Kansas State University


Graduate School

K-State produces award winning teaching assistants, frequently receives accolades for regional award

Since the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS), an affiliate of the Council of Graduate School that includes 120 member institutions, established the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011, Kansas State University has had five winners, the most winners from any university.  

The MAGS Excellence in Teaching awards were created to recognize the importance of excellence in teaching and mentoring as a component of graduate education and the preparation of graduate students for future service as college and university faculty.  One master’s and one doctoral award is selected from the competitive pool of candidates nominated by member institutions.

Kansas State University MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award recipients include:


  • 2017 Amanda Martens, doctoral recipient, psychology and currently doctoral student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at K-State
  • 2016 Katrina Hanna, masters recipient, communication studies and currently doctoral student of Department of Communication at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ
  • 2014 Jaime L. Hartenstein, doctoral recipient, family studies and currently program coordinator and assistant professor of child and family development education at University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO
  • 2013 Jarred Pfeiffer, masters recipient, MFA Ceramics and currently a ceramic artist and tenured professor at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California
  • 2013 Tammy Sonnentag, doctoral recipient, social-development psychology and currently assistant professor in School of Psychology, Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio

This April, two more K-State graduate students will compete to earn a $750 honorarium for the MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award at the 74th annual meeting April 4-6 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Catherine Williams, masters graduate teaching assistant in English and Sarah Kuborn, doctoral graduate teaching assistant in family studies and human services will represent the university as the nominees for the 2018 MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award.

“As a first-generation college student myself, I can vividly trace how having excellent teachers changed my life,” Catherine Williams, 2018 master’s nominee said. “Beyond teaching the curriculum, being an effective teacher means being available for your students, and treating them with compassion and autonomy. When teachers make a sincere effort to understand a student through their classwork, homework and writing, it can have a transformative effect on their future. By interacting with engaged and effective educators, students begin to believe in their own potential and the power of their ideas.”

The success of the awards speaks to the universities excellent teaching structure. K-State enables graduate students to create their own opportunities to develop teaching styles that are unique for each classroom experience, to engage and interact with students to create transformative classroom.

“My focus has always been on empowerment and engagement with students,” Amanda Martens, 2017 MAGS doctoral recipient said after receiving the award. “My ultimate goal is to empower my students with tools and information that they can use throughout their lives. I engage my students through my use of humor, popular culture examples, and examples that are highly relevant to most college students’ lives. This also allows me to develop a rapport with the students. After rapport is developed, I can challenge my students’ thinking and discuss topics that are often perceived as difficult and controversial, such as gender, prejudice, feminism and religion.”

“The only reason I believe that I have been accepted for this award stems from a long history of being a recipient of excellent teaching from my own mother, undergraduate professors, and the faculty I worked with at K-State,” Katrina Hanna, 2016 MAGS masters recipient said after receiving the award. “The faculty of Communication Studies at K-State facilitated an incredible opportunity for me to shape my teaching philosophy and the overall goals I have as an instructor through their own excellence in teaching and constant guidance.  Even as a teacher, I must recognize that I stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Units such as the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC) at K-State support, encourage and promote excellence in teaching and learning throughout the university. TLC offers workshops for graduate teaching assistants throughout the year to provide helpful hints and tips on teaching and learning. TLC offers a professional development program that hones in on gaining knowledge and the skills to be an effective teacher.

Learn more about MAGS Excellence in Teaching Awards