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K-State Today

June 19, 2014



From April Mason and Prema Arasu: Charting the future of K-State Olathe

By April Mason and Prema Arasu

April Mason and Prema Arasu

Dear Colleagues,

Imagine a space — a learning laboratory, a technology-centric environment — connecting older and younger learners in discovery and problem-solving, advised by K-State faculty and industry experts from different disciplines and viewpoints.

Could this space be used for education to meet regional workforce needs in Johnson County and the Greater Kansas City area, respond to the culture of the corporate world, champion the interdisciplinary expertise and academic rigor of our university, and be a dynamic and sustainable campus founded on applied research and innovation? Could it be a place where we can advance interdisciplinary, cross-generational team-based learning and research in exciting new ways? That is the core vision for K-State Olathe that we presented to the Kansas Board of Regents on June 18. View the PowerPoint presentation and handout.

A seed was planted 10 years ago for Kansas State University to have a physical presence in the Greater Kansas City area. On a parcel of 38 acres donated by the city of Olathe and with support from Johnson County voters, who enacted a 1/8-cent sales tax, the campus at Olathe was realized. With a mandate to engage in research and graduate education for workforce and economic development, K-State Olathe opened the International Animal Health and Food Safety building in April 2011.

In its first three years of operation, K-State Olathe has engaged with more than 30,000 participants in professional programs aligned with missions of the university and the Johnson County Education Research Triangle Authority, or JCERTA, which has administrative oversight of the tax revenues. More than 10,000 K-12 students and teachers have engaged in science and career programs and summer workshops. Assistance also has been provided to the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or CAPS, and Olathe 21st Century high school programs in curriculum development related to animal health and food science.

Eight graduate degrees are now offered through K-State Olathe in food science, horticulture with an emphasis in urban food systems, biomedical sciences with an emphasis on veterinary, biological and agricultural engineering, agribusiness with an emphasis in animal health, and adult education. With 10 designated laboratories occupying about one-third of the building, research capabilities at K-State Olathe are growing to include biotechnology related to animal vaccines, renewable energy from microbial fermentation of plant residues, development of test strips for disease diagnosis, food microbiology and postharvest physiology. Other programs include the Urban Water Institute, the U.S.-China Animal Health Center, the Sensory and Consumer Research Center and the K-State Olathe Innovation Accelerator. With matching funds of $1.25 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Innovation Accelerator connects K-State's Advanced Manufacturing Institute and Institute for Commercialization with the Olathe campus and brings business, engineering and technology solutions to agriculture and health issues.

More than 100 faculty from K-State Manhattan and Salina have contributed to these initiatives together with the staff and faculty on the Olathe campus.

Industry and community interests in workforce and economic development have been a core priority of the campus since its inception. In partnership with the K-State Research and Extension and Horticulture Center, Olathe faculty members are engaging on projects related to urban food systems and commercialization opportunities. A recent $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is supporting studies on shelf life, quality and packaging of tomato, spinach and other food crops after harvest.

Through a collaboration that began at K-State Olathe, SmartVet USA, a subsidiary of SmartVet Pty Ltd. Australia, now has a patented technology and is planning a manufacturing facility for soft-gel encapsulation of pharmaceuticals. Merck Animal Health has provided a three-year award in partnership with K-State's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for a Microbial Surveillance Laboratory with capacity to process samples at a rapid rate as well as train students in new types of analytical instrumentation. Companies in the region are looking to K-State and its breadth of expertise and talent for their next employees and for research and development partnerships.

Great strides have been made at the Olathe campus in its first phase of development, culminating in JCERTA's fifth anniversary celebration this past April. As we told the Regents this week, we are moving into the next phase of growth for K-State Olathe and advancing the K-State 2025 visionary plan. We must be even more responsive to changing trends and the demands of both individuals and regional companies. We need to differentiate ourselves from the more than 40 two- and four-year institutions in the Greater Kansas City region and strengthen our focus on industry needs for educational and research and development partnerships.

K-State Olathe's mission as defined in its 2025 strategic plan is: To be the model and leader of adaptable, interdisciplinary and innovative education, research and public/private engagement in the Kansas City area bridging the university with global and local community, government and industry partners for a sustainable, global, knowledge-driven economy. We envision new models of academic-industry-government-community partnerships that foster a hive of integrated, interdisciplinary learning, discovery and translation. Exciting, new graduate courses, certificates and programs are being developed, including a proposed customizable executive master's degree in applied science that would allow working professionals to tailor their programs to industry needs and gaps in their technical knowledge further developing the soft transferable skills and innovative thinking desired by employers today. A working group will be formed this summer to design this flexible master's program.

To provide academic authority for applied interdisciplinary research with businesses, appointment of experts and practitioners as adjunct instructors and advisors, and to build the core identity of the campus, a working group also is being formed to explore the formation of a School for Applied and Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies.

The future holds a lot of promise that K-State Olathe, as an innovation hub embodying a "hybrid of cultures," will more closely connect the university to industry, government and community interests and needs.

At the Board of Regents meeting yesterday, Regent Fred Logan, chair of the board, said, "Great progress has been made. I like the executive master's for applied sciences and that it is customizable. I like that this is a different kind of campus."

Partnerships will expand beyond the current nine departments and six colleges to further strengthen K-State's joint footprint in Johnson County and the Kansas City metropolitan area. We will collaborate across all campuses through novel ways of thinking and doing translational research, interactive learning and workforce preparedness. The path forward will require thoughtful planning, consideration of a diversity of perspectives, and broad involvement of all of our different stakeholders. We look forward to working together across our university community. Success depends on all of us.

April Mason
Provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University

Prema Arasu
CEO and vice provost of K-State Olathe