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K-State Today

May 4, 2020

Chapman Center founding director to retire

Submitted by Laura Perez

Lynn-Sherow, far right, with Chapman Center graduate and undergraduate student workers and staff.

Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, founding director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, will retire in August 2020. 

"Bonnie Lynn-Sherow was founding director of a brand new unit in the college with very limited resources," said Amit Chakrabarti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Because of her excellent leadership in multiple aspects of running the center, the Chapman Center now enjoys local, regional and national prominence. What an achievement! Bonnie has now set the course for the center to become an interdisciplinary research powerhouse that will serve and empower the citizens of Kansas for years to come. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Bonnie and will miss her friendship and positive viewpoint through all sorts of challenging times."

From its small beginning in the Department of History as a small town research project on Broughton, Kansas, in 2006, the Chapman Center under the direction of Lynn-Sherow has become the only full-fledged undergraduate research laboratory in the humanities at K-State, providing paid internships and digital platforms to publication. In 2017, the center expanded its mission yet again to become a center of excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences dedicated to interdisciplinary research.

Mark A. Chapman, a K-State alumnus and former resident of Broughton, Kansas, funded a major renovation to a portion of Leasure Hall for research, teaching and administration for the center in 2008. Lynn-Sherow took on oversight of the renovation and planning for the center, writing a successful NEH Digital Humanities Grant, "Lost Kansas," that provided funds for training and software for the center's online database of student research on lost and forgotten towns in Kansas.

Together, with retired research director MJ Morgan, the center has published more than 260 online student research publications related to rural Kansas and three collaborative books: "Broughton Kansas: Portrait of a Lost Town," 2010; "Filling the Larder, Feeding our Families," 2012; and "Sauble: Stories from the Flint Hills," 2019.

In fall 2016, Lynn-Sherow curated a major exhibit, "Going Home: Stories of the Flint Hills," at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan that showcased a decade of student research and was seen by more than 12,000 visitors. Her expertise in museum exhibition and planning led to a $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities public access grant — Making the Leap: The Future of Small Historical Societies and Museums awarded in 2017 that will conclude in July. The center recently launched its newest initiative in January, the Interdisciplinary Research Grant program in the College of Arts and Sciences, which gives teams of faculty researchers an opportunity to pursue untried lines of inquiry with the support of student researchers, administrative and marketing staff and all of the facilities and technology developed at the center. The team of Mary Kohn, associate professor of English, and Alisa Garni, associate professor of sociology, were awarded the first IRG grant in the fall of 2019 for their work with youth in recent immigrant communities in Kansas

As a center for rural studies in Kansas, the Chapman Center's interests have extended far beyond the boundary of the campus to seek out the expertise, knowledge and memories of rural residents to recover the stories of lost towns, landscapes and people. Since its inception, more than 80 different institutions and nonprofits have partnered with the center in support of undergraduate research and publication. And as a center for digital humanities at K-State, the Chapman Center has preserved dozens of archival collections — print, images, audio recordings and film — on behalf of individuals and institutions, including Pioneer Bluffs Ranching Heritage Center in Matfield Green and the Kansas State Historical Society. Many of the center's students gain technical knowledge and skills in the preservation of archival materials and currently serve as curators, museum directors, and other public professionals in Kansas and nationally.

In addition to its online digital archive, the center hosts the electronic edition of Melvin Bruntzel's three-volume "Quick Reference to Kansas: Lost-Found-Missing, Towns and Places with Selected Trivia and Truths," with more than 9,000 entries, for use by researchers across the state. Additionally, Lynn-Sherow has served as the senior editor of the peer-reviewed Online Journal for Rural Research and Policy, started by the late Professor Thomas Gould in 2007. Lynn-Sherow created the Gould best paper award in 2018 in honor of Professor Thomas Gould’s interdisciplinary research vision

Following his untimely death in 2014, Chapman's desired plans for the center were directed to a secure endowment by Lynn-Sherow and KSU Foundation's Sheila Walker to ensure the long term viability of the center. In total, Lynn-Sherow has raised more than $4 million dollars from donor gifts and behests, public and private grants, and direct funding for undergraduate and graduate scholarships ranging from the Center for Engagement and Community Development — $24,000 — to Brunswick Corporation in Chicago, Illinois — $150,000.

The Chapman Center has been regularly recognized for its outstanding work, receiving the provost's 2018 Excellence in Engagement Award. Also in 2018, the National Humanities Alliance, the nonprofit sponsor of the National Endowment for the Humanities, recognized the center's work with students and communities by designating it a "High Impact Project" in their Humanities for All campaign, one of only six projects selected nationally.

Last year Lynn-Sherow was honored for her leadership of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies through inclusion in the Women of K-State and in her selection to the 2018 inaugural class of the Center for Engagement and Community Development's Civic Engagement Fellows program. Lynn-Sherow has been a regular speaker for Humanities Kansas on issues important to rural Kansans in addition to keynote addresses at the annual meetings of K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Farmers Union in 2020. With support from the center, the College of Arts and Sciences and the president's office, Lynn-Sherow hosted the 2012 annual meeting of the international Agricultural History Society to coincide with the sesquicentennial of Kansas State University as the first operational land-grant school in the nation.

"I've been incredibly fortunate to work with so many collaborative teams of faculty, staff and students — unlike any other unit in the College of Arts and Sciences — and I'm grateful to each and every member," Lynn-Sherow said. "I'm excited for our wonderful community partners and can't wait to see how the next chapter in rural studies at Kansas State will unfold."

Lynn-Sherow will turn over the reins of the center to a new director over the summer and return to her academic home in the Department of History on phased retirement through the spring of 2022. She and her husband, Jim Sherow, university distinguished professor in history, are retiring to Lynn-Sherow's native Canada to make their home in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. 

More information on the center is available on Facebook.