people around him with helping him pull through the dark moments. “Each one of us has a responsibility to help others,” Musonda said as he encouraged attendees to remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Members of TAASU honored UMKC staff member Todd Wells with The Dr. Joseph Seabrooks Jr. Leadership Award. Pictured from left to right: Blessing Onwundinati, Brenda Reed, Makini Morrison, Jayesha Griffin, Brandy Williams, Todd Wells, Jarinar Robinson. Jan 24, 2020

  • 12th Annual MLK Lecture Recounts Waves of Athlete Activism in America

    Renowned sports activist and sociologist Harry Edwards was featured speaker
    Speaking to a full crowd of community members during the 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Susan Wilson said that “we’re still fighting civil rights struggles from economic to social justice” in the United States. She reminded attendees, who piled into Pierson Auditorium to hear from sports activist and sociologist Harry Edwards, Ph.D., that the struggle is not over that King was fighting to overcome. Each year the Division of Diversity and Inclusion brings social-justice thought leaders to UMKC to provide insight and advocacy to current rights issues of education, economic and justice inequalities. The goal of the lecture series is to encourage the campus and Kansas City community to build upon the courageous, non-violent activism of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and to increase awareness of present day avenues to advocate for social justice through free thought, action and scholarship. This year’s discussion was a timely fit as discourse surrounding former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest against police brutality and, even more fitting, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl. Here a few takeaways from Edwards' lecture. “The challenges of our circumstances are diverse and dynamic. Our struggle, therefore, must be multifaceted and perpetual and there are no final victories.” Each wave of athlete activists — more times than not — is directly tied to a social justice movement in the broader community. Wave 1: Plessy V. Ferguson and Establishing Legitimacy Edwards shared that to understand resistance athletes, we must begin at the turn of the 20th century — the collapse of reconstruction and the passing of Plessy vs. Ferguson: racial segregation under the guise of separate but equal public accommodations. This law is what led to the development of viable, vibrant and parallel black social and cultural institutions — historically black colleges and universities, fraternal and community organizations and sports — constituted by an ongoing resistance amongst black people. “Human rights emphases carried the perceived potential to enhance the dignity and respect of black people.” Achievement by black athletes on the world stage became a feature of African-American resistance to the oppression imposed upon them in America under Plessy vs. Ferguson. This model of black excellence was a direct contradiction of race-based claims of black inferiority and would be reiterated throughout history. Excellence at home through black sports teams and excellence abroad led to the first wave of athlete activism: an effort to establish the legitimacy of blacks in America. Wave 2: Establishing Access Edwards said America underwent a talent pool shortage after WWII due to war casualties, which is what ultimately caused sports officials to fill gaps with black talent in revenue-producing sports like baseball, basketball and track and field. “When you look at collegiate athletics, blacks are virtually underrepresented, especially when it comes to giving scholarships… except in basketball, football and track and field.” According to Edwards, athletes like Jackie Robinson modeled the path for the larger civil rights movement in American society and served the interest of advancing the black struggle against racial segregation and oppression, as well as mainstream sports. “Women have always been a part of every movement, but this movement is about women.” He shed light on how sports was a reflection of what was happening in the broader society and how athletes were the first to take nonviolent direct action against racism and oppression years before King led nonviolent protests in the South. Black clergy and community organizers were taught nonviolent direct action so that sports spectators knew how not to respond when they witnessed their star athletes’ mistreatment on and off the field. “They knew that if there had been a riot in the stands, it would spill into the streets and vice versa if players fought back on the field” and that would hinder them from furthering their push for access both in sports and the community. “The culture of sports has not changed. It is about a transactional reality.” Wave 3: Human Rights – Why Should We Play Where We Can’t Work? After the onset of desegregation and, largely due to what civil rights accomplished, millions of people were left leaderless and hopeless. The trajectory of efforts of young, militant blacks such as the Black Panther Party, shifted to the concern for human rights and human rights development. “Human rights emphases carried the perceived potential to enhance the dignity and respect of black people,” Edwards said. He further explained that it was no longer enough to have access, athletes demanded respect and dignity. He used Muhamad Ali as a prime example of how black athletes fought for dignity and respect for race, name and religion and drew a line to highlight how Ali’s fight opened the door for Barack Obama to eventually become the 44th president of the United States. The third wave of resistance athletes — Ali, Jim Brown and others — was fueled by the Black Power Movement. Each movement has a trending expiration date of about six years, 10 at the most. There was no movement by 1972. Edwards said there were athletes between 1972 and 2012 who were prominent, but not as remembered because most athlete activists are tied to larger movements. “The culture of sports has not changed. It is about a transactional reality.” Wave 4: Black Lives Matter Edwards tied Kaepernick’s protest to the Black Lives Matter movement and the quest for social justice, further noting that current activists have social media at their disposal and are able to use their power and influence to call on their followers to protest. “This generation is about the exercise of power.” Wave 5: Gender Equality The WNBA donates $5 of every ticket sale to Planned Parenthood. “Women have always been a part of every movement, but this movement is about women.” Young women are more dependent on services offered under the Affordable Care Act and nonprofit health care clinics. Edwards said if those go away, it will constitute a direct threat on the existence of women’s sports, and women are already beginning to react to it. “The challenges of our circumstances are diverse and dynamic,” Edward said. “Our struggle, therefore, must be multifaceted and perpetual and there are no final victories.” It’s not the activists who created the struggle, Edwards said, but the athletes who are participating in their leg of the struggle. He said there will always be a movement, which is why we’re constantly in pursuit of forming that more perfect union. “It will never be perfect but the struggle to get there is what will be part of what is in the very fabric and soul of American society.” Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at UMKC Jan 23, 2020

