Episode 20 - Elizabeth H. King

Episode 20 December 12, 2023 00:30:13
Episode 20 - Elizabeth H. King
Forward Together
Episode 20 - Elizabeth H. King

Dec 12 2023 | 00:30:13


Show Notes

Join Dr. Elizabeth H. King, president and CEO for the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement, as she takes over the “Forward Together” podcast and interviews President Rick Muma about some of the work being done at Wichita State.  The “Forward Together” podcast celebrates the vision and mission of Wichita State University. In each episode, President Rick Muma will talk with guests from throughout Shocker Nation to highlight the people and priorities that guide WSU on its road to becoming an essential educational, cultural, and economic driver for Kansas and the greater good.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:10] Speaker A: Hello, shockers, and welcome to Wichita State's Forward together podcast. As you can already tell, we are doing things a little differently for this podcast. I'm Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation Alumni Engagement. And today we are turning the tables on Rick and hosting him as a special guest. I have known Rick for nearly 30 years now, and he has moved from faculty to administrator and now president. It has been my pleasure for the past two years of Rick's presidency to work closely with him on our university's priorities and goals. Rick has big plans for the future of our university, and it's my pleasure to welcome him as the guest today. [00:00:59] Speaker B: So, Rick, you are in your third year as president of our great university, and you have been relentless in stressing your priorities for the university. But the first and foremost has been access and affordability for our students. What successes are you seeing during your tenure? [00:01:20] Speaker C: Well, I think the listeners need to understand that we can't do anything as an institution unless we're growing and not just recruiting new students, but retaining students and all of those things that go into that. And I think what I'm most proud of is the work that we've done, including with you and the foundation isn't raising need based aid. And we've made a lot of progress, and not only privately, as you know, but in the last couple of years, the state has invested an additional 6 million of ongoing dollars. So what would the foundation endowment have to be to earn $6 million? I can't do the math I've passed, but a lot of money. [00:02:00] Speaker B: A lot of money. [00:02:02] Speaker C: So that's been the most gratifying thing. And, you know, from working with me over the years that I talk about this a lot, and we know that the only way that we're going to make success in this area is to be able to recruit new students, students who don't have the opportunity. And I think we've done a lot of good things in that regard. [00:02:23] Speaker B: Oh, absolutely. And it makes me so proud that we have moved the needle on increasing need based support, especially so you and I and all of our colleagues are very proud of the fact that our students graduate with jobs. It's a hallmark of Wichita State and always has been. And over 70% of our alumni stay in the state of Kansas. How does that statistic resonate as we're trying to increase the talent pipeline for business and industry? [00:02:57] Speaker C: Well, I think one of the things that, the reason why that's so important is obviously the individuals that we educate and train here at Wichita State help support our economy, our community, and our business industry. When we talk to the legislature about more funding for the university, that's really important because they're investing a lot in the institution. Many people don't think they're investing enough. That's a whole different topic. But when they see what they are investing in Wichita State and this return on investment, that 70% of our undergraduates are staying in the state and working, helping grow our economy, that helps us do a lot of other additional things. And I think it's one of the reasons why we've gotten additional support for special projects around aviation, but also digital transformation, the innovation campus, but also need based aid. They see that what we're doing is. [00:03:58] Speaker B: Working, and it is. I think a lot of people are surprised when we say that almost 50% of our student body is first generation college students. What obstacles does that pose for a 17 year old who doesn't come from a family of those who've gone through college? And what are we doing to remove the barriers on our campus? [00:04:26] Speaker C: Yeah, well, as you know, first generation students don't have any role models or very few role models of what it's like to be a college student. Just the nuances. Just recently, school started, and a lot of us go and help students find their classes. We have Uber golf cart pickups, and I came across a first generation student has never been on campus, really, even though that was her first day of class. And we have all kinds of support to get students acclimated. And she was needing assistance on how to read her schedule since she didn't know where to go and didn't know how to just look at simple things like that. So that puts an extra burden on the campus to be mindful of that. We have done a lot of stuff, we call it wraparound services, to make sure