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K-State Today

October 18, 2022

SEM update from Dean Mary Tolar

Submitted by Mary Tolar

Dear faculty and staff,

Last fall, Provost Taber repositioned the University Honors Program, or UHP, Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, and the university’s Office of Engagement in the Staley School of Leadership for innovation and growth in those programs and to promote the integration of engagement into the student experience. Since then, we have undertaken unit-level strategic planning, sought and secured resources, and begun building our capacity to meet the goals set out in the university Strategic Enrollment Management, or SEM, plan, the K-State 2025 Theme 2 Implementation Plan, and the K-State 2025 Theme Four goal to "be a national leader and model for a reinvented and transformed public research land-grant university integrating research, education, and engagement.”

Strengthening the University’s Honors Program to attract and retain high-achieving students contributes to our SEM goals for both student recruitment and success. I am happy to report that applicants to the honors program are up by 85 students versus this time last year. To grow the program, UHP faculty director Sara Luly has expanded faculty engagement by establishing a cohort of University Honors Program-affiliated faculty, and we have increased staffing. Jim Hohenbary has stepped out of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships after 22 years to focus solely on honors as associate director. In the spring, we will also begin a search for a full-time director. Additionally, we are working with Housing and Dining Services and the Division of Facilities to begin program planning for renovation of the Strong Complex, and the creation of an expanded living community for honors program students is a first-phase objective for this project. Such housing, common to many outstanding honors programs across the country, will be important for future growth and will become a valuable asset for future innovation. 

Stepping in as director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships is Beth Powers. Powers comes to us most recently from the University of Chicago, with a 25-year career of working successfully with high-achieving students at the most competitive levels. K-State has an enviable legacy and reputation nationally — consistently ranking as a top ten institution in Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, and Udall scholarships awarded. This record clearly signals that the engaged learning experiences we provide at K-State prepare students to lead on global challenges. Beth began her fellowship advising career at K-State, and we are excited to have her once again leading our efforts to help students access these national opportunities.

Linking community engagement explicitly to the student experience is a key objective of the regional community visits initiative. The university Office of Engagement, led by Director Tim Steffensmeier, supports these visits, works to connect university and community partners to build upon what we learn, and shares the impact of engaged work through the visits and beyond. Project Manager Mirna Bonilla and research assistant Emmanuel Jeje have joined the office, adding capacity to promote, track and support engagement activities. Bonilla contributes valuable experience in community partnership, having served as an extension agent in the Chisholm Trail and Wild West districts. Jeje brings experience as director of the Department of Agriculture, Reform and Rural Development in Cape Town, South Africa. Along with the engagement office team, students from across the university are supporting and leading the community visits as Connected Cats. These students have diverse K-State experiences and are committed to investing in Kansas communities.

K-State creates distinctive value for its students by connecting classroom and community — students and faculty working on real-world challenges in real-time. Working in partnership with all colleges and campuses, we are growing these programs together as we strive to attract, enroll, retain and graduate students who will make a difference in the world, whichever path and profession they choose.

Thank you,
Mary Tolar
Dean of the Staley School of Leadership