IOLA Kansas University faculty put on safety glasses, stuffed in earplugs and plunged into the Gates Rubber Co. Hose Manufacturing Plant in Iola Saturday.
``Safety is No. 1 in the plant,'' one of the plant supervisors said, preparing to lead a tour.
Almost 30 faculty made it to the last stop of the Wheat State Whirlwind tour in Iola. The tour started with 37 members, but lost a few along the way.
With the smell of vulcanizing rubber in the air, faculty toured the plant, seeing the process step-by-step. Many breathed a sigh of relief as they passed large wall fans blowing cool air into the hot factory.
The faculty asked questions about the process, the management, economics and demographics.
``What percentage of your work force are women?'' asked Cindy Teel, an assistant professor in the school of nursing. Her tour guide, Ron Jacobs, said 25 percent to 35 percent.
``It's been an immersion experience,'' Teel said of the statewide tour. The best part, she said, was the generosity of people in Kansas.
``People have had us in their homes and in their communities. ... They've fed us and shared their businesses with us,'' she said.
Betsy Weaver thought the best part was seeing Kansas.
``The beauty of the state was overwhelming,'' said Weaver, a program coordinator at the Spencer Museum of Art. ``It really dispels any myths about flat, boring Kansas.''
Teel said the tour's pace matched its name -- activities started at 7:15 a.m. and ran to 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. The faculty spent their six days meeting people and learning about geology, agriculture, economics and culture in Kansas.
``We see Kansas,'' said Erin Spiridigliozzi, tour director and assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. ``How many people have been to a feedlot? ... We need to do a better job of connecting with our communities in Kansas.
``We need to know our state so we can be more effective.''
-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.