New year, new president, new traditions


Mirta Martin foregoes theme for year, institutes food pantry 'ticket' to convocation


In her first State of the University address this morning at the annual fall Convocation, Dr. Mirta M. Martin formally ushered Fort Hays State University into an era of "new beginnings."

Two changes were to the Convocation itself. One Convocation tradition fell -- Martin's State of the University address did not have a theme for the year -- and another tradition was introduced. The new president requested that faculty and staff donate a non-perishable food item as a price of admittance to the Convocation. The items will stock the FHSU Tiger Food Exchange, a project of the Campus Food and Hunger Initiatives Committee.

Martin became president on July 1, succeeding Dr. Edward H. Hammond. "It's an honor to be here as the ninth president of Fort Hays State University, and to build upon the legacy that Dr. Hammond established while leading this institution for nearly three decades," she said as she thanked him and introduced him at the Convocation.

Noting that the start of the academic year was a time to welcome a new class of students, she said, "We will welcome our new students. We will educate them. We will nurture them. And we will graduate them into a world that hardly resembles the world we knew when we graduated some years ago."

She said that by the end of the decade, two out of every three jobs available in the nation would require more than a high school education. "That number is even higher here in Kansas," she said. "It's 71 percent. A college education will be essential to the success of the men and women we will find in our classes. Their futures, and the future of Kansas itself, depend on our skills and on our commitment. … They depend on the work we do together as a family."

FHSU has the right mission, the talent, the heart and the passion to be what Kansas "needs us to be and what this incoming class of students is counting on us to be," she added.

"Your ears may have already told you I'm not from around these parts originally," she said of her accent. "I was born in Havana, Cuba, grew up in Madrid, Spain, and immigrated to the United States. A journey like that stays with you, shapes you and guides your perspective on practically everything.

"The gift that journey gave me is an unshakable belief in the American Dream, the exceptional combination of determination, hard work and opportunity that allows anyone -- everyone -- in this country to shape his or her future. I've never known a more empowering idea."

She admitted that the dream can seem a little "beat up" these days, citing challenges facing the middle class and rising costs of higher education, but she emphasized that FHSU's reputation for innovation would be its "salvation." She said she was inspired by FHSU's commitment to bring 21st century lessons to its students using 21st century technologies.

"While other universities have gilded their ivory towers, Fort Hays State University has erected two wind turbines," she noted. "Those turbines represent a successful strategy that lowers the college's energy costs, saving about $1 million dollars a year. That's 21st-century thinking.

As further evidence of 21st-century thinking, Martin pointed to 24 new faculty positions and a long list of national rankings and accolades earned by the university.

"Our creativity and openness to innovation, our ability to ensure that we offer high-quality education, that's how we will meet the needs of the students, employers and communities that we serve," she said. "That's how we will grow the reputation of Fort Hays State as a difference-maker. That's 21st-century thinking. That's how we will protect, promote and provide that American Dream for those who wish to pursue it here."

"We need to become the destination of choice for extraordinary students, faculty, researchers and staff," she declared. "We need to become the destination of choice for our Kansas. We need to become the destination of choice for international business and non-profit partners."

Faculty and staff gave her a standing ovation when she was introduced and again after her remarks.

Another highlight of Fall Convocation is the introduction of faculty award winners -- Faculty Member of the Year, Edmund Shearer Advisor of the Year and, the university's highest honor, the President's Distinguished Scholar.

Dr. Dosse Toulaboe (pronounced DOE-say TWO-luh-boh), professor of economics, finance and accounting, was named this year's President's Distinguished Scholar. Toulaboe, who receives a medallion and a $1,500 cash award, was selected by President Hammond from recommendations forwarded to him by an evaluation committee of previous presidential scholars. The committee is chaired by Dr. Chris Crawford, interim provost.

Faculty Senate President Eric Deyo, assistant professor of physics, also spoke. Crawford, Phil Toepfer, university controller, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Joey Linn and the deans of the four academic colleges introduced new faculty and staff.

Other faculty award winners were also announced at the Convocation. Dr. Craig Smith, assistant professor of agriculture, was named Faculty Member of the Year for 2014. The honor carries a $1,000 cash award, provided by Deron O'Connor, president of Commerce Bank, and the membership of the Academic Council

Dr. Brian Maricle, associate professor of biological sciences, was named the Shearer Advisor of the Year, which also carried a $500 cash award, sponsored by Commerce Bank.

Maricle was also the recipient of a new award, the Heinrichs Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, named in honor of the late Dr. John Heinrichs. The award recognizes a faculty member of their commitment of time and energy in encouraging and developing research by undergraduate students.

The $500 award that goes with the honor is in the form of extra operating expenses budget authority for the recipients home department, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Undergraduate Research Experience, and the Office of Scholarships and Sponsored Projects.

Max Maximov, instructor of modern languages, is the second winner of the Internationalization of the Campus and Curriculum Award, first presented last year. He will receive a $500 award from the Office of the Provost.

The Faculty Member of the Year was chosen from among the previous academic year's winners of Research, Service and Outstanding Teaching Awards. One faculty member each semester is presented with an award in each of those three categories. Smith was one of the two 2013-2014 winners of the Research and Scholarly Activities Award. The other was Dr. Justin Evans, instructor of management and marketing.

The two Service Award winners during 2012-2013 were Dr. Elmer Finck, professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Curt Brungardt, Omer G. Voss Distinguished Professor of Leadership Studies and director of the Center for Civic Leadership. The 2013-2014 Outstanding Teaching Award winners were Dr. Joyce Ellis, associate professor of health and human performance, and Kris Munsch, assistant professor of applied technology.

Each of those awards carries a $500 cash benefit.

The Shearer Award winner is selected from nominees of the university's four colleges. Three colleges nominated faculty advisors this year. Maricle was nominated by the College of Health and Life Sciences. The other nominees were Karrie Simpson Voth, professor of art and design from the College of Arts and Sciences; Cole Engel, instructor of economics, finance and accounting, from the College of Business and Entrepreneurship; and Dr. Adam Holden, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education, representing the College of Education and Technology.

The Shearer Award winner receives a stipend of $500, and the other three nominees receive $150. The cash award is sponsored by Commerce Bank. Maricle, as the Shearer Award winner, will also be nominated by the university for the National Academic Advising Association Award.

This year, for the first time, recognition was given to adjunct faculty for outstanding online education. One from each of the university's academic colleges was recognized: Julie Zollinger, College of Arts and Sciences; Rachel Dolechek, College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Dr. Rita Hauck, College of Education and Technology; and Dr. Jim Krob, College of Health and Life Sciences.

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