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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State Connect aims to “demystify college,” engage with community

From hosting campus visits to providing a space for students and faculty, Wichita State Connect is one of Wichita State’s newest initiatives to engage with the community.

Wichita State Connect resides in the former Wonder School building on WSU campus and will provide space for activities such as K-12 field trips, professional development opportunities, and student and community events.

Provost Shirley Lefever, who plans to retire at the end of the calendar year, said she decided to start Wichita State Connect to help “demystify college.”

Lefever, a former classroom teacher, said many first-generation students attend Wichita State; according to Wichita State’s graduation ceremony video, 41.6% of spring 2024 graduates are first-generation students.

Renderings for a Wichita State Connect room lie on a table. Alicia Thompson, the associate vice president of preK-12 connections and special projects, said this room can be used by both community and university members, including students. (Courtney Brown)

She also emphasized that the facility will help K-12 students understand the purpose of college through various campus events.

“Just growing familiarity with the campus, helping them see that ‘Oh, you can live on campus,’ or ‘There are places to eat on campus,’ and it’s just to make them (K-12 students) feel like it’s their space,” Lefever said. “And that’s really how I talk about Wichita Connect is, it’s ‘Think of it as your living room.’”

Lefever said Wichita State Connect will work with the Office of Admissions and also offer a place for visitors to relax during campus events and learn about WSU.

Alicia Thompson, the associate vice president of preK-12 connections and special projects, similarly said Wichita State Connect will provide a “welcoming space” for students and families and share WSU’s opportunities.

“This will be a hub for family, so when they want to get out of the elements … we’ll have people here available to talk to parents about the opportunities … (and) what it means to be a Shocker,” Thompson said.

According to Thompson, Wichita State Connect can host various activities, including art activities, science experiments, summer camps and career exploration workshops.

Lefever said events already took place in the building during spring 2024, with more events planned for this summer.

According to Thompson, Wichita State Connect also served as an alternate classroom during the spring semester after Corbin Education Center was shut down due to flooding and classes had to relocate.

Community outreach

Thompson, the former superintendent for Wichita Public Schools Unified District 259, said she regularly conducts outreach to continue to shape Wichita State Connect’s goals.

Thompson came to WSU in February after retiring as superintendent at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. She said she draws on her preK-12 relationships within her new position.

“I understand how education works, (how) the preK-12 systems work … and (I’m) learning how university works, and how to best merge those two together to really get the best outcome not only for the university, but also for the students and the experiences that they would have preK-12 and beyond,” Thompson said.

A multi-purpose space in Wichita State Connect. Alicia Thompson, the associate vice president of preK-12 connections and special projects, said this room has moveable furniture and connects to another similar multi-purpose space. Students also attended class in one of the multi-purpose spaces after flooding damaged the Corbin Education Center. (Courtney Brown)

Thompson said she regularly meets with superintendents in Wichita school areas and invites people into Wichita State Connect.

She said Wichita State Connect also considers input from all Wichita State college deans to support their goals, and she will reach out to community members, business leaders and WSU students for their ideas.

“We’re not just going to just sit here in this building and create it ourselves,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be inviting teams of people, which is inclusive also of university students, to come in to talk to us about the space and what the purpose is going to continue to be.”

Lefever said an official ribbon-cutting celebration for Wichita State Connect will take place in the fall.

Thompson said community members and student organizations can book space for events; she recommended contacting James Brewster.

“Whatever people dream and seek themselves here in (Wichita State Connect), they can use it,” Thompson said.

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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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