K-State Current

K-State Current - April 20, 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

K-State community mourns loss of former President Jon Wefald

Jon WefaldJon Wefald, 12th president of Kansas State University, passed away on April 16. He served as president from July 1986-June 2009.

Jon Wefald, Kansas State University's 12th president, who is credited with growing the university into a Top 10 land-grant university, died April 16 in Minnesota. He was 84 years old.

Wefald served as president from July 1986 to June 2009. At his inauguration, the chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, Frank Becker, charged Wefald to “transform students into scholars and invigorate alumni and the citizens of Kansas." He did just that.

During his 23 years of leadership, the university added more than 2.2 million square feet of new buildings, including the addition to Hale Library, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art and the K-State Alumni Center. As K-State's president, he helped philanthropy increase from $6 million a year to nearly $100 million annually and research funding grew from $18 million annually to nearly $134 million.

This growth in research funding, along with the university’s burgeoning expertise in biosecurity and biodefense, positioned K-State as one of the nation’s distinguished research and doctoral universities. In 1999, Wefald and several university and legislative leaders wrote “Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program” — also known as “The Big Purple Book.” The book outlined the university’s infectious disease research programs and established K-State as a biodefense and agrodefense leader. This reputation, built under the direction of Wefald, was also critical in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 decision to name Manhattan as the home of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF. Wefald’s efforts for the construction of the Biosecurity Research Institute on the Manhattan campus played an integral part in landing NBAF.

During his tenure, Wefald oversaw an increase in enrollment from around 16,000 students to more than 23,000. Also, during this time, K-State produced 125 Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholars — more than any other public university in the nation. Wefald Hall, a residence hall on the Manhattan campus, is named in his honor for his efforts to support students and student life.

Outside of academics, Wefald revitalized K-State Athletics, particularly with the hiring of Bill Snyder as football coach in 1989, who went on to lead K-State to two Big 12 championships and unparalleled national prestige.

A funeral service for Wefald will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 23, at All Faiths Chapel on the Manhattan campus. Lunch and a reception will follow at noon at Colbert Hills Golf Course, 5200 Colbert Hills Drive.

The family requests no flowers, but memorials in Wefald's name may be designated for the Kansas State University Marching Band or to Southwest Minnesota State University and sent in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home. Read the full obituary and leave online condolences.

Kansas State University leaders and friends of the university offered their condolences to the Wefald family.

Richard Linton, Kansas State University president:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of former K-State President Jon Wefald's passing. Dr. Wefald's legacy is one of transformation, growth and a true passion for our great university. I am honored and challenged by the opportunity to share the experience of serving as K-State's president and will strive to honor the example he set through his service. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Chuck Taber, provost and executive vice president:

“Jon Wefald led an impressive campaign that increased the number of endowed professorships and University Distinguished Professors at our university. His vision enhanced the university’s academic and research profile through these efforts, which also provided new opportunities for our students through access to some of the top minds in academia. His contributions have truly laid the path for K-State as the nation’s premier next-generation land-grant university.”

Pat Bosco, former vice president for student life and dean of students:

"President Wefald moved our school from very good to great, but most importantly, he made us relevant. His work made us proud to wear purple and to be a member of the K-State family. There simply is not an area of the university we all love that Jon Wefald did not impact – facilities, scholarships, champions on and off the field, private gifts and enrollment. We will miss his passion to serve, interest in doing what is right for K-State and his contagious enthusiasm.

I was honored to be one of his first appointments and took great pleasure in serving in his cabinet for his entire presidency."

Bill Snyder, former head football coach:

“Jon was not only a very special leader of Kansas State University but also a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. Jon was a major part of the reason we came to Manhattan. He was always so very determined to assist our program and all other programs – athletic and academic – to become the very best they could be. He and his wife, Ruth Ann, cared about people – students, faculty, staff and community – and were always seeking ways to be of help. Their commitment to the university is unparalleled. Sharon, Sean, and I, and our family are grateful to Jon for so strongly supporting our time here.”

Greg Willems, president and CEO, KSU Foundation:

“K-State lost a legend on Saturday. Jon Wefald was an extraordinary member of the K-State family, and our great university would not be what it is today without his outstanding leadership. He will be greatly missed."

