What will we build next

Sam Hartle

Last Wednesday, the Washburn University School of Law announced a $1 million dollar donation on behalf of Norman Pozez, to create a new chair position at the Business and Transactional Law Center at the law school.

?Three weeks ago, the Board of Regents gave the go-ahead for Phase II of renovations at Yager Stadium, including a new track and installation of field turf.

?At the same time, the Topeka City Council has heard debate, sometimes heated (See article on Page A8), regarding the renovation of the College Hill district located immediately northeast from Washburn’s campus.

?Add in the planned renovation for Stoffer Science Hall, and it’s apparent that the University has growth in the agenda.

?Washburn’s growth during the last five years has been achieved through an aggressive alumni outreach program. As the total amount of funds spent on University growth nears $60 million and potential for even more growth, some have questioned whether the growth is a smart allocation of resources or if growth is even needed.

Increased awareness

?Before the University was able to pursue an aggressive campaign for growth, two things were needed: a plan and money.

?As Jerry B. Farley, president of Washburn, assumed his position in 1997, he issued a seven-year look forward detailing his priorities for the University:

?ßMulvane/Art Department Improvements: Included creating additional gallery space for the Mulvane Art Museum and looking into the feasibility of a new Art Building.

?ßStudent Fitness Center: Looked to create expanded intramural activities, establish a wellness program and to create a new fitness facility.

?ßMoore Bowl Improvements: An extensive remodel of existing stadium facilities and the construction of a new press box structure.

?ßAdministrative Computing project: Install an integrated software system.

?ßStudent Housing: Replace and expand campus housing, offer housing for upper class and graduate students.

?”We’ve completed most of the things from that list,” said Tom Ellis, special assistant to the president. “Most of that plan was to bring the campus back to the visual appeal before the 1966 tornado.”

?The ability of the University to undertake these projects came from an increased alumni and public awareness of Washburn’s overall resurgence during the last five years.

?Most recently, the success of Washburn’s athletic programs, with a national women’s basketball championship, a birth in the football playoffs and three coaches named as MIAA’s Coaches of the Year, gives the university even more recognition.

?”Having successful athletic programs gives the University a marketing ability that is priceless,” said Dr JuliAnn Mazachek, Washburn Endowment Association president. “That level of exposure cannot be bought.”

?During the last three years, WEA has seen the alumni donor base increase from 2,400 donors in 2002 to more than 7,000 in 2005.

Mazachek was quick to point out that although Washburn’s athletic success has driven some of the increased public notoriety, the benefit from the awareness is spread out through the entire campus.

Impacts of University growth

?Besides the obvious positive impact of growth for students through modern facilities and housing, some question whether the University should continue in its drive to become a traditional four-year public university. Such a goal, according to critics, results in Washburn losing its ties to Topeka and might cause financial strain.

?Mazachek says that WEA is authorized to raise money only after the University has come to them with a need.

?”For alumni who give an unrestricted donation, we let them know where the money has been distributed,” said Mazachek. “We don’t usually get many of those donations, but it does allow us to show where the money was spent.”

Washburn continues to dream big

?Although most items in 1997’s seven-year look forward have been completed, the University continues to plan for additional expansion. On-campus examples, including the $14.2 million renovation of Stoffer Science Hall and the $870,000 Phase II renovation of Yager Stadium, are set to be completed in 2006.

?After 2006, the University has taken initiative to see that a College Hill renovation project is started. Washburn does have property in the neighborhood around 17th Street and Burlingame, and has put forth a lobbying effort with the Topeka City Council to show its support for the project.

?The endowment association’s increase in alumni donors doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all.

?”We haven’t seen any issues that would lead us to believe that alumni are cooling off,” said Mazachek.

?Back in Ellis’s office in Morgan Hall, a large poster of Washburn’s updated master plan sits in the corner. While the plan shows no new buildings, a number of buildings could be configured for renovation, to include connecting Mabee Library and the Henderson Learning Resources Center, as well as building an addition on the west side of Henderson.

?”This master plan outlines growth for the long-term,” said Ellis. “We’ve looked at different needs the University might have in 30-40 years, so it’s a constantly changing plan.”

?The plan also puts a proposed “Greek Village” between the Phi Delta Theta and Kappa Sigma houses and Washburn Avenue, though no plans are currently in place for such a project.

?Ellis also noted that Washburn is holding out on the southwest corner of campus, near the intersection of Washburn Avenue and 21st street.

?”That’s one of the busiest intersections in the city, and because of that, Washburn has a high degree of visibility there,” said Ellis. “Down the road, we would use that open space to create a signature building to draw people into Washburn.”

No plan needed

?While the University has ideas of where it would like to go next, no new plan has been released that would replace the completed seven-year look forward, which ended in 2003.

?”Right now, outside of the Stoffer project, we have no projects that the University has requested fundraising,” said Mazachek. “Though if alumni come to us with a project, we do often consult with the University to determine the feasibility.”

?As Washburn continues to grow, the focus has shifted from following a long-term plan to reacting more specifically to short-term needs which fit into an overall plan. With increasing numbers of donors, money is available for continued growth.