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How Wichita State University is Driving Innovation and Economic Prosperity

By Dr. Rick Muma and Diane Tinker Hurst

Dr. Rick Muma, Wichita State University President

Wichita State University is where Shockers shape the future. Our origin story was built against the backdrop of innovation and a pioneering spirit that has been our guiding light on our journey to build a brighter tomorrow for all Kansans.

A lot has changed since Wichita State opened its doors in 1895, but WSU stays true to its mission of supporting the local economic drivers and, in turn, being supported by them. Advancing innovation and driving prosperity that impacts the entire state of Kansas have been foundational themes to the teaching, learning, engagement, and research at WSU. As the state’s only urban, public research university, those themes are integrated into Wichita State’s vision, mission, and values.

  • Vision: To be one of the nation’s premier urban public research universities, known for providing impactful applied learning experiences and driving prosperity for the people and communities we serve.
  • Mission: To be an essential educational, cultural, and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good.
Diane Tinker Hurst

Wichita State is integrating the APLU model of talent, innovation, and place into our analysis of Kansas’ greatest opportunities for economic development.

  • Talent:
    • We are creating a curriculum around the current and future needs of businesses and industries — including degrees in supply chain, cybersecurity, data analytics, applied linguistics, digital arts, game design, and innovation design.
    • WSU’s strategic plan requires all students to have applied learning experiences across all degree programs. These include apprenticeships and multi-year internships where students work, learn and research with professionals so they’re prepared to make meaningful contributions to their industries once they graduate.
  • Innovation:
    • Digital transformation: Wichita State is emerging as a leader in this promising field. To further interdisciplinary research, we established the National Institute for Research and Digital Transformation. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed and have been a draw for partners located on our Innovation Campus, including NetApp, Deloitte’s Smart Factory @ Wichita, and — most recently — the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Crime Gun Intelligence Center of Excellence.
    • Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul program: Expanding on a reputation for success, WSU’s NIAR WERX received certification by the FAA as a Repair Station Operator. The MRO implements methods to engineer, modify, test, and certify new aircraft. The MRO is also an employment powerhouse and is on track to create 1,500 jobs over five years.
    • Molecular Diagnostics Lab: When COVID-19 struck, WSU launched a fully digital, high-complexity Molecular Diagnostics Lab with the capacity to process 40,000 specimens per day with 24-hour results, allowing for precise quarantine of those infected and keeping Kansas open for business during the worst of the pandemic.
  • Place:

When we began our IEP self-study, we made a deliberate decision to incorporate its findings as part of our strategic plan refresh, which began in 2019. Our intention was to ensure that our IEP application accurately reflected the vision, mission, and priorities of our institution while aligning our growth and improvement plan with our strategic goals and priorities. We also aligned our plan with the Kansas Board of Regents’ strategic plan for public higher education system that seeks to serve families, businesses, and the state’s economic prosperity, Building a Future, and the Kansas Department of Commerce 15-year strategic plan, the Kansas Framework for Growth. All three plans are grounded in the pillars of talent, innovation, and place.

From the early days of Wichita State University, generations of Shockers have been fluent in the language of innovation. Within that innovation, we’ve fostered entrepreneurship and nurtured the spirit of invention to help build a better, brighter tomorrow. The midwestern grit and relentless work ethic inherent in our culture have fueled the growth of Shocker Nation and helped us in our endeavors to serve our community. Through our strategic plan and IEP study work, we recognized that we have opportunities for improvement in faculty engagement, communication of our strengths and activities within both the on-campus and off-campus communities, and the need to establish a structure for our economic engagement and development efforts, we see obstacles as opportunities and possibilities as potential.

As we plan for the future, the IEP designation will provide a prophetic framework for progress. While our strategic plan outlines our commitment, the IEP process provides the structure for elevating our research, economic engagement and development as a means to boost the overall prosperity of our state.

  • IEP

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