MIAA honors Washburn professor

Ross Friesen, assistant professor of kinesiology, received the Mentor of Year award for the 2013-2014 school year from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athlete Association.

Friesen was nominated by the football and softball teams and was chosen by the Student Activity Advisory Committee. All persons nominated at Washburn were recognized at the last basketball game of the season.

The MIAA division has the reputation of being among the leading NCAA division II conferences in the nation. Washburn became part of the MIAA in 1989.

“It meant a lot,” said Friesen. “I don’t think athletes are given much acknowledgement and it was really gratifying and surprising to find that students had put my name up there.”

The nomination serves to point out the quality of the professors at Washburn University’s kinesiology department. Park Lockwood, another instructor, was also nominated early in the process.

“It points out that we have instructors here that are well thought of,” said Roy Wohl, chair of the kinesiology department. “The students really appreciate the time and work they put in to help them.”

Friesen was chosen to represent Washburn as mentor of the year among other MIAA schools where each school in the conference submits its choice. Friesen said that the letter written in his favor from Washburn was well-written by good writers, including the students who contributed to the letter. He admits that when he learned he had been chosen as the MIAA 2013-2014 Mentor of the Year, he was surprised.

“When I first read the letter I wondered who it was for,” said Friesen.

Many students were not surprised by the honor for Friesen because of how he shows daily interest in them and in sporting events. He attends as many sporting events as possible and was chosen for his enthusiasm, passion and how it plays into his teaching style.

Friesen is an adviser for almost all sports management majors and also some in physical education. He felt he had a good group of advisees this past year.

“They start to trust you,” said Friesen. “If some of their teammates had problems they would send them to me.”

Friesen has always been around sports and athletes.

“I grew up with them and coached and taught at the high school level,” he said.

His two brothers have always inspired him and he wanted to be like them. Though they are now both math teachers, they had always played sports when he was growing up. Friesen was the youngest child and grew up watching and learning from his family.

Friesen’s father was a school superintendent who was elected and served on the board of directors for the Nebraska School Activities Association. Friesen’s father got involved in activities behind the scenes and always attended as many sporting events as possible, which Friesen always appreciated and it influenced his love of sports. His father and two brothers were his mentors growing up.

“I sent my family an email when I found out about it,” said Friesen. “They were all happy for me, but of course my mom thought it was long overdue. They were impressed that obviously somebody thought I was doing a good job here. They were happy for me.”

Friesen enjoys the fact that he is able to teach a variety of classes. His favorite is facility and event management, which is a fairly new major that has been around only eight or nine years. He believes he may have gone into that area in his career if it had been available when he was going to school.

He thinks one of his weaknesses as a professor is that he can get bogged down by details and not see the big picture. However, Friesen also finds himself doing just the reverse where he can see the big picture and doesn’t want to cope with the details of a situation.

Friesen has been working at Washburn for 19 years. What he likes about teaching here is the wide range of students and talent, saying they work very hard and are easy and fun to work with and to try new ideas with. He also likes working with the people in his department.

“They compliment one another and appear to really care about the community, not just in what’s in it for them,” said Friesen.

Wohl says he has been working with Friesen for more than 20 years.

“He’s a valued member of the department and a great colleague to work with,” said Wohl. “He is extremely student-oriented and truly cares about the whole student and enjoys seeing them become successful.”