Wichita State Connect created to build relationships with preK-12 students and parents

  • Wichita State Connect will help the university build relationships with young students, families and teachers in the area.
  • Dr. Alicia Thompson, formerly superintendent of USD 259, will lead Wichita State Connect.
  • Wichita State Connect's building will serve as a space for instruction, workshops, talks, mixers and more.
Alicia ThompsonPaul Suellentrop
Dr. Alicia Thompson envisions Wichita State Connect building relationships with students and families.

“It’s really about long-term building, not just for our university, but for our community as a whole,” she said.

A new space is now open on the Wichita State campus called Wichita State Connect.   

Wichita State Connect is in the former Wonder School, next to the National Institute for Aviation Research. It will serve as a hub for preK-12 field trips, mixers and professional development opportunities for educators and to provide WSU academic colleges and programs chances to engage with schools, industry and community partners. 

However, even before furniture arrives, the classrooms and spaces are open, giving Dr. Alicia Thompson an opportunity to engage with constituents, plan and think about possibilities. 

One idea emerging is a rotating display of children’s artwork on an interior wall. Another room with a stage is the perfect place for presentations and speakers. While another room with garage doors can host mixers and more informal events such as FAFSA workshops for students and parents. 

While the possibilities are many, the goal is to build connections between young students, the community and Wichita State University.  

“It’s relationships,” said Thompson, hired as associate vice president of preK-12 connections and special projects in February. “People have opportunities to get on campus, see what’s available and feel a part of it. If we get them on board, we have a stronger chance to recruit them and retain them on our campus and in the city of Wichita.”  

Thompson, former superintendent of USD 259, thinks about students with no familiarity with Wichita State and uncertain about their college future. One of her priorities is engaging with students and parents in the Shocker Neighborhood surrounding campus. 

“It’s really about long-term building, not just for our university, but for our community as a whole,” Thompson said. “You don’t wait until kids are getting ready to graduate from high school to build relationships, to recruit.” 

Most of the building’s interior is complete and awaiting furniture and equipment. 

Plans for the building include classrooms, a creative lab for art and sciences, a technology lab, meeting rooms, event spaces and more. Thompson envisions tutoring, summer programs, workshops for parents, teacher training, book studies, talks and social events in the building.  

When the building is furnished, Thompson plans a listening tour with deans. She also envisions Wichita State Connect as a place where parents and students who are on campus for high school athletic events can escape the heat, get a bottle of water and learn about WSU. 

“I’ll be hosting superintendent meetings here,” Thompson said. “We’ll talk about things that are happening on campus. We’ll find out what they’re needing from us as a university and be able to share the things we’re learning with the appropriate colleges.” 

Wichita State students, faculty and staff are also welcome to use the building. 

Thompson brings with her 31 years of experience working in service of students during her time at USD 259.  

“Dr. Thompson’s experiences in preK-12 education will enhance our ability to offer relevant and dynamic programming for the intended audiences,” said Dr. Shirley Lefever, provost and executive vice president. “Her leadership will undoubtedly strengthen our partnerships with local schools and enhance opportunities for students across the region.” 

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