Business Q & A

A conversation with Bobby Gandu

Bobby Gandu earned his bachelor’s and MBA degrees at Wichita State University and during his years in school, he came to think of Wichita as home.
Bobby Gandu earned his bachelor’s and MBA degrees at Wichita State University and during his years in school, he came to think of Wichita as home. The Wichita Eagle

The success of the Wichita State University men’s basketball team has increased interest in the school from potential students.

“It’s opened the door to a lot more conversations that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Bobby Gandu, WSU’s director of admissions.

It’s up to the admissions team to take that interest and show students why they should enroll, Gandu said.

On the list of reasons? The university just completed the new Shocker Hall dormitory, renovated Rhatigan Student Center and is planning a new Innovation Campus, he said.

Gandu is in charge of a staff of 27 full-time and four part-time employees, and 30 students who are on the payroll as well.

In his position, Gandu oversees new and returning undergraduate student admissions. WSU has about 15,000 students, and its freshman class grew about 18 percent this past fall.

Gandu, 34, was born and raised in Topeka.

After high school, he began shopping for a college but had no idea where he wanted to go.

Most people in Topeka end up at the University of Kansas or Kansas State University.

“I wanted to stretch myself,” Gandu said. So he took a look at WSU.

He finished his undergraduate degree in marketing at WSU in 2002 and joined the WSU Alumni Association. He then moved into the admissions office.

At the same time he began working on a master’s in business administration, which he has completed.

Gandu’s parents were born and raised in India and moved to Kansas. They wanted their children to grow up in America and follow the American Dream, he said.

“They made a lot of sacrifices,” Gandu said.

Gandu and his wife, Tish, are expecting their first child in February.

When not working, Gandu is an avid Shocker basketball fan.

What do you like best about your job?

No two days are alike. Every day is different. Every day is challenging, whether I’m in a meeting with the president one hour and the next hour I’m meeting with 400 prospective students and speaking to them. And the next hour I could be working on an ad campaign, and the next hour I could be working with high school counselors.

What’s your biggest challenge?

There are so many. I think in this day and age, working to make sure students understand the value that Wichita State can provide ... and what an investment in Wichita State can do to their career. College is expensive. And Wichita State is not the most affordable option in the state. ... Butler is right here. ... Pitt State is more affordable than us. We work hard to (show) the value we bring to the table.

Your freshman class grew quite a bit. Where is the growth?

The greatest growth was actually in the geographic diversity of the students. We have more students than ever from northeast Kansas, more from Topeka, Salina, Hutchinson, Garden City, Dodge City. ... We grew exponentially from out of state as well.

What did you do to grow?

We were far more aggressive in the office of admissions in the number of college fairs we attended regionally and nationally. We deployed a national marketing campaign with the help of an outside vendor. ... We were just overall more aggressive in our approach with students and their parents.

You didn’t know anyone at WSU or in Wichita when you started school here. How was that?

My parents dropped me off, and I was terrified. I did not know a person here. I did not know what I wanted to major in at the time. From taking a few courses, I realized that business was my calling. ... I moved here and realized I love this community. It’s a great size. People are wonderful, and I found that this is my home.

What’s your best management advice?

Advice I would give to a new manager is to surround yourself with great people who you can trust, who will provide you with good advice, who will provide you with critical feedback when necessary and who will keep pushing the objectives forward. You should have a great team of leaders who are helping to advance your organization.

What’s one thing not many people know about you?

I am actually coming off of a major heart attack that I had about two months ago at a young age. I am 34, believe it or not. It was completely out of the blue. I didn’t exhibit most of the typical risk factors. One night I was sitting at home. My wife and I were talking, and before I knew it, I told her we had to go to the emergency room. It was diagnosed as a major heart attack. They were able to put in a stent. That was a life-changing experience.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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