May 10, 2004

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Contact: Dan Lara, University Relations, (785) 864-8855.

At KU commencement, mother and daughter to share walk down the Hill

LAWRENCE -- Ingrid Peterson has walked by the same vending machine near her office in Strong Hall many times in the past few years. The machine has a large picture of graduation day at the University of Kansas. Black-clad graduates form a long line, surrounded by family and friends, that winds down the Hill to Memorial Stadium.

Every time Ingrid, director of KU's Kansas Algebra Program, sees the machine, it reminds her of a long-sought goal: completing her doctorate in mathematics education.

Ingrid will receive her degree this month. But the image on the vending machine is not the most important motivating factor in her drive to finish this spring. Her daughter, Emily Peterson, Lenexa senior, also will graduate with bachelor's degrees in journalism and psychology. They both will participate in the university's 132nd annual commencement ceremony on May 23 at Memorial Stadium.

"Walking down the Hill together was incentive for her to finish her doctorate this year," Emily said.

Ingrid never even would have considered participating in commencement ceremonies, if not for her daughter, she said. Now they say they may break with the tradition of graduates' marching down the Hill with their respective schools to walk together and share a moment years in the making.

For Ingrid, the journey began in 1996. She lives in Lenexa with her husband, David Peterson, son Mike (now a junior at KU) and daughter Emily, and served as assistant director of a program for beginning algebra classes at KU. The intensity of the work on her degree would vary to meet the responsibilities of family and career. She was promoted to director of the Kansas Algebra Program in 2000.

"There were times when I would let up on my studies," Ingrid said. "When I got the full-time director position, that forced me to back off a little on my studies."

Despite the demands of her schedule, in the past couple of years a more stable workload allowed her to finish her dissertation, which she defended on April 28.

Meanwhile, Emily chose KU over Kansas State University, where her father had attended, because she loved the atmosphere at KU, Lawrence was closer to home and she liked the idea of having her mother working on campus. She started her freshman year in fall 2000.

"It's been really special for me to drop into her office and see her, go out to lunch and just see how things are going," Emily said. "I talked to her about my classes and things happening on campus. She was in tune with what was going on."

And not many parents get the chance to work where they can see their children regularly, Ingrid said.

Although Emily had taken some psychology courses in high school, she also was interested in journalism. Her journalism degree has an emphasis in strategic communications. Last summer she interned at the Overland Park Convention Center and Knox Creative, an advertising agency in Kansas City, Mo. This semester, she interned with Access KC, a corporate event planning company, in Overland Park while finishing her last psychology course at KU.

"I lucked out with my internships," she said. "They definitely helped me get a leg up. I've been having fun this semester, taking only one class, but now it's time to make decisions again."

Those decisions will be welcome ones, however. Emily has received two job offers from Kansas City area companies. In addition, she is engaged and plans to marry next May.

Coincidentally, the schools of journalism and education have their graduation ceremonies the same day, May 22. The entire Peterson family will be in Lawrence to celebrate the achievements of mother and daughter.

"I'm very proud of Emily," Ingrid said. "We've become really good friends, more than just mother-daughter."

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