By TIFFANY RONEY
Applause, laughter and loads of purple can only mean one thing: a gathering of K-Staters.
Barbara Johnson, co-leader of Dickinson County Alumni Club, welcomed more than 50 prospective students, faculty and alumni to the Dickinson County Alumni/Student Dinner on Tuesday night. Johnson and her husband, Rick Johnson, have coordinated the event for 12 years.
Amy Button Renz, president and CEO of the association, said K-State reached out to 117,000 prospective students this year, versus 100,000 contacts last year.
“We are reaching more people now than ever before, and it’s due to a board of people who have a vision,” Renz said.
Gavin Hargrave, associate director of alumni programs for the K-State Alumni Association emceed the event. After Renz’ remarks, Hargrave introduced the most renowned speaker of the evening: Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz.
Schulz said this upcoming school year is already setting records. More freshmen are enrolled than ever before, and the admissions department is seeing its largest overall enrollment in university history: 25,000 students. Additionally, this will be the most diverse student body K-State has ever had.
“We continue to be the No. 1 choice for Kansas high school graduates in the state of Kansas,” Schulz said.
This is also the largest year ever in philanthropic giving. Donors have given $151 million. These funds have been used to renovate the West Stadium Center, award more scholarships and ensure excellent faculty.
As part of Schulz’ 2025 Visionary Plan, a strategic plan for K-State’s future, Schulz shared his goals for the next two years. The underside of Memorial Stadium will become a campus welcome center. The area will also house the offices for Career and Employment Services. Thus, it will be the first place new students go, and the last place graduates visit. Schulz said K-State will be the only place in the country to house both services under the same roof.
Schulz also plans to update the K-State Student Union. Students voted a fee per semester to pay for the $25 million renovation. The updates will take place piecewise over several years so the Union will stay open throughout the renovation.
Other upcoming renovation recipients include the Seaton Hall, which houses the college of architecture, planning and design and Fiedler Hall, which houses the college of engineering.
In addition to renovations, groundbreaking will occur for a new building. In the open field behind the president’s residence, K-State plans to construct a building for the school of business. Schulz said the state-of-the-art 140,000 square-foot building will cost $50 million. The university has already raised $30 million in 9 months.
“What we’re going to
have is a great space for our students, great space for our faculty and represent a growing and expanding Kansas
State University,” Schulz said. “We’re going to keep
the limestone out front. You’re going to see all the buildings are going to have limestone arches. We’re going to keep with the architecture on campus that people really like.
“It’ll be new on the inside, but it’ll be the kind of thing I hope that when you walk by, you’ll go, ‘I didn’t know that building used to be there, but if I didn’t know it was new, I’m not sure I could have said that,’” Schulz said. “Architectural styles are really important.”
Schulz closed his speech with advice for prospective students.
“One thing: it’s important to go somewhere were people know your name,” Schulz said. “I guarantee you if you come to Kansas State, by the time you graduate and your parents and your friends are all there congratulating you and you see when one of the faculty members in your department walking through the hall, they’re going to know you.”
Schulz said he wanted to advise students to join organizations and involve themselves in campus groups.
He also said he wanted to advise students to take an official campus visit even if they have visited campus before.
“You may say, ‘Oh, I’ve been to football games; I’ve been to K-State,’ but it’s an important thing,” Schulz said. “You’ll see a different part of campus.”
Hargrave, a 2010 K-State graduate, said he wanted to thank local volunteers Amy Altwegg and Jeff Luty for their help in making the event possible.
Hargrave kicked off the presentation with a family-themed video. Hargrave said the theme of an extended family-like atmosphere is part of what makes K-State a special and successful place.
Katie Zapletal, admissions representative of K-State and graduate student in college student development, said Dickinson County is the area in which she awards the majority of the scholarships the association bestows.
K-State’s two K-State Student Ambassadors of 2013, Tyler Johnson and Jordan Priddle, presented a slideshow talk, K-State: Then and Now. According to the presentation, one faculty member said 85 percent of collegiate learning takes place outside the classroom.
“Find something you are passionate about; it really rounds out your K-State experience,” Johnson said.
In addition to the opportunity to join various clubs - from intramural soccer to skydiving - Johnson said K-State offers a renovated recreation complex, which now has a rock climbing wall he described as “killer.” The complex also boasts of a smoothie bar.
Johnson described the renovated Bill Snyder Family Stadium as his “favorite place on earth.”
“There’s really nothing like it, being with 50,000 other fans and cheering on the Cats,” Johnson said.
Due to these elements and more, Johnson said K-State won “best quality of life” in the Princeton Review.
The association awarded scholarships to seven area seniors in high school. Sage Tokach, Stone Hayden, Paige Altwegg, Wade Hambright, Grant Prichard, Molly Burt and Taylor Thompson all came forward to receive certificates for their scholarships.
To close the event, Hargrave invited Rick Johnson to give a few words.
“It’s been a huge honor to represent K-State,” Johnson said. “Ever since we’ve been students, it’s been go-go-go and we’ve loved it.”
The K-State Alumni Association hosted the event at the Abilene Community Center, 1020 N.W. 8th St.