By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
DODGE CITY -- What's all this going to mean for DC3 -- and us?
That was the unspoken question probably behind every query addressed to Fort Hays State University President Edward Hammond Friday afternoon.
Hammond sat calmly at a table in the student union at Dodge City Community College answering questions and said he would stay as long as necessary to speak with those searching for answers.
Hammond thought it important to make a personal appearance with DC3 faculty and staff following Tuesday's monumental vote by the DC3 Board of Trustees. The board voted unanimously, 6-0, to form an "industry-education" partnership with FHSU, which would give academic control of DC3 to FHSU and the Kansas Board of Regents.
Hammond announced immediately after hearing of the vote he would go to the Dodge City campus to talk with faculty and staff. And they were ready.
Questions from the audience last week were alternated with several pages of emailed questions read by a table of DC3 staff members.
They came from professors and instructors, directors and a variety of other staff members.
There were concerns about employees losing their retirement should the alliance come to fruition, losing tax revenue from Ford County, losing programs specific to their institution -- and ultimately, losing their identity.
Hammond, with proposal in hand, told the audience the board's decision earlier in the week was just the first step in a long process that would take several years to complete.
The next step is the approval of the Board of Regents. The proposal calls for a $10 million facility to support the expected increase in enrollment, as well as an additional $5 million more in state money to FHSU for operating expenses.
DC3 currently has between 1,500 and 1,700 students enrolled. The creation of the new center at least could double those numbers.
All employees of DC3 would become FHSU employees, but Hammond assured those in attendance Friday no one likely would lose their jobs.
"They may change," he said of the jobs. "But we are going to need more, not less, help.
"(The affiliation) still has a lot of work to do," he added, "and I want you involved in that process."
"Everything is subject to change," Hammond told them, "except the things that are specific in the white paper."
Part of what is in the white paper, or proposal, is the structure of the "new academic center at Dodge City."
It would feature three academic units -- a lower division college containing the existing programs of DC3, an upper division college that offers baccalaureate degrees and a technical institute, featuring corporate sponsors.
It would give the Dodge City area a four-year institution for the first time since 1993 when St. Mary of the Plains College closed.
The closest four-year institution to the southwest quadrant of the state is Barkley College, a private Quaker college of approximately 300 students in Haviland -- 50-some miles east of Dodge City. The nearest four-year public institution to Dodge City is Fort Hays, nearly two hours northeast.
Following Friday's Q&A session, Hammond boarded a plane for Houston, the first of three cities at which he was to give presentations to FHSU alumni about the Power of One Campaign, a drive to raise $8 million for Fort Hays student scholarships by the end of 2014.
After those weekend visits to Houston, Dallas and Tulsa, Okla., Hammond was to return home in time for a question-and-answer session with Fort Hays faculty and staff Monday regarding the Dodge City changes.