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KU events this week: A whole lotta commencement, plus student art projects on display

This is the space where we usually let you know what's going on at KU this week. But it's finals week at KU, and aside from tests the schedule is pretty light — well, except for the 40 or so commencement-related events going on starting tomorrow.

If you're involved with any of those, though, you likely already know about it (I hope so, anyway).

As for the big KU commencement ceremony, it's set for 10:30 a.m. Sunday. You can click that link to see scheduling details — and the procedure for announcing weather-related delays, if needed. (The National Weather Service is calling for likely showers and thunderstorms Sunday as of Wednesday morning.) I'll be there, so if you see a guy wandering around with a notepad, say hi.

One event that I do have to share: Seniors in KU's department of visual art will exhibit some of their artwork starting Friday in the Art and Design Building on campus. The work will range from ceramics to painting to textiles to other media. The display will open with a reception (free for the public) from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday in the gallery and in room 421 of the Art and Design Building, and it will remain open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day from Saturday through Tuesday.

If I missed anything else going on, beyond the avalanche of graduation-related festivities, add it in the comments below. And get those KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com (bonus points if you submit them in the form of ceramics, paitings or textiles).

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    KU links: Professor sticks up for Neanderthals in NYT; blogging Topeka high-schooler picks Yale over KU

    Surely you don't have too much time to waste with the end of the KU semester approaching, so we'll get right on with your weekly-or-so roundup of KU news and mentions from around the Internet:

    We finally have a verdict from Topeka high-schooler Leobardo Espinoza Jr., who was offered a full-ride scholarship to KU while blogging about his college choice for The New York Times. And ... he's going to Yale. You can read more about it in his post. One interesting thing Espinoza did while trying to decide between his two final choices: He sent an email to one faculty member at each school and waited to see how quick and how in-depth their responses would be.

    • David Frayer, a KU professor of anthropology, wrote this New York Times op-ed about Neanderthals, who he says have unfairly gotten a bad rap over the years.

    • A KU official shared some comments with Inside Higher Ed for this story about the Voluntary System of Accountability, which is a cooperative effort among universities to share information about themselves, at collegeportraits.org. One category of information those universities can share is data on how much students are learning, but the story says the possible testing metrics offered for universities to use in that area have been criticized by people who say they don't accurately show what students are getting out of college. Paul Klute, a special assistant to the vice provost for academic affairs, says in the story that KU had declined so far to post student learning data on its College Portrait page, but some new rubrics now are available. (The story is pretty lengthy, technical and chock full o' acronyms.)

    I poked around the KU College Portrait and found a few interesting things — for instance, a listing of the most common areas of study for KU bachelor's degree recipients as of 2011-12. (Business is tops, followed by journalism and engineering.)

    • David Cateforis, a KU professor of art history, shared with the Kansas City Star his disappointment at the closing of a KC art gallery.

    • The Huffington Post talked with Charles Greenwood, director of KU's Juniper Gardens Children's Project in Kansas City, Kan., about how the federal budget sequester is affecting the research work there. We talked with him about that same subject a couple months back.

    • Mashable reported on some KU Medical Center research that found that the online virtual-reality community Second Life could be used as a tool to lose or maintain weight.

    • In case you were curious, former KU provost Richard Lariviere did not exactly take an easy job when he became the president and CEO of Chicago's Field Museum last year. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on the financial troubles Lariviere inherited and how he's trying to overcome them.

    • KU's Dining Services has a blog post outlining some of the changes in store for Mrs. E's, the main dining facility for the residence halls up on Daisy Hill, after renovations are completed this summer. Look for more on that in our KU Today edition that will come out in August.

    Don't forget to send your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com, you Neanderthal. (That's a compliment.)

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    KU events this week: KU students organize run for Boston victims

    This week appears to be the calm before the commencement storm at KU: Things are pretty quiet event-wise, at least as quiet as they can be on a campus this big.

