By CRISTINA JANNEY
Community leaders and elected officials went on a tour of the three of the newest buildings on the Fort Hays State University campus on Tuesday.
The Community Cruise, which is used to raise awareness among Ellis County leaders of community issues, had been an annual event, but this is the first Cruise since the onset of the pandemic.
The community members toured the Fischli-Wills Center for Student Success, Center for Applied Technology and Schmidt Foundation Center for Art and Design.
The Fischli-Wills Center was opened in fall 2021 and is a one-stop shop for student services. It includes offices for advising, the student health clinic, the mental health clinic, tutoring center, student engagement space and student government offices.
FHSU has moved to centralized advising. Those offices are located in the Fischli-Wills Center.
“This building as you tour around, you will see a variety of spaces that were reimagined to help students be successful and all they have to do is make it to this building,” said Taylor Kriley, FHSU assistant vice president for student affairs.
Jason Williby, FHSU Foundation president and FHSU graduate, said he didn’t know where anything was until halfway through his sophomore year.
“I think the beauty of this building is its simplicity,” he said. “If you think of students today, they may need more hand-holding than when we were in school. They are not quite as independent. It makes sense to put everything they need their freshman year in one place so it’s easy to find.”
The first floor of Fischli-Wills Center has places where students can receive job coaching or work on interviewing skills, as well as smaller offices in which students can do video interviews with potential employers.
The Tailored for Tigers program is in the Fischli-Wills Center. Students can receive free business wear and accessories through the program. The program takes donations of gently used dress clothing, suits, shoes, ties and accessories.
The tutoring center on the first floor of Fischli-Wills Center provided about 170 appointments during its first semester in its new location.
Tutoring is offered Sunday through Thursday. Appointments are available during the day as well as drop-in tutoring that covers most of the general education courses during the evenings. The university also has the Smarthinking online tutoring app for online students.
Students attend their required freshmen seminar in Fischli-Wills, where they will explore careers and opportunities to join organizations on campus, as well as learn study and time-management skills.
The second floor of Fischli-Wills houses the student engagement center, as well as Student Governing Association offices. Student groups have a workroom on this floor, as well as storage space. Greek organizations also have conference rooms they can use on this floor.
Fischli-Wills is open the same hours as the student union, and students often use the second floor of Fischli-Wills to study during the school year, Kriley said.
Student health and mental health are now on the third floor of the Fischli-Wills Center.
“A lot of times mental and physical — all of that blends together,” Kriley said. “There is an opportunity to provide support and collaboration. This floor is helping us really change the game for students,” Kriley said.
Center for Applied Technology
The Center for Applied Technology was opened in fall 2017.
Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class students might make paper roller coasters, work on robots, use virtual reality modeling or test concrete in the center’s STEM lab.
The FHSU technical program is competing regionally with universities, including BYU and Purdue and performs very well in technical competitions, said Nathan Howard, assistant professor in STEM and construction management. The program has multiple robotics national titles and this year placed third.
“Mr. [Eric] Deneault has been drawing his dream home for the last five years on [construction modeling software] and changing it up,” Howard said.
“He uploaded that so you can actually walk in the front door and walk around his house and go out to the garage, look from the outside, look out the windows and see if you like the windows or not and see the flow of the house right there virtually.”
FHSU’s newest purchase for its metal manufacturing lab is a water jet, which can cut up to 3-inch thick steel using water and aggregate.
The FHSU welding lab is used by both FHSU and NCK Tech students. FHSU has a partnership with NCK Tech that allows NCK Tech students to live on campus, buy meal plans and participate in intramurals just like the university’s four-year students.
FHSU students created a charging station that uses solar and mechanical energy to create electricity. Energy is derived from solar panels on top of the station and when the swing moves. The university hopes to install the station on campus soon.
“I think it will be a great way to show community members, potential students and parents, what is possible if you apply yourself here,” Williby said.
Several Center for Applied Technology instructors do undergraduate research in areas including wind energy and electric cars.
“The nice thing about us is that we are stand-alone. Our students are getting a well-rounded [education], not just what [specific companies] want, but what everybody wants” Howard said.
“Even our construction management guys are getting a little plastics, a little bit of woodworking, a little bit of metal machining if you want, and STEM. They get a taste of it all.”
The technology program has a 98 percent job placement rate within a year after graduation. Howard said the only reason why the rate is only 98 percent is that some students choose to rejoin family farms after graduation.
Howard said the department can’t put out enough graduates to supply the employer demand.
Susan Dumler, assistant professor, said there is especially a shortage of industrial arts teachers because the wages in private industry are so much higher than in education.
Schmidt Foundation Center for Art and Design
The Schmidt Foundation Center for Art and Design was opened in fall 2019.
The art department had been housed in Rarick Hall, but Karrie Simpson Voth, department chairwoman, said the department had outgrown that space at least 15 years ago. The new building expanded the department’s space by about 40 percent.
“We really wanted to have light and interaction,” Simpson Voth said of the building’s art studios. “You can actually see into the classrooms and see out. A lot of things will connect from one room to the next, so it creates a really nice flow.”
The print-making lab allows students to explore working with lithography, copper plate etching and relief prints.
“It’s a really great connector in all the things in art that we do from drawing to painting to graphic design,” Simpson Voth said. “Everything connects right here, so it’s a really nice anchor point.”
A donor last fall wanted a room in McCartney Hall redone, so the university gave the task to interior design students, Williby said.
“Students got the real-world experience of giving a presentation to a multi-millionaire who was going to tell them exactly what he thought of each of their designs,” he said.
In about a year the design will be part of McCartney Hall.
“It is a sign of Fort Hays looking back into the classroom for things and saying what can our students and faculty do so we are not outsourcing that to someone else,” Williby said.
FHSU is one of the few universities that still has a functioning up-to-date darkroom. The art department also has a photography/video studio complete with a green screen.