Innovation Campus, new business school building pivotal to WSU’s growth and success
As a capital campaign takes shape, those ambitious initiatives are among the university’s top priorities
Wichita State University's master campus plan includes locations for the new technology buildings for WSU's Innovation Campus.
Wichita State is taking big strides toward its plan to build an Innovation Campus on the southeast corner of the university footprint, with a modern new business school seen as a key component to the project’s overall success.
The W. Frank Barton School of Business would be housed in one of five new buildings planned for the Innovation Campus, an initiative proposed by WSU President John Bardo as a way to help achieve the university’s strategic plan. Among the most important elements of the strategic plan are forging a new model of education that emphasizes applied learning and research, being an economic driver for Wichita and Kansas, and growing enrollment.
The north entrance to Clinton Hall, home to the W. Frank Barton School of Business. Completed in 1970, Clinton was the first new building to be constructed at Wichita State after the university became a part of the state system in 1964.
“The Innovation Campus is necessary to fulfilling that plan,” says Tony Vizzini, vice president for academic affairs. “We’re talking about creating an environment where ideas and innovation can germinate and bloom in a welcoming environment, where you generate new ideas and advance them, and where you can connect ideas that previously didn’t seem to have connections.”
Though many of the facilities at the Innovation Campus will be funded through the university’s budget and private investment, some of it – most notably the new business building – will be priorities in a comprehensive funding campaign being planned by the WSU Foundation.
“Not all of the priorities for the upcoming campaign have been identified yet, but we are certain that an up-to-date facility for our Barton School of Business on the Innovation Campus will be at the top of the list,” said Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO. “The new building is essential to advance our vision to be a center for collaborative learning, a place that will entice faculty and students to perform at the highest levels.”
Both Vizzini and Cindy Claycomb, interim dean of the Barton School of Business, believe the business school will play a vital role in the success of the Innovation Campus, where collaboration among disciplines will be emphasized.
“Engineers will have a big presence at the Innovation Campus, no doubt about it,” Vizzini said. “But we must incorporate the business side, too. You have to make your ideas and products commercial, you have to know how to have a business plan.
“You want an interdisciplinary environment, and universities are good at that,” he said. “We already have all of the disciplines. We need to create the flow that brings them together.”
A new building for the Barton School of Business will provide teaching and learning spaces that are more collaborative, more efficient and more technologically up to date than the 44-year-old Clinton Hall now provides, Claycomb said.
“The business school will be a tremendous partner in this innovation ecosystem,” she said. “Our faculty will be able to work with new startups in terms of translating research to the applied side, providing market research, incubating new business ideas, determining technology commercialization. Being part of the Innovation Campus will make it stronger, and make us stronger.”
Anyone who has visited Clinton Hall in recent years will quickly recognize that it is aging out, she said. Classrooms are static, with no creative or collaborative spaces available to students. Flooding and foundation issues have required extensive maintenance. The sub-basement level has no windows and a lack of natural lighting is an aesthetic drawback throughout the building.
“A new building will provide spaces that not only will enhance student learning, but also will help us meet the competition, because our competition is building new business schools as we speak,” Claycomb said, referring to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.
"The business school will be a tremendous partner in this innovation ecosystem."
- Cindy Claycomb
For Wichita State’s bold vision to succeed, faculty, students and private enterprise need to come together in a creative work space, Vizzini said.
“The human psychology is such that how we respond to stimulus is a result of the environment we’re in,” he said. “To have freedom of thought you want to be in an environment where there are very few physical constraints. You want to be able to write on the walls, to have work spaces that are flexible and easily reconfigured to your needs, to have technology that is convenient and up to date. It’s in that environment that you can imagine it, draw it and have something in hand in a matter of minutes or hours.”
Private enterprises are already paying attention. Last month, NetApp, a global data storage company with offices in Wichita, announced that it will expand part of its operations onto the WSU campus. NetApp is the first announced tenant of the new Innovation Campus. Other key developments:
- Wichita State has hired Ken Russell, a Cisco technologist, to head the Advanced Networking Research Institute at WSU, which will be a pivotal partner at the Innovation Campus.
- The Kansas Legislature allocated $2 million to WSU to help pay for the first of four buildings planned for the Innovation Campus (in addition to the new business facility.)
- WSU leaders continue to talk to other companies about forming business partnerships with WSU and moving onto the Innovation Campus.
The Innovation Campus will be a place where many new ideas are explored with the goal of launching some that will improve the quality of life for many, Vizzini said.
“We’re not looking for a 95 percent success rate,” he said. “Maybe you come up with 1,000 ideas and 20 are winners. You produce lots of ideas and keep cutting away at them and what’s left in the end is a jewel.”