Meet the CLAS of 2017: Social Sciences

These graduating Jayhawks are fascinated by the way the world works. From the individual, to the local, to social media, to crises across the globe, their studies have prepared them to make a difference at all levels, and they’re already making an impact. Some found their passion for the social sciences straight out of high-school, others while working jobs in public service. But they are all united in their dedication to taking the skills and knowledge they learned at KU into the world and making it a better place.

Abigail (Abby) Schletzbaum, bachelor’s in public administration and global & international studies, minors in geology and mathematics

Notable: Abby was a Truman Scholarship finalist her junior year, in recognition of her leadership in public service. She traveled abroad to Nepal and was witness to the devastating earthquake there in 2015, an experience that shaped her career plans. After graduation, she will study Hindi in Jaipur, India, thanks to a Critical Language Scholarship. She plans to pursue a career in emergency management or humanitarian work.

“KU has given me the opportunity to explore multiple interests of mine and become a well-rounded individual. My diverse coursework has made me informed about how the world works, and my extracurricular involvement during my time at KU has made me a more mature and skillful person. If I hadn’t studied abroad and joined student organizations, I wouldn’t have discovered my dream job. I would advise incoming students to view college as training for their future, and to view volunteering and community involvement as equally important as knowledge gained in the classroom.” 

Bo McCall, master’s of public administration

Notable: Bo balanced graduate work, a full-time job and a family, all the while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. His academic performance impressed one of his professors so much that he recruited Bo to work with him on a report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government on cities’ usage of bit data. He landed a job before he even graduated, working as a performance analyst in the City Manager’s Office of Performance Management for Kansas City, Missouri.

“My daughter was born when I was about halfway into completing my degree. Keeping up with the workload in the master’s program while working full-time and raising a family was honestly one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Along with the critical thinking skills and public service values I gained as an MPA student and graduate research assistant, I also learned a lot about how far I can push myself and prioritizing my time.”

BreShawna Briggs, bachelor’s in management & leadership, minor in leadership studies

Notable: BreShawna was chosen to be in the first cohort of Kansas women for the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute and co-founded the LETWomen conference at KU (Leadership, Empowerment and Transformation).

“I will be attending the University of Tulsa on the Henneke Research Scholarship pursuing a master’s in industrial and organizational psychology. Afterwards, I plan to pursue a doctorate in organizational behavior management.

“KU has taught me the value of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and working to bring people together to have crucial conversations. In order to implement change and to tackle the key issues we care about, we have to nurture a system that will always be there to support each other, be inclusive of diverse voices, and work together to help the entire system thrive.”

Diosselyn E. Tot-Velasquez, bachelor’s in applied behavioral science, minor in Spanish

Notable: Diosselyn is a Kauffman Scholar and student coordinator and guide for the LEAD UP program at KU, and is a community mobilizer for Community Housing of Wyandotte County.

“I have grown tremendously at KU. I’ve seen what college is all about. I am a first-generation college student and didn’t really know what to expect, but the resources and faculty at KU have helped shape who I am today and have made this path easier. I know I am ready for what is to come.”

Jackson Laughlin, bachelor’s in applied behavioral science and political science

Notable: Jackson is on the KU Mock Trial Team and is working with the executive director of Communities Creating Opportunities to conduct an assessment of barriers faced by individuals who have been incarcerated when returning to Wyandotte County.

“After graduation, I will be attending Harvard Law School. I plan to practice constitutional or criminal law. One of my goals is to clerk for a circuit, district or Supreme Court judge.

“KU has given me a stronger ability to understand the opinions of others. I’ve learned to see both sides of any argument and understand positions – even if I disagree with them. I’ve become more thoughtful and patient when it comes to interacting with others, and I know I’ve gained the necessary conflict resolution and leadership skills to excel in the modern world.”

Mike Kearney, Ph.D. in communication studies

Notable: Pokémon trainer and PhD student Mike Kearney developed a data retrieval framework for Twitter feeds that has attracted international attention, and landed him a faculty position in the School of Journalism and the Information Institute at the University of Missouri.

“KU has prepared me professionally by providing opportunities to work and develop relationships with amazing people across campus and around the world. This semester, for example, I became a graduate research assistant for the Center for Research Methods & Data Analysis, where I work with people from a number of different fields. Many of the relationships I’ve started here at KU have become quite meaningful to me. They’ve helped prepare me for life as a colleague and as a friend.”

Matt Epperson, master’s in public administration

Notable: Matt balanced school, family and work pursuing his master’s degree.  He’s the emergency services manager for the Shawnee Fire Department, overseeing emergency management and emergency medical services.

“This program has profoundly impacted my world view within the sphere of public administration. It has opened my eyes to concepts and ideas that were foreign to me prior to my time here. The MPA program has also expanded my future career options and was instrumental in a recent promotion.”

Teresa Yeong-Yi Pan, Ph.D. in clinical psychology

Notable: Teresa is an immigrant and first-generation Taiwanese-American woman. She was the first person in her entire family to grow up in the U.S. and she was inspired by the differences in cultures and the approach to mental health treatment.  In her native Taiwan psychologists are not recognized as a profession in the same way they are here. She worked throughout her time at KU to serve under-served populations from diverse cultures at JayDoc, a student-run integrated primary care clinic that serves a large immigrant and non-English speaking population.

“I am currently completing my clinical psychology intern year at the Palo Alto VAMC in Palo Alto, California. This fall, I will begin my postdoctoral fellowship in primary care psychology at the San Francisco VAMC, and hope to continue my interests in inter-professional education and behavioral health integration.

“Graduate school has been a journey of growth in professional and personal identity. Each challenge while at KU has taught me new skills and valuable knowledge, and has shown me the value of collaboration with colleagues, who often became close friends. I will always be thankful for the guidance many faculty and peers have shared, and am blessed to have gained a number of lifelong friendships!”

Marc Robinson, bachelor’s in linguistics

Notable: When Marc retired, he decided to return to KU to study linguistics. It was the first time he had been in a classroom since 1990.

“What I most enjoyed was when a professor or TA introduced something new and unexpected, something that expanded my thinking and knowledge. This was especially true when the fact or idea brought a fuzzy area into focus, introduced a new piece of a puzzle or opened up an entirely new area to investigate.”