• UMKC Alumnus Is Helping First-Generation Students Achieve Their Dreams

    Kansas City’s very own civil rights hero shares his feelings about UMKC and giving back
    Alvin Brooks (B.A. ’59, M.A. ’73) is a name many in the Kansas City community know. He has served as a police officer, councilman and has participated in many acts of public service, urban progression and civil rights. Brooks also had a scholarship named after him for more than a decade and received an honorary doctorate from UMKC in 2012. He has continuously made donations and gifts to UMKC in support of student life, student programs, services and scholarships for 14 years. He is also involved long term with the university’s Institute for Urban Education as an advisory member to this day. I heard there is a movie coming out about you based off your memoir, and it is directed by Academy Award-winning director, Kevin Wilmott. How did that come about? Yes! The movie is coming out on Juneteenth, and it is based off my memoir, Binding Us Together. Kevin read it and reached out, saying that he was interested in turning it into a documentary. I wasn’t going to say no to that! I’m excited. Kevin is a great guy and a lot of the scenes from the book will be discussed and shown. How did you feel when you were named Alumnus of the Year in 2009 and then received an honorary doctorate in 2012? Oh, I felt great! I didn't expect it, but I was confident about it. It made me think that maybe some of the things that I have done mattered. I am representing UMKC and got to see it grow throughout the years. I was genuinely surprised with an honorary doctorate because I didn’t really do anything to earn one! I’m just happy UMKC valued what I did enough to give me one. How did you feel when you found out there was a scholarship named after you? Again, I was extremely honored, knowing that there were people who wanted to give back using my name. Though I am still trying to figure out who were the ones that started it! I think I have a good idea who did it, I will let you know. Alvin Brooks, on the right, smiling with Frank White and Jannette Berkley-Patton One of your scholarship preferences is for first-gen students, why do you think that is important? I’m extremely pleased that being a first-generation student is a requirement. I think it's very significant and needed. The students who have resources to begin with are going to make it anyway, as opposed to those who struggle, who are the first one in their class or family to go to college or even the first one to finish high school. I’ve spoken about this many times. It is an incentive for those students. It will encourage them to push forward in their studies and create something for themselves. That is why it is important. Why is giving back so valuable and important to you, and how does that tie with being a first-generation student? I was completely on my own when I was an undergraduate. I had no help, and it was very difficult. I think meeting people that came from such different walks of life really opened my eyes. That is why giving back is valuable to me. I want to help students not have as hard of a time as I did. I also hope funded programs at UMKC attract different students and help first-time students meet a variety of people. I know you are a humble man, Mr. Brooks, but are you aware of the impact you make toward our community? No. Well, let me say this. I hope that I have made some impact. Especially in the areas of race relations and interpersonal relations. I'm a believer. Regardless of what your race might be. I think we should all be free and treated kindly. Not just in America, but all six billion of us. That is what I pursue and believe in, and I try to pass that down to my family and those around me. When I get the opportunities to do things, it makes me feel good. To know that people think I can do that. I’m not Moses or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but I am an honest man with integrity. So all I can say is that I hope that I have done well representing UMKC, and I am proud to have done what I did. I hope that when people talk about what I’ve done, they can relate to my humble beginnings. I struggled, but accomplished the things that are most important. What role and impact do you think UMKC is making? UMKC has become more prominent since my time being here, and I think the university has realized its role of an urban university. UMKC has become more aware of the community around it and has developed over time. There were only a handful of Black students when I was here in 1956. Now, it’s almost like the United Nations in terms of student population. There are still some issues, but I think there has been a consciousness on the part of the university and its higher administrative members, which will be passed on to the students in the classroom. That’s what UMKC is all about. Learn More About UMKC Foundation May 17, 2024