students have the support they need once they get here. And one of the things that we're doing is renovating the old Clinton hall that was the former home to our business school into the shocker success center. And we're moving 20 offices to that facility that are all over campus. And it's really to address this issue of finding information in one centralized location where students don't have to go and hunt for it. Particularly first generation students or commuter students who are working need to get into their classes in a service really quickly and then get back to their job. [00:05:58] Speaker B: Because before we now have this opportunity, it's opening when? Late spring, early summer, next summer chakra success center. They had to make choices. Okay, today I'm going to do tutoring, but I really need to go to the military and veterans affair office, but I can't do that today because I'll have to go to a completely different building. [00:06:16] Speaker C: Right, exactly. Or international students in particular who are currently on the edge of campus and are going to be able to support them right there with all these other services. Yeah. So those kinds of things we need to be cognizant of. We've also put other kinds of services in place. Having student success coaches and advising help, that's what's going to be required and that's not going to go away. We're going to have to continue to be aware of those needs of students because college is not affordable for many of them and they're not going to have more resources all of a sudden. [00:06:51] Speaker B: Right. So how have you seen the student body change? You came to campus in the middle 90s. How have you seen the students today compared to the students of that time period? [00:07:08] Speaker C: Well, I'll just say that the students today versus the students back in 1994, we had the same bright students then that we have today. I think students have more challenges in terms of their finances and those sorts of things. But our campus is more diverse. One in four of our freshmen identify as an underrepresented minority. We have many more students who are underresourced. They need more resources. Most of them are on Pell grants. We're an emerging hispanic serving institution. And as we've already spoke about, nearly half of our undergraduate student body is a first generation student. And there are just more complexities associated with that. We have more diversity and we're less homogeneous. And when you have that, you're going to have more needs of students. [00:08:01] Speaker B: And mental health issues. Today, post Covid technology advances, all of those other issues that make running a university very complex. [00:08:12] Speaker C: And mental health is a challenge that seems to be more prevalent just in our population, but particularly the college population. So we've had to put more resources there. I think that's actually in the big scheme of things, a good thing, because we recognize that mental health is an issue that we need to address. We're trying to make sure that students understand that we will support them through that. And so we're making it more available and have programs to recognize some of these issues. And that's only going to help our student body and individual students. [00:08:54] Speaker B: So, shifting gears, I know you trained at the Houston medical complex and you came into the provost office already having a vision actually came to campus already having a vision of why Wichita couldn't be a similar type of location for a convergence of different medical health professions areas. So you've launched it. You had a big vision, and fortunately, the state has come alongside as well as KU. Tell us more about that. And how does that promote economic strength of south central Kansas and the whole state of Kansas? [00:09:37] Speaker C: Yeah, so I've always thought I was trained in the Texas Medical center, which is the largest health science center in the world, came to Wichita and I always thought, why aren't we working more closely together with KU and other healthcare organizations? Kind of fast forward to Covid, or actually pre Covid, started having conversations about that with the leadership at KU Medical center in Kansas City. How could we bring all of our programs together in one facility so we could work more closely together in a true interprofessional way? It's proven in the literature that if you do that, if you train and educate people in that kind of environment that improves patient outcomes because you bring in all the different necessary healthcare providers to help solve a patient problem and you learn how to do that, then Covid happened and kind of slowed down. But what happened during COVID was the federal government made available Covid relief dollars to help communities transition to a post Covid environment. And health care was part of that. So we had this vision that we had developed and some goals and objectives already, and the state of Kansas got over a billion dollars to help their communities adapt to Covid. And so we had that ready. We started lobbying the legislature really heavily and they thought, yeah, this would be a good use of some of those dollars. So it's a 300 million dollar project that brings together KU's School of Medicine, Wichita campus, their school of Pharmacy, Wichita campus, our College of