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Barnhart's new role as associate dean of research at K-State Salina aligns with university's 2025 plan

Friday, June 20, 2014


SALINA — After seven years as the head of the aviation department at Kansas State University Salina, Kurt Barnhart has been promoted to associate dean of research and outreach. A new position on the campus, Barnhart's role will help move K-State Salina toward reaching the universitywide goal of being a Top 50 public research institution by the year 2025.

"President Schulz has set the bar high for K-State's future, and our campus intends on fully contributing to meeting those objectives," said Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina. "Kurt has been a strong, committed and knowledgeable leader of our aviation department and has built invaluable relationships with a variety of industries. I am so pleased to have him in this role and I can't wait to see the partnerships he facilitates for our faculty and their research projects."

Although Barnhart will still retain his title of executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center, he will now broaden his focus across every program at K-State Salina. Faculty members can collaborate with Barnhart on new research ideas. He'll provide feedback, review proposals, assess budgets and connect them with funding opportunities as well as link them with ongoing research projects on the Manhattan campus. Barnhart also hopes to encourage educational exploration within the K-State Salina student body.

"Becoming a Top 50 research university isn't just about the groundbreaking experimentation or fascinating results," Barnhart said. "I want to make sure students can participate in exciting projects because it's an opportunity that will add depth and enrichment to their undergraduate experience."

Another facet of Barnhart's new title includes continuing to develop external relationships for the university, especially but not exclusively, in the aviation field. He will work to expedite the campus' now global project with Cessna Pilot Centers and will contribute to discussions with donors or businesses interested in the aviation program. He also will continue to provide executive-level leadership for the unmanned aircraft systems program.

Before coming to K-State Salina in 2007, Barnhart was an associate professor and acting department chair of aerospace technology at Indiana State University. He was a research and development inspector with Rolls Royce and an aircraft systems instructor with American Trans Air Airlines. Barnhart has a bachelor's in aeronautics from Purdue University, a Master of Business Administration in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Indiana State University.

Barnhart's connection with aviation began when he was born on a U.S. military installation in Wiesbaden, Germany. He took his first flight with his parents at 2 weeks old and began traveling through airports by himself when he was in the third grade. Barnhart says it was his mother who really influenced his passion for planes — she was fascinated with flying and in the days before security restrictions prohibited it, she used to ask each captain if her son could sit in the cockpit. Barnhart returned the favor by teaching his mother how to fly once he got his Federal Aviation Administration flight instructor's certificate.

Though he will miss the day-to-day camaraderie in the aviation department, Barnhart is ready for his new position and believes the campus needs to target research. Barnhart says good research drives good practice.

"Without research and scholarly activity, everyone is a history teacher," he said. "Everything taught in a classroom today was new and groundbreaking at some point. While many of those concepts remain fundamental to understanding and competency in a given area, if we're not continually pushing the envelope and looking toward the future, we can become too focused on the past and not on the challenges that lie ahead as we seek to improve people's lives."

Professional pilot lead professor Barney King is serving as interim head of the aviation department for the 2014-2015 school year, with a nationwide search to begin soon for Barnhart's permanent replacement.


Kurt Barnhart


Kansas State University Salina


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Kurt Barnhart

Kurt Barnhart has been promoted to the role of associate dean of research and outreach at Kansas State University Salina.

Written by

Julee Cobb

At a glance

Kurt Barnhart is the first associate dean for research and outreach at Kansas State University Salina.