K-State Current

K-State Current - May 25, 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

A letter from President Richard Linton

Rich Linton, PresidentDear K-State community,

It’s hard to believe that the end of the spring semester is already upon us. As I reflect on my first three months at K-State, I continue to be so honored to be part of this incredible, connected community. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Optimism is core to the Wildcat spirit. When K-Staters see opportunities to be better, stronger, more efficient and more aligned with the needs of those we serve, we can’t help but go after them. Your tenacity inspires me every day, and it makes me so excited to be here with you.

As you know, my primary goal during my first 90 days has been to listen, learn and engage at all levels of the university. I’ve spent time on each of our physical campuses with students, faculty and staff. I’ve engaged with our alumni, donors and longtime supporters. I’ve spent time with local, state and federal leaders and legislators. And I’ve visited with other administrators at universities across the state.

Three months in, I’ve already seen so many great things in motion. One of the strongest state budgets we’ve seen proposed in the past decade is making its way through legislative review. We are pleased with the support for higher education coming from our state leaders. Additionally, we joined state, federal and local leaders last month in welcoming Scorpion Biological Services Inc. to the Manhattan community. This was an achievement that marked the first major milestone toward realizing our economic prosperity plan. The partnership with Scorpion will open so many new doors for our students and faculty to participate in engaged work within the biodefense industry, and I am so excited to see these opportunities come to fruition.

And speaking of our students, graduation season is upon us. Last weekend’s commencement ceremony in Salina and the upcoming ceremonies in Manhattan later this week mark the beginning of the next chapter for our 2022 graduates. Speaking directly to our graduates: I am confident you are going to do amazing things with your life, and you have the backing of the entire K-State family behind you every step of the way. We can’t wait to see your continued accomplishments!

As our graduates take hold of their own futures, we also look forward to the future of Kansas State University. Key activities for this summer include:

  • We will soon be officially launching the searches for our three vacant cabinet-level leadership positions at the university. While interviews will not occur until the fall, we will begin cultivating the candidate pools for these essential members of our university leadership team.
  • I have convened a team of individuals from the Office of the Provost, Enrollment Management, K-State Research and Extension, Office of Engagement in the Staley School of Leadership Studies, and the Division of Communications and Marketing, with special assistance from the Student Governing Association, to begin planning a series of community visits throughout the next academic year. These visits will give us an opportunity to reaffirm and rebuild our engagement across the state in this new post-pandemic era. You can expect to hear much more about this community engagement initiative as the planning continues.
  • We will continue to prioritize our Strategic Enrollment Management efforts in a variety of ways. It is core to our mission to provide educational access and opportunity, and we will continue to work hard toward achieving this goal together.
  • Additionally, we will embark on the development of a new university-level strategic plan that will drive our priorities, improve efficiencies and carry us forward, positioning K-State to be a model Next-Generation Land-Grant University.

The future of Kansas State University is bright. I choose to believe that the opportunities that lie ahead of us are far greater than the challenges we face today. At K-State, there’s no limit to what we should expect. Let’s go after our collective dreams together.

Go ‘Cats!

Richard Linton

Letter was released to campus on May 11, 2022.


Terry and Tara Cupps awarded Kansas State University Medal of Excellence

Terry and Tara CuppsAt the spring KSU Foundation Board of Trustees meeting, trustees Terry and Tara Cupps, Manhattan, Kansas, were awarded the Kansas State University Medal of Excellence, which recognizes those who have advanced K-State through exceptional service, leadership and philanthropic contributions.

Tara received her first degree from K-State in 1978 in engineering technology. She went back for her accounting degree, which she earned in 1982. Terry graduated from K-State in 1978 with a degree in speech. He went on to get his law degree in 1985 from Washburn University.

Terry and Tara are both KSU Foundation Trustees, and Tara has served on the KSU Foundation Board of Directors and was the chair of the K-State Alumni Association Board of Directors in 2005. They are very active with the K-State Alumni Association and various friends groups on campus including Friends of McCain, the Beach Museum of Art, K-State Libraries, and the Gardens. Terry is a member of the Friends of McCain Board of Directors, the Communications Studies Advisory Board and is a former chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council. They both served on the Ahearn Fund Advisory Council and are members of the Ahearn Fund National Leadership Circle. They invest in four scholarships and five excellence funds, supporting students and programs universitywide.

“Terry and Tara embody the spirit of K-State by providing extraordinary service to Kansas State as volunteers, mentors, philanthropic leaders and enthusiastic Wildcat fans,” said K-State President Richard Linton. “We very much appreciate their commitment to advancing what makes K-State great today and in the future, and we’re excited to celebrate Tara and Terry by awarding them the university’s Medal of Excellence.”

“Terry and Tara Cupps believe strongly in providing students the opportunities to have exceptional learning experiences while attending K-State. This passion is driven by the rich and meaningful experiences they had as K-State students,” said Greg Willems, president and CEO of the KSU Foundation. “They invest in scholarships to help make sure students have the ability to focus on their education and take advantage of unique opportunities. They give of their time to help make sure programs on campus excel. They are truly fantastic investors, advocates and ambassadors for K-State.”

