1. Kansas State University
  2. »Division of Communications and Marketing
  3. »K-State Today
  4. »K-State First presents 2020 First-Year Advocate and KSFB awards

K-State Today

March 3, 2021

K-State First presents 2020 First-Year Advocate and KSFB awards

Submitted by Mariya Vaughan

K-State First presents the winners for the 2020 First-Year Student Advocate and K-State First Book awards. While we would normally hold an awards dinner, this year we will share a virtual awards video. We will present our virtual celebration in mid-March, which will highlight the success of our award winners with excerpts from their award-winning submissions and hear from their nominators as well.

First-Year Advocate Awards — The First-Year Advocate Award celebrates faculty and students who:

  • Engage with first-year students.
  • Help students succeed academically.
  • Build community.
  • Show they value equity and inclusion.
  • Empower their students.
  • Help their students find purpose and achieve their goals.

The 2020 First-Year Advocate Award winners are Jessica Henault, faculty/staff recipient, and Julia Gross, student recipient.

In her nomination, Henault's nominator indicated how she supports students in a variety of ways, "Jessica empowers students every day in her interactions with them. She leads them in conversations that help them to reflect on their own identity, experiences, and values. I've seen her encourage students to use their voices even when it seems like it's scary. She often speaks about her own experience as a first-generation student and the barriers she faced. She pulls on that experience in conversations with students to point out that if she can do it, they can too!"

Gross' nominator highlighted how intentional she was about creating a caring and inclusive environment for students, "Julia cares about diversity and inclusion within the K-State student body. She spent countless hours helping to plan and execute Wildcat Dialogues. Before the event, she said, 'Many students have a story that needs to be told, and I want to listen.' She has also met and reached out to first-year students in order to listen to their stories."

Congratulations to these two amazing individuals. We thank them for their hard work and dedication to first-year students.

Additionally, we had a fantastic group who were nominated for their outstanding work with and for first-year students, and we'd like to celebrate them as well:

  • Rebeca Dale
  • Lisa Last
  • Jared Meitler
  • Kiley Moody
  • Melissa Wanklyn

K-State First Book, or KSFB, Awards — The KSFB Awards celebrate the common experiences shared at K-State with the common book. The award winners all worked hard to foster student engagement, enhance students' educational experience, expand the consideration of new ideas, values and concepts in the classroom and in the university community, and use creative applications of the themes from the 2020 common book, "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." The student awards are made possible by the generosity of Bill Miller and Debbie Leckron Miller.

Faculty award: Suzanne Porath, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, and other instructors of the practicum course EDEL 410 — Block B Practicum: K-6, helped coordinate Zoom events that would allow undergraduate pre-service teachers to create interdisciplinary activities based on the picture book version of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." The students use digital tools to create literacy and science lessons, which they then taught to local second- through fifth-graders in the community. This experience offered pre-services teachers an opportunity to learn how to create interdisciplinary lessons and teach remotely.

Student Group Award: Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences or MANRRS is a student group that provides a local and national network of support for K-State students enrolled in agriculture, forestry, related sciences and other interdisciplinary subjects, such as rural sociology, applied anthropology, math, chemistry and biology. On Nov. 5, 2020, MANRRS hosted a panel with JohnElla Homes, Kevin Bryant, Grace Hyunh and Summer Smades to discuss "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." The panel discussed the importance of religion to the story, how the environment and community shape a person's behavior, the importance of education and other topics.

Student Awards: This year we are presenting the Bill Miller and Debbie Leckron Miller K-State First Book Scholarship to two deserving students.

Grace Huynh, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, wrote an essay sharing her experience of the book. She spoke of how William Kamkwama's story demonstrates the capacities of human potential during uncertainty and how his book inspires and motivates her to explore her own strengths and to challenge issues within her community. Huynh was also a participant in the MANRRS panel discussion of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." She states that her involvement in the panel discussion helped broaden her perspective and sparked her curiosity of the challenges facing small farmers in America.

Bailey Roberts, senior in elementary education, created a video sharing her experiences with the book. Roberts partnered with other classmates to create lessons for EDEL 410 — Block B Practicum: K-6 and had the opportunity to teach her lesson plans to a group of second-grade students using Zoom. Teaching her lessons over the book confirmed to her that teaching was exactly what she wanted to do with her life. In her video, she also makes a connection between the book that changes William's life to the song that changed hers. 

Take a moment to reach out and congratulate these amazing people and the work they have done. We wish to thank all of the award winners and nominees for making the first-year experience great for K-State students!