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Steeples award recognizes faculty contributions to Kansas

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

LAWRENCE – Research and outreach encompassing distracted driving awareness, leadership development and healthy neighborhoods have earned three faculty members at the University of Kansas recognition with the Steeples Service to Kansas Award.

The Steeples award honors faculty contributions to the people of Kansas through teaching and research. This year’s recipients are Paul Atchley, professor of psychology; Shannon Criss, associate professor in the School of Architecture, Design & Planning; and Heather Getha-Taylor, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration.

Atchley is known for research on effects and solutions for distracted driving, including texting and visual deficits of elderly drivers. He has received grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation that focus on how to dissuade drivers from texting. His research results have been transformed into media and public presentations aimed at helping Kansas law enforcement personnel, politicians and the general public understand the risks of driving while distracted. He has also personally shared the message about the dangers of distracted driving through numerous state media interviews, including the Wichita Eagle, Kansas City Star and television and radio stations in Topeka and Kansas City.

Criss’ research recognizes the significant spatial relationships affecting healthy food choices and walkability for Kansans. She has documented the physical, environmental, technological and social fabric of a neighborhood in Wyandotte County, creating models and tools to engage its residents; developing cost-effective prototypes of built elements; and proposing guidelines for policy makers. Her research aims to build partnerships with faculty and students to improve access to healthy food and promote active lifestyles, which are essential to combating chronic diseases of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Criss collaborates with faculty across disciplines, including public health. She has partnered with community members and nonprofit and civic organizations to help empower the community of Wyandotte County to take steps to improve residents’ health and well-being, advocate for social equity and build community resilience. Key partners include Community Housing of Wyandotte County, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and The Wyandotte Health Foundation.

Getha-Taylor works frequently with Kansas leaders, civic groups, nonprofits and government organizations to share her research and expertise in collaboration and leadership. Her guidance has been sought on issues pertaining to collaborative thinking, leadership development, and recruiting and sustaining a strong municipal workforce. Her specific influence can be seen in her engagement with organizations including the city of Olathe, Kansas Department of Corrections and Kansas Department for Children and Families, which included service-learning projects for students. She has also provided service to such organizations as Kansas Association of Counties, Kansas Emerging Leaders Academy and League of Kansas Municipalities, to name a few.

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 and Sciences confers the Steeples awards. The College encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.