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KU Women of Distinction Calendar honors female students, faculty, staff and alumnae

At 4 p.m. today in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union, Kansas University will honor 24 female students, faculty, staff and alumnae for a range of scholarly and social achievements.

The women are being honored in the 2013-14 KU "Women of Distinction Calendar." They are in the spotlight for both individual and group achievements, everything from softball to book writing.

Categories for honors include: "Individual Achievements," "Team Players," "Advocates for Change," "Women in the Humanities," "Students Transforming the World," "Promoting Healthy Communities through Education" and "Advocacy and Artistic Achievers."

A full list of the honorees is posted on KU News. The event is scheduled to run until 5:30 p.m.

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    And you think your utility bills are high?

    We at Heard on the Hill were curious about what the sudden influx of students does to Kansas University’s electricity bill.

    As it turns out, the extra bodies, classes, computer use and extra everything else that comes with the beginning of a semester doesn’t demand as much power as Old Man Summer does. (Actually, maybe summer is not old at all, or a man. Summer seems more like a sweat-drenched young person with a sunburn and sand perpetually rolling around in his or her shoes.)

    Gavin Young, assistant director of KU strategic communications, checked with Westar, from which KU buys its electricity, for stats on energy consumption at the university. He found that the most energy-intensive month for the Lawrence campus is July, when most of the student population is away.

    Average daily electricity usage this July came to 368,475 kilowatt hours per day. That is compared to a daily average of about 316,000 kilowatt hours per day across the year. For the curious, that’s an average daily energy bill of $23,121.

    As Young explained in an email:

    While most students go home for the summer, we operate buildings for summer classes and research, faculty and staff comfort, and to control air quality. The students coming back in the fall does increase electrical use for lighting, appliances, and other miscellaneous uses, however weather conditions start getting cooler in September and have a tendency to make the overall energy use less in the fall, winter and spring.

    So, running the air conditioners in the blazing months of summer requires more electricity than all the added computer use and light flipping during the normal school year.

    Although energy use at KU spiked in July, it’s actually come down from Julys past. Monthly use was about 11.8 million kilowatt hours for July 2013, down from 13.4 million in 2012 and 12.8 million in 2011. That decrease is likely due to this year’s July being cooler than last year. Also, Young noted the university’s efforts to reduce energy demand by honing in on lights, appliances, computers and weatherization, as well as a contest among buildings to reduce their energy use called “Lights Out.”

    Not that KU asked for them, but I have some additional ideas that could trim the electric bill during the energy-sucking summer:

    • All non-laboratory classes can be held in Potter’s Lake.
    • Designate Wescoe as the state’s largest sauna and rent it out for the summer.
    • Post-apocalypse Preparation Week (because we will all have to learn to live without the electric grid once the zombie invasion comes in October).

    But before the power goes out forever, get your KU news tips in to The prize: millions of kilowatts of journalistic gratitude.

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    Cerner co-founder Cliff Illig shares his startup story with KU MBA students

    Talking to a crowd of suited and pantsuited M.B.A. students, the biggest laugh Cliff Illig got Wednesday evening at the Carnegie Building came after a simple description of how he has fared in the risky, failure-filled world of entrepreneurship.

    “It’s been OK,” he said.

    OK? To the KU business students listening to Illig speak, that was riotous stuff — hilarious.

    In 1979 Illig, who received his bachelor’s in accounting from KU, co-founded Cerner Corp. along with Neal Patterson and Paul Gorup. If you’ve heard of Cerner at all (and many haven’t, given that it is not a consumer company), you probably know that it has done quite a bit better than OK during its nearly 35-year life.

    The healthcare IT giant has grown at a furious pace since its founders conceived it on a picnic table in Kansas City’s Loose Park. Cerner licenses its technology to thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide. Of its 13,000-person global payroll, Cerner employs 9,000 people in the Kansas City area who make a combined $700 million in income, and the company has a planned expansion on the way.

    Forbes recently put Cerner at the 13th spot on a list of the world’s most innovative companies. And federal incentives for doctors and hospitals to switch to digital recordkeeping systems promise strong growth for at least the near future.