Gene Taylor, director of athletics:

“It is a sad day for Kansas State University and the Wildcat family. President Wefald helped transform Kansas State into what it is today and was the driving force behind elevating our university into one of the top land-grant schools in the country. His passion for athletics was also well documented, and his impact on not only our program but also the Big 12 Conference will always be a part of his legacy. He will be dearly missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Amy Button Renz, CEO and president, K-State Alumni Association:

"President Wefald created a lasting legacy at Kansas State University, and we are a better university because of his leadership. He was a passionate leader and a good friend to many, including me. Ruth Ann and the entire Wefald family are in my thoughts and prayers."


K-State leads state universities in retention, graduation rates

K-State StudentsThe latest data from the Kansas Board of Regents shows that Kansas State University is the best among state universities in Kansas when it comes to students successfully completing a college degree.

K-State has the highest freshman-to-sophomore student retention rate and six-year graduation rate among the state's six public universities, both of which are key metrics for determining student persistence and success.

According to the Kansas Board of Regents' 2020 data, the most recent available from all Regents' institutions, the university's retention rate was 86.1% and six-year graduation rate was 67.2%.

K-State's 86.1% student retention rate is the highest systemwide among Kansas Regents institutions, which includes the six state universities, Washburn University and the state's 19 community colleges and seven technical colleges.

When it comes to six-year graduation rates, the average time nationally it takes a student to finish a bachelor's degree, K-State leads the pack by a wide margin. Per the 2020 data, the university's rate was 6.3 percentage points higher than any other public university in the state. K-State data for 2021 shows the six-year graduation rate continues to improve and reached 68.4% in 2021 for the first-time full-time freshman cohort who entered the university in fall 2015. K-State's latest retention and graduation rates are available at k-state.edu/pa/data/student.

"K-State offers enrichment and support programs to students to help them complete their degree programs and pursue exciting career and advanced study opportunities," said Jeannie Brown Leonard, vice provost for student success.

Helping K-State students persist through to graduation are programs such as K-State First for first-year students, free academic tutoring, career and internship assistance, and more than $54 million in scholarships and awards to help students pay for their education.

"Our comprehensive student services, distinguished faculty and 250-plus degree programs and options make K-State the place for students to succeed," said Karen Goos, vice provost for enrollment management. "K-State supports students from the first time they step foot on campus to when they walk across the commencement stage with their degree."

A K-State degree pays off in the job market, too, with 97% of the university's 2020-2021 graduates reporting finding a job or continuing education within six months of their graduation. Niche.com and SmartAsset rank K-State as the best college in the state and where graduates typically earn the highest average starting salaries.


K-State Faculty Highlights

Nuclear Regulatory Commission funds data-driven analysis framework for advanced nuclear reactors

Hitesh BindraHitesh Bindra, Steve Hsu keystone research scholar and associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at Kansas State University.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has awarded Hitesh Bindra, Steve Hsu keystone research scholar and associate professor in the Alan Levin Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Kansas State University, a nearly $500,000 grant to develop data-driven computational models for safety analysis of advanced nuclear reactors for regulatory and licensing purposes.

Bindra will lead the three-year project, "Statistical learning based multiscale safety analysis framework for advanced reactors," for the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering alongside collaborator Lane Carasik of Virginia Commonwealth University.

The computational models will be developed using data generated from scaled-down experiments of liquid-metal-cooled and gas-cooled reactors. Experimental data and ab-initio models will be used to inform the system-level codes.

"This project will address a major technical gap in existing analysis codes to capture thermal fluctuations critical for reactor system health under transient conditions," Bindra said. "These tools will enable future integration of real-time nuclear plant data to project any safety-related event progression and can also be used for autonomous control of advanced reactors."

The project aims to improve regulatory tools for the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors while also reducing the uncertainties in modeling nuclear safety-related event progressions.


K-State Student News

Newest Truman scholar aspires to advance international cooperation

Katie SleichterKatie Sleichter, junior in political science, Clay Center, is Kansas State University’s 37th Truman scholar.

Sleichter is receiving a 2022 Harry S. Truman scholarship for her academic excellence, leadership and commitment to a career in public service.

The Truman scholarship is a highly competitive national award that provides up to $30,000 for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. According to the Truman Foundation, 58 scholarships were awarded this year from a candidate pool of 705 students nominated by 275 colleges and universities.

