Plans for new buildings revealed, funding discussed at State of University address

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Video streams, audio recordings and even Twitter was buzzing about K-State’s past, present and future at the State of the University address delivered by President Kirk Schulz Friday in the Alumni Center Ballroom. In the presentation, live streamed through the K-State Faculty Senate website, Schulz spoke about the university’s recent triumphs and awards, and revealed plans for new academic buildings in the business, engineering and architecture colleges.

“We’re growing, so we have to add some things,” Schulz said in his speech.

The highlight of the introduction of new buildings to campus was a video of the projected new APDesign hall. With ideas and designs dreamed up by the college’s students, the APDesign building will feature gallery space, an outdoor classroom and an overall more sleek and educational presence.

Schulz wasted no time answering the question on the audience’s mind.

“The videos are nice, pretty pictures and all that stuff,” Schulz said, “but the question is, ‘When are we gonna see the dirt moving and steel work coming out of the ground?’ Next summer, particularly on the College of Business building. We’ve been told that we’ll start seeing dirt moving in August of 2014, so when people come back next year from over the summer, they’ll really be able to see these projects moving.”

Schulz used humor to keep the roughly 45 minute presentation smoothly running.

“It’ll be a mess on the south side of campus for probably five years because we’ll have so many projects happening there,” the president said to laughter from the crowd.

April Mason, K-State provost, said she was happy to see plans for campus growth in conjunction with student growth.

“This was very exciting. There’s lots of things to be excited about,” Mason said. “We haven’t had new academic buildings in a long time. Business and engineering will have been the first new additions in recent memory.”

Though students were also excited to see the planned progress for the university, it still left the question of where the money to build these new buildings would come from. Jake Unruh, senior in finance and student body vice president, said that he was looking to Schulz for a plan.

“There are a lot of challenges we face that we want to see addressed,” Unruh said. “Funding cuts are a huge challenge right now. From a student perspective, that’s not what you want to see. Lower quality with higher costs is not K-State’s vision.”

Schulz seemed pleased to announce that the private funding for new buildings that K-State receives is at an all-time high.

“In private philanthropic support, we’ve almost doubled last year’s numbers with $152 million in fundraising,” Schulz said. “There’s a lot that goes into this. We’re really proud of this number and we will continue to see it increase.”

$152 million is an increase from the 2012 fiscal year number of $111 million private dollars raised. But funding wasn’t the only thing that K-State is setting records in. The school’s enrollment continues to rise, this year capping off at around 24,640.

“We’re in the largest enrollment in university history,” Schulz said. “This year we’ve had some all-time highs. Fundraising, enrollment, diversity of our student body, alumni participation, research and Big 12 championships. We’ve really had a distinguished history and we’ve had an exceptional year. None of these things happen without us all working together on the same team. We’ve come a long way in 150 years.”

In tribute to the school’s sesquicentennial, this year’s State of the University address presentation was laced with side-by-side comparison photographs of K-State, current ones juxtaposed with photos as far back as 1883. President Schulz found humor in some of the similarities in the pictures.

“You see that?” Schulz said of a side-by-side comparison of the stadiums. “They even had parking problems back then.”

Amidst all the record breaking numbers presented at the address, not every number was higher than its predecessor. International student diversity as whole is on the rise, but the number of African-American students enrolled on campus has begun to decrease, from 1,019 in Fall 2012 to 968 in Fall 2013. No other section of minority students had seen a decrease, and Schulz said he was not quite sure why.

“That’s certainly a trend that’s alarming,” Schulz said. “I don’t know if there are particular reasons for that decrease. I do know that depending on the demographic and background of some of our students, that there are some of our underrepresented groups that are harder hit with increasing tuition and fees cost than others on our campus. I can’t say that that is the reason but I think that is certainly a contributing factor. That contributes to our Caucasian students as well.”

Students were ready to hear about increasing numbers and new buildings, but were also eager to see how far K-State has come in Schulz’s 2025 vision.

“I think the student body should be hearing [Schulz’s] progress report and plans for the next months,” said Eli Schooley, senior in political science and student body president. “2025 is not as far away as we thought it was. We should begin to see tangible signs of progress.”

Schulz agreed, and shared with the crowd his 2025 successes, including the West Stadium Center, the Wheat Genetics Resource Center, the new Honors House and program, and K-State’s No. 1 nationally ranked plant pathology program.

“President Schulz communicated very convincingly that the state of our university is strong,” Schooley said. “We’re increasing in size at a healthy rate, we’re becoming more diverse, and we’re getting nationally recognized for a number of our efforts. It’s a great time to be a K-State student.”

Schulz, Mason and Julia Keen, president of the Faculty Senate, all said that the plans to incorporate new buildings on campus will be transparent ones.

“We’ve been going to major colleges on campus,” Mason said. “A common theme is that we need more faculty. We’ve not grown that much, even though the student numbers have continued to rise. A good campus and student experience comes from a good and strong faculty.”

There were certain areas of K-State that had individual and specific needs.

“Arts and Sciences told us that they need more space, and we’re working toward that,” Mason said.When these new buildings begin to be used, we will have the old buildings to appropriate for more rooms and office space. My biggest frustration is that we can’t do it all at once. You want to, but you can’t.”

Funding for these buildings and future services from K-State will have to be deeply dissected, Keen said.

“There’s going to be a lot of discussion on where to best allocate those funds for the maximum student impact,” Keen said. “By impact, I mean student learning, research and overall benefit. We’re gonna work on priorities, as to what and what not to invest in, but the process will be a very collaborative one. No one person will be able to make these decisions.”

By the end of the address and question period, feedback for the president was mild. Schulz said he hoped that was the case because he had the chance to speak with so many campus groups beforehand, and that he hoped the address had fulfilled its purpose.

“Every year, my plan is to do it a bit differently,” Schulz said. “This year, we decided to show historic pictures side by side with modern ones throughout the presentation. What remains the same is that we will continue to focus on the highlights and successes of the year. That’s what I think a university address should do.”

The audience was equally impressed with the statistics and presentation.

“I was pleased with today’s address. The president was humorous as always. Everyone is satisfied to see K-State succeed in the ways that it does,” Keen said.

As the planning continues to increase academic infrastructure and gain a hold of the university finances, Schulz said he hopes that students will be in on the process. Schooley said he hopes for the same thing.

“I think it’s important to be aware of your surroundings,” Schooley said. “Students pay a lot of tuition, and I think they should definitely invested in learning about the future of this place, a place that will be their alma mater for the rest of their lives.”

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