Office of the Dean
Dear K-State Salina family,
It seems the winter weather has officially departed and spring is upon us. The warmer temperatures are welcomed on campus and soon the trees and flowers will be in full bloom. The weather also naturally brightens attitudes and outlooks and K-State Salina has a lot to be excited about. In the coming months there will be an abundance of visitors on campus learning about our programs, networking with students and faculty and celebrating our history at Open House, Alumni Fellow and the Semicentennial Celebration. These events take place from April 11-17, so visit the university’s website for more information and mark your calendars!
Throughout the spring semester, there has been a lot of attention on our aviation department and the unmanned aircraft systems program specifically. K-State Salina is one of only four universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, and as their commercial integration gets closer to being a reality, many industries are seeking out our staff for their expertise. On Feb. 9, Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts moderated an aviation panel on campus that included representatives from several airports in the state as well as Dr. Kurt Barnhart and myself. The discussions included many aviation-related topics, including UAS, and Dr. Barnhart was an excellent source of information for their questions. Also in February, K-State Salina became the first entity in the United States to be given statewide access to fly small UAS. Our dedicated staff worked for a year and half for that approval from the FAA and our students and research will undoubtedly prosper from their commitment to the program. The Salina Area Chamber of Commerce even featured our UAS program with a flight demonstration during their Chamber After Hours event.
K-State Salina welcomed several guests on campus recently and hosted President Schulz and Provost Mason during an open forum meeting. The president and provost met with faculty and staff members to answer questions that were submitted ahead of time; this set the stage for an engaging and encouraging discussion on the future of our campus. On Feb. 2 and 3, Dr. Kathleen Liang, a professor from the University of Vermont, visited both Salina and Manhattan to conduct a grant-writing workshop. On Feb. 11, many alumni and supporters of the university were on campus to attend the Basketball Watch Party and on Feb. 13, we welcomed Terri Houston to K-State Salina to lead workshops on diversity and organizational vision.
One event that continues to draw interest from both on and off campus is the Civic Luncheon Lecture Series. It is designed to provide education on current events impacting local issues and give an outlet for people to share thoughts and ask questions. On Feb. 12, the Civic Luncheon tackled the widely talked about topic of sexual assault and featured panelists with experience in that field. Though the subject matter can be difficult to discuss, it was important to have unfiltered conversations about it, especially for our students and their campus safety.
Just as important as it is to have guests and events at K-State Salina, we must also get off campus and into the community to advocate for the university. In support of the local art scene, we sponsored the Salina Community Theatre’s showing of “Clybourne Park” and filled the house on Feb. 12 to watch the production. It was a great way to connect with the stories the actors and director told during the Diversity Tea in January. Then on Feb. 18, I joined several other K-State leaders in Topeka for the Cats at the Capitol event. This was a great opportunity to drive Wildcat spirit and speak with our state legislators about topics that impact the university.
One of the most impactful moments of the month was our campus’s memorial service for director of maintenance in aviation, Charlie Sojka. Faculty and staff, former and current students, and his family gathered in the College Center conference room to reminisce their favorite stories of Charlie or to share the attributes they most admired about him. So many people stood behind the microphone, including his three children, and gave the room a reason to laugh through the tears. Charlie’s absence has been felt since the day he left, and his unbridled passion for aviation and thorough knowledge of airplanes will be hard to replace. We will miss Charlie, and perhaps his passing makes us all realize even more so the kind of people that make up our Wildcat family.
Verna M. Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.
CEO, Kansas State University Salina
Dean, College of Technology and Aviation