Getting to know First Lady Deborah and WSU President John Bardo

Part Two

This is the second of a three-part interview with WSU President John Bardo. You can read Part 1 in the Summer 2012 issue of Horizon. Please read the next issue to learn how he will help WSU foster more innovation and creativity, how a steering committee of campus and community representatives will help guide future fundraising priorities, the specific campus interests of Deborah Bardo and more about their personal activities.

WSU President John Bardo

John Bardo, new Wichita State University president, shares some insights into his personal thoughts and professional views about WSU.

Where did you meet?

We met on the second floor of Neff Hall. Deborah worked in our departmental office over the summer and we became friendly. I dated one of her friends for a while — which didn’t work out. She and I started dating the next spring and got married that summer. It was a short courtship, but the marriage has lasted 37 years so far. We like to think of ourselves as newlyweds.

What are your plans to continue strengthening ties with local industry?

WSU has a decades-long history of working well with the region’s businesses and industry. My first steps will be making sure that I understand what we are doing currently and to meet with as many business and industry leaders as possible to hear directly about their interests and future needs.

As I look at the data on the Wichita economic base and economic location (along the I-35 trade corridor), there also appears to be real opportunity for development of entrepreneurial and spin-out businesses related to the region’s core technologies. WSU also has a long tradition in entrepreneurship education and support for emerging businesses and I hope to place even greater emphasis on these types of business developments. This means that I will need to gain a much stronger understanding of where we are with technology transfer, partnerships with early stage investors, and how I can support our entrepreneurship-related faculty and staff and the SBDC (Small Business Development Centers). It also means that I will need to gain a more in-depth understanding of our capacities in science, health, engineering, math, human factors and computing (among other areas).

“It was a short courtship, but the marriage has lasted 37 years so far. We like to think of ourselves as newlyweds.”

Dr. Bardo on his marriage to Deborah

Innovation, entrepreneurship and understanding the many impacts of globalization are going to be keys to the future of business in this metropolitan region. Globalization and an economy based in new technologies have brought with them some major changes in the structure of society as well as the geographic structure of the economy. They also have changed fundamentally the importance of universities to future competitiveness and quality of life. Because of WSU’s urban-oriented research mission, we are well situated to assist business and industry, government, schools and the community at large adjust to these changes.

What types of issues do you plan to address in the future strategic plan?

Periodically, universities need to reassess where they are with regard to their external environment. During the interview process I heard from many constituencies that they feel that WSU is at a stage of development where it is time to reassure ourselves that we are addressing our core issues. The model of planning that I envision will focus on several key areas:

  1. Does our current statement of mission fully reflect our focus and what does this mission actually mean to us? How does this mission create emphases in our programs, enrollment, research, service and other activities of the university?
  2. What are our core values? We need to articulate these values if we are to focus our efforts to achieve our mission.
  3. What are our central goals and objectives? How do these goals and objectives reflect the Board of Regents Foresight 2020 plan? How will we assess and measure our progress in achieving these goals and objectives?
  4. Given the above, what are our institutional strengths and weaknesses? What are the external opportunities and threats? How do we match our goals and objectives to both our abilities and the external environment?

In addition to these general discussions, I expect that there will be specific committees focused on key areas that require institution level plans. These would include such topics as public-private partnerships/technology transfer/incubators/university as entrepreneur, student life and student services; expanding experiential learning/global learning; and enrollment, retention to graduation, distance education and adult learners.

This review will involve most areas of the university. I strongly believe that the plan needs to help us direct our resources and focus our efforts. So, this is a very important process.

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