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Wichita State Innovation Campus aims to unite university and community

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The campus plans include a maker space and corporate offices, as well as restaurants, recreation facilities and a hotel.

Wichita State University is creating an Innovation Campus focused on technology, business and community.

After being welcomed to Wichita State in 2012, President John Bardo began developing plans to shift the university’s priorities to innovation. Through strategic planning, the university’s mission became clear: Wichita State will serve as an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good. A new vision prioritizes the university’s desire to become internationally recognized as the model for applied learning and research.

According to Lou Heldman, Wichita State vice president of strategic communications, “The Innovation Campus allows WSU students, faculty and staff to enact the mission and vision by providing fresh opportunities to build on the university’s historic strengths working with industry and community.”

To achieve these lofty goals, the university is expanding its infrastructure to accommodate new buildings dedicated to allowing students and faculty to interact in a dynamic environment best suited for research.

Innovation under construction

Adjacent to current campus facilities is 150 acres donated by university trustees. This land is currently being developed to house new tenants, such as an Experiential Engineering building, Partnership One facility and the new home of the College of Business.

Bardo intends for the Innovation Campus to attract new businesses while retaining and developing the pre-existing industries in Wichita. AirBus has already agreed to establish their North American engineering center in the Partnership One facility that is currently under construction. Heldman stated a significant portion of the infrastructure for this facility and the Experiential Engineering building should be completed during 2016.

“There’s a greater sense of optimism about the future”

The GoCreate maker space, a Koch Collaborative, was recently announced and will call the Experiential Engineering building its home upon completion. GoCreate will act as a multi-purpose work space where creative collisions are fostered through access to specialized equipment and training.

“We envision GoCreate as a launch pad for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and technology, and as a catalyst for business creation and economic growth,” said Bardo.

Connecting community and learning

The university intends to not only impact the experience of faculty and students at Wichita State, but to shape the community and the way Wichita interacts with the university.

Educational and recreational facilities and meeting spaces will be open for public use. In addition, the university plans to add a hotel, retail stores, restaurants and apartments to the Innovation Campus.

“The master plan for the Innovation Campus has continued to evolve as new partners have stepped forward and asked to be included, but the original idea has been maintained to make it the center of an innovation district where people can learn, work, live and play,” said Heldman.

Students are the key to economic growth

The Innovation Campus ideation and implementation could not be happening at better time for Wichita and the Kansas economy. Harvard researcher, James Chung, recently presented a sobering analysis of the current economic state in Wichita. His findings made clear that many college graduates opt to move out of Kansas upon graduation, taking their knowledge and talent with them.

Wichita State is venturing to change that.

By providing students easy access to high-profile companies on the Innovation Campus, the university hopes to foster relationships between students and businesses. They anticipate these additions will aid students acquiring internships and bolster their career opportunities.

“I’m most excited about how the Innovation Campus is already changing the conversation about the university and about Wichita. There’s a greater sense of optimism about the future than there was even a few years ago. This opens up tremendous possibilities for our students and state,” said Heldman.

Kaitie Foley is a writer from Wichita, Kansas.

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