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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last Wichita State president candidate urges minority recruitment, raising university’s profile

By Hurst Laviana
The Wichita Eagle

If there is a crisis in higher education today, John Bardo said, it stems from the lack of trust in universities.

“It’s based on students graduating and not knowing what they need to know, and the cost,” he said Tuesday. “Parents are saying this. Employers are saying this.

“I think we’d better listen. ... We need to address this, or we will be regulated in a way that’s not helpful and not good.”

Bardo, who was chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1995 to 2011, was the last of five finalists for the position of Wichita State University president to speak on campus this month.

A former WSU professor who was chairman of the university’s Department of Sociology & Social Work from 1978 to 1983, Bardo is married to a Wichita native and said the WSU job is the only position he has applied for. He said he thinks the university is close to reaching its full potential.

“This university is extremely well positioned for the future,” he said. “The rocket is on the launch pad, and it’s ready to go.”

If he becomes the next WSU president, Bardo said, he will focus much of his attention on the marketing of the university and the recruitment of minority students. In a city where 30 to 35 percent of the population is nonwhite, he said, the university should be devoting more resources to recruiting minority students.

Aside from athletics, Bardo said, WSU doesn’t do a good job of marketing itself. He said he rarely sees the university mentioned in the local media, and he said the university’s ads fail to convey the strengths of its academic programs.

“I don’t think people understand the jewel they have here,” he said. “This is a major research university.”

Bardo said he sees international students as a major asset of the university. He said they give Americans a rare opportunity “to learn what they eat, what they think about and what their holidays are.”

As president, he said, he’d like to see the numbers increase.

“Part of your job is to get bright people here and make them want to stay here,” he said. “I’d like to see the numbers expanded.”

Members of a 20-person search committee, most of whom were in the audience, will pass their recommendations on to the Kansas Board of Regents. The board is expected to announce the new president in May.

WSU president Donald Beggs will retire June 30 after serving the university for 13 years.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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