Chelsea Kiefer first FHSU Online student to win Torch Award


Tiger Media Network

Chelsea Kiefer was awarded the prestigious Torch Award last week. 

Established in 1974, the Torch Award recognizes an outstanding senior. Leadership, high personal standards, and scholarship qualifications noted by teaching faculty serve as basic criteria in the selection process. 

In total, 24 seniors were selected with five finalists determined after a round of interviews. 


Something that makes Kiefer unique is that she is the first FHSU online student to win the award. 

“Her achievement as the first online student to receive the award not only marks a milestone but ignites a flame of hope for all learners, proving that passion and perseverance transcend the boundaries of the classroom,” FHSU Online Director Kayla Hickel said. “I hope that Chelsea’s success illuminates the endless possibilities of online education.”

This award means a lot to Kiefer who is not only an online student, but also a non-traditional student.

“As someone who switched careers at 29 and went from working in software to being a history undergrad, it is nice for people to tell me I made the right decision and I am thriving in this new field,” Kiefer said. 

Kiefer will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and certificates in Global Studies, Grant Writing, Women’s and Gender Studies and Cultural Diversity Studies. She plans to pursue a Master’s in Public History through Fort Hays.

In addition to performing well academically, Kiefer found ways to stay engaged in extracurricular activities while living and working in North Carolina. For example, Kiefer created a Discord server for the History Club to bridge the gap between online and on-campus students through video calls and group messaging. The server now has over 120 members.

This involvement was noted by the two history faculty members, Associate Professor Amber Nickell and History Lecturer Hollie Marquess, who nominated Kiefer for the award. 

“I have seen her mentor so many students through the History Discord when they were struggling,” Marquess said.  “She is so encouraging and inspiring to her peers. I am inspired by Chelsea and her work ethic, her commitment to constantly bettering her skills, and her ability to be consistently remarkable in everything she does.”

Nickell also applauded Kiefer’s growing list of research publications and presentations. This year Kiefer won the Lynn Haggard Library Research Award and last year she won the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar Award from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

“She had more publications as an undergraduate student than most do at the close of their PhDs,” Nickel said. 

Kiefer sought out internship opportunities including a remote Grant Application Writer internship through the Hays Area Children’s Center in Summer 2023. Her grant application led to over $5,000 in funding for the center’s greenhouse and garden project.

“I think my multi-facet involvement has set me apart,” Kiefer said.”I have tried hard to not only excel in the classroom, but find ways to make my resume stand out to future employers.”

Kiefer sees her accomplishments as a testament to the opportunities available to virtual students. 

“I do not say this to brag, but to show what work an online student can do if they remember that they can get out of this program what they put into it,” Kiefer said. “If you want to be involved, make connections and find opportunities. If people have not opened that door for you, knock on it until they cannot ignore you.”

While Kiefer is the first online student to receive the award, she hopes she is far from the last.

“It has been such an honor, and it is one I hope that others get to experience,” Kiefer said.