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FHSU continues growth trend

Published on -7/26/2013, 2:03 PM

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Fort Hays State University, one of six universities governed by the Kansas Board of Regents, educates the leaders of the future, boosts the economy of Hays and Ellis County, and provides numerous resources for western Kansas.

As the fourth largest of the Regents universities, FHSU has set enrollment records consistently since the turn of the century, starting at 5,800 in the year 2000 and peaking at just more than 13,000 by the end of the fall 2011 semester.

The most recent economic information available -- for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2010, and ended June 30, 2011 -- shows FHSU had an impact on the local economy estimated at between $161 million and $210 million.

Western Kansas, and especially nearby communities, benefit from many service-learning projects conducted by FHSU students each year. Service learning has become a core component in the educational philosophy of FHSU, with the goal to produce citizens active within their communities after they graduate. Each semester, numerous instructors incorporate community projects into their course curriculum.

Also, service learning occurs through the campus volunteer organization, Tigers in Service. The organization sponsors alternative trips during academic breaks that allow students to see the country and volunteer in other communities. Recent trips have included visits to the tornado-devastated communities of Greensburg and Chapman and also a trip to Atlanta to work with the homeless and poor.

Tigers in Service also performs numerous volunteer projects in the local community, including Make a Difference Day and Clean and Green, in which the group cleans up the campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

Another effort to engage the wider community is the American Democracy Project. The FHSU chapter of ADP was launched in 2004 as part of a national program to promote active citizenship by students and faculty.

The ADP brings in guest speakers and organizes forums to allow students and faculty to gain exposure to different aspects of civic life. Each day, the ADP distributes hundreds of copies of The Hays Daily News and New York Times throughout campus.

The ADP also sponsors a lunchtime discussion group called Times Talk. At Times Talk, faculty and students talk about local issues or give localized presentations about national or international issues that have been featured in the New York Times.

FHSU is committed to making its students forward thinking and world ready, and its impact extends beyond Kansas literally to the other side of the globe.

In the past academic year, enrollment in the FHSU Virtual College exceeded 4,500, an all-time high. The majority of those students are in Kansas, but they also reside in nearly every other state of the union and in many foreign nations.

The FHSU enrollment numbers also include more than 3,600 students at partner universities in China. Partnerships are also in various stages of development in several other countries.

Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, has set a goal of one day enrolling 7,500 on-campus students and a combined 12,500 students through the Virtual College and in partnerships with universities in other countries.

As enrollment has soared during the past dozen years, FHSU has set corresponding records for the number of degrees awarded. As recently as 2005, there were only 1,374 graduates. At the 2013 commencement, the number had climbed to 3,486 graduates.

The main campus sits on 200 acres of land. The state owns 4,160 acres of land that are deeded to FHSU and include the university farm. The campus includes 40 limestone buildings that create a peaceful academic atmosphere.

Four significant building projects are changing the face of the university.

An extension of Dwight Drive just opened, linking the Wooster Place complex with Gustad Drive near Stroup Hall and providing a new, more efficient route through the heart of campus. A new residence facility was built on the site of the former Agnew Hall in 2012, with a second phase of the complex scheduled for completion in 2013. The Schmidt/Bickle Indoor Training Facility, a 50,400-square-foot building, provides a place for FHSU student-athletes to train and practice away from the elements. And last but certainly not least, construction will begin soon on a new academic building, called the Center for Networked Learning, which will house the Virtual College and other departments and offices.

Two 400-foot wind turbines were constructed approximately 3.5 miles south of FHSU at the southeast corner of Victoria Road and 200th Avenue in summer 2013.

The 2.1-megawatt Suzlon turbines were constructed by crews from PNE Corp., Longview, Wash.

Each unit is composed of a 287-foot monopole tubular steel tower with a hub height of 295 feet and a rotor size of 321 feet. The hub height with blade extended is 451 feet.

The project was more than six years in the making and estimated to cost about $9 million.

The wind turbines will be interconnected to campus with underground cable, and projected to provide 97 percent of FHSU's electrical needs. Annual energy savings is expected to be $600,000 to $1 million.

FHSU offers a 20:1 student-to-teacher ratio in the classrooms on campus. Approximately 300 faculty members are employed at FHSU.

Four colleges make up the university: arts and sciences, education and technology, business and entrepreneurship, and health and life sciences. FHSU also has a Graduate School. And as mentioned earlier, the Virtual College serves thousands of students off campus by delivering courses from the four colleges and the Graduate School.

FHSU students can choose a major field of study from any of 28 departments. The campus has a wireless learning environment that includes free Internet access for students, faculty and staff.

FHSU is also the cultural center of western Kansas, providing entertainment and artistic opportunities for visitors from far and wide. The professional Encore Series, exhibits at the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art, and numerous concerts, recitals, plays and musicals make the campus a popular destination.

FHSU also boasts an extensive intercollegiate athletic program, and through the years, individual athletes and teams have captured multiple national championships.

More than 400 student-athletes compete each year in 16 men and women's sports.

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