May 13, 2004

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Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

42 KU faculty to climb aboard bus for 6-day whirl through Wheat State

LAWRENCE -- Forty-two University of Kansas faculty and staff members will embark on a 1,500-mile, six-day whirlwind tour across the state May 21 and May 24 through 28.

This marks the seventh year that KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway has sponsored the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour of Kansas, primarily to give faculty and staff who are new Kansans an opportunity to learn more about their new home state and fellow Kansans.

Hemenway and Stuart Bell, KU dean of engineering, will join the faculty the night of Tuesday, May 25, in Liberal and will ride the bus to Colby on Wednesday, May 26.

The tour could be called Kansas 101. The clockwise route around the Wheat State will emphasize history and economics. Faculty and staff will travel through about 38 of the state's 105 counties, from Atchison in the northeast to Liberal in the southwest and from Colby in the northwest to Lindsborg and Marquette in north-central Kansas.

Kansans along the route will become teachers for the faculty and staff on the bus.

Those Kansans include Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who plans to meet with the faculty at 7:55 a.m. Monday, May 24, as they visit the state Capitol building. After meeting with the governor, the faculty will travel a few blocks to the Monroe Elementary School National Historic Site, 424 S. Kansas Ave., to learn more about the state's role in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Margey Frederick, director of visitor services and special events at KU, and Don Steeples, the McGee distinguished professor of geophysics, organized the 2004 tour.

The Brown v. Board of Education anniversary is one of at least four in Kansas history that the faculty will learn more about en route. On Friday, May 21, they will visit a site near the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers in Atchison County commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Throughout the tour, they will learn of Kansans' plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial, of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established the Kansas and Nebraska territories. On Wednesday, May 26, tour participants will learn about Garden City's 125th anniversary.

Economic development also is a major tour theme. In Wyandotte County, faculty and staff will learn about the economic boom occurring in Kansas City, Kan., with the Village West development and the adjacent Kansas Speedway. Visits to Sedan, Medicine Lodge and Lindsborg will focus on innovative uses of resources to develop tourism markets. A stop in Marquette will feature the McPherson County community's 21st-century homesteading offer to attract new residents.

In Lyon County, tour participants will visit a cattle ranch and in northwest Kansas, a wheat farm in Rooks County, both representative of agriculture's role in the state's economy. Their hosts in Liberal are hoping to guide tour participants to a working oil rig in Seward County to give them a field view of another important resource in the state's economy. In Gray County, they will travel to a wind turbine farm near Montezuma in the state's High Plains region.

To learn about enterprises in rural Kansas with national and international markets, KU faculty and staff will visit DewEze Manufacturing, which produces farm equipment in Harper in south-central Kansas, and a high-tech machine shop with a national customer base in Palco, northwest of Hays. Also in northwest Kansas, they will visit two Plainville firms -- Sticks and Stones, a stonecutting firm, and Dessin-Fournir Furniture, named one of the top three furniture design and manufacturing firms by House and Garden magazine this year.

Traditional tour stops will include a pasture for a buffalo herd in Logan County; Monument Rocks in Gove County; Nicodemus, the first black settlement in Kansas in Graham County; and the Grassroots Arts Center in Russell County.

To prepare for their road trip, the KU faculty and staff met with Mike Hayden, Kansas secretary of wildlife and former governor, and two campus historians in April for an overview of Kansas past, present and future.

Hayden described Kansas as "a vast state with dramatically different landscapes and economies that are undergoing tremendous transformations." Hayden advised the KU faculty to gain a historical perspective to get a feel for the future of Kansas. "You can't possibly know where you are going until you know where you've been," he said.

Contrasting the population growth in Douglas County with population decreases in his home county, Rawlins, in northwest Kansas, Hayden noted that a challenge for educators is to understand the transitions Kansas is experiencing and to equip students to live with change.

Historians Jonathan Earle, KU history department, and Deborah Dandridge, Spencer Research Library at KU, sketched pictures of Kansas' role in the history of race relations, from long before European settlement of the area through the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.

"Kansas has always been in the center of the nation's debate over racial equality," Dandridge said. "It's one of the things that distinguishes Kansas."

A day-by-day itinerary for the tour is online at www.wheatstate.ku.edu/.

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