Beginning with this year's summer session, students in Fort Hays State University's Virtual College, whether they attend classes on the Hays campus or live somewhere else in the world, will discover that buying textbooks has gotten a whole lot easier.
FHSU officials and representatives from Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, which operates the University Bookstore, gathered at 2 p.m. today in the Memorial Union for a ceremony to mark the improvement in convenience for all Virtual College students.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, talked about the benefits for students before he helped cut the ribbon to open the expanded facility. "Until today, FHSU students ordered textbooks, videotapes and other materials for Virtual College classes from MBS, a 'mail-order' textbook company located in Columbia, MO," he said. "Nearly a quarter of our on-campus students take at least one Virtual College class each semester, so while they could pick up all the classroom materials they needed for their on-campus classes right here at the University Bookstore, they had to order the rest of their materials from MBS. Now they will have the convenience of one-stop-shopping for all their class materials."
FHSU's Virtual College delivers courses to students at locations and times that fit their busy schedules. It delivers "mediated" courses from FHSU's College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Leadership, College of Education and Technology, and College of Health and Life Sciences through various formats, including but not limited to interactive television, video, CD-ROM and the Internet.
The president pointed out that service also would be enhanced for Virtual College students across Kansas and beyond who never set foot on campus. "Under local manager Chris Schlyer, with assistance from the Barnes & Noble management team, FHSU's University Bookstore has developed a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service," he said. "Chris and her staff will be more attuned to the needs of FHSU's Virtual Students than was possible at the much larger MBS."
Fort Hays State University renewed its contract with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, effective Jan. 1, 2004, to continue for another five years as the official bookstore for the university. Under the contract, Barnes & Noble will contribute $250,000 to renovation of the Memorial Union, including the just-completed construction of the temporary room that houses materials for Virtual College classes. Barnes & Noble sent a construction crew for three weeks to build and equip the new room, which is connected to the existing textbook area in the basement of the University Bookstore.
"We knew it was going to be a temporary facility pending what the architects come up with in the next year for a larger renovation of the union," said Steve Wood, director of the Memorial Union. "This is a stop-gap situation, but in order to better serve the rapidly growing Virtual College enrollment, we knew we had to bring this service back on campus and into the union immediately."
Kimberly Otte, a Barnes & Noble vice president, assisted Dr. Hammond in cutting the ribbon. "Fort Hays State University saw a need to make this change in order to provide better service for Virtual College students, and we were anxious to help," she said. "Besides greater convenience, Virtual College students will now benefit from increased buyback prices and access to more used books." To assure good service, Barnes & Noble is adding a new position to assist with Virtual College orders.
Otte said the staff at the University Bookstore hopes to simplify the book ordering process for students and eliminate any confusion most students have had when it came to obtaining textbooks, class media such as videos and/or CDs, and other general class supplies. "We want to make Virtual College students feel like a part of the Fort Hays State University family by providing excellent customer service and giving them a taste of becoming an FHSU Tiger," she said.
Students will be able to walk in and shop at the bookstore in the Memorial Union, order by using the bookstore Web site -- fhsu.bkstore.com -- or call the bookstore toll free at (877) 387-7448.
"The Virtual College has been busy working closely with Barnes & Noble to transition the inventory from MBS to this on-campus operation," said Dennis King, interim assistant to the dean of the Virtual College. "The effort has already produced a good working relationship and we look forward to improved efficiencies."
The Ambassadors of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce attended the ceremony and participated in cutting the ribbon that symbolically opened the expanded bookstore. The Ambassadors are a special arm of the local chamber who welcome new businesses and provide other types of personal outreach.