WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Jay Golden took over as President of Wichita State University this year, and he is passionate about growing the university.
“Success. I want Wichita State to be one of the most successful in the United States,” said President Golden in his one-on-one interview with KSN. “I want Wichita to be thought of as really an innovative community and one that is inclusive and one that will attract the talent.”
President Golden has plans to grow the Wichita economy as well as grow the WSU student population and academic programs. But it’s not just numbers Golden wants to increase.
The new president wants to increase awareness of Wichita State throughout Kansas. That will be a big push for Golden as he takes over where the late President Dr. John Bardo left off during his tenure.
“My vision is to continue what Dr. Bardo started. We’re going to be a little more focused on recruitment of companies from outside of Kansas,” said Golden. “We’re going to be focused on recruiting the type of companies that have a diverse portfolio and still focus on aviation. But we are also going to be very deliberate to ensure that we start diversifying our economy in Kansas.”
President Golden sees Wichita State as a serious driver for the Wichita economy. The Innovation Campus at WSU fills that role to a degree, said Golden, but it will be expanded.
The new President was Director of the Duke Center for Sustainability & Commerce at Duke University. At Arizona State, he founded and became Director of The National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate & Energy. Golden was also vice chancellor for research at East Carolina University.
As comfortable in jeans and a polo as he is wearing a suit and tie, Golden says he is very passionate about bringing his skill set to Wichita. He also says his experience can help the State of Kansas and not just Wichita State.
“What drives me is that we stop the outward migration of millennials to other regions of the country,” said Golden. “And to actually not only reverse it but to recruit millennials to Wichita and to South Central Kansas.”
He says one good way to attract new millennials to the area is by bringing in more diverse types of research opportunities to an already robust lineup at Wichita State.
“So I think as the only urban university in Kansas we have a unique role given the large manufacturing that surrounds and is part of this community. We have a unique role,” said Golden. “This university will continue to be open to the community and be innovative and unique in the way we partner with industry located here.”
Golden wants to go hard at recruiting. He wants new companies from outside Kansas to come to Wichita State. He said there is no reason why Wichita State graduates should move out of state. But he also says WSU needs to be aggressive at finding companies that want to move here and grow here.
President Golden hit the ground running when it comes to relationships. He has reached out to city and county leaders to see what the needs are in the area and what the city, county and state do well. He has also reached out to begin partnerships with the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.
Golden says his focus is on academics, research and new opportunities for growing the campus and Wichita State.
Realizing President Golden has his priorities on academics, research and growth, KSN also asked the football question.
“I was at the very last Wichita State game that was played,” said President Golden of the last Shocker football game where the team lost to a highly ranked Arizona State squad. “November. Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. And don’t hold me to the score, but I think it was something like 52-6.”
“But I have an obligation to our students and the parents that are paying tuition. And football as we know it right now from the financial model does not make sense for Wichita State University.”
“Having said that we are going to continue, as we have transitioned from a commuter school to a residence school, we are going to continue to add additional types of activities that give you that football feel that you only get six times a year anyhow on the campus. So we are exploring opportunities for new varsity sports on our campus.”
In addition to growing academics, research and cooperative opportunities with businesses, President Golden says there will be some changes in the landscape at Wichita State.
The changes include Cessna Stadium.
“One of my focus areas is to tear down Cessna Stadium as we know it,” said Golden.
He says WSU will create a state of the art multi-purpose facility that could house sports such as soccer and lacrosse and continue with track and field.
“And really create a fun campus environment with more traditional homecoming, tailgating,” said Golden. “Those type of activities that will (allow) our students and faculty for the community and alumni to come on campus and enjoy this beautiful campus.”
KSN asked Golden what he finds most endearing about Wichita.
“Wichita is that comfortable sweatshirt,” said Golden. “And by that I mean it just feels right. This is my personal view.”
“It brings for me the type of niceness that you get in the South where I can walk down the street and people wave and say hi. It brings all the amenities of a big city.”
One of the instant “likes” President Golden gives Wichita is the climate and the livability of his new home.
Golden says Wichita is a metro area without the heavy traffic jams.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful community. And having that in your quiver, if you will, to recruit talent is just so opportunistic. “