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K-State Today

October 4, 2011

Alumni couple creates opportunities in sociology and criminology

Submitted by Andrew Zender

Damon and Carrie Hininger visited Manhattan in early September to attend a football game and have lunch with scholarship recipients Todd Daniel and Gustavo Milan Vasquez, pictured here (left-to-right).

Success stories are always traced back to a person, place or experience that changes the way one looks at the world. It's those people, places or moments that resonate with us throughout our lives, and no matter where we end up, the impact they had on us will forever remain.

For Damon and Carrie Hininger, that place is K-State. Both natives of Leavenworth, Damon Hininger graduated in 1991 and Carrie Hininger in 1994 from the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Business Administration. Damon Hininger started his career at Corrections Corporation of America nearly 20 years ago as a corrections officer in Leavenworth. Today, he's the CEO and president of the company. Both he and Carrie Hininger attribute much of their success to their experiences at K-State.

From the expertise of the faculty to the caring nature of the entire university community, the personal growth they experienced while at K-State has inspired them to give back, to create new opportunities and to provide the resources and expertise of Corrections Corporation of America to students. And with a gift of $62,500, the Hiningers have established two new scholarships at K-State: the Damon and Carrie Hininger Scholarship in Sociology and the CCA Correctional Solutions Scholarship in Criminology.

"K-State was influential in preparing me for my professional career and opening my eyes to a new industry," Damon Hininger said. "The quality of the instructors within the criminology program at K-State was great — all had real-life experience and incorporated it into the classroom. It was clear they cared about each student's success."

Taking Corrections Corporation of America's engagement with K-State a step further is a new internship and recruitment program, which Hininger hopes will bring more K-Staters into the fold in a rapidly growing industry.

"As the fifth largest correctional system in the country, CCA is in a position to experience tremendous growth in the coming years," Damon Hininger said. "K-State has some of the best and brightest students in the world and we want them to know they can have a very meaningful and rewarding career here."

Betsy Cauble, department head of sociology, anthropology and social work, believes that the Hiningers' support of the program provides an important enhancement to students' education, particularly internship experiences that increase opportunities in a tight job market.

"We are so very fortunate to have alumni like Damon and Carrie who are committed to supporting students in the sociology program," Cauble said. "They appreciate the value of the degree and know how financially difficult it is for college students today — and are creating a lasting impact on our students and our program."

"When I look back at my personal growth, particularly at K-State, and see how much I've been blessed in my career, I see it as my responsibility to give back, to make an impact on students that are in need," Damon Hininger said. "But this is only the first step. We want to do more."