Wichita State aims to help students take lessons from the classroom to the workplace

Wichita State University is committed to accelerating the growth of the Kansas economy by providing applied learning or research opportunities to every student in order to prepare a creative, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy workforce.

We are encouraged by serious discussions with local, national and international companies interested in locating facilities on the university’s new Innovation Campus. We expect this year and next to bring announcements of private developers financing buildings on the new campus and companies committing to occupy those buildings and employ our students in meaningful research.

For the past decade, job growth and incomes have been stagnant in Wichita and Kansas yet growing well in regions where young technology-driven companies are hiring at a rapid pace.

Huge advances are underway in advanced manufacturing, robotics, 3-D printing and digitization. These and other science-, technology-, engineering- and math-based industries – known as STEM – are driving innovation and economic growth throughout the world. Kansas cannot afford to be left behind.

WSU is working with the City of Wichita, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Corp., the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., the Regional Economic Area Partnership and others to identify and enhance innovation growth clusters to propel the regional economy.

Together with business leaders in the 10-county region, we will be pursuing a Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth. We want to be sure that the research we pursue on the Innovation Campus is aligned with the needs of local industries with the greatest potential for growth through innovation.

These plans sound fresh, but they’re consistent with WSU’s history as the state’s leading research university in an urban area. The location gives our students and faculty a tremendous advantage, because they can quickly take the lessons from the classroom and laboratory to the workplace and bring the lessons of the workplace back to campus.

This will become even more evident with the construction of the Innovation Campus, meaning industry will come to us.

We created WSU Ventures in 2014 to speed the process of developing intellectual property and spur economic development. WSU Ventures is beginning to assist our faculty, staff members and students in commercializing their patentable inventions and ideas in ways to benefit them, industry and the public.

Entrepreneurship remains a driving force at WSU through our Center for Entrepreneurship Shocker New Venture Competition, John A. See Research Awards and WSU Ventures grants.

There’s progress on many fronts. We were recently among 25 universities selected to join the Pathways to Innovation Program. It is designed to help institutions fully incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into undergraduate engineering education – a top priority for us that will be advanced by the recent Koch Industries and Koch Foundation support for our new Koch Innovation Challenge and the Community Maker Space on the Innovation Campus.

The next big items we’re seeking to fund on the new part of campus are a new Innovation Center and Business School.

All of this activity is in support of WSU’s strategic vision to be internationally recognized as the model for applied learning and research. That means that we expect every single one of our graduates, no matter what their academic program, to have a professional and/or research experience that will prepare them for the workforce.

That vision fits with WSU’s mission as an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good.

We want you to envision a university – your university – where innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and technology are making the future.

That is Wichita State University.

John Bardo is president of Wichita State University. Learn more about WSU at