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K-State Today

April 28, 2021

Call for applications for Douglas K. Benson and ALIANZA scholarships

Submitted by Karin Goldberg

ALIANZA, the K-State Faculty and Staff Alliance for Hispanic/Latino Affairs, invites applications for two $500 2021-2022 awards: the Professor Douglas K. Benson and the ALIANZA scholarships for undergraduate students. Faculty and staff are encouraged to share this information with students. Only one application is needed for the two scholarships.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday, July 2. 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 2021-2022 academic year.

With this scholarship, ALIANZA honors Douglas Benson, professor emeritus 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.

One of the scholarships is funded by a generous personal donation of Professor Benson. The other one is funded by membership contributions of ALIANZA members, and this year has an added contribution from Professor Jeffrey Smith of the geography and geospatial sciences department. Benson's full biography is included below.

Required application materials include:

  • A resume that includes personal contact information, including K-State email 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 one to two pages double-spaced and typed.

Please submit your complete application — including both resume and essay — by email, as one single PDF file to Marianne Korten at mkorten@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 Indigenous people and Latinos/as 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 and took his first classes in the language.

Benson received the 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 groups and initiatives that addressed the challenges that many Latino/as face.

For 11 years, he taught Spanish and French 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 and served on its 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.
  • 2000 — 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 and for Distinguished 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. Benson retired in 2015.

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