    So I'll use this week's events roundup mostly to draw your eyes to one event that probably does merit a few minutes of your attention.

    We told you a few weeks back about one effort mounted quickly by KU students to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and here's another one: Another group has organized a 5K/10K run for this weekend to raise more funds, called "Freedom on the Hill." It's set for 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday (Mother's Day) on the KU West Campus, starting at the marching band practice field (west of the Lied Center and Dole Institute of Politics, near the radio tower).

    I could babble a bit about what the students are trying to do, but you'd be better off watching this video they produced:

    As you can see, a whole bunch of campus groups are involved. The KU Army ROTC is the main sponsor. All the funds raised go to the One Fund Boston, a special relief fund. You can enter for $15, or pay $25 to enter two people. More info is available on a website the organizers have created.

    Galloway, N.J., senior Howard Ting, one of the students involved, tells me the effort started April 15, the day of the bombings. He and others were working on a group fundraising project in a communication studies class, and they decided that night to change course and organize something for the Boston victims. Within two weeks, they'd finished planning and gotten the approval they needed, which Ting said required no small amount of work.

    Ting said they've got about 35 people helping to organize the event, and they're aiming to sign up about 250 runners and raise between $5,000 and $9,000. You can see more information, register for the race, donate or sign up to volunteer at a website the organizers set up, FreedomOnTheHill.com.

    Now, on to the rest of your weekly roundup of KU-related events:

    • From 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, the staff at KU's Natural History Museum will head over to the Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Massachusetts St., for something called "Science on the Spot: Bar Edition." They'll be using stuff one might find at a bar — limes, napkins and, yeah, booze — to do some scientific demonstrations about DNA extraction, fire, laws of motion and other concepts. It's free to get in.

    • Coming Wednesday morning, 9 a.m. to noon: The final Heard on the Hill Office Hours of the spring semester. It's your last chance to tell me what you think of our KU news coverage, let us know what we should be writing about and exchange a few hugs before we all go our separate ways this summer, sniff sniff. So stop by the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union and say hi.

    • Friday is Stop Day, and that means it's time for the annual springtime Stop Day campus tour from Professor Emeritus Ted Johnson.

    As I said, it's a bit of a quiet week. At least I think so: If I'm wrong, and there's something else we should note, just add it in below in the comments. And get those KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com as always — but ONLY IF you cannot make it to Heard on the Hill Office Hours on Wednesday even with every ounce of effort you can muster.

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    University Senate pushes for more tuition assistance benefits for faculty, staff and their families

    The KU faculty, staff and student governance meetings I check out on occasion can venture into some esoteric territory. (Thursday I witnessed a debate that featured several folks weighing in on whether a proposed policy could be described as "Byzantine.") But they can also be quite educational.

    For instance, Thursday at a University Senate meeting I learned that KU does not provide as much tuition assistance for its faculty or staff or, especially, their spouses or dependents as some other universities around the state and the nation, at least according to a report from a task force that had looked into the subject. (That's the other thing about these governance groups: There are a lot of task forces. Task forces and committees, of the standing and non-standing varieties.)

    The group was led by Donna Ginther, a professor of economics, and it reported that KU's policies on tuition support for faculty, staff and their families lagged behind other Board of Regents institutions and a selection of seven "peer" universities from around the country, for the most part.

    KU allows faculty and staff who work at least half-time to apply to take one free course each semester, for up to five credit hours, which theoretically allows for up to 15 credits per year if you factor in the summer term. However, that policy doesn't apply to anyone who has a doctoral degree, which obviously counts out a lot of faculty. And it does not stretch to spouses, children or dependents. KU is the only Regents university that doesn't offer assistance to dependents, and one of only two (along with Washburn) not to offer it for spouses.

    Kansas State University, for example, allows for a few free credit hours for spouses or children of faculty or staff each semester, with a few qualifiers. K-State reported to the group that it provides just shy of $1 million worth of tuition assistance each year, on average. KU's estimated cost is around $275,000 per year.

