Bardo compares Innovation Campus to LeBron James


Selena Favela

President John Bardo speaks at Startup Grind ICT at The Lux.

President John Bardo spoke at Startup Grind ICT, a monthly event that connects local entrepreneurs, on Thursday.

Bardo addressed the university’s progress and acknowledged controversies and scrutiny the university has faced recently.

Here are some highlights from his talk.

‘Controversy and misperception’

Christina Long, a presenter at Startup Grind, said that Bardo’s plans for the university have, at times, been met with opposition.

She referred to the Grace Memorial Chapel controversy, backlash from downtown Wichita businesses who saw WSU as competition for resources, “and even with The Sunflower reporting this week that the university and its resources being used for an investigation for a student,” Long said.

“How do you push forward through that controversy and misperception?” Long said to Bardo.

Bardo said there would always be critics.

“There will always be naysayers,” he said.

“Tell me anything worthwhile that has ever happened in the history of the world that hasn’t been controversial,” Bardo said.

“There’s always gonna be people that want to find fault. That’s easy — finding faults,” He said.

“We’re gonna keep going because it’s the right thing to do.”

He said it was critical that people don’t judge the Innovation Campus too quickly.

“Give us a chance to achieve what we are trying to achieve,” Bardo said.

“It drives me crazy when I see a news item that says, ‘Well, they only had 22 people doing this, it’s a failure.’

“That’s like saying to LeBron James, ‘You were a failure as a one-year-old, you didn’t make it into the NBA,’” Bardo said. “We’re just experimenting and starting.”

“One of the things you can do as a city and community in Wichita is help people understand that we’ll get there.

“Help people understand this is moving at light speed compared to what most of people in the country have ever really thought about.”

Badge courses

Bardo described badge courses as a “new form of education” implemented at WSU this fall.

Badge courses are “self-directed” courses for non-degree-seeking students.

The courses award a half-credit hour to high school students in AP classes, non-degree-seeking students in self-directed online courses, and senior citizens in courses offered at local retirement centers and churches that meet four times a semester.

Students in badge courses are not required to pay student fees. There are no grades in the courses. They are taken for completion credit.

There are 843 students enrolled in badge courses this year, compared to 55 last year.

Thursday, Bardo downplayed the fact that badge course enrollment in the two weeks leading up to the official headcount accounted for WSU’s increased enrollment this fall.

“It’s not about — oh, we did it to get the numbers up,” Bardo said.

“Who cares? The bottom line at the end of the day is, can we get you what you need in a timely manner, where you are, in a way that is transcript-able so that you know that it’s there and you can prove you did the work?”

I-35 corridor strategy

Bardo referred to a recruitment strategy announced in 2016 that allows residents of certain parts of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas to attend Wichita State and pay reduced, in-state tuition.

He stressed the economic importance of recruitment from along Interstate 35, known as the I-35 corridor.

If you look at shipments out of Wichita, of goods, they tend to go along the I-35 corridor,” Bardo said.

“For Wichita State’s purposes, there are now 10 million Kansans.”

Latinx cluster hire

Bardo spoke about the proposed Latinx cluster hire that was brought before the Faculty Senate last week.

The cluster hire — faculty hired as a group — would affect several departments on campus, including psychology, English, and social work.

Wilson Baldridge, professor of French, who presented the proposal to the faculty senate last Monday, said the cluster hire would not necessarily bring in revenue for the university.

The payoff, he said, would be recruitment.

“What we are hoping for is a return in terms of recruitment,” Baldridge said. “Through outreach, through what’s in Kansas and along the I-35 corridor.”

Bardo called the move “innovation in the arts and sciences.”

“We’re gonna try to hire people where we don’t specify what disciplines they have to be in, they just have to be in Latinx studies,” Bardo said.

“Very different. But that came from the faculty.”

Joining the American Athletic Conference

Bardo said the decision to move Wichita State from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference had nothing to do with basketball.

“I don’t care about basketball,” Bardo said. “That’s not why we did it. Think about the other schools in the athletic conference.

“We’re like Houston. We’re not like Evansville,” He said. “It’s part of this message of, who are we?”