KCKCC professor selected for Fulbright Award

Gregg Ventello (KCKCC photo)

by Kelly Rogge

Gregg Primo Ventello has had a love for the Japanese culture since he was a child.

“I had a friend whose mother was an ESL teacher for adults,” he said. “She often had Japanese students at her house cooking, and the food was so good, but it was very different from what I ate at home (Italian). Food was my introduction, but as I got older, I became interested in Japanese history and literature as well.”

Ventello, a professor in the English Department at Kansas City Kansas Community College, will have even more time to learn about the Japanese culture. He has been selected for a Fulbright Award to Japan.

The presidentially-appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, along with the Japan-United States Educational Commission, chose the longtime KCKCC faculty member to serve as a lecturer at the University of Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, for the 2014-2015 academic year.

As a lecturer, Ventello will be teaching African American literature, gender studies and American culture.
The 10-month appointment starts in September and ends in July 2015. Once his appointment ends, he will return to KCKCC to resume his regular duties for the 2015-2016 school year.

“I am really excited to be going back,” he said. “I think the food is what I am looking forward to most. Food is important to Japanese culture. In my background, food is integral to every family gathering. It doesn’t matter who you are; people commune over good food and drink. It is the easiest way to get to know someone, to assimilate.”

Ventello is one of approximately 1,100 faculty and professionals from the United States who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2014-2015. The program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase the mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those from other countries.

The application process, which started in February 2013, included a project statement and letters of recommendations. It then had to go through three reviews – technical, disciplinary and regional, before being accepted.

This is not the first time Ventello has lived and worked in Japan. Shortly after graduate school, he lived on the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido for one year. When he returned to the United States, he finished his dissertation at the University of Kansas and in 2000, began his tenure at KCKCC.

In 2012, Ventello returned to Japan with his wife and two children for a visit. It was when they got back to the United States that his family expressed interest in going back to Japan, but this time, for a longer visit.

“The Fulbright Award seemed like it fit perfectly,” he said. “Both of my children are excited to return. It will be an adventure for the whole family.”

While in Japan, Ventello said his children, 7 and 11, will either go to an international school or public school. The main difference is that at an international school, there is more instruction in English. Classes in a public school setting would be taught entirely in Japanese.

“My wife and I both taught in public schools (in Japan), and it would be an invaluable experience,” he said. “Once we decide where the kids will go to school, then we will find a place to live nearby.”

Ventello said what he hopes to bring back with him to KCKCC is the idea of communitarianism or the emphasis on community above the individual.

“It is a very different concept than what we have learned here in the U.S.,” he said. “What I want to emphasize is what each culture can learn from the other and the benefit of placing the community ahead of the individual. I want to see how certain sacrifices benefit us all.”


KCKCC participates in ‘kick butts’ campaign

(KCKCC photo)

by Kelly Rogge

The Kansas City Kansas Community College Blue Devils “kicked butt” recently by cleaning up cigarette debris around campus.
KCKCC participated in the Blue Devils Kick Butts Campaign April 23. Organized by the KCKCC Wellness Committee, 14 student, faculty and staff volunteers picked up cigarette butts and trash on campus. This is the first campus cleanup event that has been organized with Tobacco Free Kansas.
“I wanted to coordinate something during the week of Earth Day (April 22) to raise awareness of the dangers tobacco use has on the environment, not just what it does to the consumer and the dangers of secondhand and third-hand smoke as a result,” said Rob Crane, director of the KCKCC Health and Wellness Center. “Tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States. Because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors − activities that people choose to do – smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society.”
The amount of cigarette debris that volunteers collected was impressive. More than 6,390 cigarette butts, four empty cigarette packets, one broken lighter and a few match books were picked up. The butts represented approximately 300 packs (20 per pack) of cigarettes or 30 cartons. Crane said this was done in only a few hours and did not include the entire campus.
“We wanted to raise awareness and make people think about what they are doing to themselves, other people, wildlife and the environment,” he said of the event. “Cigarette butts contaminate our water sources, leach toxic chemicals and carcinogens into the environment and are poisonous to wildlife as well as our pets. They are also the number one littered item in the US. Water runoff from our campus drains directly in to the Kansas (Kaw) river. Tobacco smoke also contributes to outdoor air pollution and indoor air quality.”


Mayor’s Food Summit sets goal to make healthy choices the easy choice

Mayor Mark Holland will be the host of the 2014 Wyandotte County Mayor’s Food Summit from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 1, at the Kansas City Kansas Community College Technical Education Center, at 6565 State Ave, Kansas City, Kan.

The summit is sponsored by the Wyandotte Health Foundation.

“Our community needs to continue to rally around the cause of health improvement,” Holland said, citing statistics released this month that rated Wyandotte as having some of the worst health outcomes in the state.

“Increased access to healthy food should be one of our rallying cries,” he said. “We conducted a recent survey of Wyandotte County residents that confirmed this is a major felt need. The summit will give cross-sector leaders the tools to meet this need.”

A joint effort of the mayor and the Healthy Communities Wyandotte Coalition, the Food Summit seeks to bring together elected officials, education, business and community leaders and give them the information and resources they need to take action in their communities to increase accessibility to good food.

“Healthy Communities Wyandotte has been working on this issue for over four years; now we want to expand the circle of concern,” he said. “Leaders everywhere can and should take an interest in healthy eating.”

The Food Summit  arose from a transparent community planning process held from 2009 to 2011 that involved hundreds of residents, area experts and public officials, the results of which were compiled in a document titled “Recommendations for a Better Future.”

The recommendations included strategies for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, and in fact, the Food Summit is the kick-off for a three-year plan to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among Wyandotte County residents. Holland and others who are the hosts of the Food Summit acknowledge that changing individual behavior is an important component of improving diet, and in order for change to stick, the healthy choice needs to be the easy choice.

Following welcoming remarks by Holland, the Food Summit will feature a keynote address from Dr. Oran Hesterman, a national leader in sustainable agriculture and food systems, and author of “Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All.” The Food Summit will also feature Dr. Judd Allen, president of the Human Resources Institute and a national expert on creating supportive cultures for healthy living.

The summit will include the following four breakout sessions featuring speakers, facilitators and panelists from community organizations:
•         Nutritious Food in Schools
•         Ensuring Healthy Food Access for Low-Income Households
•         Transforming Organizational Culture for Health
•         Increasing Physical Access to Healthy Food in Wyandotte County
Lunch will be provided by the Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Culinary Arts Program, led by Chef Cheryl Runnebaum.
To register for the event, visit 2014foodsummit.eventbrite.com.