by J.T. Buchheit
Many Kansans have lived in the state their entire lives and know next to nothing about it. The Kansas Studies Institute, directed by Farrell Hoy Jenab, aims to change that.
“The Kansas Studies Institute was started by Jay Antle and Jim Leiker,” said Jenab. “There were several faculty members who had something to do with Kansas-oriented research. They started it to collect all the faculty that had scholarly interest in anything to do with Kansas, and since then it’s continued to grow.”
The institute holds multiple activities each year to garner interest in the program and educate people about the history and culture of the state.
“We have a campus lecture every year, we have a writer’s symposium every spring [and] cowboy festivals in conjunction with the performing arts department in the spring,” said Jenab. “… I think the lecture we sponsor every year brings a lot of awareness to Kansas history and culture. The writer’s symposium has been really interesting. We’ve brought a lot of outside writers into JCCC, and we’ve had a lot of writing come out of those symposiums.”
The next lecture centers around tornadoes and is scheduled for Nov. 5. According to Jenab, storm chasers Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Stephen Locke will be presenting. They have written a book called “Chasing Weather,” which is about tornadoes that have taken place in Kansas. Later in the day, there will be a panel with other storm chasers that will be open to students and staff.
Along with accumulating faculty members who had researched Kansas, Jenab said that the institute also exists to educate local residents about the rest of the state.
“Johnson County has a little bit of a different culture than the rest of the state,” she said. “So it was the idea of educating Johnson County [residents] about the rest of Kansas, and also being an ambassador of Johnson County to the rest of Kansas.”
After Leiker stepped down from his position to become chair of the history department, Jenab immediately applied for the job. One of the reasons she decided to take this position is her knowledge and fascination of the state she lives in.
“I have a scholarly interest in Kansas history,” said Jenab. “I’ve been collecting oral history of Flint Hills women, and my dad is a Kansas scholar and folklorist. … Kansas is right in the center of the country, it’s right in the center of everything, and people make the mistake of thinking that what goes on in Kansas doesn’t really count, or it’s backwards, and sometimes it is, but there’s a lot of really interesting history here and interesting people, and it’s become a more urban state.”
Although she possesses a lot of knowledge about Kansas, Jenab said her passion for the state is a large reason she decided to take the job.
“I love Kansas,” said Jenab. “I love the skies, I love the landscape and I love the people.”