    There is one big caveat: The children and dependents of KU employees and faculty are eligible for a merit scholarship from Coca-Cola, as part of the company's beverage deal with KU, for up to $1,000 per year. That covers about three credit hours, at the tuition rate paid by incoming freshmen for 2012-13. According to the report, that scholarship paid a bit more than $150,000 in tuition for 185 students this academic year.

    Anyway, as you might expect, the faculty, student and staff representatives who put this report together recommended that KU expand its assistance. They suggested expanding it to all faculty and staff with at least six months' service and their dependents, spouses or domestic partners, and also providing more credit hours' worth. The group reported it was tough to guess exactly what that might cost, maybe somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million. It suggested KU pay for that with savings from its Changing for Excellence efficiency campaign.

    Ginther argued in Thursday's meeting that the expanded assistance might help KU, too, perhaps making it more attractive to potential faculty. And, she said, the children of faculty and staff might likely be pretty good students that KU would like to recruit.

    University Senate president Chris Crandall said he guessed that the university administration would be unlikely to make that change right at the moment, as budget matters are uncertain. But the faculty, staff and students at the meeting Thursday voted unanimously to send the recommendation and the accompanying report to Provost Jeff Vitter.

    No KU tuition assistance is available for Heard on the Hill bloggers, and even if it were, their bosses would probably frown upon that arrangement. But you can offer me your own form of assistance: KU news tips. Send 'em to merickson@ljworld.com.

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    KU links: Comanche the horse, temper tantrums and more on online education

    The calendar has flipped into May, which means folks at KU are no doubt quite busy with the semester's end approaching and a bit melancholy because they have only one more chance this semester to come to Heard on the Hill Office Hours (one week from today, 9 a.m. to noon in the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union).

    But here's something to distract you from all that (well, don't forget about the office hours part): your weekly-or-so collection of KU-related tidbits from around the Internet.

    • CNN had a piece this week on the art of horse taxidermy, and alert readers might know immediately why there might be a KU connection there: KU's Natural History Museum is the home of Comanche, the legendary horse that survived the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and was preserved by Lewis Lindsay Dyche, who helped found the museum. CNN talked with Leonard Krishtalka, director of the museum and the KU Biodiversity Institute, about Comanche and taxidermy.

    • Also at CNN, via Real Simple magazine, is this story about temper tantrums that has a good deal of input from Robert Harrington, a KU professor of psychology and research in education.

    • The Wichita Eagle asked Scott Reinardy, associate professor of journalism, for his thoughts on the bid by Koch Industries to purchase the newspapers owned by the Tribune Co. (Update: This previously linked to a Kansas City Star story, but the Eagle is actually the publication of origin — my mistake.)

    • The Daily Kansan today reports that students at KU who've received Pell grants have been less likely to graduate than other students, which is in line with trends around the country.

    • Last week brought another update from Leobardo Espinoza Jr., the Topeka high-schooler blogging about his choice among KU and some other colleges for The New York Times. Sounds like he's largely narrowed his choices to KU, Yale and Amherst College in Massachusetts. It appears KU's not exactly a front-runner, but it's in consideration, and you can read to see why.

    • And finally, I'll share two other NYT links that aren't directly related to KU but might be interesting if you'd like to read more about developments in online education after reading our update over the weekend on KU's strategies in that area. The two stories both describe how some universities and colleges are using free Massive Open Online Courses as tools in their on-campus classes. They're an interesting look at one of many possible ways forward for higher education as budgets tighten and online tools increase.

    So there — if you took full advantage of that linkfest, you probably distracted yourself for a good 10 minutes or so. In return, take another 30 seconds to send a KU news tip to merickson@ljworld.com.

