The new buildings, roads, walkways and landscaping you’re seeing on the east side of our main campus are attractive, visible signs of Wichita State’s progress, but the real action is what’s going on inside the classrooms, laboratories and minds of our students.
Progress will be measured by how we fulfill our strategic vision for Wichita State to be internationally recognized as the model for applied learning and research and our mission as an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good.
This vision and mission are inspiring our faculty and staff to focus on becoming a new American university, driven by the emerging educational needs of a much broader range of students than traditional universities, as well as concentrating on how we can increase global competitiveness for the benefit of the people, the region and the state we serve.
In short, we are driven to provide education and research that leads to employment opportunities, prosperity and economic inclusion for those living in south-central Kansas.
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What’s happening at Wichita State is attracting attention nationally and internationally. Two prominent leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives have visited in the past several months to get a better understanding of what we’re doing on Innovation Campus, at the National Institute for Aviation Research, in our formal affiliation with Wichita Area Technical College, our engineering outreach programs and the partnerships we’re continuing to build with companies growing through technological innovation.
Much of the interest we’re attracting has to do with excellence in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and the mentoring, training and apprenticeships WSU has developed.
Apprenticeships and longer-term internships with local employers can be important components of an overall strategy for STEM, but thinking differently about how to educate the students on campus also plays a critical role.
That is why WSU’s strategic plan calls for all students to have applied learning experiences, regardless of major. It also is why the university is experimenting with new programs and program design. One possibly unique example of a program that is designed to increase competitiveness is WSU’s Master of Innovation Design. This program is based on the concept of “design thinking” and upon completion of the program, it is expected that the student will develop:
▪ A portfolio, patent application, process or prototype
▪ Willingness and ability to experiment with their ideas
▪ A network of individuals and businesses with whom they can continue to collaborate
▪ Desire to continue to design solutions to problems they identity
Demand for this program already exceeds available resources, but this type of innovative approach to education linked to technology and other forms of STEM can be a crucial part of the infrastructure and ecosystem that produces new businesses that are globally competitive and can drive demand for STEM educated workers within our metropolitan region.
We expect 2018 to be another year of great progress for Wichita State and the community.
Dr. John Bardo is president of Wichita State University.