  • UMKC is the First University to Partner with U.S. Cyber Command

    The agreement will provide new opportunities for research and collaboration
    The University of Missouri-Kansas City has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the United States Cyber Command. This partnership is set to transform the landscape of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity through collaborative education and research. UMKC is the first university in the country to sign a cooperative research and development agreement with the United States Cyber Command. This partnership is also only the second to be signed by the command overall, positioning UMKC at the forefront of cybersecurity and AI research. “This partnership represents a key milestone in demonstrating the technical relevance of UMKC and the Missouri Institute for Defense and Energy’s (MIDE) faculty, staff and students,” said Travis Fields, Ph.D., interim director of MIDE. “We are excited to work on research and development cyber solutions for the Department of Defense.” UMKC has also entered into an Educational Partnership Agreement with the United States Cyber Command, which aims to enrich UMKC students' learning experiences by providing them with access to internships, guest lectures and state-of-the-art research facilities. UMKC is excited to play a key role in training future leaders of the AI and cybersecurity workforce. By combining the university’s academic and research excellence with the United States Cyber Command’s operational expertise to drive innovation in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, this partnership also serves as a collaborative framework for joint research projects. The collaborative efforts are expected to lead to the development of advanced solutions to tackle complex cybersecurity challenges, benefiting both national security interests and the broader field of technology. May 15, 2024

  • UMKC Child and Family Services Clinic Helps More Than 1,000 Children

    School of Law clinic provides valuable experience while helping community children
    Family legal issues are one of the largest unmet needs in the state of Missouri and in Jackson County. The UMKC School of Law has helped to fill that gap since the opening of its Child and Family Services Clinic in 2000. Since then, the clinic has helped more than 1,000 children be placed in permanent homes. Clinic director Wendy Ross, J.D., joined UMKC just one year ago but has already been impressed with the impact the clinic has made. “UMKC has a heart for providing for the community,” Ross said. “They want to reach out and help, all while providing valuable experience for our law students.” Under the guidance of professors, work in the clinic is done by students studying family law. Services can include representation in court, paperwork to establish guardianship and more. Students at the clinic provide an average of 2,000 hours of service a year, all free of charge to the families. “This important service to our community is why we chose to highlight the UMKC School of Law Child and Family Services Clinic in a video,” said Curt Crespino, vice chancellor of UMKC External Relations and Constituent Engagement. “The pro bono legal services changed the life of Brittney Hallman’s family and so many others in the Kansas City region.” Brittney's story and her experience with the clinic were featured in a story on KSHB 41. The most common service provided is establishing legal guardianship of children, often to the father or grandparents. Without legal guardianship, a caregiver does not have the authority to properly care for a child, including to enroll them in school or make medical decisions. The clinic serves parents and families who qualify at or under the national poverty guidelines. Services are provided pro bono, allowing people who may not be able to afford a lawyer help navigating the legal system. Clients can be referred to the clinic through family court, nonprofit agencies and other organizations, as well as through direct application. For more information and to have a case considered, call the clinic at 816-235-6336 and complete an intake form over the phone. May 14, 2024

  • UMKC Awards 2,600 Degrees at May 2024 Commencement

    Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Leigh Anne Taylor Knight of the DeBruce Foundation were the keynote speakers
    More than 2,600 degrees were conferred on Sunday, May 12 during the University of Missouri-Kansas City Spring Commencement ceremonies. "Some of you came to UMKC knowing exactly where you were headed," said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. "Some of you might have had no idea what you wanted to do. But all of you have chosen your own individual path and arrived here your way. You have overcome challenges and celebrated triumphs that have shaped you into the person you are today." There were two Commencement ceremonies. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was the keynote speaker for the first ceremony, telling graduates to be confident and strive to do their best. "Each and everyone of us should strive in some way to be famously excellent in whatever it is that we have to do ahead," Lucas said. "As you leave this arena today, know that we support you, that we believe in you." Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, an alumna of the UMKC School of Education, Social Work and Psychological Sciences and UMKC Trustee, is executive director and chief operating officer of the DeBruce Foundation. She delivered the keynote address for the second ceremony. “Your achievements today not only represent your hardworking and dedication, but also the unwavering support of those surrounding you today.,” Taylor Knight said. “I encourage you to find your purpose through curiosity, courage and kindness.” Following the ceremonies, graduates flooded the T-Mobile Center to take photos and celebrate with their loved ones. Commencement took place on Mother's Day. A few graduates celebrated the occasion by walking across the stage to receive their diploma with their children, several of them carrying them in their arms. May 12, 2024

  • Eighteen Students Named Dean of Students Honor Recipients

    Graduating students are recognized for their outstanding academics, leadership and service
    Eighteen UMKC students have been named Dean of Students Honor Recipients in recognition of their accomplishments on campus and in the community. Every semester, exceptional graduating students are honored with this designation. These students maintain excellent academic standards while actively participating in university activities and community service outside of the classroom. The Spring 2024 honorees’ accomplishments include founding multiple medical interest groups, acting as president of the African Student Association, serving a national role in the American Student Dental Association, revitalizing the rooftop gardens at UMKC and more. These students have contributed numerous volunteer hours in the community with organizations such as Operation Breakthrough, Team Smile, Uzazi Village, Harvesters’, Morning Glory, Girls on the Run and Hope House. Michele D. Smith, Ph.D., vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, expressed her excitement about the students' achievements. “These students truly represent what it means to be a Roo through their commitment to academics, service and community. We are delighted to acknowledge their numerous achievements and are eager to see the great futures they have ahead of them.” Students shared reflections on their time at UMKC at a breakfast celebration in their honor. Some excerpts: Alyssa O’Brien: “I am a non-traditional student, and I never had the “college experience.” When I came to UMKC to pursue my graduate degree, I really wanted to find my sense of community. Getting involved on and off campus with different organizations has been incredibly impactful for my professional and personal development. My proudest accomplishment was taking a summer internship with the Federal Public Defenders Office of Western Missouri in the Capital Habeus Unit. Although challenging, this was some of the proudest work I have done in my life.” Chandler Hill: “More than just a place of learning, UMKC has been a catalyst for growth and transformation. From undergrad to dental school, there have been many dedicated faculty and like-minded peers who have played an important role in my experiences and accomplishments. UMKC has encouraged me to think critically, embrace diversity and strive for excellence in all endeavors. My proudest accomplishment at UMKC is not just the grades or accolades, but the relationships I've formed and the impact I've been able to make. My involvement in the UMKC Chapter of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) helped to develop my passion for advocating for others and leaving a lasting positive impact on both the campus community and beyond.” Elaine Nikolov: “When I began the six-year B.A./M.D. program, I had no idea the plethora of opportunities that this school would offer me. My fourth year in the program, I began to work every Saturday morning in a clinic serving the homeless and under/uninsured of Kansas City. There, I formed life-long bonds with my fellow students and future colleagues as we worked to provide adequate care to a patient population that has historically been marginalized in medicine. More importantly, the patients I have met and been graced to care for have taught me skills and techniques that no textbook could ever teach. I was taught what true understanding, compassion and patience meant and how I could better provide not only medical care but also humanity to those in need.” Congratulations to the Spring 2024 Dean of Students Honor Recipients! Kennison Adams, School of Medicine Chynna Burton, School of Medicine Victoria Cegielski, School of Medicine Allison Eppenauer, School of Pharmacy Tiana Ford, School of Science and Engineering Mary Gipson, School of Science and Engineering Dylan Hailey, School of Medicine Ashley Hanners, School of Nursing and Health Studies Chandler Hill, School of Dentistry Hannah Leyva, School of Humanities and Social Sciences Davis McCallister, School of Dentistry Elaine Nikolov, School of Medicine Alyssa O’Brien, School of Education, Social Work and Psychological Sciences Dumebi Okocha, School of Medicine Maryam Oyebamiji, School of Science and Engineering Rhiannen Schneider, School of Law Andrew Thompkins, School of Dentistry Harry Vasquez, School of Science and Engineering May 10, 2024

