Students commit to their technical education


Glorianna Noland

Prospective students sign their letters of intent to attend Washburn Tech in the fall. The total number of signees for the day was 305.

Spirits were high and parking lots were full on Washburn Institute of Technology’s main campus Thursday morning, April 14, for the National Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day. The nationwide celebration for technical education that began nine years ago at the institution.
Over 300 students signed letters of intent before peers, family, friends and future instructors, promising to begin and complete their technical education at Washburn Institute of Technology.
“The opportunity for you today, signees, is incredible,” said Michael Strohschein, interim dean at Washburn Institute of Technology. “The advantage of each of you in your fields is going to make a bright future for all.”
Industry and business leaders, state legislature and Washburn University administration were among the attendees recognizing students choosing to attend the technical school.
“Today, we celebrate technical education,” said JuliAnn Mazachek, vice president of academic affairs at Washburn University. “Just as we value athletes who commit to play college sports, the signing day ceremony is designed to honor students who are celebrating and have chosen to enter a technical field, and emphasize the importance of their career choice.”
State Senator Brenda Dietrich attended to show support for students committing to their education and shared insight on the Kansas legislature’s high value of technical education in the state.
“They have done quite a bit over the years, even before I got there,” Dietrich said. “Finding ways to fund CTE programs to offer scholarships for not only our juniors and seniors in high school, but also for our adult learners in the Kansas Promise Scholarship program.”
Excel in Career Technician Education, also known as Senate Bill 155, allows high school students to receive state-funded tuition in approved courses and programs offered in technical schools and colleges throughout the state. Washburn Tech aims to keep its programs relevant and funded to prepare the next generation of the workforce, since little more than half of Washburn Tech’s enrollment are high school students.
“Many of our industry partners are in need of workers with high quality and technical skills to meet consumer needs,” Strohschein said. “Together, we are recruiting students, strengthening our workforce and strengthening our community.”
This year marks the first signing day since it went fully remote due to the pandemic. For some members of Washburn Tech’s staff, this signing day was a first-time experience.
“We have a number of people in management, staff and even in admissions that have never been through it before, so it was really fun to get their reaction to it and it was positive,” said Lori Hutchinson, director of marketing and community relations at Washburn Institute of Technology. “They love the event and see the value in it.”
The signing day began at Washburn Tech in 2014 with former dean Clark Coco. Around 2017, the National Coalition of Certification Centers worked with Coco to take it nationwide, with more than 60 schools now participating every year.
“Clark worked really closely with them. They wanted to, as did Clark, make it a national event,” Hutchinson said.
The signing day gives prospective students the opportunity to commit to their technical education, meet future instructors and get to know their peers.
“To make that personal connection, to see incoming students go out to their programs and labs, meeting their instructors and find out more about their program,” Hutchinson said. “It just added to that level of excitement and our excitement of getting all these new, wonderful students on our campus.”
One student committing to attend the auto technology program next fall was excited to be at Washburn Tech.
“This was really the only tech school I could go to in my area,” said Ethan Palmateer, a sophomore at Perry-Lecompton High School. “I like the hands-on training here more than just being in a classroom.”
Every program had signees, including the new plumbing technology program beginning at Washburn Tech East in the fall. After each prospective student signed their name and donned their embroidered caps, they got to shake the hands of industry leaders and create connections that will last well beyond their graduation.
Edited by: Ellie Walker, Alyssa Storm