2022 Presidential Awards honor outstanding teaching, leadership
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University's 2022 Presidential Awards are going to three individuals for their teaching or leadership excellence.
Elizabeth Davis, professor and head of the clinical sciences department and director of the Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head. Elizabeth Hale, doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Linda Yarrow, instructor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health in the College of Health and Human Services, is receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
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.
"Honoring excellence among Kansas State University's faculty and leaders has been a proud tradition of The Curtin Property Company for more than 25 years and we are pleased to continue this unique partnership with the university," 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 2022 Presidential Awards of Excellence winners."
Davis has served as head of the clinical sciences department since 2017 after being appointed interim head in 2016. She was named director of the Veterinary Health Center in 2021 after serving as interim director since 2019. Under her leadership, Davis has initiated several changes to enhance and increase efficiency, collaboration, research and teaching and learning. These changes include enhancing and renovating existing facilities and construction of new facilities. Davis spearheaded moving 25 faculty laboratories and offices to facilitate department collaboration and research efforts and the repurposing of underutilized space to serve as research space. These efforts have paid off as grant funding has increased every year under her leadership. Davis helped raise funding for new facilities and renovations to existing ones, including the new equine performance testing center and renovations to the Hill's Pet Health and Nutrition Center.
To support faculty, staff and students, Davis has initiated several programs, acquired necessary equipment and improved processes. These efforts include launching an early career development program for young faculty. She manages clinical rotations for the college's fourth-year students, including the shelter medicine program rotation and its mobile service unit, which provided more than 5,300 veterinary procedures in both 2020 and 2021 around Kansas. She also obtained gift funding for a second mobile unit, Wellness of Wheels, which supports disaster relief and community outreach for underserved populations in Kansas City, Wichita and Nebraska. Davis also made sure K-State veterinary students had the least disrupted clinical training program in North America through the pandemic.
"It is an honor and privilege to be the recipient of the 2022 Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head," Davis said. "Supporting faculty in the clinical sciences department who help provide the highest level of education for veterinary students in a professional degree program is a common mission throughout the college and department," Davis said. "It is a true honor to directly contribute to the success of the educational program within the college."
Hale, from Overland Park, is being recognized for going beyond what is expected in supporting all students. She has been successful as the coordinator/instructor responsible for the mathematics department's lowest-level class, Intermediate Algebra, where she works with students taking remedial math who have often been out of school for years and need confidence they can succeed. She also has gotten high marks for teaching a higher-level class, Applied Matrix Theory, which involves working with advanced engineering students. Hale strives to make her students understand that mathematics is a way of thinking through problems. Rather than just listing techniques and examples, she helps students recognize the big ideas and then how to use those ideas to solve a problem.
Along with teaching, Hale encourages her students to go deeper into mathematics. She is active in the department's Directed Reading Program, which pairs undergraduate students with graduate students to read through the advanced material needed for them to take part in research projects. She is active in outreach programs, including a Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program that provides STEM and leadership instruction to middle and high school students, and she taught cryptography to middle school students at the mathematics department's recent Sonya Kovalevsky Day. Hale helps her peers by serving as an organizational assistant for graduate students and she organizes the department's Graduate Student Seminar, arranging speakers that expose graduate students to different areas of mathematics and providing the students practice in making professional presentations.
"I love showing students that they can enjoy mathematics, especially if they have found it intimidating in the past," Hale said. "Whether a student is more advanced or has some gaps in their skillsets, it is rewarding to show them how math fits into their lives and to help them experience the excitement of that lightbulb moment."
Hale plans to earn her doctorate in summer 2023 or 2024. Following graduation, through a federal Pathways Program, she will pursue a position at the NASA Ames Research Center with the Diagnostics and Prognostics group. She also would like to teach at a four-year university in the future.
Whether teaching in the classroom, online or on an education abroad experience, Yarrow is known for taking the time and giving the extra effort to help her students succeed. She brings in case studies from her work as a registered dietitian so that students can apply their knowledge and skills to real patients. She provides out-of-class sessions on challenging subjects. When the pandemic hit, Yarrow created clinical sessions that current K-State dietetics interns could attend via Zoom to count toward their clinical rotations. As director of the university's Guatemala Education Abroad program, she leads students on a six-week trip working with partner organizations in the country to support health care, nutrition and public health initiatives.
"I love interacting with students and learning from them," Yarrow said. "I especially love when they see the connection with what they are learning and how they will use it in both their professional and personal lives. It's exciting to see students grow in their knowledge and their confidence to use it."
Yarrow has been recognized for her teaching at all levels, receiving the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional Excellence in College and University Teaching Award, the Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award from K-State and the Myers-Alford Teaching Award from the College of Health and Human Sciences, among many honors. Yarrow consistently earns high marks on teaching evaluations and shares her strategies for effective teaching through presentations on campus, online and across the nation.
"I believe it's very important to provide multiple opportunities for students to connect with the content to enhance their ability to learn, recall and use later," Yarrow said. "To do that, I’m always updating examples to find connections with their generation. I tell stories, I play music and we play games. And I continually update case studies to reflect current medical care. Finally, I work on maintaining a high level of personal enthusiasm so that students will see how interesting and important the content is."