Thanks to the perseverance of Assistant Athletic Director Carolyn Bird and the generosity of SBC, student-athletes at Fort Hays State University are now able to study in a refurbished room that is equipped with new furniture, 11 new computers and other new technological equipment.
The public is welcome to see the new SBC Technology and Learning Center during an open house that will be held in conjunction with a check presentation ceremony between the men's and women's basketball games on Saturday, Feb. 8. The public can visit the new learning center in 134 Cunningham Hall from 5 p.m. until the end of the men's game. For those attending the basketball games, 134 Cunningham Hall is easily accessible from the coliseum through gate 4.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president, Tom Spicer, athletic director, and Bird will accept a larger-than-life $50,000 check from SBC in the ceremony at half-court in Gross Memorial Coliseum at about 7:45 p.m., just before the start of the men's game. Randy Tomlin, president of the Kansas Division of SBC, and Richard Shank, SBC's director-external affairs, will travel to Hays to make the presentation.
Several legislators have been invited to the event because of their continuing support for higher education and Fort Hays State University. They are U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran of Hays, state Sen. Janice Lee of rural Kensington, state Sen. Larry Salmans of Hanston, state Rep. Eber Phelps of Hays and state Rep. Dan Johnson of rural Hays.
Spicer singled out his assistant athletic director for praise. "Carolyn Bird deserves to be recognized for working long and hard to make this happen," he said. "The secret to her success was finding a company, SBC, that understands the value of higher education and is willing to support higher education with its own resources."
Hammond joined Spicer in thanking SBC. "This is neither new nor unexpected," he said. "The partnership between Fort Hays State and SBC has a long history. As recently as February 2001, the SBC Foundation gave us $100,000 to establish an endowed scholarship fund for students studying information networking and telecommunications at FHSU."
"SBC is a long-time supporter of Fort Hays State University as a technological leader among the nation's institutions of higher learning," Tomlin said. "With the great advancements of your Virtual College, Fort Hays State University has taken its rightful place as a global leader among colleges."
"Athletics are important to any university as they prepare our young men and women for the competitive forces of their future careers," Tomlin said. "It is our hope that the computerization being funded by SBC will be a catalyst for the academic advancement of the Fort Hays State athletes who are competing on many levels of competition."
President Hammond also pointed out that the SBC Technology and Learning Center is open to all students, not just student-athletes. "When Carolyn Bird wrote the request," he said, "she specified that giving non-athletes access to the learning center would expose the general student body to the student-athletes, which would provide a multicultural learning environment. This is a tremendously important added benefit because higher education, at its heart, is all about introducing students to unfamiliar people, unfamiliar cultures and unfamiliar ideas."
The upgraded SBC Technology and Learning Center has a capacity to serve about 42 students at any one time, but it is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. so it has the potential to serve hundreds of students in the course of a single day. Bird said it is an exceptional facility that will meet the needs of the students who will use it.
The room now has three foreign language stations that are equipped with listening devices, 11 computers with Internet connections that will allow research on the Internet, four laptop computers, 12 study stations, a 10-place conference table, a six-place work table, assorted chairs and various kinds of support equipment such as an electronic white board, a TV/VCR combination and printers.
"We require student-athletes to attend between six and eight hours of supervised 'study tables' weekly," Bird said. "Our academic program works with faculty advisors to monitor degree progress and to plan semester schedules. In addition, we have implemented a mentoring program that pairs freshman student-athletes with seniors to help guide them through the process of 20 hours of practice per week, 12 hours in the classroom, eight hours of study tables and many hours of travel to and from competitions."
All of these efforts have produced notable success. "This year, 299 student-athletes posted grade point averages of 3.0 or higher, 202 achieved GPAs of 3.3 and above, and 40 earned perfect 4.0 GPAs," Bird said. "For the freshmen entering in 1996, 64 percent of the student-athletes graduated, compared to a 44-percent graduation rate for the university's non-athletes in that same time period."
Bird's request to SBC listed six goals for the SBC Technology and Learning Center: 1. To improve the retention rates for minority student-athletes; 2. to increase the retention rates for all student-athletes; 3. to increase the graduation rates for all student-athletes; 4. to better integrate students majoring in health and human performance with the student-athletes; 5. to increase the effectiveness of the Athletic Department's academic program; and 6. to provide a state-of-the-art study and technology center for students in Cunningham Hall.