  • UMKC Accounting Student Gets Senior Year Paid, Courtesy of Amazon

    Cody Truitt has just one regret; not knowing about the program sooner
    Imagine not paying a dime for your senior year of college.  That’s the case for Cody Truitt, a senior in accounting who took advantage of the Amazon Career Choice Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which offers tuition assistance to Amazon employees.  Truitt had started his undergraduate degree a couple of times through the years, but each time, life had gotten in the way. During COVID, he resolved to finish it and enrolled at UMKC because of its convenience, value and ease of transferring.  “It just fit perfectly,” Truitt said.   He knew he would do whatever it took to complete his degree, whether it meant working overnights or overtime to pay for school. He got a job at Amazon to earn extra money, where he soon learned about the career choice program.   “Amazon rocks because they paid for the entirety of my senior year,” Truitt said. “I only wish I had discovered this as a freshman.”  At first, Truitt admitted he was skeptical it may be too good to be true, but to his surprise, the process was simple. “I figured there were going to be some hoops to jump through, that it wouldn't really work, there'd be some fine print somewhere,” Truitt said. “The moment that I noticed that it worked out, when I checked my UMKC account for what I owed for the semester and I saw $0, I was extremely elated.”  Thanks to Amazon paying his senior year, Truitt was able to take advantage of several opportunities that he may not otherwise have had time for. He did internships at Creative Planning and Bergan KDV.   The extra time didn’t just help Truitt, he was also able to give back through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, where accounting students provide income tax assistance to the community.   “It was really great experience because there’s just all sorts of different people from the community,” Truitt said. “We are dealing with people who are disabled, people that are just really, really nervous about their taxes and they come in so shaken up about it and they're able to leave with a smile and, sometimes, a couple dollars coming to them.”  For Truitt, being able to take advantage of these opportunities and persevere was especially meaningful.  “You know, I just I had a lot of times when I was really struggling in school and I really was barely making it some semesters and just putting in the effort and doing my best and getting through it,” Truitt said. “I realized a lot of the time, I'd end up with better grades than I thought… and every time that happened, I realized I was more capable than I had thought I was before.”  He has some advice for students who may be experiencing challenges in school or in life.   “Take a step back and deep breath and realize that as long as you don't give up, you will get there,” he said.  Truitt is starting a new job soon. The May 2024 graduate has a job lined up as a staff accountant with Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, a certified public accounting firm in Overland Park, KS.   “I'm looking forward to walking across the stage,” Truitt said. “I've worked really hard to get to where I'm at. I know I've improved a lot over the last few years, just as a person, as a student and a professional, so I'm excited to see what the future holds.”  After graduation, Truitt plans to take a few more courses to sit for the CPA exam, then return to school to get a Master of Business Administration degree.    Learn more about Amazon Career Choice Program May 08, 2024

