‘Best of the best’: Kyle Luthans receives UNK’s Distinguished Faculty Award

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, left, presents the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award to management professor Kyle Luthans during Friday’s winter commencement ceremony at the Health and Sports Center on campus. (Photos by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)
UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, left, presents the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award to management professor Kyle Luthans during Friday’s winter commencement ceremony at the Health and Sports Center on campus. (Photos by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney management professor Kyle Luthans was honored Friday with the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award.

Presented each year during winter commencement, UNK’s most prestigious faculty award recognizes an outstanding teacher-scholar for their achievements in education, research and service. The award, which also honors UNK alumnus Leland Holdt and commemorates his many years of leadership at Security Mutual Life, comes with a $5,000 stipend.

Luthans joined the UNK faculty in 1999 and currently serves as a professor and chair in the Department of Management. He’s also been the John Becker Endowed Professor of Business since 2011.

During Friday’s award presentation, Chancellor Doug Kristensen described Luthans as someone who has “given greatly” to the university through his impressive research, strong leadership and student-centered instruction.

College of Business and Technology Dean Tim Jares, who nominated Luthans for the award, called him “the best of the best” at UNK.

Tim Jares
Tim Jares

“I know of few, if any, UNK faculty members held in higher esteem by his peers and by professionals in the community than Dr. Kyle Luthans,” Jares wrote in his nomination letter.

As department chair, a position he’s held since 2006, Luthans sets the bar high through his expectations and his example, according to Jares.

A “prepared and thoughtful voice” at UNK, Luthans has served on “just about every important committee on this campus,” Jares noted, including numerous search committees and a “Blue Ribbon” committee created to explore further partnerships with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Luthans was instrumental in the development of the entrepreneurship minor and the College of Business and Technology’s online degree completion program. He’s launched several online and blended courses to meet the growing demand for online education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Susan Jensen
Susan Jensen

“As chair of the management department, Dr. Luthans also generously gives of his time to mentor other faculty members and help his colleagues strengthen their own teaching skills,” UNK management professor Susan Jensen wrote in her letter of support.

Jensen, who’s worked with Luthans for nearly 20 years, called him an “exemplar of the teacher-scholar model.”

“His active research agenda supports his teaching,” she stated. “By integrating his research efforts into his classes, students gain access to new findings that enhance their understanding of management concepts.”

Luthans truly cares about his students’ success, Jares noted, and his courses are designed with that in mind.

Recognizing students have different learning styles, the UNK professor utilizes a variety of teaching methods in his classes. Along with traditional lectures, he incorporates case studies, role-playing exercises, simulations, student presentations and team-based problem-solving activities. He also provides experiential learning opportunities, allowing students to interview professionals, engage with guest speakers, attend career fairs, participate in campus organizations and pursue internships.

“His excellence in teaching is no secret,” Jares wrote, noting Luthans’ strong evaluations and previous accolades. He received the College of Business and Technology Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014 and was recognized by UNK’s Hispanic Student Association and Mortar Board honor society.

Students commend him for his enthusiasm and ability to make difficult concepts clear and easy to understand. They also know his classes will prepare them for their future careers. The management program has a 100% job placement rate.

“Dr. Luthans is sincerely dedicated to quality teaching and student success. His care, flexibility, creativity and focus on continuous improvement are all clear testaments to his quality teaching,” Jensen stated.

Outside his scheduled courses, Luthans regularly supervises independent study and research projects, serves on dissertation committees and mentors graduate students. He also developed a workshop on positive psychological capital – his current research focus – which he presents to businesses, organizations and government agencies in the region.

A widely recognized expert in the field, Luthans has published more than 25 articles in refereed journals and had numerous papers selected for publication or presentation at top conferences. His research is frequently cited by other scholars.

Luthans co-authored an article that received the outstanding paper award from the Emerald Literati Awards for Excellence. That article, “Using positivity, transformational leadership and empowerment to combat employee negativity,” was published in the Leadership and Organization Development Journal. His research also received best paper award nominations at the Midwest Academy of Management and Western Academy of Management conferences.

At UNK, Luthans has twice been recognized with the College of Business and Technology Outstanding Scholarship Award.

He currently serves on the editorial board for the South African Journal of Human Resource Management and as a research fellow for the Positive Organizational Behavior Institute.