Bardo: ‘Do we wish we were an elite little liberal arts college?’


Brian Hayes

President John Bardo talks about the state of the university and the direction it is headed in during an Unclassified Professional Senate meeting in Hubbard Hall.

President Bardo presented to a group of Wichita State’s unclassified professional employees, and spoke heavily of the role of the liberal arts in the STEM-focused direction of Innovation Campus.

The Unclassified Professional Senate held its spring general meeting Wednesday night, drawing a crowd of about 110 attendees.

Bardo said creating “an elite little liberal arts college” at WSU “ain’t gonna work.”

“Do we wish we were an elite little liberal arts college?” Bardo said to the crowd. “That’s not who we are.

“We’re educating people like you and me who have to go to work for a living.”

Bardo said Fairmount College — what WSU was formerly known as — was founded “to serve the working people of Wichita, not to serve the intellectual elite.”

He said technology was a key part in that.

“When we look at tomorrow, what we know is that technology is going to continue to underwrite everything that happens. And it’s going to continue to spread.”

He said that “big science” will drive the future.

“We also know that the vast majority of federal funds and almost all private money is in applied research and development,” Bardo said.

Bardo addressed criticism of the university’s heavy focus on business and engineering.

“There are people who don’t like businesses being on campus,” Bardo said. “Fairmount College survived because some businesses in Wichita underwrote it. Because the reality is, times were always hard in Wichita.”

Bardo said that headcount “doesn’t mean much anymore.”

“When I started here, I worried a lot about headcount because that’s how we counted. I don’t worry about it much anymore,” Bardo said.

After Bardo finished speaking, Interim Provost Rick Muma gave a presentation on WSU’s enrollment goals and the importance of increasing enrollment as a source of revenue for the university.

Muma presented on the strategic enrollment plan, which sets a goal of 18,000 students at WSU by 2020.