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    KU events this week: Korean War survivor, forbidden Soviet art and Eisenhower’s legacy

    Thanks in equal part to an upper-respiratory infection for a certain reporter and a lack of event announcements sent his way this week, our weekly KU events roundup is a bit late and a bit brief. But it's still here, for your planning purposes:

    • First up, later today: At 4 p.m. in the Pine Room at the Kansas Union, author Maija Rhee Devine will read excerpts from a new book of hers set in Korea during the Korean War, "The Voices of Heaven." And she writes from experience: She grew up in Korea while the war was going on, and she even had to flee the city of Seoul while it was under siege. This is being put on by the Center for East Asian Studies, and program assistant Susan Henderson says Devine is the only woman from that generation in Korea to have written an English-language novel about the war.

    • Later this week: A bunch of KU offices are collaborating to screen a documentary called "The Desert of Forbidden Art," 5 p.m. Thursday at the Spencer Museum of Art. It's about how a painter in the Soviet Union collected thousands of pieces of banned art and stashed them in a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, even tricking Soviet authorities into giving him funding by pretending he was buying state-approved works. The filmmaker, Tchavdar Georgiev, will speak and answer questions afterward.

    • And later on Thursday is the annual Dole Lecture at the Dole Institute of Politics, to be given by retired Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel. Set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the institute, the talk will be about the legacy of President Eisenhower and the controversial effort to build an Eisenhower memorial in Washington, D.C. Reddell is the executive director of the group charged with that effort, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

    No doubt there are many more happenings than these three going on this week, and if there's one you think should be noted, add it right in below in the comments. And get those KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com.

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    Proposed policy would give KU faculty post-tenure reviews every seven years

    It's been awhile since we've checked in on the development of post-tenure review for KU faculty, which is set to go into place about one year from now because of a new Kansas Board of Regents policy.

    KU's faculty governance leaders have been thinking hard about the concept over the past few months, hoping to have a strong voice in what happens. Faculty hold the concept of tenure very dear, saying it guarantees them the freedom to do research without outside influence, so a change in how tenured professors are evaluated is naturally going to draw some attention. (KU's policy says faculty who've earned tenure can be dismissed only for adequate cause, unless a program is discontinued or there's some sort of extraordinary financial emergency. Faculty will tell you it's a myth that tenure equals guaranteed lifelong employment).

    And now we know a bit more about what "post-tenure review" might mean for KU faculty members. At the direction of Provost Jeff Vitter, a committee of faculty from around the Lawrence campus has created a proposed policy for post-tenure review. It may not surprise you to hear that the policy is pretty lengthy and detailed (it was written by a bunch of professors, plus one librarian), but here are a few quick takeaways:

    • It would require each faculty member who's earned tenure to undergo a post-tenure review once every seven years, with a few exceptions. That's on the high end of the interval specified by the Board of Regents, which asked for reviews every five to seven years. That means a lot of professors wouldn't go through the process until nearly 20 years into their careers, as faculty must be considered for tenure by their sixth year, and KU expects them to apply to be promoted to full professor from associate professor about five or six years after that (as Vitter notes in this letter here). A promotion like that would reset the clock on post-tenure review.

    • The idea of these reviews would be to get a long-range view of where a faculty member's career is headed. Faculty would still undergo annual evaluations as they do now.

    • The review would be conducted by other tenured faculty in the person's university unit, then passed through one or two levels of administrators and ultimately to the provost, who would either accept it or call for a "university level" review.

    • The policy lists some possible results that could come out of each review. This would include recognition for faculty who've performed better than expected, perhaps in the form of nomination for a promotion or award (other ideas thrown out by faculty, per some meeting minutes, included a salary bump, a reduction in teaching responsibilities for a year or free KU basketball tickets). Another result might be changes or support for a faculty member to either continue to develop or to improve in areas that need improvement, which could include "differential allocation of effort" — that means directing a professor to focus more on teaching or research, rather than focusing equally on both, depending on which one is a strength. Finally, one possible result would be a recommendation for the member to be fired, though it would need to be according to the policies that already exist for that.

