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  • Regents approve cutting-edge master’s degree

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    Pittsburg State has been first in many endeavors, from sports to academic competitions to adding unusual or new programs. The university will claim another first when it implements the newly approved master’s of polymer chemistry degree program.
    The program is the final major step of the Polymer Research Initiative, started in 2012 to help Pitt grow in the polymer research field.
    “A group of us had envisioned a collaboration, a liaison, between the chemistry department, the plastics engineering technology program and the Kansas Polymer Research Center,” said Karl Kunkel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “So we created this initiative that links these three programs on campus to try to create a special niche for Pittsburg State in polymers.”
    The degree program, specifically the undergraduate degree, is unusual for even large schools, let alone small regional ones.
    “It’s a program that doesn’t exist anywhere in the Midwest and there are only a few select universities around the country that actually have this type of program,” Kunkel said. “It is really going to be something unique for us.”
    The master’s degree will be an extension of the bachelor’s degree program that was approved last spring and started this fall.
    “It adds to the program very specific and specialized cutting-edge classes, which are mostly elective,” said Petar Dvornic, chair of the chemistry department. “It will be a further step from the bachelor’s of science program extending it to the higher level of education, but it will also be expanding it into very specific directions in the elective courses.”
    It will include a curriculum component and a research component, with an optional thesis that is highly encouraged.
    “We strongly encourage our students, if you want to go into polymer chemistry,” Dvornic said, “it’s the thesis option in the graduate school that you want to choose and we strongly discourage any other option without a thesis.
    “We think that the master’s student who finishes the polymer chemistry degree absolutely must be very fluent and capable of doing research within a group or by him or herself as an individual.”
    The research component will be mainly held at the Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) with a faculty mentor who is already doing research at the facility.
    “It’s independent research and so the student and his or her adviser will identify a project,” said Andrew Meyers, executive director of the KPRC, “and after a reasonable amount of training would start on their project and would be mentored by a faculty member.
    “The idea is that they’ve undertaken an independent research project and when they get up to defend their thesis and their work, it’s exactly that.”
    Those involved with the initiative say they hope this will be good for not only students but also the university.
    “We’ve gone from an implementation phase to a pursuit-of-excellence phase,” Kunkel said. “We’ve got the equipment, we’ve got the people in place, we’ve got the degree programs in place, so now it’s time to do it and make a name for ourselves as a university.”

  • Students vigil lights Oval

    | Kyleigh Becker reporter |

    Sunday night’s candlelight vigil for Taylor Thomas weighed heavily on those who gathered in the Oval. More than 40 friends and family came together in memory of Thomas, former Pitt State junior in mechanical engineering, who passed away on Oct. 9, at the hospital due to injuries from a gunshot wound received during a robbery in his home.

    Taylor Thomas was a junior in mechanical engineering.

    Taylor Thomas was a junior in mechanical engineering.


    Taylor Dornez Smith, Darius Euell Rainey, Corbin Joseph Spragg and Bryan Levi Bridges, all of Pittsburg, have been charged in the case.
    Ariel Everett, junior in psychology and a friend of Thomas, organized the vigil to share his legacy.
    “I want Taylor to be remembered for how he lived, not how he died,” Everett said. “I heard people all over campus referring to him as ‘the kid who got shot.’ That’s not who he was or how he should be remembered.”
    Everett and others gathered at the vigil said Thomas was one of the happiest and the most intelligent guy they’d ever met.
    “He was a son, a brother, a friend, a genius, a Boy Scout, hardworking. He was selfless. He was always willing to help others,” Everett said. “He was someone I honestly thought could change the world.”
    Casey Steinmiller, junior in digital media, Thomas’s best friend, added to what Everett said saying that Thomas had been adventurous and encouraged people to live life to the fullest.
    James Bacus, minister for Campus Christians, encouraged vigil attendees to do just that; live life to the fullest.
    “Use his life, the impact he had on you, to stand up for what is right,” Bacus said. “Take the things that defined him and use them for good in this world.”
    The vigil was also used as a way to share his good memories and receive comfort from the bad ones.
    “It’s an absolutely terrible feeling of police showing up at your door at four in the morning,” said Thomas E. Jr. Thomas, Taylor’s father.
    Many of those closest to Thomas say they are struggling to move forward.
    “It comes in waves. Like I’ll think I’m doing ok, then something will remind me,” Everett said. “Like when our group does something, and I’ll think for a brief second about inviting him and then remember I can’t.
    “It gives you a reminder that you need to appreciate people while they’re here. Don’t take anything for granted.”
    Everett says it’s been hard for everyone to fully grasp what happened.
    “Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in small towns,” she said. “And it’s never someone you know.”