  • Guatemala Geohazards: Exploring Risks, Defining Solutions

    21st-century discovery to mitigate destruction
    It was 3:03 a.m., February 4, 1976. While Guatemala’s citizens slept, the country’s massive Motagua Fault ruptured. In 39 seconds, the resulting 7.5 magnitude earthquake had devastated this Central American nation. Nearly five decades later, a research team from University of Missouri-Kansas City, in collaboration with U.S. and Guatemalan partners, is investigating the country’s extensive geohazards, including the Motagua Fault. An International Investigation The Guatemala GeoHazards International Research Experiences for Students was launched in early January 2023. A long-term vision of director Tina Niemi, this three-year program gained funding in late 2022 from the National Science Foundation. “Understanding the seismic potential of Guatemala’s active fault systems and volcanic history are key goals of the program,” said Niemi, Ph.D., professor of geology and a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor. “This year, we investigated the earthquake history of the Motagua Fault.” The 2023 Guatemala Geohazards field team included 10 U.S. and Guatemalan students, three faculty mentors from UMKC and the University of Missouri, two Guatemalan faculty and one industry mentor. During this inaugural International Research Experiences for Students program, the group conducted research across several disciplines of geoscience, including volcanology, paleoseismology, surficial processes and geospatial data science. Together, the cohort completed three and a half weeks of field research in Guatemala, followed by a break for preliminary analysis and sample processing. In May, the group reconvened for two weeks of lab work and data analyses at at UMKC and virtually. “Through this program, students receive an authentic research experience that includes mentorship by faculty from the U.S. and our partner universities in Guatemala,” Niemi said. “They not only increase their scientific inquiry and research skills but practice international collaboration.” The International Research Experiences for Students faculty are all specialists in geology fields, including the study of Guatemala’s geohazards. With guidance from their mentors, the students collaborate in the scientific process. They develop questions, collect, analyze and interpret data and then present that data. They also navigate the challenges of international field research. “These are not controlled experiences,” Niemi said. “There are many uncertainties, such as access permission, weather conditions and malfunctioning equipment, to name a few. Field research requires flexibility and adaptation to the conditions — all valuable life skills.” Aleigha Dollens (B.S. Earth and Environmental Sciences ’24) participated in the inaugural geohazards program to gain field experience that augments her classwork. “I worked closely with mentors and learned hands-on how to do research,” said Dollens, whose own research focuses on geophysical imaging of the subsurface of the Motagua Fault. “I was in a small research group where I asked questions and received feedback from the program’s professors. I’m now more confident in my ability to practice research and in myself as a person.” Guatemala’s Geohazard Vulnerability Ranked fourth globally for geohazard disaster risk, Guatemala is continuously exposed to multiple hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods and storms. These geohazards threaten countless lives, environmental stability and economic infrastructure. The 1976 Motagua earthquake, one of innumerable Guatemalan natural disasters, resulted in 23,000 deaths and 74,000 injuries. One million people were displaced — nearly one-fifth of Guatemala’s population at the time. Thousands of aftershocks exacerbated the destruction and resulted in economic damages estimated at 17.9 % of the country’s gross domestic product. These geohazards do not always occur independently, and interactions between hazards often trigger multiple secondary hazards. In recent years, new geohazards have emerged in Guatemala, while existing hazards have intensified. Omar Beltetón, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at the Higher Studies Center for Energy and Mines and an engineering faculty member at the University of San Carlos, believes information and insight from the UMKC collaboration and investigation will contribute to Guatemala’s development of strategic geohazard resilience. “Subsidence and sinkholes have formed in streets or highways and caused the collapse of storm drainage pipes,” said Beltetón, an International Research Experiences for Students faculty member from Guatemala. “These are consequences of climate change and urban flooding because of inadequate infrastructure design. Road collapse and landslides in mountainous areas are the result of deforestation and the consequent erosion. “This research is significant because of our country’s geographic and tectonic setting. The Guatemalan people haven’t been able to escape the suffering from geohazards, including loss of life, infrastructure damage and economic loss. We must try to understand the phenomena to avoid these losses.” Exploring With 21st-Century Technology The Guatemala GeoHazards program uniquely utilizes both traditional geologic field mapping and cutting-edge technology, such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) drone imaging. Small but mighty, LiDAR drones are valuable research partners. “The basic approaches for investigating geohazards have been established for some time, but a significant limitation has been observational capability,” said Francisco Gomez, Ph.D., geological sciences professor at the University of Missouri and the UMKC program’s surficial processes research team mentor. “New technologies provide us with unprecedented views of the earth to push our investigation further.” “As recently as 25–30 years years ago, earthquake investigations and landslide mapping primarily involved traditional terrestrial surveying. Though accurate, these methods are time-consuming and expensive. Today, unmanned aerial systems provide higher resolution information at a much lower cost. Also, drone images allow us to see subtle tectonic features not otherwise easily visible. It’s a game-changer we could only dream about previously.” These advancements yield significant, beneficial data about geohazards. “Some of the most exciting results come from interpretation of the LiDAR data we acquired across the 1976 earthquake rupture trace,” said Niemi, who is a Quaternary geologist specializing in geoarchaeology, sedimentology and active tectonics. “We identified features revealing accumulative offset that can be used to determine the fault’s slip rate. Slip rate is a critical parameter in seismic hazard assessment.” Mitigation Insights and Strategies The potential for this research is far-reaching — and sharing the results with other scientists and organizations in Guatemala is a vital component of the work. “While our number one goal is to educate the next generation in geohazard research, the data we collect have profound significance in defining the occurrence or repeat time of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” Niemi said. “Key parameters for seismic and volcanic hazards collected through the program are essential to government preparedness plans and mitigation strategies. “For example, our volcanology research team began mapping pyroclastic flow deposits from the Chocoyos volcano that occurred 75,000 years ago. This research is the first step to help better constrain future volcanic hazards.” In Guatemala, the program’s research is in collaboration with the University of San Carlos de Guatemala’s Center for Higher Studies of Energy and Mines and the Centro Universitario del Norte’s Department of Geology. Information from the program can be incorporated in the National Seismic Design Code, which specifies structural safety standards and guidelines for reinforcing existing works. Results will also be shared with the Guatemalan Association of Structural and Seismic Engineering, the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction and the Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology — the primary governmental institution that monitors geological hazards. “Our collaboration with UMKC helps us to understand geohazard phenomena in a way that action can be taken to help minimize their impact and help ensure that losses and damage are minimal,” Beltetón said. “The investigation establishes possible danger zones for geohazard threats and the feasibility of building on specific sites. The research also guides the preparation of hazard maps and is a tool for territorial ordering, a mode of land-use planning with an emphasis on conservation.” Looking to the Future At the conclusion of the International Research Experiences for Students Program, student participants wrote a scientific abstract and presented their findings at the UMKC’s Guatemala GeoHazards poster symposium. Some will also present their research at this year’s annual meetings of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) and the Geological Society of America. Dollens is one of the students who will present at the AEG conference. “This program has inspired me to get my master's degree at UMKC and kickstarted my research skills and career as a professional. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to work on this project and for the relationships I built with the team,” said Dollens, recipient of a 2023 Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity award. She was also awarded the prestigious 2023 Richard Hay Award from the Geological Society of America for her research on evidence of earthquakes at the Quirigua archaeological site in Guatemala. A full circle moment, Niemi was the first recipient of this award 34 years earlier. These collaborative connections made today and for the future are integral to Niemi’s vision for the program. “Research is the exploration of the unknown,” Niemi said. “The shared experience of students and mentors exploring geology in the field provides a unique setting that emphasizes inquiry and builds confidence. In this rich learning environment, students observe mentors from different countries discussing geology and modeling the fundamental first step in research — asking questions. “We’re dedicated to educating the next generation of scientists, diversifying the workforce and promoting societally relevant research that can be translated into solutions.” May 07, 2024