  • On MLK Day, School of Dentistry Volunteers Service for Thousands of Smiles

    Students, faculty and staff assemble 2,000 dental-supply kits
    From the outside, the UMKC School of Dentistry looked quiet Monday morning, befitting a day when classes were out and its clinics were closed. But inside, the cafeteria and second-floor hallways were abuzz with volunteers doing service befitting Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The volunteers’ mission: assemble 2,000 dental-care supply kits for distribution to points of need throughout the community. It was the second year for the dental school’s MLK Day of Service, and the number of kits was double the output of a year ago. “It’s great to see everyone here volunteering,” said Shurouk Alkharabsheh, a third-year dental student. “I missed last year and wanted to take part this time. It’s good to do something productive with the day.” Ryan Greenway, a second-year dental student, agreed: “I enjoy volunteering, and was bummed when I missed the event last year. But now I’m here! It’s also a nice break from our routine.” Students got the dental-kit day of service going a year ago, and it has had the full support of School of Dentistry leadership. Dean Marsha Pyle was on hand Monday morning and took a brief break from her assembly line to praise the effort. “I’m grateful that our faculty, staff and students have created this opportunity to do good in the community,” Pyle said. “It’s a team effort — and Kansas City loves its teams! It’s great to see this special effort on this special day, when we don’t have our usual commitments.” Most of the kits were packed with an average adult in mind, with items including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and information on the school’s clinical services and free dental cleanings available to the public. But one station packed kits suited to children, and another included supplies of use to older residents and people with dentures. “I’m a big believer in volunteering, so this fits right in with my ideas. I participated last year and really enjoyed the sense of community.” - Mark Dallas Richie Bigham, assistant dean for student programs, said the kits were bound for several places, including the City Union Mission, a program to help the homeless that’s on the original site of the dental school. The school also added a sock drive this year, as socks are an often-requested item at some of the locations that receive the dental kits. Just as the kits will benefit the wider community, the volunteer corps this year drew from outside the dental school. One group came from St. James United Methodist Church, which also was sending volunteers to other locations around Kansas City for MLK Day. “We’re happy to help here at the School of Dentistry,” said one parishioner, Phyllis Jackson, “and we have other volunteers today at Hospice House, Rose Brooks, Harvesters and other locations to honor the memory of Dr. King.” Faculty and staff from the School of Dentistry rounded out the volunteers, including Mark Dallas, M.S., research assistant in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences. “I’m a big believer in volunteering, so this fits right in with my ideas,” said Dallas, who joined the school in 2001 along with his wife, Professor Sarah Dallas, Ph.D. “I participated last year and really enjoyed the sense of community.” The volunteers had started the day at 8:30 a.m. with a half-hour video on Dr. King’s legacy, and then they made fast work putting the kits together. By 11 a.m., they reassembled to be thanked by Jeffery Primos, director of business affairs, and then to make their first delivery, to nearby Ronald McDonald House. The project will make a difference for hundreds of people, Primos said, “and embody what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.” Jan 20, 2020

  • UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies Ranks in Top 30 for Eighth Year in a Row

    U.S. News & World Report ranks online graduate programs
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies ranked No. 26 among the nation’s best online graduate nursing programs of 2020 by U.S. News & World Report, giving it at least a Top 30 ranking for the eighth year in a row. The UMKC ranking, released today, is the highest of any university in Missouri or Kansas. Last year, UMKC also ranked high at No. 19. “The UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies is proud that our online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program continues to be recognized as one of the best in the nation," said Joy Roberts, interim dean. "For the past two decades, UMKC MSN graduates have been demonstrating excellence in nursing care throughout Missouri, Kansas and the Midwest." The UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies is a pioneer in distance-learning programs, offering online advanced degree programs since 2002. The programs offer busy professionals a high-quality but convenient way to further their careers and meet the needs of an evolving health-care system. Online students are expected to participate in online discussions as if they are present in the classroom. Technology offers two-way communication in real time via multiple modes. Students also experience on-site learning through summer institutes where they are required to attend clinical training or dissertation work sessions, and deliver presentations to classmates and faculty. UMKC offers a variety of online graduate nursing tracks, including Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and other options: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Family Nurse Practitioner Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Nurse Educator Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Ph.D. Doctor of Nursing Practice U.S. News began ranking online education in 2012. The categories include faculty credentials and training; student engagement; admissions selectivity; peer reputation; and student services and technology. U.S. News began their data comparisons with more than 550 institutions that had accredited graduate degree programs in nursing. Among the ones that replied, more than 180 said they offered online graduate nursing programs. The number of online nursing programs is continually growing nationwide. Jan 14, 2020