    Some explanatory comments sum things up by saying "the primary focus of post-tenure review is faculty development." (That is, its main purpose isn't to be correctional.) The whole policy is posted for viewing online here, and the leaders of the effort want other faculty to read it over and offer their thoughts.

    Faculty governance leaders say Vitter has given indications he generally approves of the policy, and those faculty also approve, even if they probably wouldn't have created the policy if they hadn't been required to. The aim is for faculty to approve a final policy in fall 2013, to go into place in fall 2014.

    This has been your dive into the word-filled deep end of the university policy swimming pool for the week. Time to come up for air. Help me do that by sending me another KU news tip, quick, to merickson@ljworld.com.

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    Nunemaker Center wins KU energy savings contest

    Yesterday was Earth Day, and it was also the day results were announced and winners were recognized in the now-annual competition among KU campus buildings to save the most energy. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think those two things might be connected.

    Anyway, this is the second year for the KU "Lights Out" contest, which is sponsored by the KU Center for Sustainability as well as the Overland Park firm Energy Solutions Professionals, which conducted a $25 million energy savings audit for KU.

    The results, per Tim O'Kane, marketing director for ESP: Nunemaker Center, the home of the KU Honors Program, won the contest with an energy savings of 31 percent compared with the week before the competition started. Lindley Hall, headquarters of the geology and geography departments, finished second with 19.7 percent savings, and Smith Hall, home of the religious studies department, came in third with 19.4 percent.

    Among the 14 buildings that took part in the contest, most of which are used by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the average savings was 9.2 percent, O'Kane reported. Those savings, he said, eliminated about 157,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over the six-week period of the contest. That's equivalent to the yearly emissions of 15 vehicles (or 8,000 gallons of gasoline), or the electricity used in a year by 10.7 homes.

    Your Heard on the Hill energy savings tip for the day: turn off the lights wherever you are, turn your thermostat down low and bundle up so you can offset the electricity you use when you send your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com today.

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    KU events this week: climate change and energy talks during Earth Day week

    You know, we're less than a month away from KU's commencement, and I'm getting emotional because on Wednesday morning will be the next-to-last Heard on the Hill Office Hours of the entire semester. So if you'd like a chance to talk to me about our KU news coverage or want to say bye before we all go our separate directions this summer (well, I'll still be here, I guess), you've only got two more chances. I'll be at the Media Crossroads in the Kansas Union from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

    And here's your list of other KU-related things going on this week:

    • Today is Earth Day, and appropriately enough, two speakers will be visiting campus this week to talk about climate change. First up is former Congressman Bob Inglis, who'll give a talk called "The Environment and Energy: The Role of Free Enterprise and the Government" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute of Politics. Inglis, a Republican, served in Congress from 1993 to 1998 and again from 2005 to 2011.

    Then, coming on Thursday will be David Orr, a distinguished professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College. His talk will be called "Finding the Political Will to Reverse Climate Change," and it will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kansas Union. Orr has written seven books and some 200 articles and other pieces, and he's part of several environmental efforts.

    • On a somewhat related note, the KU Energy Club will put on its third annual KU Energy Conference on Thursday at The Oread hotel. The keynote speaker is Greg Rorrer, a former director of sustainability for the National Science Foundation. More info is available at this site. Attendance is free for KU students, faculty or staff and $50 for others. Either way, you'll need to register ahead of time at that link.

    • On Wednesday and Thursday are two forums about KU's master plan, which is being formed right now. I went to the first two forums on the subject and learned some interesting stuff about a number of topics, including what times during the week the most KU classrooms are in use.

    • At 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center is a three-on-three basketball tournament that will raise money for the Jayhawk Health Initiative, a program for undergraduates planning on health-related careers that will send a "Medical Brigade" to Panama in May to provide some health care there. Registration is $30, and there's a $300 prize. There will be brackets for both students and alumni, and teams are co-ed. You can register online right here.

