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As Focus Turns To STEM, New WSU Dean Looks At Future Of Liberal Arts In Kansas

Nadya Faulx
KMUW/File photo

The discussion of higher education in Kansas often focuses on expanding technical and STEM education. Less attention has been paid to liberal arts, which has seen majors cut and enrollment fall across the country.

Andrew Hippisley became the dean of Wichita State University's Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in July. He says the future of liberal arts depends on the discipline being able to work alongside businesses — like his college does with WSU's new Innovation Campus. 

"My job as dean is to lead the faculty from my college to the dance," he says, "and get them to dance with these people in the industry."

Interview Highlights

On the value of liberal arts

It puts a pause on everything. You have time to look at a range of different areas, different disciplines and figure out what you are actually passionate about. What it leads to though is it leads to someone having a revelation about who they really are and giving that person some kind of purpose when they discover who they really are. It's that purpose that will lead them in life to certain jobs — a range of jobs — to both earn, which we all have to do, but also to feel fulfilled.

On Wichita State University's Innovation Campus

Fundamental to the university is the concepts that you get from arts and sciences and whatever is happening on Innovation Campus. Our job as a university is to say the reason you're on Innovation Campus — the reason you are juxtaposed to a university — is because we can consult with you. We can give you knowledge. We can give you a method that you need to make your businesses successful. So my job as dean is to lead the faculty from my college to the dance and get them to dance with these people in the industry.

State funding

The state has withdrawn its support over the years from all programs. Liberal arts and sciences suffer particularly because students and their parents don't see the relevance of it. But we're all suffering together.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.