Health Professions, and WSU Tech's health programs. Basically the full pipeline of healthcare providers from the very entry level at WSU Tech all the way to postgraduate medical education. Really unique that WSU tech is actually involved in this project. We have the initial funding to get it started, $205,000,000. We still have some funding to raise to fully complete it. We're hoping to. Well, not hoping. We are going to break ground on that project probably around May, June 2024, and it'll be open in 2026. So transformational for the community, for downtown Wichita jobs. [00:12:04] Speaker B: And what about increasing people who live downtown? [00:12:07] Speaker C: Yeah, so we've done an economic impact study. It will create about 1700 new jobs. It'll bring, I think, close to $200 million of new economic activity to the city. It'll also bring new housing to downtown. There'll be 3000 students downtown that weren't there before. And it'll allow us to grow some of our programs and develop new programs. The cool thing about it is it's adjacent to our new culinary school at WSU Tech. There's a do school downtown, too. So the whole idea is to create some density around healthcare, which will help innovate, bring in new biotech companies. And we're really seeing this as another innovation campus focused in healthcare in the core of the city. It's the largest investment capital investment in the history of downtown Wichita, which is phenomenal given where we all are and the economics of things and funding state governments and that sort of thing. So we're very fortunate that we're able to move forward in this way. And I have to give credit to Ku and Chancellor Doug Gerard, who is also a physician and I'm a PA and have a background in public health as well. So I think us coming together with that background has really helped bring this together and holding it together because it's two institutions working together, and that's unheard of in our state. It's very common elsewhere. But it takes leadership to keep these things together and keep them moving forward. [00:13:49] Speaker B: Well, at the risk of embarrassing you, you are an extremely strong leader. And I think that the biomedical campus is an example of that leadership, because had you not already had the vision and creating the plans with actually no idea of where the funds would come from. [00:14:09] Speaker C: Right. [00:14:09] Speaker B: But you had something ready to roll out, which put us to the top of the queue. [00:14:13] Speaker C: Yeah. And this is kind of what I learned through the process, is that state leaders, policymakers, donors, they need that bold vision. They need big ideas to move forward. And that's what we had. And people could put their arms around that, could see how that would benefit this community. If there's one thing that I can take from that, is how we can do that for the rest of the university and some of our other initiatives that we know we want to do. [00:14:46] Speaker B: Or we're thinking about absolutely shifting gears again. We had our faculty staff kickoff. And you used as the basis for your remarks, Ted Lasso. Why did you pick Ted Lasso? [00:15:01] Speaker C: Well, for those of you who are listening, who don't know who Ted Lasso is, he's a fictional coach from Wichita State, football coach who won the national championship. And so I don't know. I think what resonates with me mostly about that show is the positivity that Ted brings to it, that Kansas nice, that midwestern values just really resonates with me. I think many others. That's kind of who we are as an institution. And he just has so many inspirational things to share to get his team to do the right thing or win. I just think it's a perfect shocker to feature in an event like that. And it's a really funny show. [00:15:57] Speaker B: Very entertaining, kind of quirky, with a very underlying serious message. Right? [00:16:03] Speaker C: Yeah. [00:16:05] Speaker B: So as we wrap up, a lot of people feel like they know you. You're very warm, you're very engaging. You make eye contact and really show you're interested in people, but they probably don't know just things about you. So I'm just going to ask you a few questions about you. Okay. I know that you and Rick Case, but Rick case, your spouse, has a background in agriculture, and so he loves plants and flowers and all that. How does that love that he has demonstrate in what he does for Wichita State? [00:16:43] Speaker C: Well, it's sort of an know when you're planting plants and you're nurturing them, you're watching them grow, it's the same thing with students. And one of the things that I think Rick has been really powerful for this institution is his care for students. And if he sees a student walk across campus, they look lost. He walks over there, some students ask him questions about different things, and he tries to find the answer for them. He's calling Terry hall, our vice president for student affairs, all the time about where's this and where's that? He helped some students change a flat tire and not changing it. He taught them how to do it because apparently a lot of people don't know how to change flat tires anymore. [00:17:33] Speaker B: I don't. [00:17:34] Speaker C: Yeah, I don't know if I could do it easily. Probably could figure it out, but I'd have Rick to kind of help me with that. So he really