2024 Presenters

We’ve got a great starting lineup of speakers for 2024 Mini College, with more to come. Here are the confirmed presenters so far:

Prof. John Symons will lecture on the social, technological and existential concerns surrounding artificial intelligence. Symons is a professor in KU’s Philosophy Department and director of the Center for Cyber Social Dynamics. “These days,” he says, “I’m especially interested in the philosophy of technology.”

Dr. Bruce Frey, who entertained us with a presentation on the history of comic books in 2022, will return to lecture on bubblegum music. “Bubblegum music is difficult to define and is often misunderstood,” Dr. Frey says. “Classically, it refers to simple, unsophisticated, catchy pop music from the late 1960s. Most bubblegum music was produced by bands that didn’t exist, like The Monkees, The Archies, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.”

Dr. Frey teaches statistics and research methods in KU’s School of Education and Human Sciences. In his spare time, he collects comic books and has a podcast, Echo Valley, that celebrates bubblegum music.

Sean Swindler, project manager of KU’s Center on Developmental Disabilities, and Dr. Kathryn Unruh, an assistant research professor at the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART), will speak on autism. Swindler is the director of community program development and evaluation at K-CART.  Dr. Unruh is co-leader of the Biobehavioral Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopment disabilities (BRAIN) laboratory.

Joe Walden, an associate teaching professor in analytics, information and operations management at KU, will lecture on “Modern Day Slavery in the Supply Chain.” Prof. Walden, who has written extensively on the subject, estimates the number of workers living in slavery conditions to be between 17 and 21 million worldwide. In the U.S., it is a contributing – albeit camouflaged – component of the supply chain, he says.

Prof. Walden has more than 45 years of experience in supply chain management as a soldier, consultant, practitioner and educator. He has been at KU since 2009. Prior to that, he served more than 26 years in the U.S. Army and worked as a consultant and training developer. He designed and operated the distribution system for Operation Iraqi Freedom, including designing and operating a 4.2-million-square-foot distribution center in Kuwait. He was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Supply and Demand Chain Executive Magazine for his career in supply chain management. He was previously awarded the 2004 Practitioner of the Year and in 2003 was selected one of the top “20 Supply Chain and Logistics Executives” worldwide. In addition, he is a world champion powerlifter with more than 60 world records.

Prof. Lisa McLendon, whose four prior appearances at Mini College have drawn rave reviews, will lecture on “Punctuation: The Road Signs of Writing,” a subject you only thought was boring. English has a wealth of punctuation marks. We’ll take a look at what they are, how they work, where they come from and some tricky areas surrounding these characters that run along the outer rows of our keyboards.

Prof. McLendon joined KU as the coordinator of the Bremner Editing Center in August 2012. She spent seven years as the deputy news desk chief at the Wichita Eagle. She launched her journalism career on the copy desk at the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle after earning a doctorate in Slavic Linguistics from the University of Texas. She has taught news editing at the University of North Texas, Friends University in Wichita, and Wichita State University. Prof. McLendon is a member of the American Copy Editors Society and has presented numerous sessions at national and regional ACES conferences, on topics such as grammar, punctuation, headlines and math. She is the author of “The Perfect English Grammar Workbook,” published in 2017. She loves linguistic humor, proper use of the verb “comprise,” and numbers that add up.

Jason Booker and Megan Walawender will lecture on “The Changing Landscape in College Athletics.” This presentation will cover the changes in college athletics focusing on the intersection of these areas: Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) — what it is, how Kansas Athletics has approached NIL and the variety of the issues surrounding name, image and likeness; an overview of recent and pending litigation related to college athletics that will shape the future (from antitrust cases related to NCAA rules to FLSA actions to National Labor Relations Board cases seeking employee status for student-athletes); and other areas impacting KU college athletics, such as sports wagering and construction projects.

Booker is Kansas Athletics’ deputy athletics director for external affairs and revenue generation. He comes to KU after serving as the senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales for the Kansas City Royals since 2014. Booker brings more than 24 years of professional experience with him back to Lawrence. Prior to joining the Royals, he served as the executive director and general manager for Jayhawk IMG Sports Marketing for seven years. In this role, he oversaw the day to day corporate partnership program and operation functions with the University of Kansas including the Jayhawk Radio and TV Networks.

Walawender began working with Kansas Athletics as associate athletics director for legal affairs in 2018. She is also a senior associate general counsel in the University’s General Counsel’s Office, where she began in April 2016. Though primarily working in Athletics, she maintains duties with the University in this role. When she was in a full-time capacity in the General Counsel’s office, she handled litigation matters on behalf of the University across all campuses. This year she will finish serving on the Kansas Continuing Legal Education Commission board, following a six-year appointment. Before coming to KU, Walawender was a partner at a Kansas City law firm, specializing in employment law and in litigation related to statutory, tort, and contract actions.

Hannes Zacharias, an assistant professor of practice in KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, will speak on “Rediscovering the Arkansas River.” The Arkansas River pierces the heart of America, stretching 1,469 miles from the Tennessee Pass in Colorado to the Mississippi River at the eastern edge of Arkansas. As the nation’s sixth-longest river (45th longest in the world), it is both the economic engine and burden to millions of people and scores of cities bordering its banks. This presentation will examine the impact this wild, elusive, and embattled river has had on cities, towns, and adjacent farmland, from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to today.

Zacharias has been teaching about the river for Osher and Humanities Kansas for the last several years using two kayak trips down the Arkansas River in 1976 and 2018 as background.

Prof. Robert C. (Robin) Rowland, who has spoken at nearly all of our previous gatherings, will lecture on “The Evolution of Ronald Reagan’s Cold War Rhetoric.” Dr. Rowland teaches rhetoric and argumentation at KU. He has won several national awards for his research and has published four University Press of Kansas books, one of which won the Kohrs-Campbell Prize in rhetorical criticism. His most recent book, “The Rhetoric of Donald Trump,” was published in 2021. As a KU student in 1976, Dr. Rowland and his debate colleague won the National Debate Tournament.

Dr. Paul Laird, who delivered a lively lecture on the life and music of George Gershwin at Mini College in 2022, and another on Leonard Bernstein last year, will entertain us with a presentation on Johann Sebastian Bach.

Dr. Laird holds two degrees from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has taught at KU for nearly 30 years and offered many classes through the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning since its inception at KU. Laird is a leading scholar on the American musical theater. His latest book is a study of the orchestration of West Side Story and Gypsy.