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Ragsdale Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant

Aaron Ragsdale Photo
Aaron Ragsdale

South Dakota State University professor Aaron Ragsdale was recently awarded a 2021 Literacy Grant from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi—the nation's oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Ragsdale, the SDSU chapter’s president and a professor in SDSU’s School of Performing Arts, is one of 12 recipients nationwide to receive the award.

The winning projects were selected for a grant based on criteria including the project's scope, student and community involvement, impact, duration and ability to achieve success.

The $2,500 grant will be used to support Rabbit Readers.

The Rabbit Readers project is a partnership between the SDSU Phi Kappa Phi chapter, the Brookings Arts Council and the Brookings Public Library to help foster a love of learning and love of reading in elementary-aged students in the Brookings community. The program seeks to create enthusiasm by initiating an annual communitywide common read for students in grades K-3, providing books to each student, and augmenting the libraries in the three public school buildings that serve this age group as well as the Brookings Public Library.

Currently, the Brookings School District uses the digital platform “Storyline Online” to bring prerecorded celebrity readings into the classroom. The Rabbit Readers program would augment this program by bringing local celebrities to connect with younger readers in our community in person to provide a meaningful personal interaction to the district’s students and to model excitement about literacy, learning and the rewards of reading to oneself.

“The Phi Kappa Phi literacy grant program has been a tremendous way for our SDSU Phi Kappa Phi chapter to serve the community. This is the second grant that members in our chapter have been awarded in the last four years—we’re just coming off a public health/food safety initiative that was put together, proposed and administered by two of our student members,” Ragsdale said.

“It’s exciting to be able to work with the Brookings Public Library and the Brookings Arts Council to bring this project to life,” he continued. “We all know how important it is to foster a love of reading in school-aged learners, and we know that when those students see people they know and trust engaging in an activity, they are more likely to engage in it themselves.

“Our hope is that when they see posters of Jack the Jackrabbit or our SDSU coaches in their school libraries, or hear messages encouraging them to read and keep reading, that it will help to get those students excited about emulating those folks and jump-start a lifelong love of learning.”

Phi Kappa Phi's Literacy Grant Program, established in 2003, is part of the society's robust awards program, which award more than $1 million annually to outstanding students and members through study abroad grants, graduate fellowships, funding for postbaccalaureate development and member and chapter awards. Drawing from a multidisciplinary society of students and scholars from large and small institutions, the grants help fund projects ranging from traditional reading initiatives to those fostering learning in cultural, digital, health, historical literacy and beyond. To learn more about Phi Kappa Phi's awards program, visit

About Phi Kappa Phi
Founded in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Phi Kappa Phi inducts approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni annually. The Society has chapters on more than 325 select colleges and universities in the United States and the Philippines. Membership is by invitation only to the top 10% of seniors and graduate students and 7.5% of juniors. Faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction also qualify. The Society's mission is "To recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and engage the community of scholars in service to others." For more information, visit