Graduation Profile: Friends have forged close bond after 18 years at same schools

Graduation from the University of Kansas will be the first time since kindergarten that Chris Carter and Cody Janousek will go on to different schools 

Chris Carter and Cody Janousek in pep band
Chris Carter (drums) and Cody Janousek (yelling) have played in band together since middle school. They have also been in marching band and the men’s basketball pep band together at KU. – photo courtesy Dan Storey/KU Alumni Association

Cody Janousek and Chris Carter will walk down the hill this May like they have done everything else – together.

It’s not often people can say they’ve been “friends for life” and mean it literally. Yet, that’s exactly the case for the graduating Lawrence seniors.

“We’re so spoiled,” Janousek said of having his best friend at the same university. “It’s like the comfort blanket that’s there that you took from high school.”

Both their families have been close since before their sons even arrived. Over the past couple of decades, Carter and Janousek have spent countless hours together, giving them two options – be friends or endure a lot of awkward gatherings.

Aside from a lot of social time together, they also went to all the same schools. They both attended Lawrence Free State High School, West Middle School, and Sunset Hill Elementary School.

Chris Carter and Cody Janousek as kids
Chris Carter and Cody Janousek have known each other since they were born. Their families have been close for years. – photo courtesy Cody Janousek

Both also participated in band together from middle school through their fourth year of college. They marched in the KU Marching Band and each earned a spot in the KU Men’s Basketball Pep Band.

They’re even graduating with the same degrees. Both will graduate this May with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and licensure to teach through the UKanTeach program.

Both wanted to follow the path of influential teachers, although for Carter it was his middle school band director and for Janousek it was his high school physics teacher. Both discovered roadblocks in their initial choices; however, they still wanted to become teachers.

They both joined UKanTeach at the same time. Carter switched from music education to math first, with Janousek making the switch from physics to math a few months later.

“I just wanted to be a teacher. And I was good at math,” Carter said.

The future math teachers have found a lot of benefits in sharing the same major with their best friend.

Chris Carter and Cody Janousek on campus
Chris Carter and Cody Janousek will both graduate with certification to teach math. They each had different majors when they started at KU, but both ended up in the UKanTeach program by the end of their sophomore year.

“We talk a lot about teaching things, and ideas,” Carter said. “Just before we came (for the interview) we were having an epic discussion on space-time…”

“…continuum and how life and time is related,” Janousek said.

It happens often that they finish each other’s sentences, they said.

Although they have remained close throughout college, they’ve also found new friends and different activities. Both earned service learning certifications, while Carter pursued minors in music and leadership studies, and Janousek became a student ambassador and a KJHK DJ.

Janousek sounded like a veteran math teacher already in describing how their friendship has evolved in college.

“It’s like our Venn Diagrams overlap a lot,” he said.

That overlap will continue to shift as they both prepare for their first jobs. Carter has a job lined up with Olathe Northwest, while Janousek is waiting on applications to schools across Kansas and Colorado.

Even if they are separated geographically, they will keep in touch, not just as friends but also as colleagues.

“I’m sure we’ll stay in contact, even just to share ideas teaching-wise,” Carter said. “It’s always nice to have someone to talk with about your school that is not affiliated with your school.”

If their students compared notes, they’d discover similar objectives from their teachers. Above all, both want their students to enhance their ability to solve problems, mathematical or otherwise.

“The cool thing about teaching math is you’re teaching problem solving skills,” Carter said. “The idea of identifying variables and identifying what you’re solving for. That’s what you do when you solve real problems, even if you don’t realize it.”