Kansas State University


Graduate School

Jim Killacky: A life full of higher education

Jim Killacky 2
Jim Killacky at what is known as the Twelve Apostles – a major tourist attraction on the south coast of Australia.

Born and bred in Ireland, Jim Killacky knows a thing or two about luck and perseverance. This Irishman at heart has thrived in every aspect of his life. Ever since moving to Kansas from New York, Killacky knew some part of his life was supposed to be in higher education. Little did he know then that the majority of his life would be spent learning from and teaching others in the world of academia.

Killacky’s first encounter with higher education began after serving in the military at Fort Riley; he decided to apply to K-State to pursue an undergraduate degree.

“When I showed up at K-State, it was a whole new world,” said Jim Killacky. “I knew nothing about the post-secondary system. All I knew was that I wanted to get a degree.”

And that he did. Killacky worked on his undergraduate degree for three years. During his second year, Killacky was having some difficulty with a sociology research methods course. He was thinking of dropping it. However his advisor, George Peters, said, “You are seriously being considered for a National Science fellowship. In order for you to receive it, you have to complete this class.” The fellowship involved a year long study culminating in a thesis length research paper. This was a critical training experience that laid a rich foundation for his master’s degree experience at K-State.

The master’s program at K-State was a foundational experience for Killacky. While he worked on his degree, Killacky helped develop the FONE Crisis Center, which was thought to be a community service project. Yet, the project gave Killacky a way of understanding how a community works. The FONE Crisis Center project paved the way for future successes.

“I’m really an ordinary community organizer at heart and the skills and knowledge I got from my sociology master’s seemed to work,” said Killacky.  “In order to succeed in these trenches, you have to get to know the community around you.”

After Killacky finished his master’s in sociology, he had every intention of receiving his doctorate, but first decided to work on his second master’s in social work at Washington University.

While Killacky was figuring out his next steps for success, word got out that the K-State UFM program was needing a Director of the State Outreach Program. Sue Maes, currently the Dean of Global Campus, offered Killacky the position. He went to work on rural communities in Kansas.

It was his time working for UFM at K-State that led him to apply to Harvard University.  Much like his experience leading up to the pursuit of his doctorate degree, Killacky’s Ph.D experience was anything but ordinary.

Under the direction of his Harvard doctoral advisor,  Killacky was to spend the first year of his doctoral candidacy traveling around rural Kansas.

“The first year at Harvard, I was travelling around Kansas, in a car, visiting rural communities and interviewing people,” said Killacky. “It was absolutely the most rewarding experience.”

It was during his years in UFM’s Outreach program, and his first year as a Harvard doctoral student that Killacky’s love of and appreciation for Kansas were founded and grew exponentially.

“It grows out of my work and experience as a graduate student,” said Killacky. “Kansas was the best foundation for what I ultimately ended up doing.”

Killacky worked in academia, up until retirement in 2013, as a professor and program and graduate coordinator at different universities throughout the United States. The universities include: University of Maine, North Carolina State University, Tulane University, University of New Orleans and Appalachian State University. He now resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.

For any questions, please reach Jim Killacky by email.