  • Tricks or treats?

    Halloween holds many options for students

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    While many students at PSU have already planned what they will do for Halloween, freshmen often experience the holiday away from home and choose to attend parties. Not Ashley McAllister, though. She decided she doesn’t want to party. She wants to go trick-or-treating.
    “I’m dressing up as either Mario or Luigi and my best friend is going as the other while we trick-or-treat around Pittsburg,” said McAllister, freshman in nursing. “I’m not planning on going to any parties that might occur.”
    Sarah Lueck has also decided she will skip the parties this year.

    Bailee Deviney, a freshman in nursing, and Lisa Zhuang from Chia, a junior in Finance, carve a pumpkin on the pumpkin carving contest during the Pitt Pal pumpkin carving event on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

    Bailee Deviney, a freshman in nursing, and Lisa Zhuang from Chia, a junior in Finance, carve a pumpkin on the pumpkin carving contest during the Pitt Pal pumpkin carving event on Wednesday, Oct. 22.


    “I’m going to hang out with my sister,” said Lueck, freshman in psychology. “I don’t like to party and I want to be surrounded by people who care about me.”
    Beverly Virtue says she will more than likely spend the night studying.
    “For Halloween I hope to dress up in an awesome costume and be with friends, but I more than likely will sit at home and study because celebrating holidays like Halloween doesn’t exist in nursing school,” Virtue, junior in nursing, said.
    For Cassidy Morris, freshman in elementary education, the holiday will be spent at home with her younger cousins. Morris says she will take them trick-or-treating.
    “I probably won’t dress up when I take them out, but I’ll be home with my family, and I’ll be eating good food,” said Morris, freshman in elementary education. “I don’t see the point of getting drunk at a party.”
    Unlike Morris, many students do not have the opportunity to go home for Halloween this year, especially university resident assistants (RA’s). Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, several RA’s must stay in their respective buildings to monitor common areas, check on residents and ensure all campus housing policies are enforced.
    “I’ll be at home in the residence hall, relaxing and watching people come back from a night of ‘good decisions,’” said Seth Carrithers, junior in marketing and RA.
    Just because RA’s are on duty doesn’t mean they are passing up a night of Halloween fun. Both Ethan Lewis and Grant Davis say they will dress up as superheroes while going on rounds.
    “I’m dressing up as Batman because he’s a boss and my favorite superhero,” said Lewis, senior in physical education.
    Davis, junior in environmental safety management, added he will dress up as Superman.
    RA Nikki Stone, senior in communication, will also be dressing up while on duty.
    “I’m going to be the Red Power Ranger,” Stone said. “I’m going to hang out in the building to make sure that everyone makes it back safely.”
    Stone added she is also looking forward to watching the “parade” of costumes as residents leave the dorms for the night’s entertainment.
    While the RA’s watch and freshmen search for a party, Nathan Laskowski says he will spend the earlier part of Halloween night watching horror movies before going bar hopping with friends.
    “I have no idea what I’ll be dressed up as yet,” Laskowski, senior in chemistry, said.
    Lauren Downing, senior in commercial art, is also unsure of what her costume will be.
    “I’m still trying to figure out exactly I want to be for Halloween, but I love thrifting together an awesome costume,” she said.

