Classes help Edwards staff embrace Hispanic community
From left: Dawn Strickland, Spanish instructor for Kansas
City Kansas Community College Workforce Development, works with Angela
Johnson, director of graduate recruitment, and Robert Clark, vice chancellor
and dean of the KU Edwards Campus, during a Spanish class for employees
at KU’s Edwards Campus. Doug Koch/University Relations
In an effort to expand outreach to northeast Kansas’ Hispanic community,
a group of Edwards Campus employees are learning a language they can now
refer to as Español.
Eighteen people—including administrative staff, advisers and a librarian—have
undertaken the Spanish class, which is focused on specific phrases that
are commonly used in an office or academic setting.
“I’ve really wanted to learn Spanish so I could better communicate
with the increasing number of Spanish-speaking students and community
members in the Kansas City area,” said Dan Mueller, an academic
adviser for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “So when the
Edwards Campus administrative staff opened the class to other staff on
campus I was eager to participate.”
The classes, which were sponsored by Kansas City Power and Light, are
a first step toward the Pathways Project, a partnership between the Edwards
Campus and Kansas City Kansas Community College to help show young Hispanic
students in the region that college is attainable.
According to Elaine Warren, director of public relations on the Edwards
Campus, the Pathways Project will target eighth- and ninth-grade students
in the Kansas City, Kan., school district. The project is slated to begin
next spring and will be implemented one school at a time in the district.
Robert Clark, vice chancellor for the Edwards Campus, said learning Spanish
was a “primary stage of building relationships” with the Hispanic
“As we work with the KCK school district, KCK Community College,
and as our population in Olathe and surrounding areas grows in that regard,
we need to be ready for these residents,” he said. “They hope
to improve their quality of life by having access to the educational resources
we will provide for them or their children. They are an important part
of the population we serve.”
Michelle Santee Bird, administrative assistant with the Edwards Campus,
said she already had encountered situations where having a basic understanding
of Spanish would have been useful.
“I am the primary person who answers incoming calls and sees visitors
on the campus,” she said. “I have encountered a couple of
Spanish-speaking prospective students and visitors coming to our campus.
I wanted to take this class so that I would be able to communicate effectively
to native Spanish-speaking students and the general public coming to seek
Participants in the Spanish class said that spending three hours a week
with their co-workers had an unintended benefit as well.
“The class has provided a fun way to get to know my co-workers at
the Edwards Campus,” Mueller said. “I feel like I know them
better and developed some additional rapport and understanding with all
of them. It’s been a team-building experience for the Edwards Campus.”