Thursday, September 6, 2012

The View from The Hill

It's week three of my gig as Executive In Residence at the University of Kansas Journalism School and there are some definite impressions I've gathered which I want to share with you, my faithful audience.

Before we begin, let me state again just how surreal this is--spending time in the building where I had many a class during my tenure "back in the day" as a J-School student in the Public Relations sequence.  That sequence has gone away, replaced now by the overarching track of Strategic Communications and the sister track, on the News-Editorial side, which is aptly named "News-Ed."

One thing that immediately strikes anyone of age 40+ who sets foot on campus is the proliferation of ear buds attached to the heads of students walking to and fro on Mt. Oread.  The ubiquitous white cords attached to an Apple product are peeking out of backpacks or hands of students, heads bowed as they peruse all of the functionality of their precious iPhone or iTouch.  A few headphones are seen now and then, usually a staple of athletes typically sporting togs with adidas and KU branding.  It seems, to this old fogey, that today's student can't go anywhere without music providing a daily soundtrack.

Another observation is the disdain that students have for the lesson learned when they were young, i.e., "be sure and look both ways!" before crossing the street.  Look?  Why!?  These kids simply step out, whether due to distraction from the omnipresent ear bud attachments and/or given their expectation that no moving vehicle would dare to strike them while on or around campus.

It's been warm here thus far in the semester and I envy the person who has the Nike track short concession at local sporting goods retailers--this clothing is a staple of any female student on The Hill.  Guys, of course, also sport the shorts look but their attire ranges from the baggy basketball short to cargo shorts from American Eagle or Abercrombie.

From my closeted space in Stauffer-Flint, the best part of each day is overhearing the student conversations, in the hall outside, as they wait for class or head elsewhere after their latest course.  The conversations range from discussions about the latest class project to thoughts on cheap places to eat in Lawrence.  The tone of the voices and the content within is full of hope and promise, reinforcing the thought that college is the best four years of life.

It was with thoughts of this hope and optimism that I anxiously responded when one young man poked his head around the corner into my office and said, "Hey, man, can I ask you a question?"  "Sure!" I said, my mind racing on the possibilities of some thorny journalistic issue certain to come next from his hopeful face.  "Yeah...uh, can you tell me where the bathroom's at?"

I kept my facial expression helpful and smiled, replying "Sure, no problem--go down the hall and down the flight of steps."

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