Sarah Deer’s mother was a teacher. Her father was a teacher, a lawyer, and a judge. Her grandfather was a lifelong activist and the first Native American to be elected to the Kansas Legislature.
“The rebel inside me didn’t want to follow in my family’s footsteps,” Deer says.
However, like her parents, she decided to attend KU. And today, she is a teacher. A lawyer. An honored activist.
Deer received a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, or “genius grant” for her work. Currently a law professor at William Mitchell College, she earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy and women’s studies in 1995 and her juris doctorate from the KU School of Law in 1999.
She credits the legislative and judicial background
“I think what the MacArthur
offers to anyone who receives
it is creativity. It means I need to
continue to push myself and
continue to think outside the box.”
— Sarah Deer, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
with pushing her to pursue her career in teaching and legal activism.
“I’m proud that I ended up in KU law and am teaching today,” she says.
Courage to Fight
As an undergraduate at KU, Deer worked first-hand with survivors of assault through a rape crisis center in Lawrence. The level of trauma she witnessed drove her to look at assault as a legal issue, which then pushed her into law school. But it wasn’t until her second year at KU Law — the second day of class — that her interest in tribal law began.
“I remember going into Federal Indian law and not knowing what to expect,” she says. “When we started talking about the first decisions of the Supreme Court —those that dehumanized tribes and insulted them and judged them and talked about conquest — I thought, well, there’s a real parallel here between what tribal nations have experienced and what Native women have experienced.
“So, on the second day of that class, I was hooked.”
Deer spearheaded a report for Amnesty International, Maze of Injustice, which drew attention to sexual violence against Indigenous women.
“A lot of people said that the things that we wanted to change in the law would never politically work — there was just no way Congress would pass these kinds of laws. But we didn’t listen to them,” she says.
Within hours after Maze of Injustice was released, she was contacted by legislators on Capitol Hill. “I didn’t expect change to come quite that quickly,” she says. “But it was validating. When you work in an area of trauma and pain, having some uplifting moments keeps people motivated.”
Deer’s report spurred two important pieces of legislation for Indians: the Tribal Law and Order Act in 2010 and the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Both gave tribal nations more rights to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes within tribal communities.
Sarah’s father, Montie Deer, was appointed District Court Judge in Wichita in the early 1980s. He is believed to be the first Native American judge in Sedgwick County.
Sarah Deer with a photo of her great-grandfather, William Deer.
562 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States.
229 of them are in Alaska.
Source: National Congress of American Indians
The Road Ahead
As a MacArthur Fellow, Deer will receive a $625,000 stipend — with no stipulations — to follow her vision for protecting Native American culture.
“What the MacArthur offers is creativity,” she says. “It lifts some of the burden of being a day-to-day employee of an organization and says, ‘Let’s give you a little relief from that so that you can spend more time on this innovative work that you do.’”
Deer plans to continue teaching at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, but she will also pursue additional interests about her own tribe during her summer breaks.
“I can use the MacArthur Fellowship to facilitate a long-term relationship with my contacts in Oklahoma, possibly building up more of a language centerpoint for the people I work with,” Deer says. A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, she is currently learning to speak the Muscogee language.“Only about 500 speakers are left and most of them are over the age of 60. There’s both that urgency in the sense of saving this language from extinction as well as all of the lessons and epistemological knowledge that comes through language.”
Deer also intends to work toward improving tribal laws in Alaska next, citing that Alaskan tribes are at risk due to the lack of congressional and legal aid.
Ryan Limbocker has set his sights on a big goal: easing the suffering caused by neurodegenerative diseases.
His ambition, honed in both the classroom and the lab, earned him the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the prestigious award given to undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Limbocker, a senior chemistry major from Overland Park, Kansas, was one of 283 students in the nation to receive the scholarship, which covers up to $7,500 annually in undergraduate school expenses.
After earning his undergraduate degree, Limbocker will pursue a doctorate degree to continue studying neurodegeneration, focusing on post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment, Huntington's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
A fairy tale like “The Princess and the Pea” may be just a bedtime story to some, but to Alison Christy it’s a practical lesson for research in the classroom.
Christy, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Theatre, worked with undergraduate students on a semester-long project that asked students to revisit, rethink, and retell fairy tales after doing their own research.
The project is part of the Graduate Research Consultant Program, which supports instructors in bringing research into the classroom and empowering undergraduate students to view research in a new way. Christy’s students nurtured their creativity and responsibility through personal research to create a nontraditional piece of theater.
“Our students were excited about the idea, but for them, research was a solitary activity done with books and culminating in a written document,” Christy says. “This project asked them to integrate information from both written documents and their performance training to produce a final presentation.”
The effect of The Bold Aspirations strategic plan — now in its fourth year — is evident across campus: in the classroom, in the admissions office, even on a student’s first day on the Hill.
A student does poorly on a class assignment and his professor raises an early warning flag in the MySuccess program. His advisor gets an email on the advising computer dashboard, immediately contacts the student, and gets to the bottom of the problem.
Another student fails to register for next term’s classes. The advising dashboard alerts her advisor — who immediately gives her a call. Did she just forget, or are academic or personal reasons making her rethink her plans?
If the advising dashboard indicates a student’s low class attendance, the advisor asks a peer advisor to contact him — a Housing staff member will even knock on his door if necessary — and find out how they can help.
“We are using all the information at our disposal to reach out to students,” says Randall Brumfield, director of the Undergraduate Advising Center.
the highest graduation rate
among Kansas Regents
— The university’s new
90/70 plan sets a goal of 90 percent
first-year retention rate and 70 percent
six-year graduation rate by 2022.
