K-State Current

K-State Current - March 2, 2022

K-State Current is a weekly news update for the Kansas Board of Regents to apprise the Regents on a few of the many successes and achievements made by K-State faculty, staff, and students.


K-State News

College of Education produces documentary about child trauma and resiliency

Rudy LigginsRudy Liggins, center, a retired teacher, works with two students at The Children's Place in Kansas City, Missouri, in the new Kansas State University College of Education documentary "Becoming Trauma Responsive," which explores the effects of childhood trauma on learning, behavior and more.

A new documentary produced by the Kansas State University College of Education explores the effects of childhood trauma on learning, behavior and developing relationships.

"Becoming Trauma Responsive" will premiere on Kansas and Missouri PBS stations KCPT, KTWU and SHPTV at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21. The documentary highlights the work of trauma experts and educators in the Kansas City metro, Wichita, Topeka and Coffeyville, and school counseling faculty with the College of Education. The documentary is available for free on the College of Education's website for educators, counselors, caregivers and anyone interested in becoming trauma-informed.

The documentary delves into the effects of childhood trauma on learning, behavior and the ability to develop relationships. Additional partners in the film are The Children's Place in Kansas City, Missouri; Foster Adopt Connect, serving foster families in Kansas and Missouri; and Topeka Public Schools.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country reported increases in depression and general anxiety in both students and educators. The pressure strained schools' abilities to meet the social and emotional needs of students. For students affected by trauma and dependent on school services, the elevated stress and uncertainty intensified already difficult situations.

"For years, educators have sought out resources to become more trauma-equipped, but the pandemic has truly awakened the need for immediate support," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. "Our sincerest hope is that this documentary — and the voices of professionals, some of whom are survivors of trauma themselves — provides direction for educators and caregivers as well as inspiring others to become teachers and school counselors."

"Becoming Trauma Responsive" details the changes two schools in Kansas and a preschool in Missouri made to meet the social and emotional needs of their students and staff. Their techniques were substantiated by trauma experts who've spent decades in counseling, therapy and neuroscience. Research has indicated that the cognitive skills needed for resiliency are learned.

"Investing in mental health is an investment in healthy communities," said Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of USD 501, the Topeka Public Schools. "We recognize that in order to truly support our mission ... a priority on trauma-informed practices was critical and our focus on social-emotional health has improved the lives of countless families across Topeka."

Nathan Ross' personal story offers compelling evidence of the research results. Ross, formerly known as Ronald Bass, was one of five children abused at the hands of their mother who suffered from severe psychosis. The family included a set of triplet boys, two of whom died because of the extreme abuse. The 1999 Bass case has remained one of the most shocking in Missouri state history.

Ross learned to channel his experiences and focused his attention on helping kids in foster care and those in adoptive homes. His message in the film provides a unique vantage point of how to help kids, even when the specific cause of the trauma is unknown.

Other topics addressed in the film include teaching self-regulation, identifying the stress response system, creating an environment that helps students overcome stress, developing a tolerance for change, and establishing self-care routines for educators and caregivers.


Study: New variety will help farmers increase sorghum yields

Tesfaye MengistePurdue University professor Tesfaye Mengiste looks at sorghum infected with anthracnose. Mengiste led a team of researchers that identified a single gene that confers broad resistance to the fungal disease. (Purdue University photo/Tom Campbell)

Scientists with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet (SMIL) have developed a sorghum variety they say will provide natural resistance to pathogens and pests that have crippled the crop in humid, lowland areas of western Ethiopia.

Their research is reported in the Jan. 9 issue of The Plant Cell, a journal of the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Timothy Dalton, director of SMIL – based at Kansas State University – said the researchers’ work will “serve the broader sorghum development community and is a flagship global good, public characteristic of the U.S. land grant mission.”

The K-State lab led by Dalton funded work in Ethiopia and West Africa to map genes and explore more than 2,000 pieces of germplasm in numerous field trials spanning several years.