  • Prison Research and Innovation

    $200,000 Urban Institute grant supports corrections research, offender rehabilitation
    University of Missouri System researchers will play a central role in a new initiative aimed at improving the prison environment in Missouri. This week the Urban Institute, with support from Arnold Ventures, announced a $200,000 grant to support a collaborative effort between university researchers and the Missouri Department of Corrections. Missouri was one of one five states chosen for phase 1 of the Prison Research and Innovation Network, along with Colorado, Delaware, Iowa and Vermont. Janet Garcia-Hallett, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is part of the research team. The team, led by Kelli Canada and Clark Peters of MU, received an annual grant of $100,000 to support their work in the project. Canada and Peters co-founded the Center for Criminal and Juvenile Justice Priorities. Other researchers involved are Ashley Givens, assistant professor of social work at MU; Beth Huebner, professor of criminology and criminal justice at University of Missouri-St. Louis. “We are excited to partner with the Department of Corrections on this important work,” Canada said. “This collaboration speaks to the land-grant mission of the University of Missouri, as our research findings will be put to use to improve lives in communities across the state.” The researchers will conduct climate surveys and collect data to provide objective analysis to the Department of Corrections for the research pilot project.   “I am a firm believer in using research and data to make good decisions,” Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe said. “We’re thrilled to work with the University of Missouri, to join the network and to implement evidence-based practices, policies and programs that advance our goal of improving lives for safer communities.” The 4.5-year research project will be piloted at Moberly Correctional Center, a 1,800-bed minimum/medium-security facility located 35 miles north of Columbia, Missouri. The prison is the inaugural site of the Missouri Veterans Project and the state’s first dorm for veterans. It houses two intensive therapeutic communities for offenders committed to personal growth and sobriety. It provides opportunities for offenders to give back through programs such as Puppies for Parole and Restorative Justice. It also offers 48 courses and groups that build skills in areas such as anger management, parenting, employability preparation, cognitive interventions, addiction management and understanding the impact of crime on victims.  “We look forward to supporting Missouri in its efforts to employ research and data to improve prison culture, operations, and design while creating more humane and rehabilitative correctional environments,” said Nancy La Vigne, vice president of justice policy at the Urban Institute. “Missouri’s leadership and commitment to transparency and accountability will help spur lasting change for people who live and work in prisons.” Jan 14, 2020