  • Food for less

    Students set to open on-campus food pantry for students

    | Kyleigh Becker reporter |

    Students will soon have an on-campus food pantry available for those who may be struggling financially.
    The Gorilla Assistance Pantry is scheduled to open Thursday, Oct. 30, at 310 Whitesitt Hall. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday and Thursday.
    Elle Walker, senior in communication and creator of the pantry, says she hopes that students will feel comfortable going there.
    “We’re hoping that it can help students out of hard times, but that it doesn’t become … a consistent way of getting food,” she said.
    The Gorilla Assistance Pantry will run on an honor system – students won’t have to prove they are in need. The pantry will be stocked with healthy foods, but also with junk foods that students like, such as chips and small snacks.
    Walker says she hopes students who have funds to pay for food don’t take advantage of the pantry.
    When Walker graduates in December, the responsibility for running the pantry will pass on to Brian Walker, junior in plastics engineering.
    Brian, who is not related to Elle, has been involved with the pantry since the beginning. He currently handles paperwork and day-to-day operations, which will pick up rapidly after the 30th.
    Like Elle, Brian also says he hopes students won’t take advantage of the program.
    “It’s making sure we’re connecting with the right group of students for our pantry to be used,” he said.
    Elle says there is a need for the pantry.
    “I’ve seen it first-hand,” she said. “I work in career services on campus, and one time I had a student come in who was desperate to find a job.
    “They were an out-of-state student and their family had recently lost their jobs, and this person needed a job as fast as possible. They were saying they hadn’t eaten in a couple days because they weren’t able to pay for their food plan.”
    Brian added an important part of the pantry is helping students become more aware of what is around them.
    “If we help out each other, that actually makes society a better place,” he said.
    To kick things off, this year’s annual Hunger Games fundraiser, set for Wednesday, Oct. 29, will be a significant source of funding and supplies.
    But the pantry is already off to a good start.
    Last year, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity held a food drive to collect goods for the pantry. Because the pantry wasn’t set up and running yet, they kept nonperishable items and donated the rest to Wesley House.
    Pittsburg residents have also donated food, and Sodexo will help ease management of the pantry.
    Donation drop-offs are also being set up at Axe Library and the Kansas Technology Center.
    Gorilla Assistance Pantry will be overseen by an executive board of students, with Elle and Brian both already on board. Other executive positions are open and volunteers are needed as well. Students wishing to be involved should visit facebook.com/psugap or email pittstategap@gmail.com for more information and applications.

  • And then there were 12

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    | Charles A. Ault reporter |

    The competition for homecoming king and queen narrowed as the top 12 candidates, six men and six women, were selected from 36 candidates on Monday, Oct. 6.
    The men chosen are Connor Callahan representing Alpha Gamma Delta; Brian Walker, for Lambda Chi Alpha; TJ Wiebe for Phi Sigma Kappa; Ryan Matney, representing Gorillas in Your Midst; D’Juan Thomas, for Sigma Phi Epsilon; and Zack Minor, representing Campus Christians.
    The women are Shannon Ahlstedt, representing ENACTUS; Emily Mika, for Alpha Sigma Alpha; Jaci Gilchrist, representing Sigma Phi Epsilon; Megan Peabody, representing Residence Hall Assembly; Jaecy Hebrlee, representing Pi Kappa Alpha; and Emma Huskey, representing Newman Club.
    Various student organizations nominated one man and one woman to represent the organization as a king or queen candidate. Forty-nine nominations made it through the application process. Those 49 nominees had one-on-one interviews with judges on Sunday, Oct. 5, and 13 were cut from the competition.
    The remaining 36 nominees then participated in the fishbowl presentation Monday before the announcement of the top 12.

    Emily Mika and Brian Walker pose for photos after being crowned the 2014 Homecoming Queen and King Wednesday, Oct. 8. at The Carnie Smith Stadium. Mika represented Alpha Sigma Alpha and Walker represented Lambda Chi Alpha.

    Emily Mika and Brian Walker pose for photos after being crowned the 2014 Homecoming Queen and King Wednesday, Oct. 8. at The Carnie Smith Stadium. Mika represented Alpha Sigma Alpha and Walker represented Lambda Chi Alpha.

    “To be in the top 12 is obviously no easy task,” said Walker, junior in plastics engineering technology. “The people that I was up against are great leaders.”
    During the fishbowl presentation, candidates randomly selected two questions, one serious and one funny, to answer for the crowd and judges.
    “It’s one of the most horrifying experiences because you don’t know what’s about to come out of your mouth, you don’t know what’s going to be said,” Walker said.
    Once all candidates had their turn and the judges’ scores were tallied, the top 12 king and queen candidates were announced.
    “Nominated in general is such an honor and then the top 36 and top 12,” said Mika, senior in nursing. “I was the last one called, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
    For some candidates, this was their second year in a row being chosen into the top 12.
    “I want this really bad. It sounds so cheesy and cliché, but Pitt State really means a lot to me and it would be amazing to be queen,” said Hebrlee, senior in general studies. “It was just a lot of excitement and a little bit of disbelief, seeing as it’s the second year in a row.”
    The 36 candidates who participated in the fishbowl presentation will represent their organizations in the homecoming parade on Saturday, Oct. 11. The top 12 will have special honors in the parade.
    “I was just excited to ride in the parade as a top 36 candidate, but I’m honored,” said Matney, senior in elementary education. “I’m excited for convocation and ready to get things rolling.”