  • Play Ball! This UMKC Jackie Robinson Scholar is Hitting Home Runs in the Medical World

    The six-year B.A./M.D. student is jumpstarting her career through the Royals and MLB
    Emmanuella Alawode, Dallas native and fourth-year student in the B.A./M.D program is a Jackie Robinson Scholar. Through this program, Alawode not only gets to participate in career-readiness opportunities, but also receives support from the Kansas City Royals Foundation. The Royals are a UMKC partner. An extra special perk of the program? She got to throw out the first pitch at UMKC Night at The K last month.  Why did you choose UMKC?   I knew I wanted to become a doctor, so I talked to a lot of my mentors and people who also went through the accelerated B.A./M.D. program that saves two years off of the traditional undergraduate and medical-school path. That just reassured me that UMKC was an excellent choice. I really liked the six-year program knowing that I can get a jumpstart with my career. And it is not too far from home.  Why did you choose your field of study?   Growing up, I just really enjoyed science, anatomy dissections, experiments and research. My experience at UT Southwestern in a high school camp was pivotal for me and exposed me to clinical research. I shadowed a breast surgeon and became interested in women’s health. Something else that has shaped my interest in health disparities has been volunteering with my church and helping in their health clinic.   What are the challenges and benefits of the program?   There are a lot of learning curves along the way. Because you are going straight into med school after high school and are also juggling it with doing your undergraduate degrees. A key challenge was learning how I like to study now, and finding the best way to retain the volume of information.   The benefits are that we get early clinical exposure. You get to learn how to interview patients or just medical terminology in your first year. After your second year, you get white coated and get assigned a docent, and that is your docent for your remaining four years. You also get a senior partner, and they are there to guide you along the way. They can help answer questions and help you hone some of your clinical skills.   How has your college program inspired you?   It has gotten me interested in health-care policy advocacy. I’m also interested in how we can better shape medical education and make sure we are honing on helping students to master what they need to know for clinical practice, but also making sure that their mental and physical health does not deteriorate.   Are you a first-generation college student?  Yes. It means that I can hopefully inspire younger people who may not have had medical exposure or don't know what the journey and rigor of medical school. I didn’t know the demands of medical school before. But now, it means I can be a mentor for others and someone that others can look up to, and I love that.   Who do you admire most at UMKC ?   My docent, Dr. Gary Salzman, is my favorite person at UMKC. I like the way that he interacts with patients. Every time we come into the room, the patients are like “‘there’s my favorite doctor!”’ He is always looking out for the best interests of the patients.   Do you have other scholarships in addition to the Jackie Robinson Scholarhip?    Another one that I have received is the UNCF STEM scholarship. Both the Jackie Robinson scholarship and the UNCF STEM scholarship hope to encourage students who are African American or another minority to pursue higher education. I am incredibly grateful for both of those scholarships.   Do you have any standout moments of the Jackie Robinson Scholarship experience?   I would say the love and the foundation have been the standout parts of my experience. When I was applying, I knew they have mentorship and support, but I did not expect the level of support I have since received. One alumni (of the Jackie Robinson scholarship program) purchased MacBooks for most of us, which is nice. Another memorable experience is the first pitch (at the Royals game) that I threw!   What other extracurricular activities are you involved in at UMKC?    Last year, I was the social chair for the student National Medical Association. I am the communications and social media manager for the Association of Women Surgeons. I have been an ambassador with the admissions office and am a member of the Surgical Interest Group. I am also a part of the American Medical Women’s Association and Her Campus as a writer.  What do you hope to take from your experiences at UMKC into your professional career?   I’ve been stretched in many ways that I never thought I could be stretched. The key is learning that you must always think outside of the box. Especially, as a future surgeon, I may not be able to approach a particular procedure the same way I do for another person. Also being flexible. Learning how to manage time wisely. The spirit of perseverance.     Emmanuella was also featured in local news coverage here. May 02, 2024

