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Faculty, staff trek more than 1,000 miles on Wheat State Whirlwind Tour

More than 40 see Kansas up close during annual trip

The number 13 was unlucky only in the sense that it brought a little more rain than usual.

The ever-popular ride with the buffalo and a visit to a Kansas wind farm were rained out on the 13th Wheat State Whirlwind Tour, but everything else went, for the most part, according to plans.

This year’s tour took more than 40 faculty and staff on a five-day, 1,100-plus-mile journey across Kansas. The bus riders were from nearly all of KU’s campuses. Some were brand new Jayhawks, while others had more than 40 years’ experience at KU.

The bus hit the road Monday, May 23, and made its first stop at the Landoll Corp. in Marysville. The operation started as a two-man welding shop and now employs more than 500 people and does business around the world. Other stops highlighted Kansas’ business sector, including a tour of the Cessna plant in Wichita and a roadside look at the Smoky Hills Wind Project near Salina.

Being a bus loaded with academics, the group was right at home in two campus visits. The first was to Cloud County Community College in Concordia, where the group learned about the institution’s innovative wind energy program. The second was the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, where campus faculty and staff led a tour of their new School of Pharmacy facilities and outlined their work to train health care professionals for Kansas.

Despite rain washing out a ride with the buffalo near Scott City, ranch owner Richard Duff met the group at a local museum to discuss his work raising and selling the animals. Rain fell in the morning but moved on before the annual stop to Lucas, home of some of the most unique, bizarre and creative folk art in the state. Palco, hometown of Don Steeples, Dean A. McGee Professor of Applied Geophysics and tour director, received much-needed rain that boosted the local wheat crop, but washed away the annual combine rides at his family farm.

Kansas’ natural beauty was made evident in stops at Wilson Lake and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, as well as at a stop new this year, the Flint Oak Resort in Elk County. At the lodge, tour participants saw a hunting dog demonstration and hiked around several ponds and trails.

There were numerous other stops along the way, in which tourgoers viewed art, visited the historic African-American settlement Nicodemus, saw restored opera houses, toured museums, and of course, learned more about wheat. In between stops, several experts share commentary about the state and upcoming sites while participants got the chance to meet colleagues they might not work with in other venues.

Each of the more than 25 stops offered unique insight into Kansas, reinforcing the goal of the tour: to educate KU employees on the history, culture, economy, landscape and cuisine — including a wealth of pie — of Kansas.

Campus closeup
Malika Lyon, coordinator, International Visiting Scholars
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