Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 16, 2000 - Issue 25


Kansas State University: Benson Honored for

Service 'Above and Beyond' Duty

to Minority Students

 by Keener A. Tippin II of M2 Communications

NOV 29, 2000, M2 Communications - MANHATTAN -- Doug Benson lives by a simple philosophy he learned at an early age: "You learn the most from people who are different from you."

That philosophy has earned Benson this year's Commerce Bank Presidential Faculty and Staff Award for Distinguished Services to Minority Students. The award is funded by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation.

As a Caucasian youth in Taos, N.M., most of Benson's friends were either Latino or Native American. He grew up eating different types of food and experiencing various cultures. What he didn't experience or realize at the time was that many of his friends were subjected to racism.

"I was largely unaware in grade school, but in high school and college I began to notice with increasing frequency that I was treated different from the way they were treated -- in school, stores, everywhere," Benson recalled. "Merchants followed them around the stores but I could have walked out with half the merchandise.

"By the time I was an undergraduate at New Mexico State University I knewwhat I wanted to do with my life -- no matter what my profession would be. I just didn't know how."

It was those experiences with racial discrimination that started the K-State professor on a tireless mission to promote multicultural and minority affairs -- not only at K-State, but Manhattan as well. Benson serves as the co-chair of the Racial/Ethnic Harmony Week observance; as a member of the American Ethnic Studies governance board; co-adviser to the Hispanic American Leadership Organization; as a member of K-State the Tilford Group; as a planning committee representative on the Kansas Regents Universities (Michael Tilford) Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism in the University Curriculum; and as a member of the Alumni Association's Multicultural Alumni Council. He is a former member of the President's Commission on Multicultural Affairs. Benson is also a past recipient of K-State's Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 1999; the William L. Stamey Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1995, 1991 and 1989; and the AMOCO Excellence in Undergraduate! Teaching Award, 1984

Benson was also instrumental in getting the Spanish-language cable channel Univision added to Manhattan's cable television system.

"People need -- and not just the people who are the obvious group -- access to all kinds of different entertainment programming," Benson said. "We have a lot of Spanish students on this campus who need authentic models of the language, the entertainment programming, in addition to what I think is the best news anywhere in the United States right now -- either in Spanish or English.

"Ricky Martin didn't start this interest in Latino music in this country. A lot of the interest in Latino music in this country has been because of Univision and people having access to the music, fashion and the issues that are important to the Spanish-speaking world."

Other nominees for the award included Carla Jones, associate dean of student life; Socorro Herrera, associate professor of elementary education and co-director, ESL/Dual Language program.

Benson will receive a $1,000 cash award and a plaque. He and other nominees will be honored in January as part of K-State's Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Week activities. Benson also will be recognized at commencement for the College of Arts and Sciences, 9 a.m. Dec 9, in Bramlage Coliseum.

"Doug Benson is very deserving of this award," said Reginland McGowan, chair of the award's selection committee. "I think what was most impressive to the selection committee were the things he does above and beyond his normal job in helping students of color, such as co-chair of the Racial Ethnic Harmony Week celebration and adviser to HALO."

Benson admits to being "honored and conflicted" about receiving the award: honored to be in the presence of those who have previously won the award; humbled by those he feels are equally deserving.

"This award to me is a symbol of the fact that not just myself, but a bunch of us are out there doing some good things," Benson said. "Obviously nothing like this happens alone. We've made a lot of progress but there are still an awful lot of things that are just not right."

The award was established in 1978 to recognize outstanding individual contributions to the development of quality education of students of color at K-State. Past winners of the award are James Boyer, Antonia Pigno, Bernard Franklin, Anne Butler, Veryl Switzer, Karen Hummel, Wayne Rohrer, Hakim-Salahu-Din, William Sutton, Michael Holen, Harriet Ottenheimer, Barbara Baker, William Feyerharm, Phil Anderson, Reginland McGowan, Karen Martin, LaBarbara Wigfall, Teto Henderson, David Griffin, Kathleen Greene and Juanita McGowan.



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