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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

From renovations to AI: What to know from the latest student town hall

President Rick Muma speaks at a virtual town hall on Friday, April 5. Muma, Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall and Provost Shirley Lefever provided updates on various topics.

University President Rick Muma, Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall and Provost Shirley Lefever gave updates on a range of issues at the last student town hall before summer break. Topics included the five degree programs flagged for review last fall, the university’s new 10-year master plan and the role of artificial intelligence in education. 

The town hall was moderated by Student Body President Iris Okere and Vice President Sophie Martins, who posed questions from students to Muma, Lefever and Hall. 

Action plans for degree programs

Five of Wichita State’s degree programs were flagged for review last October by the Kansas Board of Regents. Lefever said the programs are working on their action plans, which are scheduled to be submitted by April 20. One option for those programs is to merge with other programs, a move Lefever said the Department of Women’s, Ethnicity, and Intersectional Studies is currently looking at. 

Lefever said the programs are not only important to students majoring in them but also non-majors taking the classes to complete general education requirements. 

“(We’re) trying to communicate that value to the Board of Regents when we submit our action plans,” she said.

Construction updates and 10-year Master Plan

The Shocker Success Center is on track to be completed by the fall, and an addition to the Marcus Welcome Center is scheduled to be finished this summer. 

Muma also said that the university could be looking at demolishing some of its buildings in the coming years, as outlined in the 10-year Master Plan. Muma said that a “final draft” of the Master Plan was unveiled in March.

Outlines of the plan were recently displayed in the Rhatigan Student Center and can still be viewed in Ablah Library’s special collections. A recording of the event where the Master Plan was presented is also available on the university’s YouTube page. 

Construction of the Wichita Biomedical Campus, a collaboration between WSU, WSU Tech and the University of Kansas, will begin on May 8. Muma said the campus will be located in downtown Wichita. 

Construction on the Hub for Advanced Manufacturing Research is also set to begin. It will open in 2025, according to the National Institution for Aviation Research (NIAR). 

The hub’s purpose, Muma said, is “to help small businesses adopt smart manufacturing and advanced manufacturing processes into (their) businesses and provide opportunities for students to work alongside staff.” 

The master plan also includes two parking garages, which Muma said will be “strategically placed in high pedestrian traffic areas.” 

No additional time frame was given as to when those garages will be built. 

Other upcoming projects include an indoor softball practice facility and renovations to Cessna Stadium, including soccer and track and field facilities.

Hall said that improvements to the Rhatigan Student Center, including the replacement of its roof, are also needed. 

Becoming a Hispanic-serving institution

WSU is working toward becoming a Hispanic-serving institution, which will mean that the university has a population that is at least 25% Hispanic. If granted this status, the university will be able to access grants to put toward programs and services for those students. 

Lefever said that WSU is working to attract and retain Hispanic students through various programs, including outreach to high school students and a research program for undergraduate students from Latin America. 

Graduate admissions

Staff were advised in February that a drop in graduate enrollment posed a danger to the university’s budget. 

Lefever said that keeping Wichita State affordable to students is a priority, and deans and graduate coordinators meet every other week to discuss increasing graduate enrollment in their respective colleges. The university also started a “refer a friend” program to incentivize international graduate students, and lowered prices for its intensive language classes for those students. 

“We’re being very comprehensive and trying to think outside the box of how we can really do a better job of recruiting and retaining our international graduate students,” Lefever said.

Artificial intelligence

Lefever addressed the role of artificial intelligence in education. She said the Office of Instructional Resources, which provides resources to WSU instructors, focused on AI models, such as ChatGTP, in their January Academic Resource Conference. More resources related to AI and education are available here.

Anyone interested can watch the full town hall meeting here

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About the Contributor
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.

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