    Much of Illig’s talk was devoted to tracking his own and Cerner’s arcs of success. Today Illig is vice chairman of a major tech company's board. Decades ago, before he even started college, he was smart and lucky enough to get into computers before they had a hand in nearly facet of the economy.

    As a teenager, Illig was drawn to computers because they had a physical, tactile side to them in the punchcard days of the late 1960s. “My dad was looking for child labor when I was 13, 14 years old, so very early on I learned how to stuff cards in the computers he used for his business,” Illig said. As a high school student at Shawnee Mission East, he took one of the first computer classes ever offered in the district.

    After his time at KU — which Illig glossed over with more understatement, saying he was mostly interested in “getting on with it” — he joined the consulting division of accounting firm Arthur Andersen, now Accenture.

    Illig and Patterson started at Andersen within two weeks of each other. As Illig tells it, the two agreed on little. But they both knew they had no interest in advancing to their bosses’ jobs. So, on yellow ledger paper, they started brainstorming business models together.

    At the time, the software industry was in its infancy, and healthcare recordkeeping was more or less in the Stone Age. They saw a role for themselves in bringing it into the future.

    The Cerner story makes for a sort of startup fairytale. Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the KU business school, was among the rapt in Wednesday's audience, saying “my heart soars” every time she hears Illig’s story.

    Along with co-founding Cerner, Illig is one of the owners and brains behind soccer team Sporting KC, which, similar to Cerner, is wildly successful in an industry that doesn’t exactly have a wildly visible public profile.

    Bendapudi said in an interview that she hoped having Illig come to Lawrence to speak with business graduate students would help them see that large-scale success can come to people sitting where they are now. “We need to showcase our own,” she said, “to inspire the students of today.”

    Illig himself put out a small plea for the potential future entrepreneurs in the audience: “The environment won’t necessarily be hospitable” for starting a business, he said, but added, “You can't be an entrepreneur without being fundamentally optimistic.”

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  • Cliff Illig (in the plaid blazer) talking with audience members at Carnegie Building on 9th Street

    Cliff Illig (in the plaid blazer) talking with audience members at Carnegie Building on 9th Street by Ben Unglesbee

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    KU media piling up the accolades

    Maybe you aren't looking for one, but here's a reason to become a radio news fan: KU has a winning franchise.

    Kansas Public Radio, based in Lawrence and licensed to Kansas University, took home its 15th station of the year award from the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

    The win came in the Medium Market Category, where KPR competed against both commercial and not-for-profit stations. This was the third year KPR took home the trophy for overall medium market. Before then, the station competed in the Non-Commercial Category and racked up 12 victories. That is a pretty big deal in the world of state-level radio broadcasting.

    KPR programs also won individual awards. Among the first-place winners: Bryan Thompson for Complete News Feature/Enterprise stories, Stephen Koranda in the Spot News category and "Right Between the Ears," produced by Darrell Brogdon, in the Public Affairs Program category.

    In other KU media news, the University Daily Kansan recently placed sixth on the Princeton Review's rankings of college newspapers, as reported by College Media Matters.

    Preceding the Kansan in descending order were: the Cornell Daily Sun, the Yale Daily News, the North Carolina Daily Tar Heel, a tie between two University of Wisconsin-Madison papers, the Badger Herald and the Daily Cardinal, and the Penn State Daily Collegian.

    As Dan Reimold of College Media Matters points out, the methodology of the newspaper rankings is at the least befuddling, at worst the statistical equivalent of throwing darts at a map. They're based on surveys that ask students how others perceive the popularity of their paper. So I offer the rankings with a grain of salt for the trusting and some beta-blockers to help with blood pressure for you methodology aficionados out there.

    If you have media honors you need to unload, you can send all awards plus your KU news tips to

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    Meet your new KU reporter

    Greetings Heard on the Hill Readers,

    Last week I joined the Lawrence Journal-World’s staff and will soon take over the Kansas University beat and Heard on the Hill blog from Matt Erickson as he moves on to other things and other places.

    Since I came aboard, Matt has been taking me around campus to introduce me to as many deans and administrators and faculty as he can wrangle up in mid-summer. He’s been a phenomenal help in getting me up to speed. His efforts hopefully will make the transition as smooth as possible for me, for the folks who regularly have to field my questions, and for Journal-World readers.