  • Criminal Justice Professor Uses Sticky Notes to Humanize Crime Statistics

    Seven questions with Ken Novak
    In January 2019, criminology and criminal justice professor Ken Novak noticed an unusual pattern of homicide cases in Kansas City and casually decided to track them using color-coded sticky notes and posting them on his office door. He intended to spark a conversation. On each note he recorded the date, victim name, victim demographic and the location. Orange for gun violence, blue for other, yellow for unknown and purple for officer-involved. He wanted students and colleagues to stop and ask questions, to take in what was happening and be led to help find a solution. He detailed his findings on Twitter at the start of 2020. What stuck out to you the most about the homicide rate last year? The thing that stuck out to me in general was the number of gun-related homicides – it’s clear that guns are involved in nine out of every 10 homicides. “I hope this humanizes crime statistics. Behind every homicide is a victim and grieving families experiencing unimaginable trauma.” 151 homicides in one year? That’s a lot. Is that the highest it’s ever been? There were several years in the 1990s when the raw number of homicides was higher. In fact, there were more homicides in 2017 than in 2019. But I believe it’s better to examine the population-adjusted homicide rates and compare Kansas City’s rates to national trends. In the 1990s, the national homicide rate was almost twice as high as it is today. Since then, the national rate trended downward, where Kansas City’s homicide rate is stable. In 2019, Kansas City’s homicide rate was roughly six times higher than the national rate, and this disparity between Kansas City and the U.S. is the highest it has ever been. What can we attribute to the heightened rate of gun violence in our city? Several different factors contribute to the heightened rate of gun violence in Kansas City. First: Research demonstrates that cities and counties in states with lenient gun laws have more gun homicides, even after considering other factors. Second: There is a culture of gun violence in Kansas City, as well as in other urban areas in Missouri, perhaps due to the availability of guns. Using guns to settle disputes and arguments is normative in Kansas City, so we run the risk of viewing this violence as normal because it is what we have become accustomed to expect. Additionally, many homicides are a result of retaliatory violence. “Settling the score” with guns rather than the criminal justice system has become normalized behavior. Third: Many affected by gun violence do not view the criminal justice system as effective, fair, impartial or transparent. Only about half of homicides are cleared by the police, and only about 20% of non-fatal shootings result in an arrest. When witnesses and victims don’t see people being held accountable for their actions, they are less likely to cooperate with detectives and prosecutors. Add in the fact that witnesses and victims may also fear retaliation if they cooperate, their motivation to collaborate with the police goes down even further. It’s a vicious cycle. “There is no single solution to this problem, and there is no single strategy we can implement...” Your goal when you started posting these notes on your door was to start a conversation and you’ve done just that, especially with the recent wave of media coverage after your Twitter thread. What do you hope the community will take away from your findings? I hope this humanizes crime statistics. Behind every homicide is a victim and grieving families experiencing unimaginable trauma. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact. I also wanted to draw attention to how homicide victimization clusters by demographics. Young black males experience a disproportionate amount of victimization – about 95 times higher than the general U.S. population. The burden and trauma of homicide is not shared equally across everyone in KC. You were previously on the board for KC NOVA (the Kansas City No Violence Alliance). What community initiatives are you currently involved in to help solve criminal justice issues in Kansas City? I am currently working with the Kansas City Police Department on a hot-spot policing initiative in the most violent areas in eastern Kansas City — where many of these shooting occur. I am also working with the police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on an initiative to link shootings by examining ballistic evidence left behind at crime scenes. Both of these are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. “In 2019, Kansas City’s homicide rate was roughly six times higher than the national rate, and this disparity between Kansas City and the U.S. is the highest it has ever been.” Interesting! We’re looking forward to hearing more about those initiatives as they progress. What about those of us in the community? What can we do to help solve the gun violence issue? There is no single solution to this problem, and there is no single strategy we can implement. Kansas City needs a violence-reduction portfolio of strategies. We have learned some crime prevention strategies work better than others do and, over time, science has developed evidence-based solutions to reduce crime. Citizens should demand evidence-strategies be given priority within this portfolio. You mentioned that you started this as a casual effort. Are you planning to do it all again this year? I don’t think I’m going to do this in 2020. I never intended this to be an annual exercise. Learn more about faculty research Jan 13, 2020

  • Researcher Working to Prevent Age-Related Vision Loss

    $1.16-milion NIH grant award explores macular-degeneration treatment
    Backed by a $1.16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, UMKC School of Medicine vision researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., is studying new chemical compounds to treat and prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness among older adults. As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. “AMD affects a significant and increasing portion of the U.S. population, with age being a predisposing factor,” said Koulen, director of basic research at UMKC’s Vision Research Center. “This research will contribute to improving health care and the prevention of blindness.” His project, funded by the NIH National Eye Institute, will focus on the preclinical development of novel antioxidants that have the potential to be both preventative and therapeutic in nature. The compounds could prevent the deterioration and death of retina nerve cells and supporting cells. The retina cannot regenerate these cells, therefore, their loss as a result of AMD leads to irreversible damage to one’s vision. If successful, these new antioxidants being developed by Koulen’s research would be effective in both preventing the disease from progressing and treating already existing damage. The research focuses on dry AMD, a form of the disease that affects the majority of patients. Effective therapies are lacking for this form of the disease, in which cells are gradually lost over time resulting in blindness.   Medications developed as a result of the study could also complement existing treatment designs for the wet form of AMD that is more aggressive and affects a smaller number of patients. Jan 10, 2020

  • UMKC Professor Wins Grant for Using One Health Data

    Gerald Wyckoff is one of three local scientists awarded nexus of human and animal research funding
    BioNexus KC and the Hall Family Foundation awarded Nexus of Human and Animal Health Research Grants to three local researchers including Gerald Wyckoff, Ph.D., professor at UMKC. Each researcher was given $50,000 to further the Path to 2025 regional vision: Kansas City is a global leader at the nexus of human and animal health benefitting all our citizens and the economy. This nexus is called One Health. Wyckoff, with the joint University of Missouri-Kansas City and Kansas State University 1Data project, will work on creating a set of highly curated potential therapeutic target genes for rare disease. Wyckoff works with the School of Pharmacy and School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. Building on this, the project will construct an algorithmic approach to screening for new therapeutics in over 3,400 rare disease genes, creating a new resource and tool for precision medicine in the rare disease space. By taking a One Health approach, and using computational techniques, 1Data plans to address the major problem of the lack of availability of treatments for rare disease and do so in a way that benefits both animal and human health. Jan 07, 2020