Wichita State University President John Bardo is no complacent caretaker. He is full of energy and bold ideas and is determined to advance WSU and Wichita.
In a meeting last week with The Eagle editorial board, Bardo talked about his first year as president and some of his goals and initiatives, including:
• Enrollment. Though some scoffed when he announced his goal of growing WSU’s enrollment to at least 22,000 students, Bardo said the target is “meaningful and achievable.” And WSU already is seeing major movement, he said. Applications for next year were up 26 percent as of last week compared with the same time a year ago. Bardo thinks there will be at least 15,300 students next year, up from about 14,500 now. Has the men’s basketball success last season helped recruiting? “The Final Four effect is way overplayed,” Bardo said. It helps with people who previously had not heard of WSU, he said, but the impact lasts only about three years – that is unless WSU keeps doing well in the tournament.
• New dormitory. The new dormitory being built on campus will be state of the art and is based on what students want, Bardo said. He expects high demand when it opens in August. Bardo also said he hasn’t heard students complain about the lost parking due to the new dorm. The free shuttle bus service that takes students from a remote parking site to campus is so popular, Bardo said, that he half expects some couple to ask if they can get married on a shuttle bus.
• Technology park. Bardo expects to finalize soon plans to build a 140,000-square-foot engineering building, the first of what he hopes will be a multi-building tech park on campus. He is putting the new building where the Wheatshocker Apartments are currently located to avoid touching the WSU golf course – for now.
• Legislative tour. Bardo described the state lawmakers’ tour of WSU last month as “useful.” WSU officials were able to hear lawmakers’ concerns and answer their questions, he said. What about a recent claim by House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, that administrative costs are high at state universities? Bardo said that he looks at management ratios and WSU’s costs are low compared with other schools.
• Football. Bardo described himself as “a football guy,” but he said the issue isn’t who WSU would play if it added football but who it could beat. Or more directly: Who are people willing to pay to see WSU beat? Bardo said that the program would need to be at a high enough level to justify the expenditure – mentioning the Mountain West Conference as a possible model. He also said there would need to be investment in Cessna Stadium to get it to the level needed to recruit top athletes. So for now, his plan is to keep the other sports going strong.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee