Transition to traditional college

Jennie Loucks

A common misconception that many people have about Washburn University is that it is considered a private school.  What many people don’t realize is that a Washburn education costs much less than one obtained at either Kansas State University or the University of Kansas. 

This re-education on Washburn facts is just one example of the changes that have occurred on Washburn’s campus.  Another significant change that has been a work in progress for decades is the transition from a commuter school to a more traditional college. 

In the late 1950s through the 1980s three residence halls were built to accommodate those students wishing to live on campus.  These were Carruth Hall, which was replaced in 2001 by the Living Learning Center, Kuehne Hall and West Hall.  Kuehne and West combined can house 84 students, and Carruth Hall housed less than half the number of students that the LLC can hold. 

“The evolution started about 11 or 12 years ago, when President Farley arrived,” said Meredith Kidd, dean of students at Washburn University.  “It was around ’92, maybe earlier that discussions on changes that needed to be made occurred, but we needed a new president to bring us into the new realm.”

Kidd said that in the ’83-’84 school year recruitment started to get aggressive outside of the Topeka community, and then it died out until it caught its second wind with Farley’s arrival. 

In 2004, the Washburn Village, apartment-style housing, was constructed, which added 192 available spaces for students interested in living on campus. 

“The number of students that we have living on campus almost always reflects the enrollment numbers for a given year, but especially in the last three to four years the number of student’s living on campus has steadily grown,” said Kate McCown, assistant director of Residential Living. 

Kidd described the transition from a primarily commuter-based school to a traditional university as “seamless.”  He also said that as the university progressed into its more traditional status, it also started to accommodate to the non-traditional students and continued to work for commuters with things such as new facilities and online classes. 

“Before, Washburn wanted to serve the people of Shawnee County and Topeka, but our goal now is to make us enticing.  We ask ourselves, what will make people want to live in Topeka, and on campus,” said Kidd. 

Kidd said that much of the newly created WU-based community can be credited to Denise Ottinger, vice president for Student Life. 

“She brought a wealth of student affairs and student life information and experiences to Washburn’s campus,” said Kidd. 

Washburn has created and expanded numerous programs and hosted a variety of events to create a sense of community on campus for the students, faculty and staff.  As a result, attendance at events has increased, and student participation is at an all-time high.