FHSU spring convocation proudly features faculty awards

FHSU Media Relations
The annual Spring Convocation at Fort Hays State University was held virtually on May 7.

The annual Spring Convocation at Fort Hays State University was held virtually on May 7.

President Tisa Mason, along with Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jill Arensdorf recognized the winners of the Spring Semester 2021 faculty awards and 2021 alumni commencement awards as well as the recipients of the Cross-Border Educational Excellence Award, Navigator, Outstanding Graduate Advisor, and Edmund Shearer Faculty Advisor of the Year awards.

The live-streamed event also featured annual reports from Haley Reiter, outgoing student government association president; Jennifer Whitmer, university staff senate president; Dr. Kevin Splichal, faculty senate president; and Dr. Janett Naylor-Tinknell, AAUP president.

The spring Outstanding Faculty Award winners are: Dr. Jonathan Sumrall, assistant professor of geosciences, for scholarly activity; Dr. April Terry, assistant professor of criminal justice, for teaching; and Jacque Jacobs, program specialist in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, for service.

All recipients received a $500 award for their accomplishments, thanks to the generosity and support of Commerce Bank. In addition to the monetary gift, the college deans are providing an additional $250 in the budget of the recipient's department.

Sumrall was recognized for producing five academic publications and for the notable quality of his works as well. His publications are continually cited by others in the field, validating his exceptional research talents.

“Jonathan enhances the classroom experiences for his students by integrating his research with the use of field trips, in class experiments, and other expeditions,” Arensdorf said. “His talents and mentorship of students have proven to be an asset to our commitment to undergraduate research at the university.”

Terry was recognized for approaching each course as an opportunity to engage students in experiences related to careers and incorporating activities that align with the criminal justice system. Using her creativity and passion for teaching, Terry consistently enhances the experiential-learning component of her courses.

“No matter what topic I teach, I am passionate about talking about social-justice issues,” Terry stated. “This is a common thread throughout my courses, and we will talk about different forms of oppression, cultural, and systemic issues. I try to serve as a model for them and how we can apply what we talk about in class, and how that applies to real time issues, and how they can be inspired to go do something.”

Terry sees her responsibility not only in teaching, service, and scholarship but also in demonstrating how those pieces are integrated into the classroom. Incorporating experiential learning, service, and research in the classroom while involving students in real-world experiences provides that collaboration.

Jacobs was recognized with the Outstanding Service Award for the compassion she displays to all clients in the FHSU Herndon Clinic.

“She works tirelessly to ensure all receive the highest quality of care both in the Herndon Clinic, and throughout the community,” Arensdorf remarks of Jacobs. “Notably, this past year throughout the pandemic, Jacque created and implemented a comprehensive plan that provided a safe environment to continue to serve clients while providing a quality learning experience for her students.”

The honorees join three other faculty members recognized for teaching, research, and scholarly activity in the Fall 2020 semester, as candidates for the Faculty Member-of-the-Year Award. The recipient of the upcoming award, along with a $1,000 prize, will be announced at the Fall Convocation in August.

Each of the five colleges of the University nominates outstanding faculty members to receive the awards. Recipients are selected by a committee appointed by the respective college deans.

Cross-Border Educational Excellence Award:

The Cross-Border Education Excellence Award was awarded to Ryan Olsen, instructor of leadership studies in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Olsen teaches on the Shenyang Normal University campus in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. The award was established to recognize an individual who exemplifies excellence in contributing to FHSU students’ academic experiences at a cross-border partner institution.

Olsen could not attend the awards presentation due to the time difference, but Arensdorf shared his response to receiving the award. “Receiving this award is one of my greatest honors, as it is proving to me that adaptability, empathy, and changes in latitudes and attitudes are necessary each and every day.”

Navigator Award:

The Navigator Award was presented to Kris Munsch, assistant professor of applied technology. The award was established in 1998 by the Student Government Association to recognize an outstanding academic advisor based on how closely the advisor adheres to the university goals for academic advising. 

Munsch is revered by his students for the way he motivates those around him to strive for excellence in the classroom and beyond.

“He pushes his students to become visionaries and thinkers who come up with real solutions,” Arensdorf said. “The grit that he instills and demonstrates to all the students he interacts with is inspiring.”

Outstanding Graduate Advisor:

The Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award recognizes a faculty member who is an advisor of graduate students and provides leadership and service in other activities on campus. The award was presented to Sarah Patterson, Graduate Program Coordinator in the Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

Nomination letters highlighted Patterson’s commitment to assisting her students in selecting the necessary courses to ensure timely completion of their degrees. The letters also described her attentiveness to connecting students with campus resources, and flexibility to accommodate the many different schedules of nontraditional students.

Edmund Shearer Faculty Advisor of the Year Award:

The Edmund Shearer Faculty Advisor of the Year Award was presented to Mr. Kim Stewart, chair and professor of technology studies in the Werth College of Science, Technology, and Mathematics.  

The Shearer Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding academic advising of students. Shearer, a former Chair of the Department of Chemistry, was known for the high value he placed on student advisement. One advisor can be recognized from each of the five academic colleges. 

Stewart has built a reputation for being an outstanding advisor through his commitment to building relationships with the students, not just advising. A former student wrote in a recommendation letter for Stewart’s nomination, “As a teacher and advisor, Mr. Stewart guided me through the program, making sure I took all of the required courses. More importantly, he encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and become active in TECA, our student organization.”

The now successful high-school educator wrote that because of Stewart's dedication to his success, he won a national championship in TECA's teaching lesson competition, was part of a national championship team in live manufacturing and has won several other awards. Each letter of support for Stewart's nomination shared similar stories of his devotion to students' success and the impact he has on students' lives long after they graduate from Fort Hays State.   

“He has an innate ability to make students feel like they are the most important students on campus,” Arensdorf said of Stewart. “He has dedicated his career to making a positive difference in the lives of our students, and Fort Hays State is fortunate to call Kim one of our own.”

As the recipient of this award, Stewart also receives a nomination for the National Academic Advising Association Award. Each FHSU winner will be presented with a certificate and a monetary award. The nominees receive a stipend of $150, and the final award honoree receives $500, sponsored by Commerce Bank.

With Stewart, fellow nominees for this award include Dr. Kim Perez, professor of history in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Dr. Karen Thal, assistant professor of applied business studies in the Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Rekayla Tuxhorn, instructor of social work in the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences; and Dr. Edward Hammond, FHSU President Emeritus and a professor of advanced education programs in the College of Education.