“K-State is better because of Terry and Tara. They are committed to supporting so many different entities on campus,” said Amy Button Renz, president and CEO of the K-State Alumni Association. “Athletics, their colleges, the foundation, the alumni association, the arts — they have touched so many different areas. We wouldn’t be the same university without them because they do so much. They give of their time and their talent. It’s heartwarming to see everything they support.”

Terry and Tara Cupps join a prestigious group of past Medal of Excellence awardees.

“The award isn’t about us, it’s about Kansas State, and we’re just an example of what we try to do for K-State,” Terry said. “It’s about philanthropy and giving back to the university with your leadership, your abilities and setting an example for other people. This recognition helps set an example for others. That’s the significance I see in the award — the example, not us.”

And for Tara, to receive the award this year is particularly special, as it’s a milestone year for female leaders.

“In 2007, I was sitting on the KSU Foundation Board as a representative of the K-State Alumni Association. That year there were five women on the board and one, Betty Tointon, was slated to be a future chair, but was unable to do so due to health reasons,” Tara said. “ Finally, this year Mary Vanier is serving as the first female chair of the KSU Foundation Board of Directors. So, for me, it’s very special to receive this award this year.” As Kansas State University’s strategic partner for philanthropy, the KSU Foundation inspires and guides philanthropy toward university priorities to boldly advance K-State family. Visit www.ksufoundation.org for more information.


K-State Faculty Highlights

Natarajan leads K-State portion of $24 million NSF investment in resilient, socially equitable infrastructure

Bala NatarajanBala Natarajan is a Steve Hsu Keystone research scholar and Clair N. Palmer and Sara M. Palmer electrical engineering professor within the Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kansas State University.

Ensuring that infrastructure is equipped to support all communities after a disaster, including historically underserved groups that often receive less aid in the aftermath, is the aim of a new five-year, $24 million statewide initiative funded by the National Science Foundation.

Kansas State University joins a collaborative group of 16 other universities and colleges in Kansas, along with industry leaders and disaster experts, for the project, which is designed to better equip communities with limited resources before and after a natural disaster strikes. The project is titled "Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures Driven by Social Equity."

Bala Natarajan, Steve Hsu Keystone research scholar and Clair N. Palmer and Sara M. Palmer electrical engineering professor in the Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lead K-State's portion of the project.

"I find that the most challenging societal problems typically require solutions that cut across disciplinary boundaries," Natarajan said. "That is why I am excited to work on this unique project, as it will bring together a diverse team of researchers from across Kansas to help create a paradigm shift in resilience science and engineering."

Funded through the NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research RII Track-1 program, the project's overall goal is to determine how infrastructure resilience intersects with social equity and how human capacity, physical infrastructure and policy levers can be designed to achieve socially equitable outcomes that collectively improve decisions and community resilience. The NSF will provide $20 million, with the state of Kansas adding $4 million in matching funds.

Belinda Sturm at the University of Kansas will serve as principal investigator on the project, leading the group of 23 researchers from Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University. Joining Natarajan from the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at K-State as co-principal investigators are George Amariucai and Lior Shamir, both from computer science; Husain Aziz, civil engineering; Anil Pahwa, electrical and computer engineering; and Vaishali Sharda, biological and agricultural engineering. Jason Bergtold, agricultural economics, joins from the College of Agriculture.

"The team will leverage fundamental advances and tools from social sciences, engineering and computer sciences to develop a new social equity-driven paradigm that will transform the way researchers and communities approach smart and resilient communities," Natarajan said. "Working closely with multiple stakeholders, we are looking forward to translating our theoretical modeling and analysis work into a meaningful decision support framework that Kansas communities can use in their policymaking, planning and operation of critical infrastructures."

Targeting underserved populations, the project will introduce more than 2,400 Kansas families to resilience, resulting in an understanding of individual capacity and preparedness for disasters while providing pipelines to higher education.


K-State Student News

K-State to compete at nationals after sweeping top spots at regional collegiate robotics competition

K-State Team TakeoffK-State Team Takeoff took first place at the regional BOTSKC robotics competition. Team members include, from left: Josh Fitzwater, Nathan Diehl, Ty Mathews, Shane McIntosh, Luke Ragland, Ben Huff, Troy Sanson and Emily Pine.

Two teams from the Kansas State University Robotics Competition Team will compete at the National Robotics League Championship and College Invitational Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, after sweeping first and second place at the regional competition in April.

Both squads qualified for the national competition at the Robert Morris University UPMC Events Center in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, after strong showings at the April 22-23 regional competition, called BOTSKC. The two teams ultimately faced off against each other for first place, with Team Takeoff claiming the top spot over Team Power Kitten MKII.

