New LAS dean embraces positive risk-taking


Kylie Cameron

Andrew Hippisley, the new dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences, stands in the outfield of Eck Stadium. Raised in Scotland, Hippisley spent years around cricket, but grew to love baseball ever more after coming to the States.

Andrew Hippisley — the new dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences, replacing Ron Matson — wants students to live a little on the wild side. He wants to see students take risks, he said.

By taking risks, he said, you might find something you love.

Hippisley talks about his now teenage son, Max, when he brings up positive risk-taking.

“We were heading out for dinner one night, and all he wanted was a cheeseburger. We were about to go into Five Guys — his favorite place — and we saw this little sign saying ‘Kim Chi, Korean restaurant, open.’

“I said, ‘Let’s go there,’ and Max said, ‘I don’t want to do it.’”

So Hippisley and his wife told Max to live on the wild side. Then they dragged him into Kim Chi.

“He had no idea what to do, so we ordered him a bibimbap,” Hippisley said. “And he was in complete heaven eating this dish. He said, ‘This is my most favorite thing I’ve ever had.’”

“What happened was, by taking a risk, he found out who he was. So with four years at a university, if students can just take a risk, they may discover something about themselves that they never knew was there.”

Hippisley remembers his own risk taking when he was in college. One of the universities he attended was on a river. So — because the opportunity was there — Hippisley joined the rowing team.

“Do something because your school has it,” Hippisley said. “Do a course because it’s there. Something like the anatomy of the brain. Or something in fine arts. Or something in computer science. If it’s there, do it.”

College is an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, Hippisley said, so don’t surround yourself exclusively with like-minded people. That won’t lead to any new ideas or growth.

“Everybody says ‘find your people,’” Hippisley said. “I say find those people who are not your people. Sit at a table with people who are nothing like you.”

Humans are very tribal, Hippisley said. Tribe members are very loyal their tribes, he said, but shy away from embracing different opinions or ideas.

“One of the saddest things to me about universities is how students tend to get into tribes. It’s all of this, ‘I’m a firm believer in “x,” so let’s find people who also believe in “x,” and let’s all meet on a Thursday and tell each other we believe in “x.”’ Is that interesting? No. So break out of the tribe and find other people.”

College, Hippisley said, is a kind of training ground for positive risk taking.

“If you do not train yourself to take risks, you will not be a risk taker,” Hippisley said.

Maybe that’s why he’s such a big baseball fan. Though he was raised in Scotland, where cricket reigns supreme, Hippisley became a big baseball fan after spending time in the States. Why? Because baseball embraces failure.

“You strike out, then you go to the dugout, and then you get another chance to bat,” Hippisley said. “Now, in cricket, once you’ve batted and you’re out, you have to wait two days to get to hit again. But in baseball, swing, try, sometimes you connect, sometimes you don’t. Work out what went wrong, take another risk, and try again.”

It was fitting, then, that one of the first things that impressed Hippisley at Wichita State was Eck Stadium. No pressure on the players, he said, but he will be going to many of the games — so hopefully the team does some amazing things, he said.

“The noises, the mitts, the dust flying up … I just love it,” Hippisley said.

When Hippisley arrived on campus in May, the red tulips were in bloom, the weather was warm, and Hippisley was treated to a tour of the campus while seated on the back of a “buggy,” he said — a service cart.

One of the first things on campus he noticed was a particular statue — the Reclining Figure outside Ablah Library.

“One of the students was driving me (around campus), and I thought I saw a Henry Moore sculpture,” Hippisley said. “I thought, ‘It just can’t be a Henry Moore,’ so I said, ‘Go over there, please! I think it’s a Henry Moore!’ So she put her foot on the accelerator, and there it was.”

Hippisley has already fallen in love with the older part of campus, he said.

“It’s quiet, it’s shady, you can gather your thoughts.”

And while he hasn’t fully explored Wichita yet, he’s already seen some of the sights, including the Keeper of the Plains.

But one of the most impressive things he has seen, he said, is something most Wichitans probably don’t think too much about.

“I really love those grain elevator silos,” Hippisley said. “Those great, big hulking buildings … I’ve never seen anything like that. They’re scary. I like that though. It’s unique.”

Hippisley was drawn to Wichita State, he said, because of its location in a city. Many state universities are “in the middle of nowhere,” he said. He compared Wichita to his former school, the University of Kentucky, where he served as the chair of linguistics.

“You could connect to the community, you could have a relationship with the mayor,” Hippisley said. “There were challenges, too, of course. So I think there are all sorts of opportunities for the university to be a partner with the city, but also for the city to provide really great hands-on opportunities for the students.”

Everyone on WSU’s campus is so close together, Hippisley said, that he’s hopeful for “a lot of collaboration between disciplines.”

“I’m a real believer in the idea that, yes, there’s a department of anthropology, but there’s a particular problem that needs an anthropologist, a psychologist and someone from women’s studies to solve it,” Hippisley said.

If students and faculty are willing to embrace something different, and maybe partner with someone from a part of the university that they’ve never interacted with before, more problems will be solved, and more of us will be more closely connected, he said.

“America is the country of risk taking. I really do believe that universities have got to teach students that that is a good thing to do. If you fail now and then, that is not a disaster. You tried, and you took a risk.”