An alumna who for years has dreamed of a career in foreign service took a giant step toward fulfilling that goal in December when she was named the University’s third Charles B. Rangel Fellow. Lilah Wilder, an Overland Park native, will receive up to $106,000 to prepare her for a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
A recent graduate who earned degrees in French and global & international studies with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, Wilder has interned at the U.S. Department of State, where her proficiency in French and Arabic aided public diplomacy efforts with visitors from the Middle East and Africa.
“I’ve always been curious about other cultures, and I have sought out opportunities to learn about other people and their ways of doing things,” Wilder, c’20, told KU News Service. “No matter where we come from, there are universal joys that we share in our common humanity, such as art, sports, music and movies. We can use these things as tools in diplomacy to find common ground with each other.”
Wilder enriched her studies at KU by participating in the Honors Program, Global Scholars Program, Global Awareness Program and the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Program for Arabic study. She also studied abroad in Morocco and in France and went to Taiwan on the Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship Program. Wilder worked closely with KU’s Office of Fellowships during the Rangel application process.
As a Rangel Fellow, Wilder will receive support for a two-year master’s degree in a field of study that relates to foreign service, as well as internships and other training opportunities. She is assured a five-year contract as a foreign service officer when she graduates from the program.
The fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University. Past KU recipients include Constanza Castro, c’19, in 2018 and Catalina Wedman, c’20, in 2019.
Toland becomes Kansas Lt. Governor
David Toland, c’99, g’01, was sworn in as lieutenant governor Jan. 4 in Topeka. Toland will also continue his role as secretary of commerce, in which he has served under Gov. Laura Kelly since January 2019.
The Iola native was founding CEO of Thrive Allen County, a nonprofit community group that promotes economic development, health care access and healthy lifestyles in the southeastern Kansas county, where Toland’s family has lived for seven generations [“Thrive Where You’re Sown,” issue No. 3, 2018]. As commerce secretary, he has overseen rebuilding of the state’s economic development office, with an emphasis on international business recruitment, broadband development and the launch of a new strategic planning process. Toland and his team have also helped lead Kelly’s campaign to foster economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toland succeeds Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, who was appointed state treasurer by Kelly after Jake LaTurner was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Toland is presumed to be Kelly’s running mate when she stands for re-election in 2022.
At the state capitol ceremony, Toland credited Iola for providing “a rich childhood and grounding in what it meant to be a member of a community” and credited his parents, Clyde, c’69, l’75, and Nancy Hummel Toland, g’74, for their decision to raise their children in Iola “because of the quality of the people—the supportive, nurturing people who for generations have made investments in education. In economic development. In parks, libraries and museums. Investments by people, in people.”
Calling Toland “one of Kansas’ best and brightest,” Kelly praised his work as commerce secretary to provide critical help to small businesses and to rebuild the state’s global recruiting programs. “He is a smart and dynamic leader,” she said, “and is ready to step up on day one to help our administration drive our economic recovery and keep Kansans healthy.”
Sonnet for scholars
Mindie Miller Paget, c’99, g’01, director of external affairs for the Office of Research, in December composed a sonnet to honor those who pursue discoveries. Her rhymes bear repeating:
Before the virus changed the way we live,
You taught and learned and probed without refrain.
Like protons charged to take less than you give,
Your revelations easing human strain.
In archives, labs and field sites you explored,
With cures, connections, knowledge as your goal.
Your passion to your vision kept you moored;
Your curiosity fed full your soul.
Then COVID placed a detour in your path,
Its toll profound both here and ’round the earth.
With care and caution you have met its wrath,
Your innovation leading to rebirth.
So long as KU stands upon this hill,
We’re Jayhawks and the world can’t break our will.
Jayhawk’s passion for biodiesel fuels leadership role on national board
Leo Budy, a Kansas City, Kansas, senior in chemical engineering, is among four U.S. students chosen to lead the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (NGSB), a national program that fosters professional relationships between budding and established scientists, shares information and increases collaboration between academia and the biodiesel industry.
Budy fired his interest in biodiesel with the KU Biodiesel Initiative, a student-run operation that turns used cooking oil from campus kitchens into fuel for mowers, trucks and other diesel equipment on Mount Oread. Founded and directed by Susan Williams, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr professor and chair of chemical and petroleum engineering, the Biodiesel Initiative gives students freedom to steer the program’s research and production goals.
“Students have huge input, and it’s extremely hands-on, in the sense that all the equipment we use, the reactors we use, we mostly built them ourselves,” Budy says. “I’m a hugely tactile learner, and it was really awesome for me to get in there and literally get my hands dirty.”
As an NGSB leader, Budy helps organize events for the National Biodiesel Board, including its annual convention in January. He and fellow students also help the organization in its mission to boost production of a sustainable energy source.
“As we strive for our goal of 6 billion gallons of biomass-related diesel by 2030, which would double our industry’s current production, science will play a vital role,” says Donnell Rehagen, the board’s CEO. “Our four new co-chairs bring diverse and promising research, as well as exciting outreach experience to NGSB.”
Budy has experience in both areas. Last spring he completed a research project that used soybean hulls, a waste product, as an absorbent in the biodiesel production process. He has also worked to generate enthusiasm for biodiesel among Kansas students. For inspiration, he looked to the lab in the School of Engineering’s Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center, where spent cooking oil in 55-gallon drums is transformed into biodiesel and delivered to Facilities Services within a week.
“Being able to see it, to have it be something totally tangible that we can see being used and see the value we’re creating, that feels really good,” Budy says.
The production process itself is pretty basic—“It’s a fairly simple reaction, but it really is great for applying a lot of the fundamentals of chemical engineering and process engineering that we’re learning in class,” he says—but the potential payoffs reach far beyond campus.
“For me personally, it ticks all the boxes: I love the engineering aspect of it, I love the fact that it’s environmentally positive,” Budy says, “but it’s also regionally important to me. I’m a proud Kansan, and a lot of our support for this comes from our Kansas soybean farmers. To have some of the best students from KU going into biofuels would be great for the industry, and to keep that industry growing would be fantastic for Kansas farmers.”
Photograph by Steve Puppe
For art’s sake
Rather than losing her museum’s beloved holiday tour tradition, Saralyn Reece Hardy, c’76, g’94, Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum of Art, rallied faculty, staff and museum aficionados for an “outdoor exploration of art.” The Jan. 10 event featured serenades by University Carillonneur Elizabeth Berghout, g’97, DMA’01; a discussion of Elden Tefft’s magnificent Campanile doors, led by Tefft biographer Craig Voorhees, c’76; a sunset stroll through Marvin Grove; and the debut of dramatic new lighting, by KU Endowment’s Clint Paugh, on the museum’s exterior Louise Nevelson sculpture. The Spencer is open to visitors Thursdays through Sundays; required reservations can be made at spencerart.ku.edu.