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K-State Today

April 21, 2011

Simply the best: Six faculty members earn Presidential Awards for excellence

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Six Kansas State University faculty members are receiving a 2011 Presidential Award for their impact, compassion and leadership as teachers, advisers or administrators.

The recipients of the Presidential Awards for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence are: Christer Aakeroy, professor of chemistry; Terrie McCants, instructor of family studies and human services; Donald Saucier, associate professor of psychology; and Matthew McDonough, graduate teaching assistant in history.

M.M. Chengappa, department head and university distinguished professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, will receive the Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising will be given to David A. Nichols, professor of animal sciences and industry.

The K-State president's office and Curtin Property Co., a real estate property development, sponsor the awards, which include a $2,500 honorarium and plaque. The Kansas State University Foundation coordinates the awards.

"The 2011 Presidential Awards recognize excellent faculty who are innovative, challenging and effective," said Kirk Schulz, K-State president. "We greatly appreciate the continued support of Chris Curtin and the Curtin Property Company to reward their exceptional efforts, which are important for K-State to become a top 50 public research university by 2025."

"The Curtin Property Company, and its Manhattan associates at Georgetown Apartment Homes and Westchester Park Apartment Community, are pleased to join with the Kansas State president's office to honor and to reward these highly talented educators," said Chris Curtin, company president. "Their commitment to their students and to Kansas State University is a inspiration to all of us. As we honor these select educators we honor all who strive for and achieve excellence in education at Kansas State."

Aakeroy joined K-State in 1996 and teaches Honors Chemistry I and Chemistry II. He's also a dedicated mentor to undergraduate researchers. In 2006 he received a Making a Difference Award from the Women in Engineering and Science Program at K-State. Aakeroy believes that the critical part of any educational process takes place between students and professor. "If we are to make sense of the complexities and wonders of chemistry, it's essential that the students are made to feel engaged and invested in the whole learning process," he said. "If their inherent and natural curiosity can be energized, they may also realize that their own input and contributions can have an impact way beyond their current classroom." Aakeroy was appointed to a four-year term on the board of governors of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre in 2009. He is one of eight scientists on the board and the only member from North America. Additionally, he holds several editor positions for chemistry journals. He earned a master's from Uppsala University in Sweden and a doctorate from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

Chengappa joined K-State in 1988 and was appointed head of the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in 1998. The department has experienced considerable growth in a number of areas during Chengappa's tenure. Extramural funding per year has increased by more than $8 million and the department has added 15 faculty members. He has led and facilitated major curriculum changes in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Chengappa has received numerous awards and honors, including the university's highest academic rank of university distinguished professor. He served as president of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists from 2008-2010. "To assure success of the department, all members, including myself, must strive to improve performance and productivity across all disciplines," he said. Chengappa, a veterinarian and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, earned a bachelor's and a master's in veterinary science from the University of Agriculture Science in India and a master's and doctorate from Michigan State University.

For McCants, teaching is a mission. She joined K-State in 1998 as a campus and regional representative for the Peace Corps. McCants then became an instructor and created a certificate in conflict resolution program for undergraduates and graduates, and co-developed the Conflict Analysis and Trauma Studies, or CATS, minor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services. She received the 2010 College of Human Ecology's Myers-Alford Outstanding Teaching Award, and the national 2011 University Professional Continuing Education Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award. McCants believes the true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others. "For me it's not a goal, it's a requirement to walk the talk -- to practice with authenticity and integrity in my teaching," she said. McCants earned her bachelor's from the University of Colorado at Denver and master's from Nova Southeastern University.

McDonough, doctoral student in history, Manhattan, helps the past come alive in his history survey courses. His lectures periodically feature a segment called "Life in…(a particular era)." The segment includes foods, medical treatments and popular entertainment available to people of the era. His infectious passion also translates into facilitated small group discussions where students are not allowed to speak until another member has spoken, sparking a sense of friendly competition. "I emphasize to students that history is much more than dates and facts -- it's about life itself," he said. "I encourage them to think critically about people and understand the good, the bad and the ugly events and achievements that characterize every epoch of human history." McDonough earned his bachelor's from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and master's from Western Carolina University.

A significant teaching load doesn't stop Nichols from treating each of his advisees with time and respect. Nichols maintains an open-door policy and is highly engaged in providing opportunities to discuss academic and nonacademic issues with students. Nichols believes in showing his advisees that he cares about their success. "A good adviser is not only committed to but also passionate about learning, listening and providing service to our students," he said. Nichols is also a resource for other faculty members in his department regarding guidelines and options for students in pursuit of their goals. He has received the Mortar Board Outstanding Faculty Award and the College of Agriculture's Outstanding Faculty Award. He joined K-State in 1981 and was promoted to professor in 1995. Nichols earned his bachelor's from Purdue University and master's and doctorate from K-State.

Individual responsibility forms the foundation for Saucier's teaching style. This philosophy includes opportunities to learn rather than requirements. "Students are autonomous beings who can make decisions, accept responsibility, contribute to their education and inspire their teachers," he said. Saucier maintains an active role in the department of psychology. He supervises many students in his research laboratory. He also is active in advising and in the department's graduate teaching apprentice program. He joined K-State in 2004 and was promoted to associate professor in 2009. He has received the William L. Stamey Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Presidential Distinguished Faculty Award for the Mentoring of Undergraduate Students in Research and the Putting Students First Award. Saucier earned his bachelor's from Colby College and master's and doctorate from the University of Vermont.