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K-State Today

May 7, 2015

Faculty members, graduate student awarded for hard work as educators, advisers, leaders

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Five Kansas State University faculty members and one graduate student received 2015 Presidential Awards for their compassion, dedication and creativity as educators, advisers and administrators at the All-University Awards Ceremony May 6.

Brianne Heidbreder, associate professor of political science; Whitney Jeter, doctoral student in psychological sciences; Sarah Riforgiate, assistant professor of communication studies; and Brian Washburn, associate professor of physics, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Gary Mortenson, professor and director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head. Dan Kuester, director of undergraduate studies in the economics department and Roger Trenary chair for excellence in economic instruction, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.

The awards include a $2,500 honorarium and plaque sponsored by the president's office and Curtin Property Co., a real estate development firm with offices in Manhattan and Kansas City.

"The hard work and dedication that these educators contribute in and out of the classroom for Kansas State University students is not only helping students succeed now but also in their future careers," K-State President Kirk Schulz said. "I appreciate the continued support of Chris Curtin and Curtin Property Co. to reward these talented individuals and advance K-State's goal of becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

"The Curtin Property Co. and its Manhattan associates at Georgetown Apartment Homes and Westchester Park Apartments are pleased to join with the K-State president's office in recognizing and rewarding these highly talented educators," said Chris Curtin, company president. "Their commitment to their students' success, to professional excellence and to K-State is inspirational to all of us."

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching recognize compassion, dedication and creativity in undergraduate teaching. Three awards are given for faculty and one award for a graduate teaching assistant.

Heidbreder teaches State Politics, U.S. Politics, Urban Politics, Gender and Politics, Public Personnel Administration and American Government. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Master of Arts in political science from K-State and a doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Jeter is this year's recipient of the Presidential Award in Undergraduate Teaching by a graduate teaching assistant. She is the graduate teaching assistant at K-State’s Teaching and Learning Center. She received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Baylor University and a Master of Science in social psychology from K-State in 2013.

Riforgiate teaches Conflict and Communication, Communication and Leadership, Organizational Communication Theory and Perspectives in Communication. She has a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and a Master of Arts and a doctorate, both in communication, from Arizona State University.

Washburn teaches Engineering Physics 1, Physics 1, Engineering Physics 2 and Physics 2. He has a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Wisconsin, Parkside and a doctorate in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head is awarded each year to a department head who is proactive, positive, fair and equitable and who cooperates with units across the university.

Mortenson has shown exceptional leadership since his arrival to K-State. He realigned the theatre, dance and music programs into the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance; worked with the faculty to develop policies for evaluation; worked to rebalance faculty instruction, creative/research and service responsibilities to better align with 2025 goals; and worked closely with the KSU Foundation to increase philanthropy for the performing arts at K-State. These efforts led to the school becoming the first All-Steinway School in the state of Kansas, the renovation of Kirmser Hall and major upgrades to the infrastructure of the Mark A. Chapman Theatre. Mortenson received a Bachelor of Music Education from Augustana College, Master of Music in performance from Ithaca College and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Texas, Austin

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising showcases an adviser who is dedicated to providing quality advising to undergraduates.

Dan Kuester advises about 50 students in the economics department and averages a near perfect score on the academic advising surveys. He encourages students to take part in extracurricular networking activities, such as the Economics Club, in which he serves as the club’s advisor. He graduated magna cum laude from Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts in business and economics. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

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