WSU Center for Community Support and Research turns 30
The Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR) exemplifies the mission of Wichita State University to be an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good, and this month marks its 30th anniversary.
The CCSR helps strengthen nonprofits, government agencies, community coalitions, health departments and other Kansas organizations. It is one of the largest centers at WSU and recognized nationally for its efforts in leadership, organizational capacity building, community collaboration and applied research.
The CCSR, located in downtown Wichita at 3rd Street and Main, has more than 45 full and part-time staff who work to transfer best practices and evidence-based strategies from across academic disciplines to more than 100 partner organizations in Kansas communities and beyond.
And all of this started from one woman’s kitchen table.
In 1984, a local social worker named Evelyn Middlestadt, who served families and children involved in adoption and foster care, became familiar with the difficulties of parents with special needs kids. Challenges in those families were common and heartbreaking for Middlestadt, say colleagues, because the parents often turned to her with their burdens.
That’s when she decided to connect those parents and form a self-help support group so they could talk about their issues and provide comfort and understanding to one another.
Her idea grew and became The Self-Help Network of Kansas. Eventually, Evelyn connected with Greg Meissen, WSU professor of psychology, and the Self-Help Network moved to the Wichita State campus, where the group served as a statewide clearinghouse for more than 2,000 local and national self-help groups and organizations.
As the Self-Help Network matured, its purpose expanded. Under the leadership of Meissen, the organization began involving WSU students and operated as a center for research, working with a growing number of nonprofits and community coalitions.
In 2005, having exceeded the space available on campus, the center relocated to its downtown location. It became involved in an ever-evolving number of projects and initiatives, including working with mental health consumer-run organizations, faith-based organizations, leadership development programs and other civic groups. The Self-Help Network changed its name to the Center for Community Support and Research to better reflect the diversity of its work.
Middlestadt’s legacy is something CCSR Executive Director Scott Wituk has embraced. Wituk has been involved with the CCSR for 20 years, and succeeds Meissen in its leadership.
“While much has been accomplished, CCSR and its Kansas partners have much more to do,” said Wituk. “Recently, we’ve made new connections with health departments across the state, which I think has great potential.”
In recognition of the center’s work and anniversary, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared January “Support Group Awareness Month.” Wituk, however, is focused on pushing forward.
“We are looking for new ways to enhance student involvement at CCSR,” he said. “We want to connect more students from across disciplines with CCSR’s staff to develop and implement creative and innovative approaches to address community and organizational problems and challenges. With its 30 year history, connections across the state and interdisciplinary staff, CCSR represents one of the flagship centers that will make WSU recognized as a leader in applied learning and research.”