sees the student body, the 17,000 students that we have on this campus as his kids. And he talks about that a lot, and he relates that back to plants. So he'll be talking about plants that are growing in the garden. So here's the freshmen. They're just barely coming out of the ground. Here's the sophomores, they're getting a little bit taller. So he uses that as a teaching example of how to support students. [00:18:12] Speaker B: So of what you grow or he grows or just fresh vegetables. Fresh. I've heard you like eggplant, which would be on my least favorite list. Do you really? [00:18:25] Speaker C: I do like eggplant. I think it's good. I mean, the thing about eggplant it can taste like anything you want it to taste like. So. Well, we were recently in a restaurant at a meeting, and I ordered eggplant that was kind of made like lasagna. But I've had eggplant that has thai flavors or other certain asian flavors, and it's healthy. It's kind of meaty, and I like that aspect. [00:18:55] Speaker B: I think I'll pass. [00:18:56] Speaker C: It is a weird looking. Plant the fruit on it. Yeah. [00:19:03] Speaker B: So what is your favorite place on campus? [00:19:08] Speaker C: I thought a lot about that over the. Because people have asked me that a lot of times, but really, I think the place that I see all the connections happening is the Radigan student center and just the energy over there. Now that we've renovated that space, I'm really hoping that the chakra success center further enhances that connection to the library, kind of creating a core of student support. I mean, that's where I see a lot of happiness in students engaging with others. I think that's important. [00:19:42] Speaker B: And I love the fact that it's named after Jim Rad, again, a very loved, longtime dean of students, vice president of student affairs. [00:19:51] Speaker C: There's not a person, as you know, that I talked to a donor, an alum that doesn't know who Jim Ras. [00:19:57] Speaker B: They either know him because they were in his office for the wrong reasons or for the right reason. So, very favorite campus tradition? [00:20:08] Speaker C: Well, it's sort of a newer tradition. I wasn't obviously, a graduate of Wichita State, so I totally value the traditions that we have in the past around shocktober fest and hippodrome, but we have a new tradition. It's going to be in its 10th year next year, and that's clash of the colleges. And that gets all the students together to have a friendly competition, fun competition in liberal arts and sciences college. They won it for the first time. [00:20:39] Speaker B: The genes get very competitive. [00:20:41] Speaker C: Yeah, they do. And they're involved in it, too, and part of the competition. So it's just a good, fun time to see the students interact in a way that really all of the students don't have that opportunity. And this is right at the very beginning of the semester, so there's close to a couple of thousand students who are showing up for that event. [00:21:03] Speaker B: So I think our time is coming to a close. But as I think about everything you read in literature, actually lately, chronicle of higher education inside Higher ed, the office, the job of the president is very hard. There is turnover constantly. Now, in fact, just ten years ago, the average tenure was eight years. It's now down to less than six years, 5.6. When you need some support and you think about those presidents that came before you, can you think of a president that did something in our history that inspires you? [00:21:45] Speaker C: Yeah, I have a lot of respect for all the presidents, but one of the ones that I always go back to is Harry Corbin. He was 32 years old when he became president back in 1949. And then he spent basically the rest of his time working to move this university into the state system. And that's just a real pivotal moment in time for the university. It's where we started to grow. We became a research institution because of that. I just admire that about him. I said, who could possibly be a president age 32 and tackle that? Yeah. So he's on the top of the list. Of course, President bags and President Bardo all played a role into where we are today in a significant way into. [00:22:34] Speaker B: Who you are, too, here. Well, thank you for letting me turn the tables on you and interview you. [00:22:42] Speaker C: I'm going to turn the tables on you a little bit. [00:22:44] Speaker B: I think we're done. [00:22:45] Speaker C: No, we're not. So I don't know if the listeners know this, but you're retiring at the end of this calendar year, first of next calendar year after 32 years, the institution in various roles, all leadership roles. So what's next for you? [00:23:07] Speaker B: I'm pondering this, and actually it's 32 years quasi in various leadership roles, but always CEO of the WSU foundation. And so that's been my primary focus is philanthropy. I would like to explore the world of executive coaching. What gives me great joy right now is mentoring and coaching aspiring leaders, and I wish I'd had someone earlier in my career to come alongside me and help me navigate, and I would love to find an avenue for being able to do that. So I'm putting my toe into it right now and seeing if that's something I could do. [00:23:51] Speaker C: I could totally see that. So you were the vice president for university relations. I may have some of these titles wrong. When you first came here, the first female vice president at the university, first female president, CEO of the foundation, worked at a time at the university when it was fairly new in the state system. Relatively. And you're involved in all kinds of different activities. What are you most proud of in those roles or not related to that role? When you reflect on your time at the university, what is the thing that you're going to be most proud of? [00:24:36] Speaker B: So I have worked with six presidents and one interim president. I guess I could count you twice as interim Amanda's president and 14 board chairs of the foundation. So I am kind of proud of being a flexible person to be able to manage and adapt. I think when I reflect on my time, I look at the collective work of my team, but also of working with the presidents and the executive team and deans and others. And when I see buildings all across campus that we've been involved with, with our donors, or when I see lots of graduates that I know they received tremendous scholarship support from donors we worked with long ago, that gives me such satisfaction. And now when I look at the team that I will be leaving and how strong they are, I have gratitude beyond measure. But I have loved working with you. That'll be one of the big things that makes me sad about leaving this job. [00:25:47] Speaker C: Well, back at you. One of the things that I know about your time as the president of the foundation, but I don't know if everybody really understands this. So all in, the foundation was worth about $50 million when you came here, and it's worth what now, around 400, 400 million? [00:26:09] Speaker B: Yeah. And during my time, our collective work, we're over 900 million raised. [00:26:16] Speaker C: That's phenomenal. And one of the other things I've learned from you is that this is a marathon and this isn't a sprint. [00:26:24] Speaker B: Sprint. [00:26:25] Speaker C: I think a lot of people don't understand that this work takes years. And you all just recently shared some information about a focus of the foundation for 20 years. And all this legacy work that you've been working on in terms of plan, gifts and that sort of thing. Talk a little bit about where we are with that, and that's going to pay dividends for many, many years of institution. [00:26:52] Speaker B: We have on our records now of individuals who've said we are in their estate plans of around $400 million. But we know that that's a low estimate because many times people are nervous about sharing personal information. But that will continue to come into this university over many decades to support the areas that donors have passion for, scholarships, faculty support, the museum, the library, making a big difference in our students, even unrestricted gifts. Those are lovely, aren't they? [00:27:32] Speaker C: I think that in itself is probably one of going to be your biggest legacies because as you're long after I'm gone, and those have been developed, those relationships were developed while you were here. So one last question. So you're leaving this role. You're thinking about what you might do next. What is your hope for the foundation as you leave? [00:27:56] Speaker B: So what is my hope for the foundation and for my successor? I'm excited to. I believe I am the longest serving foundation CEO of any university in the country. I was recently interviewed by the association of governing Boards, and that's what they confirm. And so it is giving up my baby to somebody, and I believe that. And you're on the search committee. I believe that an amazing person is going to come along and just take us to that next level. It's all ready. The table has been set. Now the next meal is going to get served, and great things are in store for this university, especially under your leadership. And you will partner with this person in just full speed ahead. [00:28:47] Speaker C: Yeah, well, I'm not looking forward to that. But I understand how when people need a transition out of their roles, and I respect that. I'm happy for you and Don, and you've been a great colleague, and I appreciate that and been great to get me oriented to this role and to the supporters of this university. So we're going to miss you and. [00:29:11] Speaker B: Thank you for that compliment to Don because I've teased for years that my husband works nights and weekends for Wichita State, but no pay. And he has just been a super partner for me all this time. [00:29:25] Speaker C: Yeah, he really has. We give Don a lot of credit and give him a pass when he doesn't show, but he's there most of the time. [00:29:34] Speaker B: All right, thank you. [00:29:36] Speaker C: Well, I know we hadn't planned shifting the roll around, but this is an opportunity to do that, and I didn't want to tell you because then you would anticipate that and wouldn't want to do it. [00:29:48] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:29:48] Speaker C: Take care, and thank you all for listening. And be sure to rate, review, and subscribe wherever you listen to the Ford Together podcast. Go shockers. [00:29:59] Speaker B: You. [00:30:06] Speaker C: Sponsorship for the Forward together podcast is provided by Scott Rice, office works and the shocker store.

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