“The new variety, called Merera, has multiple benefits, including resistance to pathogens and birds, and it yields better than current varieties that Ethiopian farmers have,” said Tesfaye Mengiste, a professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, and the principal investigator for the research.

Mengiste said Merera has shown resistance to Anthracnose, a devastating fungal disease that attacks all parts of the plant – leaves, stalk and head – leaving almost nothing to be used for food (sorghum’s primary use in Africa), biofuels or animal feed (the primary use of sorghum in the United States).

“With these improved traits and yield potential, it can mean a better livelihood for (farmers),” Mengiste said.

A newly discovered gene, named Anthracnose Resistance Gene1, or ARG1, is unique, according to Mengiste.

“Although some natural resistance to fungal disease was known in sorghum, genes that confer widespread resistance have not been identified,” he said. “It is remarkable that a single gene leads to resistance across a broad spectrum of fungi and multiple strains of the Anthracnose fungus.”

Mengiste cited recent results with Merera that indicate up to a 43% increase in sorghum yields, which has led to increased income for smallholder farmers.

In 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) invested $13.7 million to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet at K-State. The lab’s primary focus is to improve the productivity, disease resistance, agronomy and economic of sorghum and millet in six partner countries.

In 2018, USAID renewed its commitment to SMIL, awarding $14 million over five years to continue the project’s work.

USAID funds several Feed the Future Innovation Labs across the country to harness the capacity of U.S. land grant institutions, other universities and the private sector to improve food security globally.

The sorghum variety recently developed for Ethiopia – while directly benefitting farmers in that country – is much like many other Feed the Future projects that aim to build knowledge to help farmers throughout the world, including the United States.

“Through this collaborative research supported by SMIL and the funding through USAID, we will continue to explore the rich Ethiopian germplasm to come up with the next resilient and high-yielding varieties,” Mengiste said. “With better leveraging of recent genetic technologies, we will expedite the development of the new generation of varieties or those in the pipeline.”

More information about SMIL and other K-State Feed the Future projects is available online.


K-State Faculty Highlights

Megan Ronnebaum and AJ Tarpoff recognized as Professional Staff and Professor of the Week

Megan Ronnebaum and AJ Tarpoff,Megan Ronnebaum, program/project consultant in the finance department, and AJ Tarpoff, associate professor and extension specialist in the animal sciences and industry department, were recognized as Professional Staff and Professor of the Week at the Feb. 26 men's home basketball game.

Faculty Senate, the Office of the President, K-State Athletics and the Division of Communications and Marketing wish to recognize their contributions to K-State.

Ronnebaum has gone above and beyond the regular duties assigned to her in the transition to being fully online and adjusting to the presence of COVID-19. She worked tirelessly over the summer and fall, staying late after work and working weekends to ensure things ran smoothly. Ronnebaum quickly became an invaluable asset to the Student Success Center and throughout the College of Business. What has truly stood out this year is her ability to quickly adapt and be innovative during the pandemic to design and lead programs in a virtual environment, including employer networking, mock interviews, Meet the Firms, etc. She is a master of Zoom technology and used her creativity to host virtual events with 200-plus attendees as well as develop the Employer Network Hub to replace in-person tabling in the building atrium. Due to her work, the college consistently receives positive comments from employers on how well-organized events have been since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, Ronnebaum volunteered to take on additional responsibility to provide relief to another team member dealing with difficult circumstances. Ronnebaum is an exceptional team member and always willing to help her colleagues.

A K-State alumnus, Tarpoff returned to campus as the beef extension veterinarian in 2016 after several years in practice. He was promoted to associate professor in 2021. Tarpoff has a 70% extension, 20% research and 10% teaching appointment. While in practice, his focus was herd-based cattle production medicine, research field trials, hands-on feedlot employee training, disease surveillance and mitigation, and Federal Import/Export duties. At K-State, he works closely with producers, practicing veterinarians, and members of industry to bring relevant extension and education that improves cattle health and the productivity of the beef industry. Tarpoff's work has been recognized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science.


