Magnifying Opportunities

The University of Kansas strives to provide transformative experiences for each and every Jayhawk — students and faculty alike. And when KU programs and research initiatives receive support, knowledge expands. 

Ideas are bigger than one person.Emerging concepts amplify when programs have the resources for students and faculty to collaborate with each other and with peers around the world. Sometimes this requires support for study abroad or to bring an expert to campus; resources to do field research or kick off a new project; or help with expenses so a student can serve others or gain real-world leadership experience. 

Private giving provides the freedom for exploration on campus and beyond. It fuels the ability to be bold in our ideas and approach — that’s how “eureka” moments often happen. Providing the vehicle for innovation is vital to recruit renowned faculty and promising students to KU. As faculty mentors conduct groundbreaking research and share the latest knowledge, they cultivate the scholars and professionals of the future.

These experiences expand horizons, stretch abilities, instill confidence, build career paths and may even lead to discoveries that change our world.

Thanks to Far Above, new doors are opening every day.


Honors students Cody Christensen, Jake Doerr, Sam Eastes and Katherine Wipfli (left to right) have participated in off-campus programs with the help of opportunity awards. Photo by Mark McDonald.


Expanding the student experience

The University Honors Program helps students make the most of their college experience on campus and off. Opportunity awards are among the tools that fuel that success. Far Above support has made possible 16 new funds that enable honors students to experience internships, service learning, study abroad and research. The program more than doubled the awards given to students in the past three years. Just in the 2015–2016 academic year, donors funded 250 student opportunities.



One summer, Jake Doerr worked for a historical society in Cleveland. He followed that with a Coro leadership program in Kansas City, Mo. “It was a great internship to learn how different groups work to gain consensus in the city,” Doerr said. “It inspired me to apply to KU’s Masters in Public Administration program.” Doerr, from Shenandoah, Iowa, graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in public policy. He received the Sailors London Review Award and the Kala Mays Stroup Intern Award.


Service learning

Katherine Wipfli, a junior from Oklahoma City, received an award for an alternative break trip. Her experience took her to Alamosa, Colo., and La Puente Home, a shelter with a children’s program, pantry and transitional housing. The James C. and Julia Markham Piper Fund made it possible. “I really enjoyed it because it was something I wouldn’t get to do on campus,” said Wipfli, who is studying chemical engineering. “I got to work with people in the community, and it was very humbling.”



Cody Christensen’s opportunity award took him to Washington, D.C., for a policy research internship at the Brookings Institution. “I was looking for a little bit of extra funding to help cover the costs of D.C.,” he said. “The scholarship allowed me to focus on the research.” Christensen, a senior from Topeka, Kan., is a School of Education research assistant and received support from the Kala Mays Stroup Intern Award. He is majoring in economics and political science.


Study abroad

Sam Eastes’ education has gone south since coming to KU. Eastes, a senior from Pratt, Kan., received a Young Family Opportunity Award to study abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica this fall. Eastes is majoring in journalism and global and international studies. His goal is to become bilingual and immerse himself in a new culture. “My study abroad opportunity wouldn’t be possible without this help,” he said.
“I’m very grateful.”

The Hall Center connects faculty and students doing research in the humanities. Left to right: Clarence Lang, professor of African and African-American studies and chair of the Hall Center’s Executive Committee; Sarah E. Ngoh, doctoral student and Sias dissertation fellow at the Hall Center; Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center; and Ellen Bertels, undergraduate Hall Center Scholar. Photo by Mark McDonald.


Building connections in the humanities

There’s more than meets the eye behind the arched columns of the Hall Center for the Humanities. A new way of thinking about discovery is unfolding.

Humanists tend to be individual researchers. But Hall Center Director Victor Bailey has made collaboration central to its mission, and private philanthropy is helping pave the way.


Laying a new foundation

A challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, matched by other donors, will assist humanities faculty members conducting innovative research who are willing to collaborate with other faculty, within or outside their disciplines, or even with other organizations. The center also received private backing for a post-doctoral program in the digital humanities. “You can’t do digital humanities without collaborating with librarians and other academics,” Bailey said.

Another impetus for the center has been to bolster support for graduate education in the humanities. The Hall Family Foundation provided seed funds for a program that provides four dissertation fellowships for exceptional students. “The more we can bring in high quality graduate students to KU, the happier the faculty are,” Bailey said.

Opening doors

Private contributions are expanding career options for graduate students through the center’s Applied Humanities program, which helps students land jobs outside of academia by connecting them with employers in other fields. The center also awards 10 scholarships per year to outstanding undergraduate students. It gives them the opportunity to meet and dine with renowned international scholars visiting KU as part of its Humanities Lecture Series.

“There is a strong commitment at KU to the student body, which sets us apart from other large universities,” Bailey said. His work exemplifies this: In addition to running the center and holding the Charles W. Battey Distinguished Professorship of Modern British History, he also teaches a freshman class. 

Bailey’s dedication and leadership have brought global attention to the humanities at KU. This motivated the Hall Family Foundation to permanently endow the directorship of the center to ensure it continues to attract the same caliber of leadership in the future.

The support the Hall Center received during Far Above cemented its stature at the forefront of the humanities and as a point of pride for the university.

Leading the way against Alzheimer’s Disease


As Alzheimer’s robs a mind, it steals a life. It’s a tragic diagnosis that is all too common, with more than 5.4 million Americans suffering from the disease today. Predictions are alarming — by 2050, it’s estimated that 10 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s Disease.

By far the most prevalent form of dementia, Alzheimer’s affects one out of every nine Americans over the age of 65, and one out of every three people over age 85. But that could change, thanks to research into prevention and new treatments at KU Medical Center’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.


A path to prevention

Jeffrey Burns, M.D., co-director of the center, said if the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms could be delayed for five years across the population, the prevalence would decline by 50 percent.

Burns’ research suggests that something as simple as a healthy diet and 75 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise may delay the onset of the disease and slow the progression of brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s patients. Burns recommends that patients “sit less and move more.” And he is quick to add, “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”


Exploring new directions

Center director Russell Swerdlow, M.D., leads the Alzheimer’s Treatment Program. Swerdlow and the other KU researchers belong to an elite network of scientists nationwide who are seeking better ways to prevent, treat and reverse the progression of the disease. Their research is supported in part by federal grants; however, he said private gifts during Far Above were vital to establishing the Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“Philanthropy-supported research differs from grant-supported research,” Swerdlow said. “Philanthropy emboldens you. It lets you take risks and explore new directions. Support from Frank and Evangeline Thompson made all the difference in the world for my Alzheimer’s Treatment Program.” 

The center includes research laboratories, clinical spaces and treatment areas for patients and other volunteers to participate in studies. The center opened in 2011 after earning designation through the National Institute of Health’s Institute on Aging. It is one of only 31 nationally designated centers in the United States.