No Rivalry Here: K-State Olathe, KU Edwards Team Up to Boost Regional Workforce Skills 

Despite their storied rivalry, when it comes to educating the area’s workforce, Kansas State University-Olathe and the University of Kansas Edwards Campus (KUEC) are on the same team. As strong Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT) partners, they have provided $700,000 in scholarships over the last 10 years to area students who are pursuing JCERT-funded degrees in biotechnology, information technology, workplace communication and the professional science master’s degree program, among others.

Meet two of these scholarship recipients and learn how they are using their JCERT-supported education to serve local employers. 

Elly Richardson

Elly Richardson graduated from KUEC in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology. He credits KUEC’s holistic, real-world educational approach and extracurricular opportunities with helping him become a software developer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (KC Fed). 

Richardson is a prime example of a working adult making the most of his or her time. A member of the KUEC Honors Program, he took 15 credit hours and was heavily involved with the KU Information Security Club, also known as KU Jayhackers, participating in national competitions and networking with like-minded peers. He says his JCERT scholarship allowed him to pursue his interests and hone his professional skills, all while working full-time. 

In summer 2019, Richardson completed an internship at the KC Fed and soon after began a full-time position there. He cites his education inside and outside the classroom with preparing him for career advancement.  

“The labs in my KUEC classes were very practical. They taught real-world scenarios and tools used in the industry,” Richardson said. “The clubs and competitions exposed me to other cybersecurity and software-development technologies. Through the courses, clubs and honors program, I made valuable connections with students who had a similar mindset and were driven for success.” 

The research Richardson worked on during his time in the KUEC Honors Program provided him knowledge in advanced information technology and how machine learning could be implemented on a practical level regarding spy cam detection.  

His unique student experiences prepared him to help protect the KC Fed, and the JCERT scholarship Richardson received his first semester was an important part of his success.

“Receiving that scholarship signified personal achievement for me,” Richardson said. “It made me more confident in myself to achieve my goals.”

Donna Steve

Donna Steve is the director of biopharma regulatory affairs and quality assurance at Viracor Eurofins BioPharma Services in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. 

The company, a subsidiary of the international testing laboratories enterprise Eurofins Scientific, is a clinical trial service company that tests and verifies samples of novel human products such as drugs or vaccines across multiple phases of their development and verification.

Steve oversees the division that ensures all federal regulations surrounding a clinical product’s testing for Phase II and Phase III trials follow and adhere to international Good Clinical Practice standards.

Steve, who graduated from the University of Kansas with her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering 20 years ago, is a 2017 graduate of the JCERT-funded master’s degree in veterinary biomedical science program at K-State Olathe. She discovered the program from a workplace presentation made by the Olathe faculty member who oversees it.

“I thought it was brilliant how staffs from the K-State Manhattan and Olathe campuses provided instruction and offered students a broad spectrum of information,” Steve said. “I've recommended the program to two other people and they’ve earned their degrees at K-State Olathe as well.” 

Despite the decades that have passed since Steve earned her undergraduate degree, her drive and JCERT scholarship helped her complete her master’s degree in 2½ years with a 4.0 GPA while working 50 hours a week and raising two children with her husband. 

“You really need a graduate degree to get ahead in human health and sciences,” Steve said. “Although my degree focused on the animal health side, I used it to further my career before I graduated. My education helped me understand the data and regulatory processes. Graduating with an advanced degree played a role in landing my current position as a director just two years after graduating.”

With Viracor Eurofins BioPharma Services slated to move to Lenexa, Kansas, Steve hopes the new location will enable the company to collaborate with K-State Olathe and establish an education pipeline for future students.