  • UMKC Students Help Kansas City Families Stay Driven

    Students participating in Enactus partnered with Operation Breakthrough to keep Kansas City families on the road
    Reliable transportation can be a domino that holds a family’s opportunities together. It can be the difference between someone getting to work, holding a job and being able to access much-needed resources. With their latest project, Stay Driven, UMKC Enactus sought to help families in need, while making Kansas City their classroom. During summer 2023, students had the opportunity to visit Operation Breakthrough, a nationally accredited not-for-profit in Kansas City that offers childcare, education and wrap-around services for families in need. While there, staff explained the need for families to have reliable transportation and the difference having it can make on their lives. “Using public transportation to get to a job can take upwards of 90 minutes each way for working parents,” said Mary Esselman, president and CEO at Operation Breakthrough. “Having reliable transportation allows people to get to those jobs that also have things like benefits and paid time off.” Ga Ji Wang, a Bloch student with seven years of automotive experience in the Kansas City area, recognized the need to solve this problem. Wang came up with the idea to offer families a car-care clinic. “Having the working background and skillset that I do, I knew we could find a way to make a difference,” said Wang, a senior studying business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. “Doing something as simple as an oil change can make a big difference in keeping a car on the road.” The team began work on their Stay Driven project at the start of the spring semester. Together, they worked to recruit volunteer mechanics, manage inventory, plan for the event and coordinate with the staff at Operation Breakthrough. The team also needed to secure funding for their project, which inspired them to turn to UMKC Giving Day. "Enactus always bootstraps projects through spring fundraising campaigns and the timing was perfect for us to tailor our Giving Day campaign to Stay Driven,” said Imani Lemon, president of UMKC Enactus. “Our theme centered around people donating just $5, which would help cover the cost of oil, a windshield wiper or a light bulb.” By taking part in Giving Day, the Enactus team was able to raise nearly $1,300, which covered the cost of supplies for Stay Driven. The team was also able to secure donated parts and supplies, as well as help from volunteer mechanics. On April 5, UMKC Enactus held the Stay Driven event at Operation Breakthrough, helping families receive minor repairs like oil changes, headlight replacement, battery replacement, securing bumpers with zip ties and fluids top offs. In total, they helped 29 families, saving them $3,000 in repair costs. Sixteen Enactus volunteers participated in the event including Wang, who once again found himself working under the hood. By doing so, he was able to see the difference the team was making first-hand. “Many of the cars were low on oil and you could already see the damage being caused,” Wang said. “We helped keep multiple cars on the road by simply performing that routine oil change.” For UMKC Enactus, Stay Driven is anything but a one hit wonder. The team hopes to bring the event back, potentially with help of other Kansas City students taking part in Operation Breakthrough’s Ignition Lab. “Allowing them to participate in performing minor repairs gives them invaluable experience as they work toward their future,”Esselman said. “Our team and the families who participated in Stay Driven were blown away and we’re excited to continue to support this event and UMKC Enactus.”  May 02, 2024