The new data visualization software, Tableau, gathers data from MySuccess, Housing, Enroll & Pay, and other programs across campus and immediately displays the first signs that a student needs additional assistance. With this information at their fingertips, advisors and peer advisors can reach out, identify the problem, and find the resources the student needs.
Finding their place
Entering KU as an undecided major is not unusual — and it’s not a problem. But undecided majors may not find an immediate network of support, and they may not know exactly what courses to take their first semester.
The Office of First-Year Experience has the answer: University 101.
The course introduces students to experiential learning, explains the advantages of the KU Core curriculum, and — through small class sizes and individual attention — helps students find their place at KU.
Students and UNIV 101 instructors often form a close connection, one that continues past the end of the semester. The instructor is sometimes the first one students turn to for advice and support throughout their college years.
Because students who find success at KU are more likely to stay, First-Year Experience has ramped up programs like UNIV 101 by using standardized year-round training for instructors and changing how they promote the course to incoming students.
Sure, KU still has lecture halls — but it also creates more and more technology-rich classrooms that let students interact directly with their instructors and collaborate with other students.
These classrooms also promote project-based, active learning with low-tech elements such as U-shaped tables, rolling chairs, and walls lined with whiteboards.
In 4066 Wescoe, students, working in groups or individually, access Spanish-language websites, exchange information, react to the material, and create brief presentations for the rest of the class. “The technology facilitates the students’ interaction with authentic materials in Spanish,” says Amy Rossomondo, associate professor and director of the Spanish Language Program. “It then allows us to support their comprehension and the development of speaking and writing skills.”
Rossomondo finds that this method supports comprehension and the development of speaking and writing skills.
UNIV 101 enrolls 200 more students than it did two years ago.
The new Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships awarded $25,000 stipends to six promising doctoral students within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Four students won Fulbright awards for research and study for 2014-15.
Every 2014 aerospace engineering graduate was part of at least one award-winning team in AIAA international design competitions — a first in KU and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics history.
KU’s new School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures offers 20 degree programs and 25 languages — providing richer global experiences for our students.
When KU architecture students needed a lecture space, they did what comes naturally: They built it themselves.
The Forum, an addition to the century-old Marvin Hall, is an innovative space where students and faculty gather to exchange ideas and showcase their work. It includes common areas and something the architecture building has never had before — an auditorium.
On the north side of the auditorium, Marvin’s exterior limestone wall is still exposed, while the east, south, and west sides feature a glass “ventilated wall.” Two thick layers of insulated glass help both heat and cool the building, while cedar louvers help control the amount of sunlight that comes into the space. The design admits fresh air to maintain the temperature while using little energy.
“This building opens doors to new possibilities for the students, for the school, for research,” says David Versteeg, one of the students involved in the design and construction of the Forum. “I have a feeling many interesting things will come because of it.”
Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas is helping KU achieve its bold aspirations.
The record $253.2 million donated to KU Endowment for the benefit of the University of Kansas in FY 2014 proves that KU alumni and friends believe in the campaign’s goals: to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery, and drive economic growth.
As the 2016 finish line approaches, Far Above’s focus is on enhancing scholarships and fellowships, as well as faculty support. To date, donors have created more than 530 scholarships and about 30 new professorships. It’s a great start, but only a beginning. The university’s people are its most precious resource — they comprise the essence, and the measure, of its mission.
Far Above is both a physical description and a symbol of expectations. With the generosity and support of KU’s donors, the university will thrive — because great universities never rest.
Can a hashtag influence customer service? How does online interaction compare to face-to-face experience? What role does social media play in brand building? The answers to these questions, asked by KU’s new Center for Integrated Customer Experience, may change the way we do business across the globe.
The School of Business — along with Cerner Corp., Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and The University of Kansas Hospital — launched the research initiative this fall. The center will learn more about today’s customer, the best communication strategies for businesses, and consumer preferences.
With the help of the company partners, the center will capitalize on the school’s research capabilities — including students in the MBA program — to address real-world concerns facing today’s businesses. Cerner will offer two research fellowships to MBA students. Hill’s and the hospital will each offer one.
The center’s directors are Kissan Joseph, professor of business, and Alan Halfen, a research and teaching fellow in business (marketing) and geography.
"The options that firms have to communicate and connect with their customers are increasing," Joseph says. "It’s not only print but websites and social media. Customers are getting more information, and they are more demanding about the service experience."
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 50 students, faculty, and staff from the School of the Arts built a sculpture that represents the industriousness, productivity, and cooperation of the Fed employees who work together each day toward a common vision. A piece of artwork commissioned through KU is a complex balance of pedestals, found objects, and materials like wood, clay, and fibers.
The project was secured by Matthew Burke, associate professor of visual art, who also was the lead researcher and instructor. Because the course developed over four semesters, students had the opportunity to think within the parameters of the project and to develop art that meets a client’s expectations — all within the Fed’s budget.
The sculpture — An Abounding Asset: A Diligent Reserve — is a honeycomb of 55 hexagonal pedestals resembling a bee colony. Each pedestal holds beehive sculptures of ceramic, wood, plastic, glass, paper, and metal, 186 in all. And each beehive is designed using objects donated by staff — including an adding machine, a stamp marked “restricted,” and mundane office supplies — that represent the 100-year history of the Fed.
The sculpture, which was developed over four semesters, gave students the opportunity to think within the parameters of the project and to develop art that meets a client’s expectations — all within the Fed’s budget.
Thanks to the versatile design of the sculpture, Fed branches in Denver, Oklahoma City, and Omaha display smaller groupings of the artwork.
“The personalities in the artwork are what make this so interesting and attractive,” says Pete Wolken, a metalsmithing major. He contributed seven of his own pieces to the sculpture, one of which featured a basketball trophy from a Fed employee. “I got to meet him at the unveiling and he was pleased with how the artwork turned out.”