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K-State Today

November 18, 2022

APDesign Associate Professor Wigfall earns Ad Astra Award

Submitted by Thom Jackson

LaBarbara Wigfall

La Barbara James Wigfall, associate professor in the landscape architecture and regional & community planning department in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design at Kansas State University received the prestigious American Planning Association — Kansas Chapter 2022 Ad Astra Award at the annual meeting on Oct. 21 in Topeka.

The award recognizes an individual or institution that has made a significant long-term contribution to the field of planning in the state of Kansas. The impact of their work extends beyond the geographic boundaries of their place of business and has taken the profession of planning to higher levels.

Wigfall was selected for service to the profession of planning as a faculty member in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design at K-State since 1987, after 10 years of private practice in Texas and faculty appointments/fellowships at Howard University, the University of Texas, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She is the first African American female faculty member to receive tenure and promotion at K-State.

Over her three decades of service to K-State, she has led students in active, engaged learning with real communities and has served as a core leader of K-State's interdisciplinary National Organization of Minority Architecture Students that is open to all disciplines, including planning students.

Wigfall has garnered several K-State awards for distinguished service to minority education and outstanding undergraduate teaching. In 2021, she received a national award, recognized as NOMA Midwest Member of the year, in recognition of her more than 30 years mentoring students, her research on African American settlements and towns in the United States, and most recently, her work with NOMA Kansas City to help launch their chapter's Project Pipeline summer experience for high school students.

As a faculty member at K-State, Wigfall initiated the partnership between K-State's landscape architecture and regional & community planning department and K-State's Hazardous Substance Research Center, serving as a strategic planner. Her work with the center was one of many venues for her engagement of student learning with community needs.

Wigfall is recognized for her contribution to scholarly work and associated teaching and learning. She is a scholar on the history and present-day planning needs of African American towns and settlements in the United States. Notably, she has worked with the community of Nicodemus, Kansas for more than 30 years and was instrumental in the townsite's designation as a National Historic Site.

Between 2013-2015, Wigfall led students engaged with the community in envisioning a vibrant future National Parks scenario for Nicodemus, one in which a thriving village interprets its own history. These efforts culminated in 2022, when Wigfall and her colleagues received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to explore robust digital interpretation of an important aspect of the Nicodemus history, the Ellis to Nicodemus Trail.

"We are so pleased to see La Barbara recognized for her long-standing community planning efforts with Nicodemus," said Huston Gibson, professor and department head. "The awards committee chair, after reading the full nomination package, expressed Nicodemus as being one of the most interesting places in Kansas, a place of rich history, deep community, and a true must-see for all Kansans and visitors to the state. The Ad Astra Award is an honor given only sparingly; she earned this honor through her commitment to planning and the community."

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