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K-State First

K-State First
Kansas State University
014 Holton Hall
1101 Mid-Campus Drive N.
Manhattan, KS 66506


Recognition and Awards

Our team works hard to foster collaboration, transparency, and a sense of belonging for all across the university, and we are honored to be recognized for those efforts. Below are some of the awards our program and team members have recieved that highlight our commitment to our students, colleagues, and the culture of K-State. 

National American Library Association "I Love My Librarian" Award

The the American Library Association's I Love My Librarian Award recognizes just 10 academic, public and school librarians who were nominated by patrons in recognition for their expertise, dedication and impact on their surrounding community.

Tara Coleman imageTara Coleman - 2023 Recipient

Coleman, programming services coordinator, was nominated for her work in spearheading K-State's campuswide reading initiative, K-State First Book. The program has enhanced K-State culture since its start in 2010 and has grown to include events such as author talks, panel discussions and awards.

"Professor Coleman has transformed our campus culture with her love of books, her exceptional leadership skills and her focus on students," said Gregory Eiselein, professor of English at K-State and one of Coleman's nominators. "As the head of K-State First Book, she has been slowly but surely changing our campus for more than a decade."

K-State Today Announcement

Ronald N. Gaches Lifetime Teaching Award

Ronald "Ron" Gaches, former chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Advisory Council, established two awards to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching in the college. The Gaches Lifetime Teaching Award is for tenured faculty members who have taught at K-State for at least five years. It pays a $2,000 stipend.

Greg Eiselein imageGregory Eiselein, Director, 2022 Recipient

Karin Westman, head of English, said of Eiselein:

"Students, alumni and colleagues consistently describe Greg Eiselein as compassionate, enthusiastic, passionate, engaging, patient and inspiring. Their praises here and across the country bear witness to Greg’s own assessment of his pedagogy as being active, engaging and inclusive, with the goal of continuous learning. Greg is truly dedicated to achieving meaningful and successful undergraduate learning experiences."


President's Award of Excellence for Unclassified Professionals

The President's Award of Excellence for Unclassified Professionals recognizes excellence in the workplace for professional staff in five categories, team building, group activity, services to the university; productivity, creativity, innovation; distinguished accomplishment; leadership and belonging. Employees recognized in these categories demonstrate excellence and exemplary contributions to the mission and values of Kansas State University.

Mandi McKinley imageMandi McKinley, Program Assistant - 2021 Recipient

"Belonging Award" category

McKinley has been central to our efforts to build and support our entire K-State First team, which includes not only the full-time professionals in our office but also our graduate assistants, our learning assistants, the volunteers in our student groups, as well as the faculty who teach our learning communities and First-Year Seminars. She reminds us regularly of our goal to become a model office within the university; she often includes the hashtag #modeloffice in her reminders and communication to us to encourage us toward our shared team goals of collaboration across the university and the empowerment and support of all K-State students. Our team shared this mentality in our presentation in the What Matters to Me and Why series from Leadership Studies this past year, where McKinley highlighted the ways how she works to be gracious, grateful, and celebrate others as a way to build community within our team, our Student Success unit, and at the university as a whole. She also planned our 10th anniversary kickoff event in January 2020, where the more than 100 people in attendance, including students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors, were all celebrated as being central to the success of our program. McKinley has worked to move herself, our team and our program forward on our diversity and inclusion efforts, to make sure that all students who are in their first year feel a sense of belonging, are celebrated for their uniqueness, and have a voice within their classes, and that all of our colleagues feel the same when working with us. She took a leadership role within our K-State First cohort that was part of the universitywide "How to Be an Antiracist" Mastermind Experience. Being welcoming and contributing to a culture of belonging is in McKinley's DNA. She takes interest in others, she asks good questions and she helps people navigate complexity with skill and grace. We know that students and staff who feel like they belong are more likely to persist. McKinley is one of our superheroes; she is very deserving of this prestigious recognition. 

K-State Today Announcement 

Brent Weaver imageBrent Weaver, Learning Assistant Coordinator - 2021 Recipient

"Team Building, Group Activity, and Service to the University Award" category

Throughout his tenure with K-State First for the past four years, Weaver has been dedicated to our learning assistants — a cohort of student peer mentors within our first-year classes, universitywide collaborative efforts, faculty/staff development, and program assessment through the continuous changes, challenges, successes and growth of the K-State First program. Through Weaver's efforts, the learning assistant program this year centered on maintaining support for students during a time of uncertainty as we all navigated the transition to virtual work and online learning along with hybrid models. Weaver's work as an instructor for the University Experience courses was exemplary, both inside the classroom with his students and through continued adaptation of the curriculum itself with other instructors and program partners from other units. Weaver coordinated with all instructors to quickly pivot to create a hybrid/hyflex option for teaching the course, connecting the University Experience course to university resources such as the Career Center and Powercat Financial. He observed all University Experience courses and provided support and feedback to the instructors. Weaver continued to build connections and represented K-State First as a highly collaborative unit through his work chairing and being on various search, scholarship, training and development, planning and facilitation committees. Weaver is unparalleled in the way that he cares for others, including students, faculty and staff at K-State. Through his supervisory duties with learning assistants and our graduate students, his work on various universitywide committees, and his collaborative programmatic efforts, it is clear how kind, thoughtful and supportive he is. Weaver's leadership with our peer mentor program is clear to others outside of our program, as others like the Learning Commission and the Arts and Sciences LA task force, took notice and asked for his support and feedback in their own efforts, which led to him co-leading a broader peer mentorship collaborative. In all that Weaver does, he prioritizes students' needs and the collaborations that lead to success in that endeavor, and he is a wonderful team member to work with daily. 

