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K-State Today

July 20, 2020

Applications due Aug. 7 for ALIANZA scholarships

Submitted by Pedro Silva Espinoza

ALIANZA, the K-State Faculty and Staff Alliance for Hispanic/Latino Affairs, invites applications for the $500 2020-2021 Professor Douglas K. Benson Scholarship for undergraduate students. Faculty and staff are encouraged to share this information with students. 

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7. Eligible candidates are currently enrolled full-time students with a 2.5 GPA or higher. The scholarship recipient must attend K-State as an undergraduate student during the 2020-2021 academic year. The second-place student will receive an award of $250 from ALIANZA.

With this scholarship, ALIANZA honors Benson, a former professor in the modern languages department, for his tireless advocacy on diversity issues at K-State and beyond, and for his continuous activism on behalf of Latino culture and heritage. Please see his full biography below.

Required application materials include:

  • A resume that includes personal contact information, including K-State e-mail address; degree pursued including major, minors, cumulative GPA, and year in school; scholarships and awards received; activities; and work experience. Resume help is available at k-state.edu/ces/students/.
  • An essay describing the student's appreciation for Latino culture in a global world — language, literature, cultural productions including photographs, movies, drawings, etc. The essay should be between 250 and 500 words — about 1-2 pages double-spaced and typed.

Please submit your complete application — including both resume and essay — by email, as one single PDF file to Clara Kientz at ckientz@k-state.edu. By submitting this application, students allow us to verify their academic standing at Kansas State University. The recipients of both scholarships will be notified via email.

Benson grew up in the high green mountains of Taos, in northern New Mexico, where Latinos and American Indians have formed the ethnic majority for centuries. As a child, he began to notice that his friends were profiled in stores, schools and traffic. He would not understand why until much later. It was there that he got his first exposure to Spanish.

Benson received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and French from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in 1966, after two initial years studying chemistry and physics. He also met his future wife Cecille there; they celebrated 50 years of marriage in August 2015. He received a doctorate in Spanish and French literature in 1974 from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. It was during his university experiences that he began to expand his growing awareness of the cultures of Spanish-speaking peoples and to become involved in their issues.

For 11 years, he taught Spanish at Hastings College in Nebraska. He was almost the only person in Hastings who spoke Spanish at first, but gradually members of immigrant families began to contact him and attend his classes.

In 1980, he was hired by the modern languages department at K-State and almost immediately made contacts with multicultural faculty and staff who generously invited him to participate in the university’s diversity work. Some of these activities include:

  • 1984-1987 — Development Committee for the American Ethnic Studies Secondary Major Program, served on Governance Board until it became a department in 2013.
  • 1989-1999 — Charter member of the President's Commission on Multicultural Affairs.
  • 1995-2002 — Planning Committee for the Kansas Regents — now Michael Tilford — statewide Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism in the University Classroom.
  • 1996-2012 — Charter member of K-State Tilford Group on multicultural course transformation.
  • 1997-2009 — Co-chair with Candice Hironaka of Community Cultural Harmony Week, formerly Racial Ethnic Harmony Week, founded by K-State student Barbara Baker in 1988.
  • 1999-2003 — Faculty advisor for the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, known as HALO.
  • 2001 — Founding member of ALIANZA.

Benson has published some 30 articles and book chapters on the post-Civil War poetry of Spain, Chicano poetry of the Southwest and language teaching, and has presented more than 60 professional papers and workshops in the U.S. and abroad. He was promoted to full professor in 2004, and has received awards for teaching as well as service to multicultural students. The awards include the Commerce Bank Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching in 1999; recognition to Service to Underrepresented Students in 2000; the Dr. Ron and Rae Iman Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching from the K-State Alumni Association in 2008; and the university's highest teaching award, the Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars, from 2009-2016.