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K-State Today

April 27, 2012

From the provost's desk: Celebrating faculty

Submitted by April Mason

Provost April Mason

Dear Colleagues,

As the semester comes to a close, we are in the midst of celebrating the accomplishments of our faculty and staff during the past year. This week alone I have enjoyed attending the Classified Employee Recognition Ceremony and had the honor of handing out the K-State Excellence in Engagement awards.  

Our award-winning faculty and staff are one of the reasons that becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025 is within our reach.  I want to take the opportunity in this month’s letter to campus to thank everyone for their outstanding work this year and to recognize in particular faculty who have earned university awards or promotion and tenure.

At commencement next month you'll see some professors wearing stately bronze medallions on purple ribbons. They are our university distinguished professors. It's a lifelong honor for those who have made outstanding contributions to their field, and I'm honored to be in the position to name them.

More than 60 of our faculty are, or have been named, university distinguished professors. Joining the ranks this year are Christer Aakeroy, professor of chemistry; Susan Brown, professor of biology; Itzik Ben-Itzhak, professor of physics; and Ruth Welti, professor of biology.

The student experience — both for undergraduates and graduates — is part of what makes K-State the special place it is. An enriching student experience doesn't happen by accident. It takes knowledgeable, caring faculty who demonstrate how important students are to them. And it's a commitment that doesn't stop when students step outside the classroom.

K-State is fortunate Commerce Bank shares our university's value of teaching excellence. This partnership allows us to recognize outstanding teaching faculty with the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. This year we honor Tim Bolton, professor of physics; Howard D. Hahn, assistant professor of landscape architecture/regional and community planning; Swinder Janda, professor of marketing; and Yacoub Najjar, professor of civil engineering, for their many contributions.

Last fall Commerce Bank helped us recognize two graduate faculty — Zhijian "ZJ" Pei, professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, and Philip Nel, professor of English — with the 2011-2012 Distinguished Graduate Faculty awards.

Our university is fortunate for another partnership that helps us honor our faculty. The Curtin Property Co. helps the president's office reward our excellent undergraduate instructors, undergraduate advisers and outstanding department heads.

This year the Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head will honor David C. Thompson, professor of educational leadership. Bente Janda, director of academic services for the College of Business Administration, is receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.

And four individuals are receiving the Presidential Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Alisa Garni, assistant professor in the department of sociology, anthropology and social work; Wendy Matlock, assistant professor of English; Jacqueline P. Ott, graduate teaching assistant in the Division of Biology; and Gregory Zolnerowich, associate professor of entomology.

Involving undergraduates in research has long been a university priority. Mentors like Brenda McDaniel make that happen. An assistant professor of psychology, McDaniel is receiving this year's Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Students in Research.

Engagement is an essential part of the land-grant mission and our future direction for K-State 2025. In recognition of its importance, the K-State Excellence in Engagement Awards were instituted this year to recognize faculty and their initiatives that exhibit sustained efforts in university/community-engaged scholarship through research, teaching and/or outreach. 

The faculty leading the award-winning engagement initiatives this year are Bruce Snyder, instructor in the Division of Biology, for “Earthworms Across Kansas,” and Cheryl Polson, director and associate dean of the Graduate School, and Jeff Zacharakis, associate professor in educational leadership, for “K-State’s Adult Education Program Engagement with the U.S Army’s Command and General Staff College.”

Another way we show our faculty we value all they bring to K-State is through promotion and tenure. This year we have 70 faculty earning promotions and 47 earning tenure.

This is much more than just a change in title or status. It's how we honor the years of contribution and hard work necessary to excel in a discipline and push a university toward enhanced prominence.

I hope the K-State community will join me in celebrating our outstanding faculty.

Thanks for all you do!

April Mason