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Center for Engagement and Community Development

Excellence in Engagement Awardees Announced

The Center for Engagement and Community Development is proud to announce the 2016 winners of the Excellence in Engagement Award. The award was established in 2011 and recognizes Kansas State Research and Extension and campus faculty initiatives that demonstrate innovative and/or sustained efforts in university/community engagement.

Director Jodi Kaus and peer financial counselors received the award for their work with Powercat Financial Counseling (PFC).

Kaus is attorney and financial planning professional. She created PFC in 2009 with the goals of providing students with financial information and tools, and developing future financial professionals through training students in finance-related majors to aid others.

In 2012, PFC began a partnership with American Student Assistance (ASA). This brought SALT, a free online program that allows students and alumni to manage their money and student loans, to K-State. This extends the reach of PFC beyond graduation by allowing alumni to access online resources and SALT’s student loan support call center.

“At over 7,300 SALT members, we’re very pleased with the number of students and alumni who have activated their free SALT accounts, and are going online and using SALT course areas to learn more about topics such as banking, budgeting, and taxes,” said Kaus

Kaus feels that engagement is essential in broadening the program’s reach and making more effective tools for students.

“The engagement we receive through SALT brings us a lot more robust tools that we couldn’t create on our own, and partnering with other entities with more national reach elevates the experience for our own students and alumni,” said Kaus.

Through their engagement with ASA, Powercat Financial Counseling has become nationally acclaimed as a successful program for educating students. To set up a free financial counseling appointment, go to www.k-state.edu/pfc, or set up your own free SALT account at www.k-state.edu/pfc/salt.

The second recipient of the award is Project 17, a large-scale regional economic development effort in the 17 counties in Southeast Kansas. Jeff Tucker, Executive Director of the K-State Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) and Heather Morgan, AMI’s Executive Director of Project 17 accepted the award on behalf of the university and community participants involved in the project. 

Project 17 was created in late 2012 to address chronic economic challenges in Southeast Kansas.  Originally, 15 people were appointed by the region’s senators to launch the effort and since that time over 1,800 citizens across Southeast Kansas have been engaged in work to improve the economic vitality, civic leadership, health, and strengthening the region’s workforce.  Project 17 was founded in creating a network-based, grassroots supported, civic platform that enables all citizens to participate through active recruitment of volunteers and partners; tackles socially complex problems; focuses on linking and leveraging regional assets; places priority on strategic doing over strategic planning; and launches multiple initiatives across several project pillars in an effort to seed large-scale change. 

“AMI is pleased to receive this award in recognition of the work K-State faculty, staff, and students in partnership with the citizens of the region have engaged to stand up and support such a broad-based regional economic development initiative that is making a real impact on the region’s future economic prosperity,” said Tucker.

Since its inception, Project 17 has engaged and consulted with faculty from the following Colleges: Engineering, Business, Agriculture, Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Architecture Planning and Design, and the Staley School of Leadership Studies.  Additionally, the following student groups have worked directly with businesses throughout the Project 17 region to apply their knowledge on real world small businesses to promote e-commerce: from the College of Agriculture, the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and from the College of Business, Pi Sigma Epsilon.  The involvement of K-State students with small businesses in the Project 17 region has been a tremendous asset to help these businesses grow.  Students were able to apply what they have learned in the classroom and create websites, logos, marketing plans, and conduct market research.  Both students and the businesses involved were happy with the experience.  “I was so impressed by the talent of our students and their eagerness to jump in and learn hands-on what it takes to overcome challenges facing rural businesses,” said Morgan.

Project 17 was also involved with Wichita State University in securing the national Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) designation, which entitles the region preference for several federal funding opportunities.  Project 17 has engaged in partnerships with over 100 local community organizations, assisted over 200 small businesses, and helped generate large amounts of private capital investment into the region.

Project 17 will represent K-State in the national competitions for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award and the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award. 

You can read the full proposals here.