Salina campus rebrands, receives donation for new planes

Cameron Beeler, freshman in professional piloting, and his instructor James Schreiner, senior in professional piloting, walk away from their plane after a successful flight at K-State Salina. (Archive photo by Emily DeShazer | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State recently announced the rebranding of its Salina campus. The former Polytechnic Campus — now the Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus — is the first aerospace and technology campus in Kansas.

Jon Martin, senior in computer systems technology and president of the campus student governing association, said the rebrand clarifies the school’s intent and its offerings to members of the aviation industry.

“It helps,” Martin said. “Everyone in that industry really didn’t understand the term polytechnic.”

He said the term “polytechnic” often confused potential employers about whether it was a two-year technical school program when most students are getting a four-year bachelor’s degree.

“The aerospace technology program is our future focus and aligns with our vision of what we’re trying to do in the coming years, and they did a lot of work with consulting nearby industry leaders,” Martin said.

The campus is home to the College of Technology and Aviation, where students earn degrees in aviation, integrated studies and unmanned aircraft systems. However, it will continue to house other majors even though most students are aspiring pilots.

Rebranding was not the only news for the campus.

On Tuesday, the KSU Foundation announced John Vanier, a 1981 agricultural economics alumnus, and his wife, Kim Vanier, who resides in Salina, donated funds to help the campus acquire 15 new planes from two different plane manufacturers. The donation assists the first phase in updating the school’s 30-plane fleet.

Along with the metal planes of the current fleet, new additions include a composite plane to diversify the fleet and planes from other manufacturers to give students experience with different equipment.

According to the KSU Foundation, the donation also funds the renovation of the plane hangars housing the fleet and its new additions.

While Martin will not use the new additions or directly benefit from the renovations, he said he sees its value for his peers and potential students at the campus.

“I know that everybody is super pumped to be able to fly some different aircraft,” Martin said. “I can’t imagine flying the same airplane for four years in a row, especially in training.”

Alysia Starkey, CEO and campus dean, said the donation was a fortunately timed gift.

“A year ago, [the Vaniers] gifted dollars to increase the number of flight simulators we have on our campus, and this last year they gifted us additional dollars to really do a major overhaul of our training fleet,” Starkey said.

She said the upgrades to the fleet help train students before joining the workforce after graduation.

“Students will be trained on more modern equipment, which goes along with making sure we have the highest standard training in the aerospace side of things,” Starkey said.