    The university is a huge and fascinating institution. Big research universities like KU generate vast amounts of knowledge and, like all universities, they enjoy a rich intellectual life. For someone who loved learning new things in college and preferred studying to going out to the bars, it's amazing and a little ridiculous that I get to write about research and university events for a living.

    I've also walked into the job during a dramatic transition for KU and colleges across the country. Federal and state cuts have strained university budgets, forcing higher ed institutions to find new sources of revenue and to scale back their basic research and services. The country collectively holds about $1 trillion in student debt, a statistic that worries many and puts pressure on colleges to prove their value. Online education and other technologies have opened new models of curriculum and degree-getting that some think could disrupt higher education the same way that the Internet has disrupted media companies, along with just about every other kind of organization.

    A big part of my job will be monitoring these trends as they play out on the hill. Of course, KU is also unique in many ways, and I'm excited about giving readers a window into the personalities and daily goings on at campus.

    A little bit about me, if you're curious: I have lived in Lawrence on and off for about 7 years, all told. I did my undergraduate work in economics and creative writing at KU, a double major that confused and distressed my peers in both schools. More recently I reported for the Kansas City Star's business desk and for a digital news startup called the Missouri Business Alert. I did my master's work in journalism at (please no judgment) the University of Missouri.

    I began my own higher education kind of late. Before attending KU, I worked as a waiter, bus boy, fry cook, janitor, video store clerk, warehouse drone and fast food worker. I got a lot of experience from those jobs and worked with great people, but I must say newspaper work is quite a bit more exciting.

    So that's all by way of introduction. All of you out there in Journal-World-land, please don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions, comments or pertinent information. Matt will surely be missed, but I will do everything I can to keep you all informed and engaged. Let me know if there's anything I can do to better accomplish that.

    And if you really want to get things off to a rollicking start, you can send your KU news tips to

    Sincerely, Ben Unglesbee, The New Guy

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    Former KU CLAS dean Wilcox chosen to lead University of California Riverside

    After being considered for several other university executive jobs, a former KU administrator has been picked to lead the University of California Riverside, the Los Angeles Times reports today.

    Kim Wilcox, a former dean of KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as a former president of the Kansas Board of Regents, still has to be confirmed by regents before he'll officially become chancellor at UC Riverside. He left KU in 2005 to become the provost at Michigan State University, where he stayed until this summer.

    Much to my confusion, Wilcox earlier this year was a public finalist to be the executive at two different public universities that go by the abbreviation "UW," the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wyoming. He was also the candidate for another executive job, the chancellorship at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, in 2012.

    UC Riverside has about 22,000 students. Wilcox's boss will be Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she becomes president of the University of California system in September.

    Leading a university is a pretty big job, I suppose, but I'd argue that no job is more important than that of a Heard on the Hill tipster. You can apply by sending a KU news tip to

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    Panda Express, Indian food among new dining options coming to KU campus in fall

    It looks like the KU campus will be a bit of a new food frontier this fall, with a number of on-campus dining changes on the way.

    Don't worry — your Crunchy Chicken Cheddar Wrap isn't going anywhere. But in addition to the remodeled Mrs. E's dining hall on Daisy Hill (read about it in the KU Today edition, coming in August), there will be a few new tastes available at the Kansas Union and the Underground area in Wescoe Hall.

    First up is a name you might recognize: Panda Express. The quick-service Chinese restaurant chain, fresh off its first Lawrence location opened earlier this year, will come to the Kansas Union, as well.

    You can get your Kung Pao chicken and other such delights on the third floor of the union, near the KJHK radio station headquarters. Construction on the location will start soon, and officials hope for it to open in October, said Claudia Larkin, a KU Memorial Unions spokeswoman.

    The Panda Express will be separate from the main food-court area in the Union, called The Market, but that's going to be changing, too. A few of the "concepts" there — the counters that serve different types of food — will be switched out for new ones.

    The Quesarito counter will become Serrano's Latin Cuisine, Fresco will change to World Kitchen International Cafe and the Corner Bakery will now be Sweet Baby Jay's Bakery. (Must be a James Taylor fan over at KU Dining Services, I suppose.)

    Also new there will be a spot for the most important meal of the day, called the Early Bird Breakfast Bar.

