A lawyer who is the majority leader of the Kansas Senate has been named the first recipient of the Simons Public Humanities Fellowship at Kansas University.
The "midcareer" fellowship, the first of its kind at KU, is offered through KU's Hall Center for the Humanities and provides recipients a stipend for a semester studying a topic of the fellowship winner's choice.
State Sen. Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican, said he plans to begin studying the growing influence of China, India and Russia during the fall semester.
"The traditional lines separating foreign policy from domestic policy are at least blurred and, in many cases, almost erased," Schmidt said. "Activities halfway around the globe have a direct and concrete effect on the daily lives of Kansans, including the 67,000 I represent."
"Derek Schmidt embodies the true purpose of the Simons Fellowship, which is to bring persons of undoubted accomplishment from outside KU to the Hall Center to share their different and distinctive perspectives with faculty and students," Hall Center Director Victor Bailey said.
The fellowship includes a stipend of up to $20,000 for a semester. Schmidt will participate in the Hall Center's monthly Resident Fellows Seminar and give a public lecture on a topic related to his research.
Schmidt said he would suspend his law practice, doing only what's necessary to maintain clients. He will work full time as a fellow, though he will continue his public duties as state senator, he said.
Schmidt received a bachelor's degree in journalism from KU in 1990. He has a master's degree in international politics from Leicester University in the United Kingdom and a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.
The fellowship is funded by a $350,000 gift from Dolph C. Simons Jr. and his wife, Pam. Simons is editor of the Lawrence Journal-World and chairman of The World Company. The Hall Center also has received $437,500 in a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"We believe the opportunity for a 'midcareer' educational experience is going to become increasingly important in our fast-changing society," Dolph C. Simons Jr. said. "Our family is pleased to be able to work with the university and the Hall Center in providing this program that will give recipients the freedom to explore and access a wide range of educational resources."
Simons said recipients will have office space at the new Hall Center building and will have a faculty associate.
"It has been a pleasure working with Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center," Simons said. "Under his leadership I am confident this program, the first of its kind at KU, will be a success; hopefully so successful other midcareer programs in numerous fields will be started at the university."
Simons said it is becoming increasingly apparent education does not end with a graduation certificate from a school.
"It would be like buying a car and never taking it in for repairs or servicing," he said. "No matter what field of business a person might be in, it is important he or she have an 'educational servicing' opportunity to update and broaden their education and to get their batteries recharged."