     

    Round 2

    Battle of the chicken is back

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    On Saturday, Alumni and Constituent Relations will present its annual “Chicken Wars Homecoming Tailgate” at the Alumni Shelter House in Gorilla Village.
    The event started after the Food Network aired an episode involving the different fried chicken restaurants of Pittsburg and Crawford County. Chicken from Barto’s and Chicken Annie’s will be brought in for guests.
    “It’s really nice for guests to be able to go to one location and try chicken from two different chicken houses,” said Meagan Swafford, assistant director of alumni and constituent Relations. “There really is no competition, it is all about eating good food and socializing.”
    The event has been taking place since 2011.
    “It continues to be a success every year. It is nice for folks who don’t want to mess with tailgating or bringing in food for themselves,” Swafford said.
    The cost is $10 per adult and free for kids 10 and under.
    Despite there being more than two chicken restaurants around the area, the Alumni and Constituent Relations brings in only Chicken Annie’s and Barto’s every year.
    “Chicken Annie’s and Barto’s have always been great about being able to deliver food to us at the tailgate and they are a pleasure to work with,” Swafford said. “Also, Chicken Annie’s gives us more choices on sides and Barto’s will provide us with the famous German coleslaw and potato salad.”
    The event will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as part of the Gorilla Fest, which will include free kids games and inflatable slides, food vendors, live music, a pregame pep rally and PSU merchandise.
    Registration is required and can be found on the Pittsburg State University website under the calendar or Alumni and Constituent Relations webpage.

     

    Be Royal

    Advice from past kings, queens

    | Audrey Dighans copy editor |

    Homecoming week is quickly coming to an end, but a new reign as King and Queen has just begun.
    Out of 36 candidates, one man and one woman are chosen each year out of the top 12 at the annual Homecoming Convocation ceremony and crowned as the new King and Queen.
    “It was such an honor to be crowned a Pitt State Homecoming Queen,” said Alyssa Marsh, PSU alumnus.
    Marsh was nominated by Sigma Alpha Iota (SAI), PSU’s women’s music fraternity, and crowned in 2012.
    The Homecoming King for that year was Ryan Robinson.
    “I had no intention of running at all,” Robinson, senior in music education, said. “Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority members told me they wanted to nominate me and I accepted.”
    Robinson says a favorite part of his reign was meeting people he wouldn’t normally have had the chance to meet or get to know well.
    “I wouldn’t be able to talk to Dr. Scott like a close friend if I wasn’t Homecoming King,” he said.
    For Marsh, the involvement and embodiment of school spirit were the best parts of being Queen.
    “Pitt is a small school,” Marsh said. “A good school, but a small school and because of that, everyone watches you and most likely knows you. That was the best part and the hardest part.”
    Marsh says before being nominated and eventually winning, she used to not be involved in extra curricular activities.
    “My freshman and sophomore years I just stuck close to my department,” Marsh said. “Junior year I mentioned to a sister in SAI that I was interested in running. She passed it on and before I knew it I was nominated. Being Queen got me so involved at Pitt State, I was able to do so many things and winning made me so happy, I felt so honored.”
    For Robinson, Marsh and every Gorilla King and Queen, the pressures and duties of the title have a year-round presence.
    “There are several campus-wide events to participate in throughout the year,” Robinson said. “You also participate in Homecoming Day activities the year you’re crowned and you crown next year’s winners.”
    The Homecoming King and Queen ride in the Homecoming Parade, take part in the halftime ceremony during the football game, are judges in Apple Day competitions and represent Pitt State at a number of functions.
    Marsh added that the “eyes” are always on you, even after your reign has ended.
    “I remember last year at Pitt a student who was long-boarding slammed into my car while I was stopped at a stop sign and shattered my window,” she said. “ A rumor sprung up that the Homecoming Queen had hit someone with her car, which wasn’t true. He hit me, but funny thing is I wasn’t even the Homecoming Queen anymore.”
    Robinson’s advice for Pitt State’s newest King and Queen is to “be humble and grateful in knowing that you were nominated and won for a reason.”
    He added that the King and Queen represent Pitt State and should do it to the best of their abilities.
    Marsh says that it is important to know you are now a role model for students, the university as a whole and the community.
    “Keep your social media clean,” she said. “There are going to be little boys and girls looking up to you, who want to be you some day, will always want to take pictures with you. You need to value that and watch how you act during your year of service.”

