Bardo: WSU becoming innovation-focused university

Wichita State University President John Bardo on Friday outlined a major expansion of the WSU campus to support job creation and a university strategy based on innovation. (KSN Photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita State University President John Bardo has outlined a major expansion of the WSU campus to support job creation and a university strategy based on innovation.

In a presentation to faculty and staff today, Bardo described plans that will transform the Braeburn Golf Course into an Innovation Campus serving students, companies and the community.

WSU plans to close the golf course to the public, and they have not decided how many cases will be kept.

The changes Bardo described are tied to the university’s mission as “an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good.”

“The world has changed,” Bardo said, “and Wichita State offers the best hope for the economic expansion of this region and the state. Twenty years from now we want people to say that the Innovation Campus changed the economy of this community and made it possible for my child to stay here.”

RELATED LINK | WSU Innovation Presentation (PDF: 43Mb)

Using a master plan and building renderings developed by WSU and GLMV Architecture, Bardo outlined a vision that could produce more than a dozen new buildings during the next 20 years.

WSU Plan

Bardo emphasized that funding availability and private enterprise interests will dictate the speed of the build-out of the Innovation Campus. In that context, he said, the buildings most likely in the first five years include:

  • An Experiential Engineering Building tied to the university’s strategic vision of being “internationally recognized for applied learning and research.” Bardo said it will include engineering laboratories and a maker space open to paying members — part of a national trend toward providing expensive high technology equipment in a center that can be accessed by students and the public to develop their ideas for inventions. He said experiential engineering would be the first building on the Innovation Campus, with construction likely to begin early in 2015. It will replace Wheatshocker Hall, a now vacant former dormitory on the southeastern edge of campus, near 17th Street.
  • One or more Partnership Buildings, constructed with private funds by developers who will lease space to companies that want to work with WSU students and faculty.
  • A new home for the W. Frank Barton School of Business, with an adjacent Innovation Center, open to students around the clock for working with state-of-the-art technology.
  • Mixed-use buildings, built by private developers along 17th and 21st Streets, near Oliver, that would include retail stores and restaurants on the first level and apartments on upper levels.
  • The possibility of a hotel, built by a private developer, on the southwest corner of 21st and Oliver.
  • Depending on economic feasibility studies, other buildings might include a new residence hall on the Innovation Campus and a new parking garage adjacent to the newly renovated and expanded Rhatigan Student Center.

Experimental Engineering

Bardo acknowledged that his plan would involve a change in thinking.

“We, as a university, have to think differently,” said Bardo. “We are positioning ourselves as the innovation leader for the state of Kansas. It’s thinking differently about what this community can be and creating a brighter future.”

The idea behind the Innovation Campus is for outside, mostly technology-based companies to build infrastructure on university grounds.

It’s an opportunity for outside companies to establish operations on campus, bringing with them new ideas, technology, jobs and paid student internships. In turn, the companies will gain regular interaction with WSU faculty, students, research and other technology-driven companies.

Many of the new buildings on the Innovation Campus will be funded by private enterprise and managed by WSU. Some facilities will require state and/or student support.

The private sector buildings will be on university land leased to the developer, which revert back to university ownership at an agreed upon time.

“These are buildings that meet the needs of the future,” said Bardo. “We aren’t competing with private enterprise. We are working private enterprise.”

The timing of the new buildings will depend on private enterprise and citizen interest and involvement.

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