Opinion Columns & Blogs

John Bardo: WSU must grow, enhance quality

Wichita State University has a long history of serving the people of this metropolitan area and state with excellent academic programs, meaningful research and support for the region’s businesses. As we look to the future, it is clear that while our basic mission and role have not changed, what we need to accomplish will be very different, indeed.

One of the most important initiatives that is underway is our effort to significantly expand enrollment. Increased enrollment will produce many more educated individuals who are likely to permanently call Wichita home, and it increases resources to address critical needs of the area.

First, we are significantly changing the way we recruit freshmen. We will continue to focus on students from our metropolitan region, but will also aggressively recruit throughout the state and in targeted geographic markets nationally. To support this effort, WSU has outsourced much of its preliminary recruitment work to a firm that specializes in helping students understand what WSU has to offer.

Traditionally, WSU focused on recruiting students during their senior year of high school. In our new model, we will begin working with students during their sophomore year of high school and encourage them to establish a relationship with the university.

WSU also is actively recruiting the best and brightest students. We have reworked our merit scholarship programs to focus on awarding merit grants to all high-achieving students. We also have formed a new Honors College, and we are linking some of our most competitive scholarship programs to that college. If you are a top student who applies to WSU, you can expect to receive a scholarship offer.

WSU also intends to increase community college transfers. We are looking to link our advising program more closely to the community colleges and are considering new models of articulation and collaboration. We want every community college graduate in this region to see WSU as an institution that can help them meet their educational goals.

In addition, we are placing greater emphasis on adult students older than 24. During this semester, we will begin opening key offices until 7 p.m. to provide better service to these students. We also will expand support for hybrid courses taught partly on campus and partly through the Internet, and we will seek approval from our accrediting body to offer complete degrees online.

To support our students once they are on campus, we are looking at expanded advising models, creating both a virtual and physical one-stop student services center, and enhancing residential living programs to support student learning and retention.

As a part of the strategic planning process, we are asking academic departments to focus on expanding the number of graduate students, as well as offering our graduate programs at times most students can enroll.

This is just a brief overview of our plan for growth and quality. Wichita State is a strong university that can help this region and state prosper. Enrollment growth, continuing to enhance quality and increasing our ability to serve the people of this state are at the core of our strategic plan.

It is indeed a great day to be a Shocker.