    • People use the word "unique" too much, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this event will truly be unique: A percussion quartet comprised of four doctoral students in the KU School of Music, called Ad Astra Percussion, is performing a concert that intrigues me. The group will perform a premiere of a piece it commissioned from composer Dave Hollinden, but what's most interesting for me, at least, are the instruments they'll be using: nine tom-toms, nine skillets, nine flower pots and nine things they call "boos," which are wooden contraptions the students built themselves. A "boo," which they play by striking it with mallets, looks like this:

    This is a "boo."

    This is a "boo." by Matt Erickson

    That concert is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Swarthout Recital Hall, inside Murphy Hall.

    It's entirely possible that I've missed something of interest, but if that's the case, just add it in below in the comments. And seriously, you guys, the days left in this school year are slipping away, and don't let it end without coming to see me at my Office Hours. In the meantime, you can send your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com.

    UPDATE

    Jen Humphrey with the KU Natural History Museum jumped in below to add that there's another one of the museum's Science on Tap events at Free State Brewing Co. downtown tonight (Tuesday). Appropriately enough for an event taking place at a brewery, the topic will be how microbes in your gut interact with alcohol.

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    KU links: KU offering multiyear athletic scholarships; Topeka college-choice blogger accepted to Yale

    At the end of a busy week, here's your weekly-or-so roundup of KU news, notes and mentions from around the Internet.

    • KU is leading the way among Big 12 universities in offering multiyear scholarships to athletes, according to this report from the Chronicle of Higher Education (It's behind a subscriber paywall). However, only 16 of KU's 354 scholarship athletes for 2012-13 have multiyear awards.

    That's more or less in line with what the Chronicle found at other universities. It surveyed the public universities in the six biggest athletic conferences, and nearly all offered either a fairly small number of multiyear scholarships or none at all.

    A new NCAA policy effective in August 2012 allows programs to offer multiyear scholarships to athletes for the first time. The change was made after the previous policy requiring renewable one-year awards drew some criticism. Critics — including a Florida State University sports management instructor quoted by the Chronicle — say the one-year deals could allow coaches to push athletes out of their scholarships because of athletic performance. A number of athletic administrators quoted defended the practice, saying the one-year scholarships provide an incentive for athletes to get good grades and stay out of legal trouble.

    The Big 12 conference opposed the new NCAA rule, the Chronicle reports, and KU was the only Big 12 university that reported it awarded more than two multiyear scholarships this year (though the report didn't get counts from Baylor or TCU, both private universities, and the University of Oklahoma didn't report how many it awarded).

    The University of Illinois embraced multiyear scholarships to a much higher degree than any other school in the study: This year, 192 of its 370 scholarship athletes have multiyear awards.

    • We've got another dispatch from Leobardo Espinoza Jr., the Topeka high-schooler and New York Times blogger who's been offered a full-ride scholarship to KU. The big news is that he's been accepted to Yale University and placed on a wait list at Stanford, both of which he writes about with his usual candor. He says he's now pondering four options that he says will all cost him "little or no money," while also waiting to hear from Stanford: KU, Yale and two New England liberal arts colleges, Amherst and Bowdoin. He doesn't indicate if he's leaning one way or the other.

    • Across the pond, The Guardian has an interview with Chip Taylor, director of KU's Monarch Watch, on his concerns about the future of the monarch butterfly population.

    • Some research from Promothesh Chatterjee, an assistant professor of marketing in the KU School of Business, got some attention from the NYT as well as AOL's DailyFinance site. He collaborated with some researchers from the University of Utah on a study that found that a person with a single savings account is likely to save more and spend less than a person with multiple accounts. Chatterjee suggests consolidating your multiple savings accounts if you have them, or at least using a service that will provide an aggregated view of your different accounts.

    If you've been SAVING up some KU news tips, now's the time to send them to merickson@ljworld.com! Ho ho. (As I said, it's been a long week.)

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