When Dr. Larisa Genin arrived as dean of the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University in June 2019, she brought with her experience, passion and, most importantly, a commitment to collaboration. She credits the recent accomplishments of the Barton School to this team mentality.
“None of this would be possible without our team,” says Genin. “They’re the key to this success. Their intelligence, passion and dedication are what make the Barton School prosper. It’s important to provide a culture where all can thrive, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Together, Genin and her team have committed themselves to a cohesive, strategic execution – to build bridges, in every sense of the word. They have nearly doubled the Dean’s Advisory Board to include more diversity and leaders from Silicon Valley, created new academic programs, hired distinguished professors and strengthened the Barton School’s ties to the business community. They have also furthered the funding and design for Woolsey Hall, the future home of the Barton School, and the symbolic bridge that ties the vision for the school together. A complete list of the Barton School’s recent initiatives and achievements can be found in its 2019-2020 Annual Report.
Connecting industry to education
“When Dr. Genin was hired, I expressed how making connections with community business partners was essential to increase the applied learning experiences we can offer our students,’” said Dr. Richard Muma, WSU’s interim president. “Her magnetic personality has been a true attribute towards this cause – she instantly builds relationships, and her energy is infectious. Truthfully, I’m not sure she sleeps.”
One of the Barton School business relationships that’s been strengthened is with Clark Bastian, chairman of the board at Fidelity Bank and a WSU alumnus. Bastian, who serves as chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Barton School, sees the growth of the school as critical to the region’s future. It’s why Fidelity Bank and the Bastian family have contributed $1.5 million to Woolsey Hall’s construction.
“Our business school needs to be the best that it can be,” said Bastian. “Dr. Genin has thrown herself into the architectural design process, and the result is an extremely innovative building that facilitates collaboration and learning. Her priority was to get it right, and she’s doing exactly that.”
The development of another relationship has resulted in the Widener Global Leaders Program. WSU alumna Peri Widener provided a $275,000 gift to launch this multidisciplinary program, which will include the Barton School of Business, the College of Fine Arts and the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“This gift celebrates the leadership of Dean Larisa Genin and her vision for the school. I want this program to help build a new generation of business leaders with a world view,” said Widener. “I believe a multidisciplinary background can be a fundamental differentiator in making graduates successful in today’s complex world. This mix drives creative problem solving, an ability to communicate effectively and flexibility – all keys to successful leadership.”
Dr. Ted Bolema, executive director of the Barton School's Institute for the Study of Economic Growth, is excited about the potential for collaboration with other departments at WSU. He appreciates how the Barton School has moved quickly to hire new faculty with strong credentials. The importance of engaging community leaders who emphasize research fit with his ideas.
“Dr. Genin gets it and intuitively understands exactly what we’re trying to do,” Bolema said. “She brings a lot of energy to the position.”
Executing on the vision
The construction of Woolsey Hall, the future state-of-the-art facility for the Barton School, has become a literal representation of the school’s vision. Included in the design is a pedestrian bridge spanning more than 300 feet across the body of water west of the facility. Located on the WSU Innovation Campus, the building and bridge will not only provide a convenient, physical connection to campus, but will also serve as a symbolic link between academics and industry, research and the local, regional and global community. The groundbreaking for the $60 million, 125,000-square-foot building was in October 2020. Its expected completion timeframe is spring 2022.
“This building will serve as your lab, your sandbox, your incubator and your oyster to create amazing pearls,” said Genin to students at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I can’t wait to see what you all can accomplish.
“People will walk into that building and immediately feel the design of ‘warm hearth,’” she added. “We really want to exude that magical vibe, that magical energy of warmth, of collegiality. This sense of team coupled with happiness and joy contribute to that level of our culture.”
Genin sees Woolsey Hall as a transformative place for the Barton School with the space, amenities and appeal to attract students, as well as top teaching and research talent. She also hopes the building will create a collaborative environment primed for developing new programs and strengthening connections with the business community and industry partners.
The personalities to prosper
Dr. Shirley Lefever, Wichita State interim executive vice president and provost, has seen the impact Genin’s team has had on the university.
“What that group has been able to accomplish in the last year and a half is remarkable,” Lefever shared. “Their personalities and leadership skills really bring people together, both in the Barton School and at the university as a whole.”
While her community has recognized the commitment to her role, Genin’s unique way of spreading joy has brought her even more attention from many on campus. Handing out black and yellow rubber bracelets with the words “Happiness” and “Joy” stamped on them has become Genin’s trademark. But for her, the wristbands also serve as a philosophical reminder to emphasize a positive mindset and celebrate achievements.
“I personally identified with the mission of the university to ‘Shock the World’ with premier opportunities for students,” Genin reflected. “As an immigrant female who came to the U.S. without a strong command of English, my journey to this role might surprise many. My secret is to apply a strong work ethic, a passion for excellence and to find joy in everything I do.”
WSU Foundation President Dr. Elizabeth King can attest to Genin’s self-assessment. Over the past year, Dr. King has traveled with Genin, extensively visiting donors and alumni to build support for the university.
“Larisa quickly finds a place of commonality with everyone she meets,” King says. “She has a refreshing, upbeat attitude, which is infectious. That’s just who she is.”
Genin and her team have quickly made an impact. But for them, it’s just the beginning. Not satisfied with the status quo, their shared vision is to ensure the Barton School of Business becomes one of the most innovative business schools in the world.
“I accepted this role because I believe there is great opportunity with the Barton School of Business,” said Genin. “By integrating top-notch academics, impactful research and the dynamic industries in Wichita and beyond, we have an opportunity to build a world-class business school. Our vision revolves around three words: innovation, engagement and impact. Big things are coming for the Barton School, and we’re excited for what lies ahead.”