  • Failure to hear cases raises hope

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    | Tyler Koester reporter |

    As the debate continues on the legalization of same-sex marriage, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) remains hopeful that, one day, this dream will become a reality.
    The justices of the Supreme Court assembled at their first private conference of the term on Monday, Sept. 29, where they were scheduled to consider seven appeals from decisions eliminating same-sex marriage bans – three from Virginia and one each from Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana and Wisconsin.
    The Court chose to deny the appeals of all of the same-sex marriage cases, therefore upholding the decisions of the lower courts that legalized same-sex marriage.
    “I think it’s good they didn’t hear the appeals. It’s leading to a lot of the bans being overturned,” said Mary Butler, senior in psychology and president of GSA. “But I also think it was kind of a cop-out because they had the opportunity to just legalize it once and for all.”
    Amber Danielson, senior in psychology, disagrees, saying that the decision to deny the appeals is silly.
    “When it comes down to it, marriage is a legal document that shows two people are willing to share everything they have,” she said. “Sexual orientation should not have a play in it.”
    Butler says she anticipates that the Supreme Court will eventually hear the appeals and the same-sex marriage bans will eventually be overturned nationally.
    “The legislation happening in regards to same-sex marriage…is exciting yet nerve wracking,” says Butler. “While I hope that bans on same-sex marriage will all be found unconstitutional, we can only hope for that.”
    Though the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals this term, Butler understands that the decision can still have an impact on the country.
    “I hope it will lead to even more states’ bans being lifted,” she said.
    Even if same-sex marriage is legalized, the LGBT community still has much to fight for.
    “The LGBTQA community could rally and stand up even higher for their rights,” Danielson said. “Those who have been oppressing the love between same sex couples, or even differently gendered or sexually identified couples, will feel empowered or, worse, feel they’ve won for the greater good.
    “My hope is the former rather than the latter. Everyone deserves to proclaim their love.”
    The road to acceptance may be long, but the LGBT community remains hopeful that it will happen soon, members say.
    “Whether people disagree with same-sex marriage or not, it’s still going to be allowed at some point in time,” says Butler. “I’m fairly certain it’ll happen in our generation’s lifetime.”

  • Laymans continue fight for custody

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    Amber Layman’s semester abroad visiting family may last longer than her family anticipated.
    Layman has been forced to remain in Israel since Sept. 4, after her biological father, Shahar, claimed her mother, his ex-wife Danielle, kidnapped Amber from Israel in 2010 and has refused to let Shahar contact her.
    At the hearing in Israel on Thursday, Oct. 2, the rabbinical court extended the stop exit order until Dec. 1.
    The judges ruled that, since Amber is from Israel, they have authority over visitation rights with Shahar, though the American courts ruled that Shahar’s parental rights were stripped when Amber’s stepfather, Jeremy, adopted her.
    “They went for the legality of issuing the adoption decree,” Danielle Layman said, “stating Shahar was not granted an opportunity to defend himself because he could not afford to fly and appear before the USA court.”
    The court is also having Amber talk to multiple psychologists and social workers appointed by the court.
    The social worker said she received the impression that it is not in Amber’s best interest to reinitiate a relationship with Shahar and that there is a risk that doing so will open old wounds and resurface traumatic memories.
    The court then recommended Amber to talk to another psychologist, frustrating her mother.
    “I’m guessing if this one will also not recommend visitations with the biological father, they’ll keep looking for another “expert” until they find the one to give them the answer they want,” she said.
    The family intends to appeal the case to the supreme rabbinical court. However, they are also preparing for the worst.
    “Jeremy (Amber’s stepfather) might have to break out of his enlistment with the National Guard and we may well relocate to Israel for the next five years (until she’s 18) to fight this,” Danielle said.
    Danielle says that they will do whatever is necessary to regain custody of their daughter.
    “This is our daughter, so we will never stop fighting,” she said.

