LAWRENCE – Projects that have reached Kansans from Garden City to Wyandotte County have garnered recognition for three University of Kansas faculty who won this year’s Steeples Service to Kansans Award.
The Steeples award honors faculty contributions to the people of Kansas through teaching and research. This year’s recipients are Mary Banwart, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies and associate professor of communication studies; Jennifer Ng, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies; and Sean Smith, professor of special education.
Banwart is the founder and director of the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute. Each year, the institute brings women from around the world to Kansas to engage in a six-week program that allows them to explore women’s leadership and history; gain leadership skills; learn about civic engagement and volunteerism; and interact with Kansans across the state. Participants also stay with local families for a weekend, connect with mentors from the Lawrence community and explore Kansas through day trips. Banwart expanded the program in 2014 to include participants from Kansas colleges, furthering the opportunities for international connections between Kansans and the world. KWLI is one of the U.S. Department of State’s Study of U.S. Institute’s programs on Women’s Leadership, which is funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Ng engages regularly with school districts across the state on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. She has served on several committees in the Lawrence Public Schools and provided professional development to teachers throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. Most recently, Ng moved to Garden City during a five-month sabbatical to study the efforts of rural educators working with culturally and linguistically diverse youths. Garden City is a nationally notable community that has experienced rapid growth and major demographic change as a result of the area’s beef packing industry. Together with her collaborator Donald Stull, professor emeritus in anthropology at KU, Ng has returned to Garden City several times to present the findings of their research to district leaders. The recommendations of a report they submitted will also inform the district’s five-year strategic plan. Ng continues to address education and related matters at the state level through her participation in Leadership Kansas and her membership on the Kansas Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Smith’s contributions to the state are most notable in his efforts to prepare educators to teach students with learning, emotional and behavioral difference while also seeking to support the parents and family members of these students. He has worked with the Kansas State Department of Education for nearly a decade in various capacities to support educators, represent parents and assist in the implementation of technology for individuals with disabilities. He has served on statewide committees that have worked to revise special education teacher preparation standards. He also works with Families Together, a Kansas organization whose mission is to support families of individuals with disabilities across the life span, and the Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City, serving parents, family members and individuals with Down syndrome across the state of Kansas. Additionally, for the past five years, he has collaborated with partners from the KU Center for Research on Learning in a multi-year technology implementation project in the Fort Leavenworth, Olathe, Wichita and Gardner-Edgerton school districts.
Don Steeples, professor emeritus of geology, and his wife, Tammy, established this award in 1997 to honor Don Steeples’ parents, Wally and Marie Steeples, and to recognize outstanding service by KU faculty to other Kansans. The award provides recipients with $1,000 and an additional $1,000 base adjustment to their salaries.
Funds for the award are managed by KU Endowment, the independent nonprofit foundation serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences confers the Steeples awards. The College is KU’s largest, most diverse academic unit.