Issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and male relationships can make for sensitive topics of conversation for some, but two nontraditional students in the KU College have built a podcast devoted to tackling those subjects and more.
Jeff Thompson and Thomas Angel, who are both studying in the College on a pre-med track, quickly hit it off as friends and bonded over their common interests. Jeff, who has Type 1 diabetes, and Thomas, who comes from a poverty-stricken community and served in the U.S. military, wanted to share their passion for helping others with the world. And one morning, over 5:00a.m. cups of coffee, they landed on the idea of starting a podcast to help reduce stigma, promote healthy living, and encourage open discussion about health issues that affect millions of people.
Learn about Thomas and Jeff’s journey as nontraditional students at KU, launching The Kensington Corner podcast, and their goal of spreading mental and physical health through their careers and honest dialogue.
Why did you choose your majors and minors? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study?
Jeff: I chose my major because it’s a science major that I was interested in and really felt it encompassed all the bases moving forward towards the end goal of becoming a doctor. There wasn’t really a moment, but it interfaced well with the desire to get into medicine. The journey has been fun, scary quitting job as an adult, but as a non-traditional student it’s an opportunity to redeem myself in college now.
Thomas: I chose Italian because I love the culture and language and wanted to have a foreign language heading into Med School. I was incredibly interested in Behavioral Neuroscience because I love all aspects of neuro, curious about how the brain works, why we behave the way we do and the evolution of the human brain. I really knew I wanted to do both of these coming back in. The journey from military to now has been humbling, I’m excited to be back in school.
Tell us about your podcast, The Kensington Corner. Where did the idea come from, and what do you hope to achieve through the project? What life experiences informed your approach to the podcast?
Thomas: Our podcast aims to help promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy conversation. The idea came from Jeff and I having a morning coffee around 5 am a couple times a week. We were having great conversations and decided we wanted to share that with the world and invite other people in. We believe every human being is unique and wanted to showcase that. My time in the military really shaped my view of the world and helped form the idea of becoming a doctor and helping people. Jeff has been working well over a decade in the civilian field and has Type 1 diabetes which leads him to wanting to help others in ways that I could never understand. We share a common understanding of wanting to be better people and help others achieve that as well.
How do you apply lessons or skills you’ve gained in your majors to your podcast work?
We would actually say it’s vice versa; we use our communication skills that we develop on the podcast in daily interactions with peers, professors and advisors. The podcast has given us an outlet to learn and understand more about the world and the individuals who roam it.
Do you have any advice for others about how to begin to have more open dialogues about some of the issues you discuss in The Kensington Corner, such as mental health, PTSD, anxiety, and male relationships?
Be open and honest. Don’t be ashamed of anything and know that there are people out here who care and want to help. That approach is a good way to lead by example who are going through dark times and maybe need a lift out of the slump they’re in.
Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?
Ally Stanton and Keon Stowers of the Alumni Association have been beneficial in our success here at KU.
The professor that I would say we’d like to give the most credit to our success is Shaui Sun. He’s a kind, caring individual who really gets the students. He does not get the credit in his department that he should.
What have your experiences as a nontraditional student at KU been like?
Overall a very positive experience. Being non-traditional gives you an entirely different perspective that your peers probably don’t understand. It is energizing to be around the younger generation because we’re learning more daily about ourselves than maybe we would if we were around like-minded individuals our age all the time. It’s a refreshing feeling, we’re basically kids again.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Jeff: Intelligence and talent isn’t a substitute for hard work.
Thomas: Slow down, be patient. It will all come with time.
What do you want to do when you graduate?
Both of us want to be doctors. Of course, Jeff and I are very different, he is leaning towards the trauma side of medicine whereas I’m interested in the brain/psych side. We just both hope we’re healthy and somewhat successful and happy in our careers.
What motivates you?
Jeff: The desire to get into med school and make a positive impact in my community.
Thomas: I come from a poverty-stricken area, so just knowing I never want to live like that again.
Be like Jeff and Thomas. Start a dialogue about the issues that matter to you. For more information, explore the Undergraduate Biology Program, the Department of Psychology, and the Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies at the University of Kansas. And check out The Kensington Corner podcast. Feature image photo by Kathy Hanks at the Lawrence Journal-World.