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K-State Today

November 30, 2012

Political prowess: Sue Peterson receives CASE award for enhancing relationship between university, government

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Sue Peterson

In an already prestigious career, Sue Peterson can add another top honor to her resumé.

Peterson, Kansas State University's director of governmental relations and assistant to the president, is receiving the 2011 Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award. The award is one of two state government relations awards presented annually by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE; the American Association of Community Colleges; the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. It recognizes extraordinary contributions that have advanced an academic institution's government relations.

Peterson will receive the award at the Higher Education Government Relations Conference on Nov. 28-30 in Miami, Fla.

"I am honored to receive the Marvin D. 'Swede' Johnson Achievement Award," Peterson said. "It has been my privilege to represent my alma mater for the past 23 years. During this time I have worked with six governors in the state and countless member of the Kansas Legislature. I continue to be invigorated each January when the Kansas Legislature convenes as each new session represents another new endeavor in the state capitol."

Peterson was nominated for the award by Kirk Schulz, Kansas State University president; Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas; Stephen R. Morris, president of the Kansas Senate; John English, dean of the College of Engineering at Kansas State University and LeRoy C. and Aileen H. Paslay chair; and Andrew Schlapp, director of governmental relations at Wichita State University.

"Without Sue, Kansas State University's profile in Topeka and Washington wouldn't be as prominent as it is," Schulz said. "She does a fantastic job of keeping our elected officials informed about all of the great things happening at our university. Likewise, she's the university's link to the decision-makers who influence our three campuses. It's rewarding that the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education finds her contributions as invaluable as we do. Having exceptional leaders and administrators will be to our advantage as Kansas State moves forward to becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

Peterson said the renovation and construction of Farrell Library -- later renamed Hale Library -- is the project of which she is most proud. The library's renovation and 153,000 square foot expansion involved working with the Kansas Legislature to secure state funding and the university's Student Governing Association to pass a student fee increase.

In 2002, Peterson helped coordinate a Kansas Legislature meeting that brought its 165 members to the university campus. It resulted in the passage of state and federal funding for the construction of Pat Roberts Hall, which houses the university's Biosecurity Research Institute -- a biosafety level-3 and biosafety level-3 Ag research facility.

In an effort to further research opportunities, Peterson worked with the Kansas Bioscience Authority and Manhattan City Commission to secure the passage of several pieces of legislation in 2007 and 2008. These helped the state and university be named the home for the federal National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

Peterson also conducted two statewide legislative projects that have expanded student access to Kansas State University. In 1991 she led a collaborative effort between the university, Kansas College of Technology, Kansas Board of Regents, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Salina and the Salina Airport Authority to develop Kansas State University at Salina. The second effort, which involved the University of Kansas, saw the passage of a half-cent sales tax on Johnson County residents in 2008 for the development of Kansas State University's Olathe campus.

Peterson, Schulz and English collaborated with Wichita State University and the University of Kansas to help get the Engineering Initiative Act passed in the Kansas Legislature in 2011. The $35 million initiative for the universities' engineering programs focuses on doubling the state's engineering graduates by 2021.

Additionally, Peterson initiated a universitywide legislative advocacy effort through the University Committee on Governmental Issues; started Pizza and Politics in 2006, a program that briefs students, faculty and staff on legislative issues and prepares them to respond to information requests from the Kansas Legislature; created Wildcats for Higher Education with the K-State Alumni Association; started an advocacy program that recognizes elected officials who are K-State alumni; developed a governmental relations intern position at Kansas State University; communicates regularly with constituents through social media; started a Regents-wide legislative communications program with colleagues at the state's six universities; helped create the Big 12 Council of Governmental Relations Officers in 2006; and served on Gov. Brownback's transition team in 2010.

"Sue Peterson is an outstanding example of what can be achieved through partnering efforts between institutions of higher learning and government," Brownback said. "She serves as an example to us all. Kansas State University, as well as all higher education in Kansas, has indeed been fortunate to have such a dedicated, effective and able representative."