WICHITA, Kansas – Leaders from Wichita State are pushing to get more funding from the state for its Innovation Campus.
Administrators asked the state Board of Regents for almost $32 million in special funding. The higher priority requests include $12 million that would go toward construction of Innovation Campus buildings, and another $4.7 million toward 100 doctoral fellowships and jobs for support staff.
The remaining money would go toward purchasing production equipment that could help businesses and students do work more efficiently.
“It’ll allow us to continue to press on creating the relationships with the businesses that create jobs,” WSU President John Bardo said.
The Innovation Campus concept brings the resources of WSU like faculty and students together with businesses to work on projects and generate new business development, which is a key source for job creation, especially for students.
“It’s going to help entrepreneurs, it’s going to help those innovators kind of bring them in, help them focused, get them those resources and give us resources as well as students as new members entering the workforce,” Jessica Crumrine, a WSU student who serves as CEO of Barton International Group, a student-run business consulting firm, said.
Barton International Group recently went to Silicon Valley to see how college students are integrated into the startup culture there. One of the key takeaways was that an innovation campus can help the city complete a key economic goal.
“I think Wichita has to diversify and it has to start now because if we aren’t other cities are doing it as we speak,” Alex Wespi, also with the group, said. “I think it’s almost a battle of who can do it first and who can do it better.”
So far, companies like NetApp and Tech Mahindra have signed on to work with the Innovation Campus, to provide students with an education beyond their textbooks.
“When you expand the students’ horizons, they’re going to want to go into those industries, and that’s something we’ve kind of lacked here in Wichita, and that’s what a lot of employers are looking for,” Crumrine said. “If we can expose students to that early, they’ll be more interested in working in those industries.”
WSU and the other Regents schools all made their proposals for this special funding in Topeka. A preliminary decision is expected in the fall before the new legislative session.