"We wish to congratulate Katie on this tremendous honor," said President Richard Linton. "She joins a long line of K-State Truman scholars committed to public service. Katie's dedication to understanding global cooperation and food insecurity shows how K-Staters put our land-grant mission into action to advance the well-being of Kansas, the nation and the world. She represents the best of K-State, and we are so proud of her."

Sleichter also is pursuing a secondary major in global food systems leadership at K-State. After graduation, she plans to earn a Master of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She wants to pursue a career in the foreign service as a political officer or a public diplomacy officer so that she can increase global cooperation on borderless issues.

"Many of the issues that are facing the world, such as food security, climate change and the refugee crises, require collaboration between not only a variety of different organizations but also many countries," Sleichter said. "I believe that by studying foreign service at a graduate level, I will be better equipped to begin tackling issues such as these through increased global cooperation during my career."

Sleichter grew up on a vegetable farm in rural Kansas, which has inspired her passion for addressing food insecurity and other global issues. Her family has lived in rural Kansas for more than a century.

At K-State, Sleichter is a food security scholar, which is a leadership program for students interested in understanding food systems and challenging the way we think about food insecurity. She is involved in International Buddies and the Food Recovery Network and is a coordinator for International Service Teams. She has been selected into Blue Key Honor Society and will serve as the director of leadership programming for 2022-2023.

She also has been involved in the Kansas State University Student Foundation, Student Governing Association as the campus culture director, Quest Freshman Honorary and West Hall governing board. She is a Hagan scholar, 4-H Key Award recipient, Borlaug scholar and Kansas honors scholar. She has received an FFA state degree and an animal science academic achievement award.

Sleichter is the daughter of Jay and Linda Sleichter and is a 2019 graduate of Clay Center Community High School.

K-State undergraduates who aspire to careers in public service and who are interested in competing for the Truman scholarship in a future application cycle are encouraged to contact Jim Hohenbary in the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships for more information at jimlth@k-state.edu or 785-532-3422.


Collegian Media Group sweeps gold at Kansas Collegiate Media Conference; students earn 63 awards

Collegian Media GroupStudents and their advisers represented the Collegian Media Group at the Kansas Collegiate Media conference, April 10-11. Students won 63 individual awards and swept Gold for Overall Best Newspaper, Yearbook and Magazine. Front row from the left: Jared Shuff, Alexia King, Hallie Everett and Daren Lee Lewis. Back row: David Levy, Carter Schaffer, Kendall Spencer, Maddie Daniels, Claiborn Schmidt and Landon Reinhardt.

The Collegian’s assistant news editor, Alexander Hurla, won second place for Journalist of The Year and first place in Profile Writing for his front-page story featuring Steve Smethers’ induction into the Kansas Broadcasters Hall of Fame.The Kansas State Collegian newspaper, Royal Purple yearbook and Manhappenin’ magazine won 63 individual awards at this year’s Kansas Collegiate Media Conference, April 10-11. The publications swept the three Gold categories for Best Overall Newspaper, Yearbook and Magazine. It’s the second consecutive year that Collegian Media Group earned Gold in the Overall category. Manhappenin’ and the Royal Purple both earned the All Kansas award for the second year in a row.

The Collegian’s art and culture editor, Claiborn Schmidt, won first place in Feature Writing for her story "TikTokers Sister Cindy, Brother Jed preached controversial sermons to students on campus." For the second consecutive year, Manhappenin’ staff member Kate Torline took first place for Best Page Design.

“I’m simply overjoyed for our students,” said David Levy, director of the Collegian Media Group. “The students who work on these publications have talent, maturity and a passion to serve the campus. Plus, they’re just super cool to hang out with. Our office doors stay open throughout the day. Many of our staff members are not journalism majors. All students are invited to join the winning team in Kedzie Hall. Pop into Room 103 and we’ll get you started.”

Collegian Media Group’s advertising sales and marketing team also won first place for Best Rate Card along with other advertising design awards.

“I am absolutely thrilled that the hard work of our talented creatives in the advertising department was recognized at the Kansas Collegiate Media conference," said Daren Lee Lewis, assistant director of the Collegian Media Group. "Of the six awards available, they took home all six.”

"The Collegian Media Group is a different place from what it has been over the past 10 years, especially the Collegian,” Levy said. “I know some old perceptions and mistrust still linger out there among readers who have been around awhile. But I’m asking everyone to take a fresh new look and get to know the staff. There’s a reason they won Gold for Best Overall Newspaper. They want to earn your trust and they’re awesome.”





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