Kansas State University


The Loop

Summer 2020 director’s note

Mary TolarNow more than ever, our diverse and changing world requires leadership that is knowledgeable, ethical, caring and inclusive. The disruption and uncertainty of a global pandemic and the pain of persistent systemic racism challenge our health, economic well-being and understanding of community. We all are being called to learn, listen and act with compassion and purpose.  

To our students, colleagues and all in our communities: While we may be physically separated, we stand with you in solidarity against racial injustice. Every human deserves dignity, respect and the basic right to justice and equity. Black lives matter. 

Healing the wounds we’ve created in our country and communities takes leadership. We are inspired by the protests and activism locally and across the country. We commit to learning and taking action that our institutions and communities require for progress. Leading change has long been the hallmark of the Staley School. It is clear that these extraordinary times require individual, collective and systemic work. We will continue to push the edges of the field and our communities toward centering that work – the work required of and for justice.  

Through it all, we persist. Just as the season has persisted from spring to summer, so has our work at the Staley School. I am eager to share what’s been happening this spring and summer at the socially distant, yet fully engaged Staley School, as we adapt and respond to changes and challenges, and prepare for a bright future 

Mandela Washington Fellowship/Leading Change
At this time of year, I would typically write an update on the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders*, as part of the Leading Change Institutes, introducing you to a new group of professionals from throughout sub-Saharan Africa who are leading change. This year, in light of the global pandemic, the U.S. Department of State and IREX made the decision to post-pone the 2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship until summer 2021.  

While we were not able to welcome a 2020 Fellowship cohort, we continue to find ways to partner to engage, educate, and learn from FellowsFellowship Alumni in graduate study here at K-State, and Fellows engaging virtually to advance the practice of leadership.  

Kachi Ekwerike, 2017 Fellowship Alumnus and doctoral student in leadership communication, is actively working to advance the research agenda of Third Floor Research, an applied research center at the Kansas Leadership Center. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the challenge of re-opening businesses and communities, Kachi is part of a team that is analyzing instances when organizations, companies and communities were forced to adapt quickly. Mafule Moswane, 2018 Fellowship and doctoral student in leadership communication, is teaching LEAD 212: Introduction to Leadership Concepts online and facilitating learning for our Edgerley-Franklin Scholars.  We have been glad to partner with 2019 Fellowship Alumnus Olalekan Ayodele Sipasi, also known as “The Hunger Fighter,” as he joined our K-State community as a doctoral student in horticulture and has volunteered at spring and summer Mobile Food Distributions. 

Additionally, faculty, students, Fellowship Alumni and community partners worked together to author a series for The Loop, the Staley School’s blog. Organized by Dr. Brandon Kliewer with support from Dr. Trish Gott, in this special blog series, guest writers considered how the academic framework, research agenda and the associated leadership studies literature introduced through the Staley School’s academic work and programming contribute understanding to and support for the exercise of leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak. The blogs include local and global focuses, two authored by Fellowship Alumni, Mafule Moswane, South Africa, and Zaharah Namanda, Uganda. 

Community response
HandsOn Kansas State has hosted record Mobile Food Distributions this spring and now summer. The sharp increase in our community of households coming to the distributions shines a painful light on the current social and economic inequities we face today. We do not delight in this work, but we hold to the opportunity to serve, and ultimately to leverage programs like the global food systems leadership secondary major and the nonprofit leadership certificate to prepare a generation of people committed to leading change in the food system.   

In response to growing needs in our communities for nonprofit leadership and civic engagement, we continue to make our coursework more accessible and meet the needs of learners where they are. This spring we converted our nonprofit leadership curriculum to a stand-alone certificate. This certificate, also available online through K-State Global Campus, makes it possible for students, alumni, professionals and community-members located anywhere to engage in learning about the nonprofit sector 

Virtual opportunities
We continue to surprise ourselves with the ability to adapt to this rapidly changing world. To meet students and families where they are, we have joined K-State in creating virtual opportunities for prospective and current students to meet with our team. Our faculty, staff, and Staley School Ambassadors have leaned-in to create online experiences that still reveal who we are as a team and how we can help students achieve their goals. These virtual sessions have proven themselves invaluable and will continue even when in-person visits resume. If you know a student considering K-State, encourage them to include the Staley School when they schedule their virtual visit 

Student academics and programs
Our classrooms this summer are empty – but our classes are full. While the COVID-19 pandemic required face-to-face classes to move online mid-semester, we had already been working toward making all four core classes, in addition to the nonprofit leadership courses, available in an online format. This became a question of access, and the faculty and staff of the Staley School took on the challenge of creating dynamic and meaningful online learning experiences. That challenge also extends to our student programs outside the classroomread more 

We are making choices on lesson planning, programming, physical space and adhering to health and safety guidelines all at the same time – a delicate balance of intentions. We don’t pretend to know it all, but we are moving forward together and adjusting as needed, all the while listening and learning from students and each other. The work we do to drive our mission forward will always align with Kansas State University and our progress towards well-being for students, faculty and staff. This means that despite the adversity we face, we find a way to ensure our students have the best experience possible.  

While we are experiencing upheaval and frustration in these disruptive times, we are also experiencing extraordinary innovation, care, and resilience. We are grateful for your partnership and support as we meet the evolving challenges of leading change in our classrooms and in our communities. Thank you! 


*The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. Kansas State University is a sub-grantee of IREX and has implemented U.S.-based Leadership Institutes as a part of the Fellowship. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit the Fellowship’s website at www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org. 

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