WSU President John BardoGetting to know First Lady Deborah and WSU President John Bardo

This is the last installment of a three-part series with WSU President John Bardo. Following are extended answers to questions in the printed Fall Horizon. Also, there are some additional questions that we were unable to include in the three print installments.


How will you help WSU foster more innovation and creativity?

I differentiate creativity and innovation and I see creativity as the base on which innovation occurs. Innovation, in my mind, is the realization of creativity in a way that makes a difference. Universities that encourage creativity and innovation focus on creating a culture that both values and rewards these activities. This means in part that one accepts that innovation will not always produce positive results and that truly innovative people can fail in a particular effort. 

I am going to be working with the Faculty Senate, the deans and others to see what we can do to promote and reward innovation within the WSU context. For example, I have great interest in creating a “Skunk Works” to allow small clusters of faculty to explore new ways of teaching that promote both student learning and student satisfaction on the one hand and containing costs per FTE student on the other. (A Skunk Works is a term of art that designates an entity that is given freedom to experiment without all of the normal organizational constraints.)

In addition, we will be looking at different models of how to think about the campus itself. There are some very interesting innovations that involve public-private partnerships and the development of new campus models. One such model that has been very successful is the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. Others are in development at a number of institutions and we can learn from these models and possibly apply them at WSU.

We also need to remember that while creativity is very important, critical thinking, logic and cultural competencies all play key roles in our ability to innovate. Finding new ways to integrate the lessons of the arts and humanities with other areas of study and assuring that our university community is well-grounded in history, culture and social sciences all will add to our capacities to be innovative. What this means is that I will encourage collaboration across disciplines and colleges and will try to work with the faculty, staff and administration to find ways to reduce bureaucratic impediments to such collaboration and to reward those who are willing to find new ways to teach, study and learn that enhance creative, logical and finally, innovative, actions.


Why is it important to you to create a steering committee of campus and community representatives and what do you hope to learn?

As you can see, the process speaks to the core nature of the university and how it will develop over the next five to 10 years. Public universities like WSU were developed to serve the needs of the people of the various states. These needs have changed over time and universities have become increasingly central to the future of the communities they serve. Public universities are the “people’s universities” and therefore it is important to address the people’s educational needs and interests. One of the best ways that we can achieve the goal of meeting the people’s needs is to have knowledgeable representatives of key external constituencies at the table engaging with our faculty, staff, students and administrators in an active discussion. We will all learn from this experience and, at the end of the day, the resulting plan should delineate our direction and have strong internal and external support.


How will this committee help guide future fundraising priorities?

Fundraising works when there is a match between the donors’ interests and the direction of the university. The planning process will clarify for us both what we will emphasize and where we have the greatest needs. This will help us develop fundraising priorities and look at how we approach fundraising over the next five to 10 years.


What specific interests does Mrs. Bardo have regarding campus issues and activities?

I think that you will find that Deborah is a very informal person who enjoys hosting people in our home and interacting with students. She grew up in Wichita. Her father worked at Cessna and her mother worked as a teacher’s aide.

“Deborah is interested in helping children recognize that they, too, can get an education and create better lives for themselves and their families.”

She understands the importance of this university to the people of the region and she is interested in helping children recognize that they, too, can get an education and create better lives for themselves and their families.

You are likely to see her volunteering in a school, helping with a bake sale or adopting a WSU student who just needs a campus mom. Deborah also has had a long-standing interest in libraries and she has volunteered with the Friends of the Library both on campus and in our last community. 


Additional questions asked of Dr. Bardo.


Please tell me about your son. What was his reaction to your selection as the incoming WSU president?

Christopher is a native of Wichita and was born at Wesley Hospital in 1980. After trying many other things, he decided to go to college and is now majoring in pre-med at North Carolina Central University. He is thinking about going to graduate school in physical therapy or other medical field though he also has discussed the possibility of continuing to study biology and chemistry.

Christopher encouraged me to apply to WSU and he was very happy when the job was offered. We will miss him since he lived near us, but he has told me many times that he felt that this was something that his mom and I needed to do given how we both feel about WSU and Wichita. He is very supportive and we look forward to him visiting us.


Do you have pets?

We don’t currently. Throughout the years we have had dogs, cats, lizards, ferrets, guinea pigs and a host of other critters that have shared our house. When your son is interested in biology, you end up with some unusual houseguests. We both are dog people, but with our upcoming schedule this does not seem like the right time to have another dog.


What do the two of you like to do in your spare time?

What is spare time? All kidding aside, we both like to travel and to be with family. We have very close friends in England and enjoy seeing them whenever possible. Generally, however, these jobs tend to eat up most spare time, so the little of it that we have we simply enjoy being together.


What hobbies do you have?

I work with stained glass and Deborah builds doll houses. We also love to travel.


Do either of you have any specific collections?

Yes. I have a small collection of British “OO” model trains and Deborah has a growing collection of Fiesta Ware pitchers and creamers. She also would tell you that I have a great collection of woodworking tools that get used from time-to-time.


What are your favorite things about Wichita and Kansas – restaurants, attractions, etc.?

Wichita is a very “homey” city. We enjoy the family atmosphere, the great ethnic diversity and the variety of neighborhoods. We both tend to like family owned restaurants and we have a couple of favorite Mexican and Vietnamese places. Both of us also have always enjoyed the campus and its beauty. The Ulrich, the outdoor art, the flowers and plantings, and just the feel of the university all are very special. We both also enjoy the rugged beauty of the Flint Hills and the area around Lindsborg. 


Click here to see what President Bardo has been up to!


This is the third of a three-part interview with WSU President John Bardo. You can read Part 1 in the Summer 2012 issue of Horizon and Part 2 in the Summer e-Horizon.


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