President Martin opens new year with Convocation address

Mirta Convocation

08/12/15 kb/ks

HAYS, Kan. -- Dr. Mirta M. Martin, president of Fort Hays State University, called upon faculty and staff this morning to help not just with recruitment of students but also with the process of ensuring that those students successfully engage in their courses and complete their degrees.

President Martin made her remarks during the annual Convocation ceremony, which launched the 2015-2016 academic year. Classes begin on Monday.

The ceremony also included several awards, and Dr. Chapman Rackaway, professor of political science, received the university's highest honor when Dr. Martin named him the President's Distinguished Scholar.

In her address to several hundred assembled faculty and staff, the president noted that the university had embarked on an ambitious "re-engineering" project not long after her arrival a year ago. "Together, we envisioned a new beginning for Fort Hays State; one that builds on our strengths -- our programs of distinction and our people of excellence," she said. "We engaged you, our faculty and staff, and our students, in our discussions. We asked for honest opinions and creative input. We listened to each other. We explored many different suggestions. Our discussions were transparent and open to candid feedback. We shared the information we gathered with our entire community. We found we were great at many things, but there was room to be better."

Emphasizing again and again the spirit of family, President Martin called upon faculty and staff to shift from a culture of access to a culture of completion.

"We should be engaged to produce graduates who can think for themselves, who are articulate and persuasive, who are critical, creative and collaborative, and who are technologically proficient and competent across disciplines," she said.

President Martin said recruitment of students must be everyone's job. She announced that last year, for the first time in FHSU's history, revenues generated by tuition and fees, at 31.7 percent, were greater than revenues received from state appropriations, at 27.3 percent. She said that more than ever, Fort Hays State is heavily dependent on tuition dollars and must continue to grow.

"Talk to your family members, to your friends, to everyone," she said. "Spread the word about all that is good and great at our university. Talk about our programs of distinction. Talk about our people of excellence. Talk about our Honors College and how bright minds are making Fort Hays State their destination of choice. Talk about our international exchange programs and how our students are able to study abroad at one of our incredible partner institutions for the same low FHSU tuition cost. Talk about how our Graduate School offers students the opportunity to continue their exceptional education right here, on site or online. Show your excitement and passion for our university. Get new Tigers here!"

She insisted, though, that the job must not stop with getting students here and unpacked. "That's when our work really begins," she said. "We must ensure those students cross the finish line. We must ensure they graduate. Successful student outcomes are our top priority. Retention is everyone's business."

The president also announced some new initiatives for the coming year:
• A mentoring program with a goal of pairing every student with an alumni mentor.
• The first-ever Hispanic College Institute, a "four-day, three-night residential program to introduce first generation Hispanics to a university environment."
• A plan to "explore and implement at least one cross-border program outside of China."
• Beginning in the "next few days," implementation will begin on a new resource technology system to integrate management systems across campus, including student and financial data.

Following the president's address and introductions of all the new members of the faculty and staff, award winners were revealed for Faculty Member of the Year, Edmund Shearer Advisor of Year and the President's Distinguished Scholar.

Dr. Chapman Rackaway, who was named this year's President's Distinguished Scholar, received a medallion and a $1,500 cash award. He was selected by President Martin from recommendations forwarded by an evaluation committee of previous presidential scholars. Rackaway will give a scholarly presentation later in the fall semester.

Kathleen Ward, associate professor of nursing, was named Faculty Member of the Year. The honor carries a $1,000 cash award, provided by Deron O'Connor, president of Commerce Bank, and the membership of the Academic Council.

Angela Walters, associate professor of informatics, was named the Shearer Advisor of the Year, which also carries a $500 cash award, sponsored by Commerce Bank.

Dr. April Park, assistant professor of psychology, was the recipient of the Heinrichs Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, named in honor of the late Dr. John Heinrichs. The award recognizes a faculty member for commitment of time and energy in encouraging and developing research by undergraduate students. The $500 award for this honor goes to the winner's home department in order to benefit the undergraduate research program. The monetary award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Undergraduate Research Experience, and the Office of Scholarships and Sponsored Projects.

Amanda Ergun, assistant director of the English as Second Language program, won the Internationalization of the Campus and Curriculum Award, first presented in 2013. She 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. Ward was one of the two 2014-2015 winners of the Outstanding Teaching Award. The other was Dr. LeAnn Brown, assistant professor of management.

The two Service Award winners during 2014-2015 were Dr. Eric Deneault, assistant professor of applied technology, and Dr. Fred Britten, professor of communication sciences and disorders. The 2014-2015 Research and Scholarly Activities Award winners were Dr. Bob Meier, professor of informatics, and Dr. Yasuhiro Kobayashi, assistant professor of biological sciences. Each of those awards carries a $500 cash benefit.

The Shearer Advising Award winner is selected from nominees of the university's academic colleges. Walters was nominated by the College of Business and Entrepreneurship. The other nominees were Dr. Bryan Bennett, assistant professor of political science from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Dr. Lorie Cook-Benjamin, associate professor of teacher education from the College of Education; and Dr. Jenny Manry, associate professor of nursing, from the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

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

Recognition of adjunct faculty for outstanding online education was also continued this year. One from each of the university's academic colleges was recognized: Ronald Evans from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Josh Jones from the College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Martin Kollman from the College of Education; and Emily Pinkston from the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

08/12/15 kb/ks
Back to top