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Spirit AeroSystems strengthens its scholarship program at Wichita State

The aerospace company seeks to build a pipeline of future engineers, business professionals

WuShock,John Bardo, and Larry Lawson
WuShock, WSU President John Bardo and Larry Lawson, Spirit AeroSystems president and CEO, unveiled the Spirit Scholars program at a news conference Nov. 18 at WSU.

Reinforcing its longstanding support of Wichita State University, Spirit AeroSystems has committed to a four-year program of high-impact scholarships for engineering, business and math students.

The aircraft manufacturer unveiled the Spirit Scholars program at a news conference held at Wichita State in conjunction with the Kansas Board of Regents. Spirit President and CEO Larry Lawson said 12 scholarships of $8,000 each would be awarded to Wichita State students — 10 to the College of Engineering, one to the W. Frank Barton School of Business and one to the Upward Bound Math Science program.

The scholarships are renewable as long as the recipients remain in good academic standing, so they potentially are valued at $32,000 each over four years. They will be awarded to freshmen students beginning in fall 2016. Lawson said that three scholarships of the same amount also would be awarded annually to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

As Kansas’ largest private employer, he said, Spirit AeroSystems knows the value of a good workforce and strives to hire locally whenever it can. That’s why it makes good business sense for Spirit to build partnerships with state universities, which provide many of the engineers and other professionals Spirit employs, Lawson said.

“Obviously, we have a vested interest to make sure we have the best and the brightest working with us,” he said. “We’re very, very proud and very happy with the quality of people we get from all three universities. They’re just outstanding.”

The Spirit Scholars program is investing more heavily in Wichita State than other universities because the company is based in Wichita, Lawson said. “We have a very close relationship with WSU,” he said.

Spirit will consider expanding the scholarship program if it proves successful, he said. One of Spirit’s goals is to develop stronger relationships with scholarship recipients so that they will consider careers at Spirit. Although Spirit has provided scholarships to WSU students since 2006, it decided to increase the size of awards to provide a greater impact. It also is promising that all recipients will be offered interviews for Spirit internships.

Having a strong relationship with Spirit is important for Wichita State, said College of Engineering Dean Royce Bowden.

“This is a highly successful company with great employment opportunities and a robust internship program,” he said. “We’re grateful for their confidence in Wichita State and their investment in our students who will be tomorrow’s engineers, business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.”