If you’ve been keeping up with our blog posts over the summer, you may have noticed a recurring theme among them: innovation. As classes at the University started this week at Wichita State University, that theme still rings true thanks to President Bardo’s new vision for the campus. Along with creating new buildings for the Engineering and Business Schools, Bardo’s strategic plan includes numerous other amenities including another new residence hall, a parking garage, and even a hotel. However, the most interesting piece may come from the inclusion of private industry working its way onto the east side of campus in the form of shops, restaurants, mixed office space, and apartments.
The idea of an innovation campus has clearly been Bardo’s dream since he began his tenure as the University’s President. Similar radical changes were made to the campus of West Carolina University where Bardo served as Chancellor for sixteen years. The creation of Shocker Hall in just over a year serves as a symbol of what Bardo hopes to do in his time here; implement creative, profitable, and of course, innovative ideas into the campus at Wichita State. These ideas seek to do more than aid Wichita State recruiting. They have the very real potential of growing the Wichita economy by bringing in new industries and fostering a culture that encourages change and collaboration. This recurring theme that ties Bardo’s vision for an “Innovation Campus” together is precisely the mentality that our group observed in our recent trip to Silicon Valley. The idea that all one has to do to further develop their “big idea” is to utilize the resources surrounding them is exactly what Wichita State University could offer aspiring entrepreneurs in Wichita and the surrounding area.
However, as we gathered from our conclusions in Silicon Valley, there is a fine line between providing costly resources and receiving a direct benefit. In short, it takes an incredible amount of buy-in and support from the community to make the dream a reality. Bardo has nearly solved this problem up front by holding many conversations with local businesses that wish to be a part of the Innovation Campus, including tech companies that already thrive on the collaboration and innovation ideas. Coupled with the excitement and buzz that encompassed the newly-renovated Rhatigan Student Center on Friday afternoon after the big reveal, the Innovation Campus no longer seems like a pipe dream; rather, a reality that will start to take shape as soon as we let it.