Dane G. Hansen Foundation grants equip FHSU for service to rural Kansans

The Dane G. Hansen Foundation, located in Logan, has provided three grants that will assist Fort Hays State University in its service to rural western Kansas. The grants are for the Department of Nursing, the president's Venture Fund and the College of Education and Technology.

"The Hansen Foundation continues to support our efforts to improve rural life," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said in announcing the grants during a Friday morning news conference. "This financial support increases our ability to protect and enhance the quality of life for rural Kansans."

President Hammond said the grant for his Venture Fund gives him greater flexibility to provide funding for worthwhile projects that fall outside the normal budgeting process. "This gives me discretion to stimulate FHSU activities that are targeted for rural areas," he said. "The Hansen Foundation perpetuates the legacy of its founder, Dane G. Hansen, through annual scholarships and grants such as these. We are grateful to the foundation board for demonstrating their confidence in us and allowing us to assist in their mission to serve rural Kansans."

While Hansen Foundation support for the Nursing Department is ongoing, the grant to the College of Education and Technology is new.

"We are pleased to be a recipient of this gracious gift by the Hansen Foundation," said Dr. Debbie Mercer, interim dean of the College of Education and Technology. "The university and the college have a long tradition of working with small, rural schools in our service area. This gift provides the resources for new initiatives to enhance our mission and further our goals."

She said four main areas would be addressed through the grant.

First, the college will coordinate the training of facilitator leaders from small, rural communities. This leadership training will focus on skill development to create an environment for crucial community conversations to occur in the form of town hall meetings. Discussions will center on the future of their particular community.

Second, six pilot schools will be selected to participate in curriculum development activities focused on student leadership and civic responsibility objectives. Targeting the area of social studies, K-12 educators will participate in training sessions led by college faculty and Center for Civic Leadership personnel, as well as experts in the field. This process will lead to an enhanced curriculum that positively highlights issues of leadership, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.

Third, we will carry on the legacy established by the college’s Center for Community and School Renewal’s first Rural Education Symposium by inviting experts to share innovative projects that are adaptable to our service area. Our goal is to create an atmosphere and culture that is positive toward rural communities.

With this in mind, the final area of focus is on the preparation of teachers who understand and support rural education issues. An ongoing scholarship program will be established for sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in rural education concerns. This competitive scholarship will require ongoing professional development on the part of the recipients. Recipients will then share their study group session learnings in their classes, which will, in turn, enhance all teacher education candidates. Student teacher recipients will be placed in small, rural schools for their field experience requirement.

"The college is extremely excited about the possibilities that this gift will provide to our teacher education students, practicing teachers and community leaders," Dean Mercer said.

Dr. Jeff Briggs, dean of the College of Health and Life Sciences, spoke on behalf of Dr. Liane Connelly, professor and interim chair of the Nursing Department, who could not attend the news conference because of a family medical situation.

"The Department of Nursing is pleased to receive the award from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation for the 2005-2006 academic year," Dr. Briggs said. "This grant is used entirely for the provision of scholarships to rural Kansas registered nurses who would not otherwise be able to manage work and family responsibilities while seeking advanced education to provide primary healthcare to rural Kansans."

The dean explained that the Family Nurse Practitioner track within the Master of Science in Nursing program at FHSU had responded to the need for primary care professionals in critically underserved areas of western Kansas since August 1992. More than 130 students have graduated and assumed leadership positions primarily serving populations in rural Kansas. Many of these graduates have benefited from scholarships provided by the Hansen Foundation.

"Although Kansas has a growing base of nurse practitioners due to the various programs across the state, those family nurse practitioners graduating from schools located in urban and suburban sites continue to take positions in similar settings, thus the majority of those nurse practitioners continue to practice in urban and suburban sites," Dr. Briggs said. "FHSU continues to stand out in terms of attracting and retaining rural nurse practitioners. The Department of Nursing is pleased to be able to offer the Dane G. Hansen scholarship to students who seek to assist the rural citizens of Kansas as they seek primary healthcare services."

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