Frank McGuinness, a non-traditional student senator, is doing a general study while raising his three boys, Francisco, 13, Peregrine, 8, and Mariano, 3.

When he talks about touring with Snoop Dogg or seeing over 1,000 concerts, Frank McGuinness smiles nostalgically about his former life of long hours and sound checks. When he talks about his kids, dentistry or the scholarship he found the funds for, McGuinness’s eyes shine at the thought of helping others.

“When he’s got his mind made up and wants to stick up for a group, a student group or his [nontraditional] students, he’s not going to back down. He’s pretty passionate about that,” said Aaron “Quiz” Quisenberry, the senior associate director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center and who works with McGuinness on the Student Senate Finance Committee.

McGuinness, a father of three, studies biochemistry while also representing non-traditional students in Student Senate and serving as President of the pre-dental society. He will be graduating this year with hopes of going to dental school.

McGuinness has a passion for music, which led him to work in the concert industry during the early 2000s. McGuinness said he was involved with “everything from booking concerts to hospitality to going out on tour with bands,” but the long hours didn’t work well with his three children.

“The reason I left the concert industry to begin with was because it inherently is an evening, late-night gig,”  McGuinness said. “Having kids is not conducive to getting home at two, three in the morning.”

McGuinness tried other jobs to spend more time with his kids, but after a dental filling fell out when he didn’t have health insurance, he realized how he wanted to impact others.

McGuinness lived with radiating tooth pain for two years without treatment before a friend, who was a dentist, worked with him financially to fix his tooth.

“Two hours later I felt like a new human. It was really incredible,” McGuinness said. “Tooth pain can really impact the quality of your life and so seeing that somebody could help others with the same issues felt more rewarding than what I had been doing.”

Now McGuinness is applying to dentistry school and will be graduating in May, but he said it has been a challenge to raise his three children while attending classes.

“It’s probably a struggle because I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like, but I think that they understand that long-term, this is better for everybody for me to pursue my goal of becoming a dentist,” McGuinness said.

As a parent and nontraditional student, McGuinness understands that University life can be challenging. After a 2016 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report that showed a minority retention rate half the size of the other students’ retention, he decided to work with Student Senate to help students who might not have the same support he did.

“It’s hard navigating this place if you have a lot of support. If you don’t have any support or very little it can be almost impossible to navigate university life,” McGuinness said. “For them to stay here, they need extra support.”

The scholarship totals $11,000 and will start accepting applications in the fall. McGuinness said it has been one of his “greatest accomplishments” at the University, apart from graduating.

Quisenberry said that he appreciates how passionate McGuinness can be about Senate issues and his constituents, even though he has other priorities in his life.

“He’s been busting his tail trying to graduate and when you have those extenuating circumstances, when you have dependents, when you’re coming back to school at a later age, when you’re commuting, when you’ve been laid off at your job and trying to come back in a new skill set — all of those are [nontraditional] students and that’s the group Frank works with,”  Quisenberry said. “He’s trying to do anything on the campus to just help make their lives better.”

Even though McGuinness has enough on his plate with grades and children to worry about, he said he took on the extracurricular activities because he wants to make the University better for future students.

“All I ever wanted to do in my life growing up as a kid was to go to KU, graduate and now that I’m here and I’m on that path I kind of want to make it a better place for maybe my kids or the other students who are coming behind me,” he said.

After graduating, McGuinness hopes to be accepted to the dental school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, but has also been looking at schools in Colorado, Florida and California.

Until then, Quisenberry said he is excited to continue working with McGuinness to represent nontraditional students.

“I just know that where he’s coming from, it’s all from his heart because he truly, genuinely cares about the students that he’s really looking out for,” Quisenberry said. 

Edited by Paola Alor