K-State Today Announcement 

Commerce Bank and W. T. Kemper Foundation Presidential Faculty/Staff Award for Distinguished Services to Historically Under-Represented Minority Students

The Commerce Bank and W. T. Kemper Foundation Presidential Faculty/Staff Award for Distinguished Services to Historically Under-Represented Minority Students was established in 1978 to recognize outstanding individual contributions to the development of quality education for students of color at Kansas State University. 

Mariya Vaughan imageMariya Vaughan, Assistant Director - 2019 Recipient

During her career at the university, Vaughan has had a significant influence on K-State First students through intercultural learning and development. She not only integrates intercultural learning into her curriculum and course materials through K-State First and her CAT Community, but works on several campuswide diversity events such as the Wildcat Dialogues and KSUnite.

In 2018, Vaughan set out to provide a more intentional focus on intercultural development in the K-State First programs, starting with creating a diversity statement that closely aligns with the K-State 2025 goals and editing student learning outcomes in K-State First to have a more intercultural understanding. Vaughan has also been an integral member of the KSBN selection committee and Wildcat Warm-up. She serves on K-State's Trans* Task Force and the executive boards of the LGTBQ* Faculty and Staff Alliance and the Flint Hills Human Rights Project.

Vaughan has made outstanding strides in providing opportunities for intercultural learning for K-State students. According to her nomination letter, "Mariya's commitment to equity and inclusion is a part of who she is and is evident in her everyday work. Mariya embodies these ideals in her own classroom and challenges us as a program to more intentionally embed equity and inclusion to every aspect of what we do."

K-State Today Announcement

University Outstanding Department or Unit Award for Enhancing Diversity

This award, established in 2003, recognizes the exceptional efforts undertaken by a unit or department to enhance diversity.

K-State First iconK-State First - 2019 Recipient

Through leadership initiatives of the core staff, Greg Eiselein, director and professor of English and university distinguished teaching scholar; Mandi McKinley, program assistant; Mariya Vaughan, assistant director; and Brent Weaver, learning assistant coordinator, the K-State First program built upon their commitment to enhancing diversity, inclusion and equity in their own program and through collaboration with many university partners.

"It is essential for our program and staff to demonstrate multicultural and intercultural awareness by cultivating a diverse community of colleagues and students," Vaughan said. "Our team enacts civil and inclusive behavior in all aspects of the program through interactions with current and incoming students, faculty, and staff."

K-State First is committed to engaging with and encouraging diversity efforts both in the classroom and curriculum as well as through co-curricular learning opportunities.

"We take seriously our role as the first-year gateway to college and college student success for our students, and we know that learning about diversity in critical and practical ways is essential to college student success," Eiselein said.

Several CAT Communities — first-year learning communities — and First-Year Seminars are explicitly designed around themes promoting inclusion and diversity, and the co-curricular events for all K-State First courses had a revised focus on diversity/inclusion.

K-State Today Announcement

Brice G. Hobrock Distinguished Faculty Award

The Brice G. Hobrock Distinguished Faculty Award was established by the Friends of K-State Libraries to honor Dean Emeritus Hobrock upon his retirement in 2004. Annually, the award recognizes outstanding librarianship and superior accomplishments among the K-State Libraries faculty.

Tara Coleman imageTara Coleman - 2017 Recipient

Coleman received her master's degree in library and information science from the University of Oklahoma. She leads the coordination, organization, maintenance and assessment of K-State Libraries' website. She has made several significant contributions to K-State First, the university's first-year experience program, including chairing the K-State Book Network and co-authoring "K-State First Guide to College Student Success."

One of her nominators said, "Tara works diligently to make K-State Libraries a user-oriented resource that supports the teaching and research needs of the university. Over the years, I have observed her dedication, the seriousness with which she performs her responsibilities, the long hours that she devotes and the genuine care that she has for our users."

K-State Today Announcement

Carnegie/CASE Kansas Professor of the Year

The Kansas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE competitive honor recognizes excellence in teaching and mentoring and is one of the most prestigious awards for U.S. professors.

Greg Eiselein imageGregory Eiselein, Director - 2013 Recipient

"We are very proud of Greg Eiselein and believe this honor is well-deserved," said Kirk Schulz, university president. "Dr. Eiselein is talented, cares about students and embodies the quality educational experience offered at Kansas State University. He will be a key component to Kansas State University becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

Karin Westman, associate professor and head of the English department, led the nomination efforts, which included letters from his students.

"In his 20 years of teaching at Kansas State University, Professor Eiselein has earned the enthusiasm of students and the respect of his peers," Westman said. "He has demonstrated a commitment to quality undergraduate education through his teaching and his research. Moreover, he has devoted countless hours of service to the committees and programs most involved with the undergraduate student experience. Through the creation of K-State First and his passionate advocacy of undergraduate teaching, Professor Eiselein has changed how Kansas State University thinks about the education of first-year students."

K-State Today Announcement

Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars

The Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars was created in 1995 to underscore Kansas State University's commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. A faculty member acknowledged as a leading teaching scholar is appointed to the chair for one academic year. All who are selected to hold the chair retain the title of University Distinguished Teaching Scholar throughout their careers.

Greg Eiselein imageGregory Eiselein, Director, 2008-2009 Recipient

To help new students with the transition to college-level learning, Eiselein is developing a First-Year Seminar program. With their small size and co-curricular activities, these seminars emphasize active learning and the critical thinking and communication skills needed to succeed in college. Outstanding faculty members from across the University teach these special freshman-only versions of regular academic classes.

Summary Report