Leadership communication team assists in $17 million planning project for Reno County

Students and faculty from Kansas State University’s leadership communication doctoral program assisted Reno County, Kansas, with the American Rescue Plan Act: Reno County Resident Engagement. More than $17 million was available to the community from the COVID-relief bill, and the residents of Reno County were guided through an inclusive, high-quality facilitated process that engaged 553 residents.

Sean EddingtonThe leadership communication team was led by Sean Eddington, Ph.D., assistant professor in communication studies, and included doctoral students Sakshi Bhati, Jeff Johansen, Jessica Kerr, and Monica MacFarlane, as well as 2021 program graduate Susan Metzger. The team designed, implemented, and trained facilitators for the engagement process. They gathered data from the meetings, synthesized the findings into a report, and presented the results to the task force and community leaders.

“Ultimately, our goal for this project was to foster productive communication between community leaders and residents in Hutchinson and Reno County,” said Eddington.

“By creating an inclusive and creative process, we helped the community identify key priorities that were surfaced by the ongoing pandemic. Moreover, the process was positively received by the residents, and showcases the importance of advancing communication to engage wicked problems facing our communities.”

graphic: Rally Reno CountyThe data from the plan is available to the public, along with a video presentation at rallyreno.org.

Community-engaged scholarship is core to our programs’ teaching, learning, and research approach,” said Kerry Priest, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the leadership communication program. “Students in our interdisciplinary program have the opportunity to study, collaborate, and impact the complex, real-world challenges facing communities.”


K-State Student News

K-State Sales Team finishes second at intercollegiate sales competition in Florida

K-State Sales TeamThe K-State Sales Team earns a second-place finish at the recent Selling with the Bulls: Intercollegiate 2022 Sales Competition in Tampa, Florida. From left: Lydia Johnson, student coach, with team members Lucas Oliver, Natalie Beck, Blake Bontrager and Kaley Coffman.

The Kansas State University Sales Team brought home second-place team honors in the championship flight at the Selling with the Bulls: Intercollegiate 2022 Sales Competition. Hosted by the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 17-18, the competition had 100 competitors from 19 schools representing 12 different states.

The four-member K-State team included Kaley Coffman, junior in professional strategic selling, Bonner Springs; Lucas Oliver, junior in professional strategic selling, Overland Park; Blake Bontrager, a senior in professional strategic selling and marketing, Wichita; and Natalie Beck, a junior in marketing, Jefferson City, Missouri. Lydia Johnson, junior in professional strategic selling and Spanish, Prior Lake, Minnesota, served as the student coach.

The competition is known as the toughest test in sales education. All participants had to compete in prospecting, networking and customer conversation events. The prospecting events included a LinkedIn connection request, email, voicemail and phone call. The customer conversation events included two rounds of role-play scenarios where the focus was needs discovery and closing, respectively. In individual placings, Coffman was third in the prospecting LinkedIn connection request and fourth in the prospecting email, and Bontrager earned fifth in the prospecting LinkedIn connection request and third in the prospecting email.

"This competition is a true test of a student's ability to utilize all their sales skills from prospecting to closing the sale," said Kellie Jackson, managing director of the National Strategic Selling Institute and sales team coach. "To place in the top five teams is a huge testament to the quality of education they are receiving through our curriculum. The quality of our students' performances at competitions like these has led Kansas State University to become recognized as a leader in sales education."

The K-State Sales Team team consists of students enrolled in the university's major or certificate program in professional strategic selling. The team is part of the College of Business Administration's National Strategic Selling Institute, which has been named one of the top sales programs in the country for 10 straight years by the Sales Education Foundation. The K-State program, launched in 2018 and among the first 20 such programs in the nation, introduces students to the fundamentals of sales. The innovative curriculum and sales labs allow students to develop the skills needed to be successful.





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