  • University’s conservation specialist dies in accident

    A university contract employee was killed in a one-car accident late Tuesday night on Highway 120, about 20 miles west of Lamar, Mo.
    Pronounced dead at the scene was Michael Breneman, 37. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Breneman’s vehicle traveled off the left side of the road and struck a driveway embankment, causing it to overturn and strike a utility pole.
    Michael Breneman worked as an energy conservation specialist with Energy Solutions Professionals and helped the university find ways to conserve energy.
    “The campus is saddened to hear of Michael’s death,” said President Steve Scott. “Michael was a dedicated professional who was making a real difference in our university’s sustainability efforts.”
    Scott said the loss is even more painful because Breneman’s wife, Cate, is the university’s landscape architect.
    “On behalf of the entire university community, I offer my deepest condolences to Cate and Michael’s family,” Scott said.
    Services are pending.

  • PSU reveals names of probing agencies

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    After weeks of remaining tight-lipped, Pittsburg State University officials on Wednesday, Oct. 8, revealed the identities of the agencies involved in the ongoing investigation of former MBA director Michael Muoghalu.
    “We wanted to get to a point where we felt good about it as well,” said Chris Kelly, associate vice president for university marketing and communication. “In this particular case, after reviewing everything, we decided we needed to just inform the external investigative agency that we need to be true to what we do with our open and transparent environment.”
    Originally the university asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter, but the bureau denied the request. The university then contacted the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are currently investigating the procedures in the master’s of business administration program.
    “After we received word that the KBI declined, we wanted to go and get an outside agency to look at it and the FBI was the next choice,” Kelly said. “And, really, the IRS because in this particular case it’s some questionable financial procedures. So when you’re looking at that, that’s the next place to go.”
    The information release comes after The Collegio filed an open-records request with the university seeking the agency’s name involved in the investigation and, after receiving legal advice on how to proceed, sent a follow-up letter again requesting the information.
    “These types of events, thankfully, we don’t really have a lot of experience with,” Kelly said. “We’re always trying to balance the requirements and caution that go along with the investigation with how we operate at Pitt State University where we’re very open and transparent.
    “We just wanted to balance that and say, ‘This is what we want and this is where we are.’ So we decided to go ahead and release that information.”
    The university also reiterated that it also has an external auditor looking into the current financial procedures of the MBA program.
    “Once we decided we might have some questionable operating procedures going on, that’s when we reached out to BKD,” Kelly said. “They’ll come in and see exactly how things are operating and provide us with some planning and recommendations on this particular area that we can move forward with. We want to be very proactive on this moving forward.”
    The external auditors, BKD, have told the university to expect initial results at the end of December.
    Muoghalu, an economics and finance professor, resigned from his position as director of the master’s of business administration program on Sept. 19 but was on unpaid administrative leave since May.

  • Jungle Royalty

    Homecoming king, queen announced at convocation

    | Kelsea Renz editor-in-chief |

    | Audrey Dighans copy editor |

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which is good for newly crowned Homecoming King Brian Walker.
    “I don’t even know what’s going through my mind right now,” Walker, junior in plastics engineering technology, said. “I can’t thank Pitt State enough.”
    Walker and Emily Mika, senior in nursing, were crowned the 2014 Homecoming King and Queen at the annual Homecoming Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 8.
    “I was shocked,” Mika said. “Everyone here is the same, we go to school, we’ve got jobs, we’re all working hard to graduate, and here I am. It’s pretty unbelievable to have people who believe in you, support you like this.”
    Walker was nominated by his fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha and Mika by her sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha.
    “I’m not here just for that (Lambda Chi),” Walker said. “I represent the plastics students, the Kansas Polymer Research Center, the band, the Greek organizations as a whole. I represent the core of being a student, that’s the whole point.”
    For Mika, becoming Queen represents her triumph over struggles.
    “College has been pretty hard for me,” Mika said. “My mom passed away when I was a senior in high school. I just never thought I’d be here, succeeding in school and being able to carry on doing so well with two jobs and the time I spend working with Angels Among Us (a local charity organization).”
    Walker and Mika will follow in a long and continuing line of Gorilla Kings and Queens with their first official duty on Saturday morning: waving to the crowds during the Homecoming Parade at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11.
    “I can’t believe this is happening,” Mika said. “It’s an honor.”
    Walker says to have this kind of thing happen is a big deal for him.
    “I’m from Coffeyville, and it means so much to me,” he said. “I can now represent my home on a different level than I thought I could.”
    The King and Queen will also be introduced to fans during the Homecoming half-time ceremony at the football game.
    “I feel like I’ve worked really hard to be here and I’ve earned it to get to represent Pitt State,” Mika said. “My mom was a big part of the reason I want to become a nurse. She was my motivation and I lost it, but when I came here I got it back.”

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