  • Internationally Trained Dentists Pursue American Dreams

    New UMKC program provides path to dental degree in the United States
    Nine dentists from as far away as Cuba and India will begin their dream of practicing in the United States at the UMKC School of Dentistry thanks to a new program at the school. The advanced standing dental education program, launched at the school in January, will enable these practitioners and all those who follow them in the program to work as dentists in the United States. Without programs like this, dentists from other countries face limited options to practice oral health care in the U.S. “It’s going to be a life-changing opportunity for these students,” said Gustavo Leal, interim director of the advanced standing program. “These students are fighters who have been working hard to achieve this dream.” The advanced standing students will finish their dental degree in 2 1/2 years, compared to students in the traditional degree program, who attend school for four years. The shorter timeline condenses two years of coursework into six months, and includes labs, lectures, pre-clinic skills training and exposure to different disciplines. According to Leal, students in the program proved in their skill tests and board exams that they had the knowledge base and skills to handle the accelerated timeline. The students will join the existing third-year students in the fall of 2024, following the same timeline the next two years. The first cohort of nine students began the program in January and are slated to graduate in May 2027. According to Dean Steven Haas, around 2010, dental schools started to open avenues for internationally trained dentists, enabling them to avoid the burden of going back to school for an additional four years. With 93 such programs in the United States, UMKC is one of many universities offering a similar path to practicing in the United States. The demand for the program speaks for itself. UMKC received 380 applications for the nine spots available in its first class. For Haas, these practitioners represent a critical influx of oral health care providers who can address the shortage of oral health care providers in Missouri, where 111 counties are considered underserved, according to the Rural Health Information Hub. Haas said that Dekalb County in northwest Missouri has only one dentist for 10,480 people. “We know that we need dentists in these rural areas,” Haas said. “By opening up our classes to internationally trained dentists, we’re able to get more oral health care providers out there.” All third- and fourth-year students complete rotations in a variety of settings, including rural dental clinics.Haas said that it’s important that the program diversify the oral health care workforce as well. “Our population is changing,” Haas said. By 2050 or 2060, our population will look a lot different. I think dentistry should mirror that demographic shift.” Haas said that current students will benefit from the infusion of this geographically diverse group of students. For advanced student Flavia Santos Bada, the program will enable her to practice in the U.S. and help support her family, especially her father, who needs specialized medical care. Originally from Cuba, Bada immigrated to the United States in 2018 after graduating from dental school there. She joined her parents and sister, who had moved to the U.S. for better medical care for Bada’s father, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Family is important to her, and UMKC is a good fit. “The school’s focus on putting patients first captured my attention,” Bada said. “I want to treat people, not just as my patients, as if they were my family.” For Hadrik Patel, UMKC’s Midwestern location was critical in his decision to apply to the advanced standing program. Originally from India, he was practicing as a dental assistant in Nebraska. He said he was already comfortable in the Midwest, so when UMKC’s program opened up, he immediately applied. His first few months in the program have confirmed his excitement for the school. “What has stood out is how many of the faculty are UMKC alumni,” Patel said. “I think that says a lot about the school. They wanted to come back to UMKC to ensure students achieve the same success they have.” According to Leal, the program introduces more diversity into the student body, providing them with a much different perspective at a personal level as well as professional level. The advanced practice students have worked in the field and provide expertise to current students. “I am excited to see their progression and how they incorporate themselves with the other dental students,” Leal said. “It’s a great opportunity for our students to grow while providing an opportunity for these practitioners to achieve their dreams.” May 01, 2024