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K-State Today

May 19, 2017

Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean to retire in August 2018

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO of the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus and dean of the College of Technology and Aviation, has announced her retirement effective Aug. 26, 2018.

Fitzsimmons, who joined the university in 2012, has provided leadership to advance Kansas State Polytechnic through the first five years of the K-State 2025 strategic plan and also led development of a master plan to help guide the physical development of the campus located in Salina.

"It has been such an honor working with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and the many others who care so much about this campus," said Fitzsimmons. "We have made great progress during the transition from K-State Salina to Kansas State Polytechnic, and I look forward to continuing that positive momentum over the next 15 months."

Under her leadership, the unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program at Kansas State Polytechnic has been nationally recognized and is actively engaged in multiple research projects, collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Westar Energy. The bachelor's degree program was recently named No. 2 in the Top 20 Unmanned Aerial Systems Colleges in the United States, and one of the largest enclosed unmanned flight facilities in the nation is located on the campus.

Fitzsimmons' work to expand industry opportunities for Kansas State Polytechnic students has included an agreement with ExpressJet, providing qualified aviation students with a conditional offer of employment as a first officer with the regional airline as early as the beginning of their junior year. She also helped create a partnership with Cessna Aircraft Co. providing educational opportunities for students pursuing careers in aviation. 

"Dr. Fitzsimmons' leadership has been instrumental in our Polytechnic Campus being recognized as one of the nation's leaders in the aviation industry," said April Mason, provost and senior vice president. "I look forward to continuing to work with her, as well as faculty, staff and students in the coming months to further advance opportunities for education, research and engagement on our Salina campus. We will begin a national search next fall to find a candidate who can build upon her successes."

Fitzsimmons also was key in the creation of the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center to support campus research goals. This research facility in north Salina is a collaboration between K-State, the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Salina and several companies. It is dedicated to understanding the science involved in moving bulk solids and is the only one of its kind in North America.

She has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award presented by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for her continued support and leadership of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Active in the Salina community, Fitzsimmons has represented Kansas State Polytechnic on various local, regional and national boards, including the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ashby House, a nonprofit organization that empowers homeless families and individuals.

She earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering, all from the University of Cincinnati.