Tejaswin “TJ” Shankar, High Jumper
Like many who grow up in India, TJ fell in love with cricket, the country’s most popular sport. When he was in middle school, his cricket coach recommended training in track and field events to improve his athleticism. TJ saw early success in high jump, setting the national high jump national record at 2.18m in 2016.
Since arriving at K-State, TJ’s list of accomplishments has continued to grow: he has won the NCAA high jump championship twice, bested his own national record at 2.29m (7.51ft), and won bronze at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
TJ credits his firm belief in himself and the mentorship of his coaches for his success in high jump. ”It may sound cliche, but you have to have faith in yourself. Mentors bring out what’s already inside you. You cannot start a fire without a spark.” He continues, “Coach [Rovelto] has been a guiding light for me.”
Looking to the future, Tejaswin is hoping to represent India at the 2024 Olympic Games. However, his vision for the future is not limited to athletics. “I always strive to think about, how can I contribute to the world outside sports and build a professional life?”
In 2022, TJ received his Master’s degree in Accounting, and now splits his time between working at Deloitte, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, and training at K-State.
Dr. Walter Dodds, Kansas State University Distinguished Professor of Biology
Dr. Walter Dodds is a world renowned freshwater ecologist and biologist. As a K-State University Distinguished Professor, his research focuses on the ecological processes that shape freshwater ecosystems. He has worked with scientists from New Zealand, Brazil, and Switzerland, but much of his work has been concentrated on the Flint Hills.
In collaboration with Dr. Alice Boyle, K-State Associate Professor of Biology, and Tony Capizzo of The Nature Conservancy, Dr. Dodds is evaluating how virtual fencing of cattle impacts the land along the edges of streams in tallgrass prairie watersheds. The ultimate goal of this project is to protect the vulnerable ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie.
When I ask about the accomplishment of which he’s most proud, he says, without skipping a beat, “Our children [Joey and Hannah] have to be at the top of the list.” It’s clear he’s also extremely proud of his wife, Dolly Gudder, who gives back to the Manhattan community in many ways, including as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Looking to the future, Dr. Dodds hopes to keep making a positive impact through his work. “A lot of my career has been at the interface of research and transmitting that information to people to help preserve and manage the environment. Through my textbook, my popular books, and my classes, the big goal is to make the world a better place.”
Learn more about Dr. Dodd’s research and his books here: k-state.edu/doddslab
Dr. Wayne E. Goins, University Distinguished Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies
Dr. Wayne E. Goins is one of the leading jazz educators in the United States. In addition to serving as the University Distinguished Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at K-State, he is the Founder of Little Apple Records, a prolific and award-winning writer, a voracious reader, and an accomplished musician.
Dr. Goins developed his love of jazz early in life. During a visit to a high school in Chicago, he was captivated by the sound of their jazz ensemble. He proactively approached their band director, George Page, since his own school lacked a jazz ensemble, and asked to join.
Just two years later, Dr. Goins was offered a full music scholarship to University of Arkansas, making him the first in his family to attend college. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in Music Education from Florida State University. From there, he was recruited to join the faculty of K-State.
Dr. Goins’ career has brought him great fulfillment, but his family life is the source of his utmost joy. “The greatest moment of my life was meeting and marrying my wife and meeting my two daughters.” He continues, “The greatest joy of my life is my grandson. His name is Mason — and I got to name him!”
Looking ahead, Dr. Goins has a lot on his plate. He is currently writing an exclusive biography on legendary blues musician, Taj Mahal, whom he met backstage at McCain Auditorium. He is working on his next album, which will be released on Little Apple Records. Each Sunday, he performs live at Bluestem Bistro 10am-12pm.
Learn more about Dr. Goins' music and books here: k-state.edu/mtd/about/faculty-staff/music/goins/
Ben Duell, Duell Construction
Ten years ago, Ben Duell made the leap of faith to start his own construction business. At the time, when Ben was mulling over the decision to set off on his own venture, Amanda Purdom at Aster Design Studio reached out about converting the old Keats schoolhouse gym into their design studio, which would provide three solid months of work. “God made it very evident that it was what I was supposed to do,” says Ben.
Since then, there has been no shortage of work for Ben and his company, which has been tremendous growth over the past decade. From our conversation, it’s clear that a key to Ben’s success is his relentless passion for his work and the genuine care he shows his customers. “My favorite thing about what I get to do is getting to know [my customers’] stories and their families.” He continues, “People deserve to be treated like they are valuable, not like commodities.”
As Ben looks to the future, he’s excited about the company’s growth because it will provide greater opportunities for philanthropy. “Fostering a mindset of generosity is important to me. One thing my wife and I have prioritized since the very beginning of our marriage has been giving back to the community.”
Tim Fitzgerald, President and Publisher GoPowercat.com
Tim Fitzgerald is living every K-State sports lovers’ dream. He is the President and Publisher of GoPowercat.com, a website that has emerged as a premier destination for news and analysis related to K-State athletics. The site features the Powercat Podcast, which Tim hosts, and tons of video content, hosted on the company’s YouTube page, youtube.com/@GoPowercat.
When Tim graduated from K-State with a degree in Journalism in 1986, podcasting and YouTube did not exist, and print dominated digital media. Throughout his career as a journalist, Tim has learned to roll with the punches, staying current with media trends. Consistent through all the changes has been Tim’s passion for his work. “This is something I truly love. I never feel like I’m working,” he says.
Although K-State may not have the largest fanbase, Tim feels that now is a great time to be a K-State fan. “Everything going on with K-state sports right now is a convergence of good. The coaches, the athletes, and the Athletic Director [Gene Taylor] are all good people.”
On the day of our interview, Tim received his 21st radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Despite the difficulty of his experience, he has a positive mindset. “I’ve always been one who can take a negative and find the positive in it. I’m an advocate and I'm very open about my experience.”
Kevin Ingram, President of Manhattan Christian College
In 1986, Kevin Ingram was a bright-eyed, recent Manhattan Christian College graduate ready to take on his first job as a Youth Minister. Just two decades later, he was named the 7th President of Manhattan Christian College. Kevin credits the steadfast support of his wife with helping him see through God’s plan for their family’s life.
Under Kevin's leadership, Manhattan Christian College has expanded its academic offerings, receiving accreditation for its online degree programs. In 2016, he oversaw the completion of Howie's Activity Center, which is not only a space for students to engage in physical activity but also a hub for community events and activities. The facility has hosted concerts, guest speakers, and various community events. He has also been a strong advocate for the college's mission to educate and equip students to serve in Christian ministry and leadership roles.
Although Kevin has many professional achievements, he is most proud of his children, Lauren and Tyler, who have chosen to serve in ministry. Throughout his time as a busy university president, he has always prioritized his relationships with God, his wife, and his children.