    Those new concepts, all created by KU Dining Services chefs, will feature a lot more fresh, made-to-order cooking, Larkin said.

    "It will have a big freshening-up," she said.

    And down Jayhawk Boulevard at Wescoe, an Indian food option is coming to the Underground dining area. It's called Cafe Spice, and it's a food-service chain that to this point has been located mainly in the Northeast. Larkin said it would feature a lot of vegetarian and vegan options.

    These changes are largely based on a recent survey of students by Dining Services, she said.

    "We knew that Indian food would be popular," Larkin said. "We knew that Panda Express would be popular."

    Indian food would definitely rank high on a survey of Heard on the Hill bloggers' dining preferences. They are also hungry for KU news tips, which you can send to

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    New service allows people to feed KU parking meters from their smartphones, no coins needed


    I've got an update from the KU parking folks: This smartphone meter system is up and running now. So you can go ahead park to your heart's content, coin-free.


    If you find yourself parking on the KU campus during the day from time to time, but not so often that you want to buy a parking permit, that may mean you're often digging around for coins to feed one of the 277 parking meters on campus.

    But by the time the fall semester starts next month, you'll no longer have to do that, if you don't want to. You can save your coins for flipping, scratching off lottery tickets or pretending to find behind children's ears.

    That's because of these green stickers that perhaps you've seen stuck to the front of campus parking meters this summer, which a tipster asked about:

    From in front of the KU student recreation center.

    From in front of the KU student recreation center. by Matt Erickson

    The stickers mean that you can use a service to pay for the meters electronically, using a credit card, from your phone. The service, called Parkmobile, has a smartphone app you can use to pay, or you can use the actual phone part of your cellphone to pay, using the phone number listed there.

    To do that, you have to register an account with the company, giving it your license plate number and a credit card on file. Then, enter the number on the sticker, or scan the QR code shown, to let it know where you're parking.

    "We were looking for a way to make it easier for people to buy some time," said Donna Hultine, director of KU Parking and Transit. She said the service is not active yet at KU, but it will be by the time the fall semester begins, on Aug. 26. The stickers are coming to all of the campus's long-term parking meters, the biggest concentration of which is near the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center and the Watkins Memorial Health Center.

    As visitor parking rates on the campus have risen over time, parking meters have experienced less use, Hultine said.

    In August 2012, the hourly rate — for long-term parking meters or the garages near Allen Fieldhouse and the Kansas Union — rose to $1.50. (Starting Aug. 1, the rate in the garages will rise to $1.75 for the first hour and $1.50 per hour afterward.)

    That money goes to fund staffing and maintenance for Parking and Transit, such as the resurfacing of the lot across from KU's engineering buildings this summer. (That lot, by the way, will now have permeable pavement that will allow water runoff to go into underground retention areas, helping to create a rain garden on one end.)

    "We've got a lot of crumbling asphalt across campus," Hultine said.

    But Hultine hopes the new electronic system will encourage more people to use the meters, even if they don't have six quarters jingling around in their pockets.

    The service will also notify you when your meter's about to expire with a text message providing a 15-minute warning, Hultine said. You can extend the meter from your phone, wherever you are.

    You will, though, have to pay a 35-cent fee for each transaction. That's the Parkmobile company's cut of the deal; the actual parking fare will still go to KU. And people can still feed the meters with coins if they like.

    "I just really hope that it helps people to avoid getting tickets," Hultine said.

    Parking and Transit will also use the technology to open an entire new lot, the one just east of Memorial Stadium, to visitors (lot No. 94 on this map). Right now that lot is available only with a campus permit during the day, but starting in August visitors will be able to use the Parkmobile service to park there using a virtual meter. KU won't even have to install any physical meters, which Hultine said cost about $600 a pop.

    Hultine said KU might do that with more permit-only lots in the future, too.

    KU will be the first place to use the service in the state of Kansas, said Tina Dyer, a Parkmobile spokeswoman. You can also use the service in some privately owned lots in Kansas City, Mo.

    The company started in Europe in 1999 as a call-in service, and it opened its U.S. operation in 2008, based in Atlanta. It's expanded rapidly in the past two years, Dyer said, spreading to a lot of college campuses.