The regional event, sponsored by the National Robotics League, is a double-elimination, single-combat battle tournament bracket. For each battle, two teams put their robots into opposite corners and the first team to break, flip or otherwise incapacitate the other robot wins. If time runs out before there is a clear winner, a panel of judges declares a winner.

The squads from the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering competed in the 15-pound weight class and in addition to head-to-head battles, competed in video interviews and written documentation segments.

"Our professionalism and preparedness earned the respect of our competitors," said Ty Mathews, sophomore in mechanical engineering and captain of Team Takeoff. "However, it was our bots' robust design and nimble drivetrain that earned us first place in the college division of BOTSKC."

Team Power Kitten MKII had to rebound from a 0-1 start to end the day in the championship match.

"Power Kitten MKII was plagued by electrical and mechanical issues the whole event, but our amazing pit crew took us from a 0-1 record at the start of the competition to a 6-2 record, winning us second place in the college division," said Alex Howard, senior in electrical engineering and captain of Team Power Kitten MKII. "The largest issue we faced was screws loosening from large impacts."

Both teams have put in the work over the last month to prepare for the tougher competition they'll face this weekend.

"Our team is full of members that put 100% into their work, and we could not have done what we did without each of them," Howard said. "We are all excited to see how the robot performs at the national event now that the issues we experienced are resolved."

Members from Team Takeoff include: Nathan Diehl, junior in computer engineering; Josh Fitzwater, junior in electrical engineering; Ben Huff, sophomore in computer engineering; Ty Mathews, sophomore in mechanical engineering; Shane McIntosh, sophomore in mechanical engineering; Emily Pine, junior in mechanical engineering; Luke Ragland, freshman in biomedical engineering; and Troy Sanson, sophomore in mechanical engineering, all from Olathe.

Members from Team Power Kitten MKII include: David Ochner, senior in electrical engineering, Fort Riley; Aurora Gray, senior in electrical engineering, Lansing; Quinlan Brown, junior in social work; Alex Howard, senior in electrical engineering; Will Kelly, senior in mechanical engineering; and Ashton Weaver, junior in industrial engineering, all from Olathe; and Ethan Gabrielson, sophomore in mechanical engineering, Chillicothe, Missouri.

Team Power Kitten MKIITeam Power Kitten MKII claimed second place at the regional BOTSKC robotics competition. Team members include, from left: David Ochner, Alex Howard, Quinlan Brown, Will Kelly, Ethan Gabrielson and Ashton Weaver.


K-State Business Innovation Challenge awards more than $10,000 in scholarships to competition winners

Team Ideas R UsThe Center for Principled Business hosted its third annual spring competition with a new format. Students who participated in the K-State Business Innovation Challenge identified a problem or challenge facing the K-State or Manhattan communities, and then developed recommendations to address the challenge.

Students used their creativity and critical thinking skills to develop an innovative product, service, process, or technology. The goal of the challenge is to encourage students to think innovatively about solutions to real-world problems while developing critical thinking, teamwork, and communication skills.

Seven teams advanced to the final round and presented to a panel of K-State alumni industry professionals. This year’s judges were Nick Chong, head of Global Support & Services, Zoom; Victor Ojeleye, Business Group FP&A Planning & Reporting manager, Cargill; and Katie Small, industry engagement manager, Kansas State University Innovation Partners.

“The students did an outstanding job of developing a wide range of innovative solutions to challenges they have identified in our community,” said Marcia Hornung, director of the Center for Principled Business. “We are proud to offer this learning opportunity and thankful for the investment from alumni, faculty and community members, as well as industry partners who volunteered their time in support of our students.”

This year’s winners:

  • First place — Team Ideas R Us, $1,000 per team member, proposed scheduling support within K-State’s Learning Management System. Team members are Morgan Waterman, Kristen Medlin, Makenzie Moran and Katie Beien.
  • Second place — Team Business Cats, $750 per team member, proposed the use of technology to address food insecurity in the community. Team members are Yslam Akmyradov, Hannah Andogan and Colton Muckelbauer.
  • Third place — Team RNC, $500 per team member, proposed the installation of HEPA-filtered hand dryers in the College of Business Building. Team members are Ryan DeVault, Nate Hassed and Chelsea Phillips.

Honorable mention — four teams, $250 per team member.

  • Manhattan Magic, a gathering space on the campus Quad. Team members are Cale Adams, Rachel Etzel, Mitch Flanagan and Blake Turner.
  • Team 13, technology use to increase attendance at K-State sports events. Team members are Bryce Ainslie and Tim Dehan.
  • The Strategists, a study space reservation system in the College of Business Building. Team members are Ariana Harland, Ben Rost, Meghan Siebenburgen and Grace Vogel.
  • Wildcats LLC, a new financial literacy course for K-State students. Team members are Matt Deeds, Mitch Huerter, Jack Loveless and Naomi Pieper.

The Center for Principled Business engages in teaching and research activities that develop business leaders and enhance societal prosperity. The center offers cross-disciplinary research and academic and co-curricular programs for K-State students, high school students and working professionals.





K-State Current archive