Students, families hooked on Fort Hays State

family weekend- 2016

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- A favorite activity for the Charles and Kim Kirschbaum family is to go fishing in the mountains.

This past weekend, three Kirschbaum family members enjoyed fishing on the banks of Big Creek in northwest Kansas.

Charles and Kim were in Hays to take part in Family Weekend at Fort Hays State University with their middle child, Kayelani, a freshman majoring in biology and chemistry.

The Kirschbaums usually go fishing in the Rockies, and when Kayelani saw that Saturday morning's fishing derby would be part of Family Weekend, "I told them we would be doing this," she said, nodding toward her parents.

Kayelani, a student in the L3: Live. Learn. Lead. learning community, said she chose Fort Hays State for a variety of reasons. The principal at her high school in tiny Merino, Colo., is Lonnie Brungardt, a native of Hays and an FHSU alum, and she liked the biology and chemistry department when she came for a college visit.

Kayelani graduated from high school in a class of 30 and wanted something smaller than a state university of 30,000-plus students.

"My brother went to a lot bigger college, and I wanted something smaller," she said. "I thought this would be a good size."

Once Kayelani visited FHSU's campus, she said she was hooked. So she was particularly looking forward to showing her parents a good time on Family Weekend.

The fishing derby was billed as a friends-and-family event, and it was the first among many activities Saturday in which families could participate.

Preparation for the fishing derby began days before the event. A channel of Big Creek that runs under Hammond Hall was stocked with nearly 150 catfish, several of which were tagged for prizes that were given away. Ron Haag, director of intramural and recreational sports at FHSU, and some of his students made breakfast burritos Thursday for fishing participants to eat Saturday.

Helping out were about 60 students from Haag's FHSU's intramural programs class and from the university's Wide World of Sports & Outdoor Adventure learning community. An additional 60 students that make up Haag's intramural staff were also available to help in various ways.

"I'm not fishing; I'm just helping out," said Megan Cornelsen, a nursing student from Hugoton in the Wide World of Sports & Outdoor Adventure learning community. Learning communities at FHSU are groups of 20 to 30 first-year students who share some common interests, take classes together and live on the same floor in McMindes Hall.

Megan was enjoying herself, sitting on the banks of Big Creek among a grove of trees, something there isn't an abundance of in southwest Kansas.

"I really liked the town and the campus when I came for my college visit," she said. "It's definitely affordable, they have a good nursing program, and there are more trees up here."

Numerous families visited the FHSU campus on Family Weekend. Among all the activities from which to choose, the most popular seemed to be an ice cream social Saturday afternoon and tailgating before the Tiger football game that evening.

Andre Vila, a freshman from Topeka, was busy late morning, posing for a photo with family members by the large bronze tiger outside the front doors of the Memorial Union.

Andre's parents, Ralph and Tonya Vila, and his 10-year-old brother, Tristan, were visiting for the weekend.

While there are numerous universities in eastern Kansas, Andre said he went to a college fair and what he learned about Fort Hays State -- particularly its political science program -- "sounded really good."

So Andre and his parents scheduled a visit to Hays.

"We've liked it ever since the first visit," Andre's mother said. "We've been very impressed with everything."

Haag, in his 22nd year at Fort Hays State, was impressed with the turnout for the fishing derby, in just its second year. As fish were brought to the top of the hill to be weighed -- prizes were given for the longest, heaviest, etc. -- FHSU students cleaned, filleted and cooked the fish for participants to eat.

"I thought it was a great time," Haag said. "It involved a lot of students, a lot of families. I think everyone involved enjoyed themselves."

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