July 6: This is Not a Food Blog, But…

,We’ve had a lot of food on this trip so far and aren’t sure that’s going to stop. Let’s get this out of the way early: wings are delicious, BBQ is wonderful, and both are done well in KC. Our alums showed us that today and we are grateful (and just FULL).

After an eggless breakfast (looking at you, Juan), we left our campground in Columbia, MO and headed to Kansas City to meet with Eze Redwood ‘06, a good friend of Juan’s, co-owner of Wings Cafe, and an entrepreneur. 

One of the biggest things Eze encouraged was exploration of passions. Too often people lose sight of what brings them joy and it’s important to maintain those interests, in some cases even finding fulfillment and career support through networks and expertise. He encouraged us and other alumni/students to take risks; much like the wings from Wings Cafe, a risk can pay off as something new, interesting, and successful (and maybe even delicious if it’s food). Some of the flavors of wings come from random inspiration or personal challenges from his team and we can confirm they are delicious. Take those risks, create your own narratives, and as Eze’s shirt said, “Don’t be regular.”

After our conversation, we headed over to one of the Wings Cafe locations to meet with a few alums. We were joined by Whitney Hosty ‘03,  Arthur Benson ‘66, and Philemon Abel ‘19 for a quick swag distribution and photo op with Nelly. Philemon, Eze, Mike, and Juan stuck around to try out some wings and fries. This led to a food coma just before the second interview of the day. More significantly, this provided a space for us to chat about our experiences around mentorship and the evolution of Williams. 

It need not be said that Williams is not perfect; there is much to be said about providing better support on campus, creating a more inclusive space, and bringing more voices/experiences to the narrative. The comparison across time in this small scale conversation between alums from the mid-00s and the late 10s did actually help show some of the evolution. From the pathways CLiA has provided to the work of diversifying the student (and subsequently alumni) population by Admissions, Eze was glad to hear about the changes and is excited to be more involved, particularly helping students of color get involved in entrepreneurship. Yay, our project is impacting our community! Sadly, Mike and Juan had to begin heading out while being quite full from wings. 

Even worse, Mike and Juan didn’t know where they were going, miscalculated timing and once again were late. Classic. Oh, and a bottle jumped out of the medicine cabinet and hit Juan’s toe, adding injury to insult. At least we had full stomachs, which is a win. 

Anyway, we made it to Cynthia Sharpe ’94’s home for a conversation and BBQ from Joe’s BBQ in KC. Both were delightful.

Cynthia’s work is fascinating as someone who helps with the storytelling and design work at theme parks, rides, and locations, even doing work with Disney Google at different points. Even cooler than that is all of her work supporting youth, commitment to mentoring people, and accessibility in all forms. She believes in encouraging new voices to be brought into conversations and helping provide a platform for people to enter robotics locally and instigating change within her field around stories and representation. Her interview closed with many encouraging words around owning your story and space, and acknowledging that every role is important, every action can have a massive impact, and that we should all give ourselves grace and know that we are all making a difference on many different scales. It was beautiful and we can’t wait to share more. 

Then we had some BBQ and proceeded to chat for a while as we slowly went into a coma again. 

All before a 5 hour drive. Did we mention it was now 7:30pm? Oops. At least Cynthia’s husband was able to give us some road tripping advice before leaving! 

A long drive ahead gave Mike and Juan space to reflect on the trip so far. From the alumni stories and connections to the great regional foods, a lot has happened in the first 6 days. Cannot wait to see what happens next!


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