Topeka A Baby Jay appearance is sure to delight the crowd, but it takes more than a playful mascot to project Kansas University's image.
Some major changes are in the works in how KU tells its story to the community and lobbies the Legislature.
In June, state Sen. David Adkins, a Republican from Leawood, was hired by the KU Medical Center as vice chancellor for external affairs.
For the medical center, Adkins will oversee alumni and community relations, and also work closely with staff in government relations and marketing. His Senate term expires in January, and he is not seeking re-election.
By this fall, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway is expected to complete a national search to fill the position of executive vice chancellor for university relations.
That position will oversee government relations, public relations, trademark licensing, Kansas Public Radio, Kansas Audio-Reader Network, outreach efforts at KU, KU Medical Center's Kansas City and Wichita campuses, and KU's Edwards campus in Overland Park. During the legislative session, the executive vice chancellor represents the university's interests at the Capitol.
Janet Murguia was KU's last executive vice chancellor for university relations. She left KU at the start of the year after she was named executive director and chief operating officer of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
In the meantime, Kevin Boatright, associate executive vice chancellor for university relations, is serving in her place.
Murguia's departure at the outset of the 2004 legislative session made things "a little more awkward," Hemenway said at the time, but KU officials said they had a good year working with the Legislature.
"We had a lot of involvement from a lot of people," Boatright said. "Everyone stepped up a bit."
Jon Josserand was KU's main lobbyist during the session, and the school also hired Kathy Damron to lobby on its behalf.
KU also benefited from support from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on higher education funding and the overwhelming approval of the bioscience research initiative, Boatright said.
"It was an environment for the university to make its case," he said.
In recent years, KU has been accused by some lawmakers of being out of touch with everyday Kansans. But Boatright said he thought the school was doing a better job showing how KU is connected to the entire state.
"We are proud to be doing that, to the extent that we are able to make that case that the university serves the state of Kansas," he said.
Boatright said he hadn't decided whether to become a candidate for the permanent position, saying that he wants to focus on "doing the interim job as best I can."