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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State to prioritize boosting economy, affordability

Courtney Brown
Faculty Senate President Jolynn Dowling and Staff Senate President Jason Bosch joke about their senates beating the other in the Stock the Shocker Support Locker Challenge. Dowling and Bosch spoke at the 2023 Faculty and Staff Fall Address on Aug. 16.

President Rick Muma did an impression of Ted Lasso, a fictional Wichita State soccer coach, during his speech at the 2023 Faculty and Staff Fall Address on Aug. 16.

“Success is about helping these young fellas … be the best versions of themselves on and off the field,” Muma said, impersonating the Apple TV+ character before continuing in his regular voice. “We’re here to ensure student success, however they might define it.”

Muma expanded on previous speakers’ points at the address, who discussed this year’s priorities: access and affordability, supporting Kansas businesses with a talent pipeline and increasing economic prosperity.

Muma said Wichita State has celebrated a record enrollment of 21,942 students in 2022 — the highest in 30 years, according to Shirley Lefever, executive vice president and provost.

“Most universities were grappling with steady declines, and we grew our research all the way to almost $300 million this last year,” Muma said. “We did that together.”

Muma also highlighted the Innovation Campus and the recently approved Wichita Biomedical Campus, planned to be completed in 2026.

“Prioritizing health care education at Wichita will send a message to our community, in our businesses, that we care about our community’s health, and … more people will be attracted to stay in Wichita, which will also boost our overall economic prosperity,” Muma said.

Wichita State also plans to offer more paid applied learning and research opportunities for students, such as through the Digital Research and Transformation Hub and WSU’s recent partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Learning opportunities give our students quality experiences while helping reduce the financial burden of higher education, which simultaneously feeds the talent pipeline,” Bobby Berry, College of Applied Studies assistant dean and professor, said.

According to WSU Foundation President Elizabeth King, over 8,300 undergraduate students applied for scholarship support through the Office of Financial Aid in 2022, and only 4,678 were helped. She said WSU must expand its scholarship reach.

“We need to redouble our efforts to help those students,” King said.

According to Muma, 30% of Wichita State undergraduates are first-generation students, which he said makes access and affordability “the epitome of the right thing to do.” He encouraged faculty and staff to approach struggling students with curiosity.

“Ask, ‘What’s standing in your way of being successful? What’s going on in your life? What can I do to help you?’” Muma said. “You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about yourself and others if you simply reframe your responses as curiosity, rather than judgment.”

 Lefever said that a master plan for Wichita State is being developed, already leading to new projects with Wilson Stadium improvements, the Cessna Stadium and the Shocker Success Center

“The master plan will provide a roadmap for campus growth and transformation, focusing on forging deeper connections between academics and industry and shaping us as a leading urban public research university,” Lefever said.

On Sept. 10, the team creating the master plan will present it in a virtual town hall and receive community feedback.

To watch the full 2023 Fall Address, visit Wichita State’s YouTube.

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About the Contributor
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.

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