Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace Journalism Update

Working on a million last minute details before I leave for Uganda in about a week for my peace journalism project. (for details, see ). I have received a third State Dept. grant for about $115,000, and will be in Uganda from July 2010 to April 2011. Stay updated on the project, and on the latest from the two students who will be studying with me in Uganda in July, on this page, on my peace journalism home page ( ), and on my facebook peace journalism page (under search, just type in peace journalism, then join the group).

KC: Maybe we are underrated

From the Parkville Luminary

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what you have until you look at it through the eyes of others.

I was reminded of this recently as I saw Kansas City, Parkville, and Park University in a new light, thanks to my week-long stint as a conventioneer right here in KC. Last week, I attended the 62nd annual NAFSA-Association of International Educators annual convention along with 7,100 of my closest friends from 100 countries.

The event was held at Bartle Hall downtown. I had been in the center’s gargantuan exhibition hall before for car shows, but never in the convention center’s meeting rooms or ballroom. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our convention center stacks up to anyone’s, and I’ve been in quite a few. It’s nicer (though not as big) as the Las Vegas convention center that I recently visited (strictly business!), and as nice as a state of the art facility in Tampa. I’m embarrassed that this surprised me, although this is not surprising, since many of us locals tend to buy into the ridiculous notion that we are nothing more than fly-over territory.

A wonderful amenity at the convention was the Power and Light District. As an aging (aged?), un-hip Parkvillan, I seldom make it down there, maybe just for a basketball game. But for a convention-goer, P&L is great. Imagine all these great places to eat and party within walking distance! In fact, in this respect, KC has a big leg up on Las Vegas, where the convention center isn’t within walking distance of anything.

The P&L wasn’t just great for lunch, but it’s a fine entertainment spot as well. One night, the cops roped off the streets, and they held the world’s biggest and coolest opening reception right there in KC Live and the surrounding bars. It sure beats the stuffy opening reception one usually gets in the corner of a hotel ballroom.

Are these just my KC-biases coming through, or do we really rock the house? To test this theory, I conducted a thoroughly scientific study using sensitive audio devices (my ears) and a sophisticated (though occasionally creaky) recording device (my brain). This study used direct questioning and combined it with invaluable eavesdropping. The result was unanimous—they love the place. Many were first time visitors. All seemed even more surprised than I was at the quality of the Kansas City experience. I overheard two different women comment that they would definitely come back to KC with their families.

If you think the visitors appreciated Kansas City, you won’t be surprised to learn that they fell in love with Parkville and Park University. Last Wednesday night, the university bused about 150 conventioneers to the campus for a barbeque and blues celebration. I watched and listened with interest as they reacted to what Park President Dr. Michael Droge told the gathering was “America’s most beautiful campus.” Genuine, enthusiastic applause, noting assent, greeted this comment. Tours were given of the campus. After the tours, the attendees marveled as they discussed not only our beauty but our uniqueness. (“The library’s in a cave?!?!).

In discussions with the visitors at the convention and the barbeque, all were complimentary, and a few envious, of Park’s laudable international profile, especially the proliferation of so many international students (from more than 100 countries) on our small Midwestern campus.

I also used the experience to look at Park’s international educators through the eyes of a conventioneer. Michael Hernandez and Kimberly Connelly, among others, were active at the convention itself volunteering and networking, and were as always warm, wonderful ambassadors for our institution. We are lucky to have Kimberly and Michael at Park University.

So, let the east and west coasters sneer at us all they want. We now know the truth—Kansas City, Parkville, and Park University really are terrific. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.


  1. Steve,
    NAFSA received such a warm welcome from Kansas City, and we did indeed enjoy the city very much, from the friendly people to the great shopping, nice hotels, and excellent food. Thank you Kansas City, from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

    Looking forward to your posts from Uganda!

  2. Kimberly Connelly, Assistant Director International Student ServicesJune 16, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    Thank you for your blog Steve...Although I already knew Kansas City had a lot to boast with the Power and Light District, Plaza, museums and unique, locally-owned restaurants, I too was surprised and impressed by our convention center, KCCC. And it was a great pleasure and honor to be a part of the NAFSA 2010 Annual Conference and Expo in Kansas City...and always a great privilege to belong to Park University.