    "It's perfect in a university setting," Dyer said, "especially because most of the kids have smartphones."

    Amazing what you can do from your phone these days. You can also use it to send a KU news tip to — and there's no fee, if you send it today! (Or at any later time.)

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    KU budget deleted scenes: school-by-school cuts and a possible hours reduction at Watson Library

    Over the weekend, we updated you on how KU is dealing with, and worrying about, its state funding cuts this year. These two bits didn't quite fit in that story, but they might be interesting for folks on the hill:

    • If you read the story, you saw that the KU administration told the different academic units on the Lawrence campus to cut their budgets by varying percentages.

    Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs, told me the higher-ups determined the percentages based on the different schools' research productivity and on whether their enrollment was growing or declining. (Research was the bigger part of the equation, accounting for two-thirds of the calculation.)

    The better each school was doing in those areas, Caboni said, the smaller the cut it received (at least by percentage). He said the administration did it this way to preserve what it considers most important, and that leaders hope it will serve as a "motivator" for schools to improve in those areas.

    Anyway, because of all that, it might be interesting to see the full list of percentage cuts by school. Here you go, starting with the highest:

    -School of Journalism: 0.97 percent

    -School of Music: 0.89 percent

    -School of Business: 0.87 percent

    -College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: 0.84 percent

    -School of Social Welfare: 0.82 percent

    -School of Architecture, Design and Planning: 0.72 percent

    -School of Pharmacy: 0.69 percent

    -School of Education: 0.6 percent

    -School of Law: 0.45 percent

    -School of Engineering: 0.4 percent

    • One academic unit I left out of that list was the KU Libraries, because I'm giving it its own little section here. The libraries' cut was the same by percentage as the CLAS, 0.84 percent, and because of their sizable budget, they had one of the biggest cuts in terms of dollar amounts, at more than $100,000. (The College's cut, about $900,000, would dwarf all others on that list.)

    I was curious how a cut like that might affect the libraries. The most noticeable effect for a lot of folks on campus could be a reduction in hours at KU's second most popular library, Watson Library.

    Rebecca Smith, an executive director for the libraries, said leaders were considering closing Watson at midnight each weeknight instead of 3 a.m., allowing for a staff reduction. So if that's your go-to late-night study spot, you may have to find a new one. They haven't made a final decision on that, though.

    The main way the libraries will deal with the cuts is to leave some vacant positions unfilled, Smith said. That means there will be fewer librarians available to do things like training students on research, helping faculty gather information and archiving KU research. (Smith noted that an academic library these days is far from just a "book depository.")

    To me, anyway, the ways that this year's budget cuts will show up in the lives of people on campus are more interesting than percentages or dollar amounts, so let us know if you see a way that's happening. And get those KU news tips to

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    KU researchers hope to draw attention to financial-aid ideas in Washington next week

    There's a chance you could see some KU researchers in the news on Monday, when a group of KU social welfare researchers is going to present a report about financial aid in Washington, D.C., with the help of the policy group the New America Foundation.

    More details will be in their report, but I wrote about the group, the Assets and Education Initiative, earlier this year. The idea these KU researchers advocate, and what I imagine they'll be pitching in their first biannual report next week, is that America would be better off if it focused financial aid for college students less on loans and more on government-funded savings accounts that would be created at birth.

    When I talked with the initative's director, William Elliott, about what to expect, he noted that this will be happening while financial aid is a frequent subject in the news, thanks to the recent doubling of subsidized federal student loan rates. For him and his colleagues, he said the aim would be to shift that conversation to the bigger picture, asking if student loans are really the best way to make higher education more accessible in the first place.

    "There are different ways of thinking about the college debt situation, and how we can potentially maximize the dollars that we're already spending," Elliott said.

    He says people should think not just about providing aid so students can attend college — they should think about providing aid that will help students be more successful in college and in their lives afterward. And his research has suggested that college savings accounts for children, even ones smaller than $500, would do just that.

    Elliott says a contingent of four people from KU will spend Monday in Washington rolling out their report and hoping to draw some media coverage, and on Tuesday they'll meet with some U.S. senators and their staffs.

    Your KU news tips are like a college savings account for me: They correlate strongly with my future success. So send 'em to

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