Distinguished Young Alumni give back on local and global level

K-State Alumni Communications

Click here to watch a video of Distinguished Young Alumni Dr. Kourtney Bettinger ’06, pictured here with K-State Alumni Association President and CEO Amy Button Renz 76, 86. (Photo: David Mayes 96)

When Dr. Kourtney Bettinger ’06 first traveled to Yucatán, Mexico, she experienced significant culture shock. She said she had never witnessed true poverty before, and she saw firsthand the impact of malnutrition, contaminated water and lack of access to good health care. However, as she volunteered with local children, she also fell in love with the people and the culture, and she found her life’s calling.

“I felt a deep sense of calm and contentment that I had never before experienced,” said Bettinger, who will soon become a bilingual pediatrician. “I was working with children and I loved it.” 

Although Bettinger may have graduated from Kansas State University only a decade ago, she’s already reaching out and making a difference in the world around her. She was honored for her work with a 2016 Distinguished Young Alumni Award, along with Clemente Jaquez ’08, whose work also has an international focus. Bettinger and Jaquez returned to campus in February and spoke to a crowd of faculty, students, family and friends. The Distinguished Young Alumni Award is sponsored by the K-State Alumni Association's Student Alumni Board. 

Jaquez, who is the design director for Hoefer Wysocki Architecture, encouraged students and other young alumni to start making a difference now. 

“Our generation is unique; I really do believe that,” he said. “There is a self-consciousness to want to contribute to the greater good. … I believe we have a generation of socially minded individuals. We are servant leaders.”

Bettinger is a native of the Kansas City area and is a physician/pediatric resident at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She said her summer trip to Mexico as a young college student motivated her to work with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, particularly children. She is four months away from completing her residency and plans to move to the Kansas City area to practice as a bilingual pediatrician.

Click here to watch a video of Distinguished Young Alumni Clemente Jaquez ’08 speaking on campus. (Photo: David Mayes ’96)
A native of Garden City, Kansas, Jaquez grew up learning a respect for tradition and heritage. During his time at K-State, he realized he could apply that respect for tradition and heritage to a career as an architect. He has worked on design projects all across the world and aims to create buildings that are both functional and beautiful, inspired by culture and the natural environment. He also looks for ways to give back to the community, such as through the Little Free Libraries/ Libros Libres project in Dallas, Texas, which promotes literacy and increased access to books. 

“Architecture in action can impact people in very extraordinary ways,” he said. “I believe that design matters.”

Both Bettinger and Jaquez said their time as students at K-State inspired who they have become today. 

“It has shaped who I have become as a professional,” Jaquez said. 

Bettinger agreed. “It makes me really proud to be a K-Stater.” 

The Distinguished Young Alumni Award, established in 2012, recognizes two K-State graduates who are younger than 35 and are using the scholarship, leadership and service experience they acquired at K-State to excel in their professions and contribute to their communities. Learn more

K-State Alumni Association
100 Alumni Center, 1720 Anderson Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66506-1001  |  800-600-ALUM (2586) | 785-532-6260 
Alumni@K-State.com  |  http://www.k-state.com/s/1173/start.aspx  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram