When asked recently by the Eagle editorial board what advice he might offer Wichita State University’s new president, Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz recommended going slow during the first year. “Don’t do stuff too quickly,” Schulz said, noting how it takes time to learn the culture of a university and a state.
Too late for that.
John Bardo, who officially began at WSU on July 1, is off to a fast start and already has big plans for boosting and transforming the university. His goals include increasing student enrollment, building a new residence hall in the center of campus, expanding research, turning more research into products in the marketplace, and improving the quality of student experience.
Bardo intends to begin a strategic planning process this fall in which half of the task force members will be from the community. He wants to have the plan ready by next June.
“It’s a big agenda,” Bardo told the Eagle editorial board.
It sure is. But it’s on target.
Bardo was able to hit the ground running because he was already familiar with WSU and Wichita. Bardo taught at WSU from 1976 to 1983, and his wife is from Wichita. They made regular visits back to Wichita after they left and considered Wichita their home. “I never gave up loving this university,” he said.
This also isn’t the first time Bardo has led a university. He was chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1995 to 2011, and he held key administrative jobs at several other universities.
Though he was familiar with WSU, Bardo has been pleasantly surprised by what he has seen. He has been particularly impressed by the quality of the faculty and staff and the research being done at the university.
“We’ve got people who can do a lot,” he said.
Bardo has been spending much of his time meeting with faculty, staff and students and connecting with people in the community. He was on hand Sunday to greet students moving into WSU’s residence halls.
Bardo knows he has a big challenge filling the shoes of former WSU President Donald Beggs. But because of Beggs’ good work, Bardo is in a position to help the university take some needed steps forward.
“If I sound excited, it is because I am,” Bardo said.
Wichita should be, too.