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University Relations

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May 2, 2006
Contact: Mary Christine Banwart, communication studies, (785) 864-5681.

Four KU students testify on deferred maintenance to Kansas legislators

LAWRENCE — Four University of Kansas students met April 21 with three Kansas legislators at the state Capitol in Topeka to address the multimillion-dollar deferred building maintenance needs at Kansas Board of Regents universities.

The students, who are in a Thematic Learning Communities program titled Leadership and Politics, outlined the problems that can occur when public universities in Kansas don’t have enough resources to maintain deteriorating buildings, infrastructure and equipment, said Mary Christine Banwart, assistant professor of communication studies and program facilitator. The students spoke for 15 minutes. A question and answer session took another 45 minutes.

Christopher Davies, Topeka freshman; Kelsey Hayes, Lenexa sophomore; Christopher Hickerson, Wichita freshman; and Lucas Lux, Topeka freshman, met with Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, and Reps. Paul Douglas, D-Lawrence, and Stephanie Sharp, R-Lenexa. Schmidt’s office coordinated the students’ visit. Douglas is a member of the taxation committee; Sharp is a member of the higher education committee.

Thematic Learning Communities is an academic program designed for first-time freshmen. Students enroll in two core courses and a seminar course that focus on a particular theme. Eighteen students researched higher education funding during the fall semester. The four who met with legislators chose to follow their fall research semester with an applied learning option in the spring.

“Deferred maintenance is one of the most important and most pressing higher education budget issues,” Banwart said. “The state owns the university buildings, and this is an issue that most directly affects the students. For every point they made, they had specific examples and photos to show. They urged the Legislature to remain attentive to it and not wait to further address the problems as they emerge.”

Warren Corman, university architect and special assistant to Chancellor Robert Hemenway, provided extensive background for the students, including Davies, his grandson. Kate Wolff, constituent services liaison to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, spoke to the class about communicating on legislative issues.

Three KU administrators reviewed the students’ presentation as they prepared for the Topeka meeting: Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, associate vice provost for student success; Mary Ann Rasnak, director of disability resources; and Keith Yehle, director of governmental relations. Advisers for the class are Linda Luckey, acting director of the Center for Service Learning and assistant to the senior vice provost; Jackson Sellers, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America volunteer; and Linda Dixon, associate program director for Thematic Learning Communities. Blair Thompson, Norman, Okla., senior, is the peer educator for the Politics and Leadership program.

Banwart said the legislators suggested the group return to make a presentation to a full committee for official testimony at a yet-to-be-scheduled time.

Students are listed below by name, hometown, major and level in school, parents and high school attended.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Lenexa
Kelsey Hayes, sophomore in political science and pre-journalism, daughter of Monte and Terri Hayes; Shawnee Mission West High School.

SEDGWICK COUNTY
From Wichita (ZIP 67212)
Christopher Hickerson, freshman in pre-journalism, son of Roger and Linda Hickerson; Maize High School.

SHAWNEE COUNTY
From Topeka
Christopher Davies, freshman in political science, son of Traci Davies-Miller Corman; Topeka West High School.

Lucas Lux, freshman in political science and pre-law, son of Beckie Lux; Topeka High School.

OKLAHOMA
From Broken Arrow and Norman
Blair Thompson, student peer educator and senior in communications studies and English, daughter of Bill Thompson, Broken Arrow, and Teresa Thompson, Norman; Norman High School North.

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