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Fort Hays re-inventing itself

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By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

 After 15 months as president of Fort Hays State University, Mirta Martin has had plenty of surprises.

But one of the most profound surprises was talking to a person in Dodge City — just 100 miles away — who hadn’t heard about the school.

It should be hard to not know about, considering:

• It set a record enrollment of 14,210 students this fall, up 385 from last year — even as the total enrollment for all five state universities declined by 890.

• It has the second-lowest tuition of any public university in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report.

• It’s preparing to set up colleges in Central and South America, similar to its long-standing operations in China.

• Has for years hosted the Kansas Math and Science Academy, where high school juniors and seniors can live on campus and study at the college.

• 100 percent of its nursing students typically pass their licensing exam on the first attempt.

• Is starting a three-year, $88 million campus improvement project.

• 80 percent of Kansas school superintendents were educated there.

What’s going on out there?

Martin is on an annual statewide tour — a practice inherited from her predecessor, Ed Hammond — to ensure more people know what’s happening out in western Kansas.

What she’s been focused on in her first year is ensuring Fort Hays is preparing students to contribute to the Kansas economy and moving from “a culture of access to a culture of completion.”

Recruiting students remains a priority, she said during a stop Wednesday in Salina, but it’s being joined by an emphasis on keeping students in school and seeing that they graduate with the skills they need — including being ready for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Much of the job of “re-engineering” the university, she said, was put into the hands of what she calls “rank-and-file staff, no deans, no supervisors — and that was deliberate. They know the holes and how things could be better.”

As a bonus, she said, “It’s not my vision, it’s our vision — I’m not the one driving the bus any more.”

Honors College started

Out of that process, this fall the university started an Honors College, open to students with high academic qualifications. It also is providing scholarships as high as full tuition and fees, room and board costs, and $450 a semester for books.

“We made the decision to do that in February, and by then most people have decided where they’re going,” she said.

The university set a “stretch” goal of eight students this fall, and ended up with 16 — with an average ACT score of 31.

Learn to run a business

Fort Hays is also completing an “Entrepreneurship Hall,” that includes housing for 32 students and a first-floor community room that Martin describes as a “great big play room,” with whiteboard walls that students can write on to share ideas.

“People think it’s for business majors, but that’s what we don’t want,” she said. “Artists, scientists, all kinds of people need to understand how to run a business.”

STEM school

The university is also in the process of splitting its College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences into two colleges, one for arts and humanities, and one focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

“The STEM fields all rely on each other,” Martin said. “And there are only 13 STEM colleges in the U.S., with none in Kansas and none in the Midwest.”

Creating the separate colleges, which requires approval from the Board of Regents, will bring additional distinctiveness to the programs, she said, and will help the college attract more of graduates of its Math and Science Academy.

Recruiting more Hispanics

This summer, Fort Hays is hosting a three-day Hispanic College Institute, aimed at recruiting more Hispanic students — a group with traditionally low college attendance rates, Martin said.

And as attendance at Fort Hays campuses in China slowly has been dropping for several years, the university is looking to move into Central and South America, where demand for higher education is growing.

Demand is different there compared with China, and different from one country to another, she said. In China, the focus was on business education, while Latin American countries want English teachers, tourism and hospitality programs, agribusiness and nursing.

“We’re not going out into the world with a cookie-cutter approach of what we want to teach,” she said. “We’re finding out what they need.”

By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

The entrepreneurship hall is amazing.
Keep going that way
Posted by: Kevin( Visit ) at 11/3/2015 3:24 AM

Very instructive article ! Next year my daughter come to your university !
Posted by: Thomas( Visit ) at 4/29/2016 1:40 AM

Fascinating article , thank you for all that information .
Posted by: Maxime( Visit ) at 7/31/2016 2:51 AM

Nice to know, good news for the hispanic people.
Posted by: alejandro( Visit ) at 10/26/2016 12:46 PM

Very intersting !
Posted by: Stephanie( Visit ) at 2/27/2017 1:35 AM

A big thank for your work Mirta Martin !
Posted by: thunder( Visit ) at 4/18/2017 2:59 AM

Thanks for the information that has been presented.
Posted by: Goaindia( Visit ) at 4/18/2017 3:26 AM

Thank you for this post Mister Strand.
Can you give us a report for the year to come?
Posted by: Anna( Visit ) at 4/23/2017 12:22 PM

Congratulation for your awesome post and thanks a lot for all these valuables infos !
Posted by: Ludmila( Visit ) at 5/3/2017 12:05 PM

thanks for this amazing stuff. i really appreciate this.keep share this
Posted by: rakesh( Visit ) at 8/10/2017 3:09 AM

nice!! keep sharing for such a beautiful and knowledgeable stuff .....
Posted by: sambhav( Visit ) at 8/14/2017 6:06 AM

Posted by: sambhav( Visit ) at 8/14/2017 6:07 AM

Enrollment of 14,210 students is really a good achievement for Fort Hays. In the last couple of years, the University indeed has grown so well.
Posted by: Alam( Visit ) at 8/18/2017 6:24 AM

thanks for the amazing stuff
Posted by: louis( Visit ) at 8/20/2017 11:30 PM

great!! thanks.....
Posted by: sambhav( Visit ) at 8/30/2017 12:44 AM

Excellent, thank you !
Posted by: Adrien( Visit ) at 9/12/2017 7:11 AM

Super post merci
Posted by: assistance informatique( Visit ) at 9/16/2017 9:40 AM

Fort Hays really has changed for the better. I've attended the past 2 semesters and am very happy with the programs.
Posted by: TIna( Visit ) at 9/30/2017 6:39 PM

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