Presidential Award winners recognized for teaching, leadership
MANHATTAN — Excellence in leadership and teaching is earning three individuals Kansas State University's 2021 Presidential awards.
Scott DeLoach, professor and head of the computer science department, is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head. Mary Kay Siefers, teaching professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies, is receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Joshua Drouin, graduate teaching assistant and doctoral student in mathematics, has been selected for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant.
Each award includes a $5,000 honorarium sponsored by the university president's office and Curtin Property Company, a real estate development firm with offices in Manhattan and Kansas City.
"The Curtin Property Company is proud to have founded this unique partnership with Kansas State University more than 25 years ago to honor excellence among K-State's outstanding faculty and leaders," said Chris Curtin, company president. "The Curtin Property Company, its numerous K-State graduates and its Manhattan associates at Georgetown Apartment Homes and Westchester Park Apartments congratulate the 2021 Presidential Awards of Excellence winners."
Since becoming interim department head in 2014 and his appointment as permanent head in 2016, DeLoach has worked to boost his department's enrollment, expand its undergraduate and graduate academic programs, increase scholarship funding, strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts and improve facilities and infrastructure.
Under DeLoach's tenure, the department's enrollment has increased around 30%, which includes a nearly 6% increase in multicultural student enrollment. The department's doctoral graduates have increased more than 50% in the last five years and the department has created a scholars program that has provided more than $100,000 in scholarships. New academic programs include a program to earn both a bachelor's degree in computer science and a Master of Business Administration in five years; adding cybersecurity and entrepreneurship program options for students; launching a certificate in computer science; and creating an online master's degree program in computer science. The department also launched the Computational Core Initiative, an online program to teach non-computer science majors programming skills. This program is being expanded to high schools and small colleges and community colleges.
Faculty in the department are thriving under DeLoach, who has hired 10 new faculty members, converted three instructors into teaching assistant professors, created professional advisor positions and increased the budget for staff development. Refereed publications by department faculty and graduate students have increased 100% in the last five years, while research expenditures are up by approximately 20%. DeLoach also has worked to make physical improvements to several of the department's laboratories and install the latest in instructional hardware and software.
"Being the department head of computer science has been the absolute best professional experience of my life," DeLoach said. "I work with great faculty and staff who have great passion for our students, both in the classroom and in research. My goal is to support them as much as possible and stay out of their way so they can be free to be themselves and do great things."
Since joining the Staley School of Leadership Studies 21 years ago, Siefers has taught every core leadership course offered by the school, reaching thousands of undergraduates. Siefers uses the power of engagement to teach students, especially first-year students in large lecture courses. Early in her tenure with the Staley School, she initiated the use of peer leaders — juniors and seniors — to facilitate small group discussion in one of the program's largest lecture classes, LEAD 212: Introduction to Leadership Studies, which serves 800-plus first-semester students in the leadership studies minor. This practice is still in use today.
In 2018, Siefers collaborated with the College of Agriculture to develop the interdisciplinary secondary major in global food systems leadership, which is offered by the School of Leadership Studies and challenges undergraduates to make positive change on global problems facing food and agriculture. As director of the program, Siefers is actively involved in student recruitment, creating program curriculum and teaching courses. She also serves as faculty advisor and co-creator of the Food Security Scholars program.
Siefers is also known for her mentorship of students and faculty members. During the pandemic, she has helped Staley School faculty find creative ways and learn about the latest technological tools to stay connected with students, whether teaching in person or online.
"I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition for my teaching efforts considering all the outstanding instructors at K-State," Siefers said. "I want to thank my colleagues at the Staley School of Leadership Studies who provide their unwavering support and encouragement as we create transformational learning experiences for our students. Finally, I want to thank all the students who have given so much of themselves for the sake of their own learning and that of their classmates. I was born to teach and I am in the perfect place and with the best students to engage in the learning process."
Student success is a priority with Drouin, who has had a special focus on teaching students who can benefit from extra academic support. Courses Drouin has taught include First Year Seminar in College Algebra and First Year Seminar in Intermediate Algebra — the first mathematics GTA to be assigned the course.
He also works with K-State's Multicultural Academic Program Success, or MAPS, program, which helps underserved students get a head start on college the summer before their freshman year. For MAPS, Drouin taught a special section of College Algebra, condensing 16 weeks of material into six weeks of instruction and ensuring students understood the material and kept up with the pace of the course. Drouin is known for adapting his teaching to fit the specific needs of his students so they can succeed.
"I not only want students to have confidence in the material, but also in their ability to learn and seek help if needed," Drouin said. "I'm not just preparing students to pass a class; I'm also preparing them to have confidence in innumerable future endeavors."
Drouin earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and economics from Murray State University in 2017, graduating summa cum laude. At K-State, he earned his master's degree in mathematics in 2019 and expects to complete his doctorate in May 2023. He is the son of David Drouin, Murray, Kentucky, and Norma Pruitt, Mayfield, Kentucky.