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Shock the World Campaign
In This Issue

       

An interview with WSU Interim President Andy Tompkins


Anand Desai

Andy Tompkins has been serving as Wichita State’s interim president since April 8. He shared some of his insights about the job and the university in a recent interview.

Q

A little more than five months into the job, what do you see as WSU’s biggest strengths?

There’s a sincere desire to help every student be successful, with a lot of services to help them on many different levels. There’s no complacency in that regard. When you look at the students who we serve, many are people who otherwise might not have opportunity. That’s a real service to this community.

Q

What is our biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is being so dependent on enrollment growth in the midst of flat high school graduation rates. That’s not unique to Wichita State. There’s no doubt we need to stay focused on new ways we can serve our students and the community. A great example of that is our partnership with WSU Tech. It broadens our scope on how we can respond to those needs.

Q

An issue related to enrollment is tuition and the cost of going to college. What can be done about that, if anything?

Our general operating fund comes from tuition and state aid. Over the past decade, there has been a greater emphasis on tuition to fund universities because state aid has actually decreased. This past legislative session, the legislature and Governor supported increased funding for higher education, for which we are very grateful. This resulted in the university keeping tuition flat for the current year. So when state aid increases there is less pressure on raising tuition. However, when state aid declines or stays flat, there is more reliance on tuition. Greater reliance on tuition requires more emphasis on increasing enrollment. In other words, the more students you have, the better chance you have of being financially healthy. One way we are addressing this is through our priority to raise more private funds so we can provide additional scholarships to students with financial need. We need to help them make up the gap between what they’re able to pay and what it costs to get a degree, so they can have access to higher education.

Q

What do you hope to accomplish as interim president?

I’m here primarily to make sure we’re ready to go for the next president. I want to support the work of the staff and faculty who help us be successful every day. I try to make decisions with the next president in mind. Some decisions have to be made now, but some are more appropriate for the next president. My goal is to help the next president be successful, while also making sure we continue to move forward as a university.

Q

What attributes should the new president have?

Be a good listener. Have a strong commitment to the welfare of the university. Have a collegial approach to the job as president. Possess a level of humility in recognizing that you have a wonderful opportunity and a big responsibility to look out for the best interests of our university.

Q

You left retirement to take this job. What drives you to continue in public service?

It is a privilege for me to do it. This was not necessarily something I wanted to do in retirement. But having worked with the Kansas Board of Regents, I know how important it is to have people to help out like this on an interim basis. And I know how difficult it can be to find those people. So it just felt like the right thing to do.

Q

You’ve had a long career dedicated to public education. What drew you to that sector?

Overall, I like helping people develop, grow and become successful. My dedication has been to the education of all people. But the public sector is where the majority of people are served, and especially those who otherwise might not be helped. I was fortunate enough to have a series of opportunities where I could make the most of that inclination.

Just the (fun) facts The lighter side of Andy Tompkins
Favorite vacation: New England in the fall.
Favorite indulgent breakfast: Pancakes.
Favorite reading: I’m always reading work-related material, but novels are my favorite.
Down-time activities: Movies and volunteering. Retirement affords us the time to do something we enjoy very much, which is volunteering.
What is most important to you about your family: Having a spouse (Glenda) who I can share my life with. We’ve been married for 47 years.
Best attribute a person should have to succeed in life: An inquiring mind. An interest in learning things. Finding something you like to do and then doing it.
Would you rather have a 90-degree day or a 30-degree day: I guess I’ll say a 30-degree day, but I really prefer a 70-degree day.
What is something most people don’t know about you: On workdays, I get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out.
Search for the next president
A 20-member committee headed by Wichita developer Steve Clark was appointed in May to search for the successor to WSU’s 13th president, John Bardo, who died last March.
The application period was closed on Aug. 16 and the search committee began interviewing candidates in September. The Kansas Board of Regents, which appointed the committee, has charged it with submitting three to five finalists to the board, which will select the next president. A new president is expected to be named in November.