Area business and education leaders joined Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning that officially opened FHSU's Higher Education Opportunity Center in Garden City.
"The Fort Hays State University Higher Education Opportunity Center of Garden City was developed to provide higher education services to all students, parents, businesses and organizations of southwest Kansas," President Hammond said during the ceremony. "The center will assist students and parents on all aspects of higher education, including how to apply for federal financial aid and scholarships, career planning, and the entire college preparation process."
While the center exists in large part to steer prospective college students toward the opportunities that are available at FHSU, its services will be available to all residents of southwest Kansas regardless of which university they plan to attend.
"FHSU takes pride in offering the best service possible to all students and families," the president said. "This new center in Garden City will take our level of service a step further by providing face-to-face assistance in southwest Kansas. The center will provide seminars, workshops and informational programming for all students, both traditional and nontraditional."
The president introduced Director Martha Perkins, who will manage daily activities at the center and take workshops to area businesses and organizations.
Perkins, a graduate of Garden City High School and FHSU, will recruit both traditional on-campus and Virtual College students, with emphasis on first-generation students from southwest Kansas’ growing Hispanic population. She will serve as FHSU's primary contact for all students in the Finney and Seward County areas and as the main contact for the Hispanic population in Ford County.
"The opening of FHSU's Higher Education Opportunity Center here in Garden City will bring awareness to residents of southwest Kansas about opportunities for everyone wishing to pursue higher education goals," Perkins said during the ceremony.
"FHSU intends to establish a working partnership with communities in this region that share the same goal of providing educational resources and making education not only affordable but also an achievable success," she said in reference to FHSU's slogan, Affordable Success. "We extend an open invitation for everyone to visit and learn about the different opportunities they can find within reach," she said. "Come see us and let us know how we can be of assistance to you and your family."
Tuesday was the first day of a four-day open house at the new center, located in Suite 102 at 311 Campus Drive. The open house continues from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, Thursday, Feb. 1, and Friday, Feb. 2.
During the remaining days of the open house, visitors will be able to enjoy refreshments, tour the facility, meet Perkins and learn about the various services that are available. State-of-the-art technology also will be on display during the open house.
"Like the FHSU main campus, the center will be equipped with the latest video conferencing, wireless internet and Tablet PC technology," President Hammond said.
Unique among the six Kansas Board of Regents universities, FHSU's official mission includes integration of technology into the curriculum, and with a wireless campus and an extensive mobile computing approach, FHSU has become a leader in the application of computer technology.
Southwest Kansas is part of FHSU's primary service area, as designated by the Board of Regents. Because the state has no four-year institution located in the vast southwest quadrant, FHSU has a long history of service to the region. In 1911, when a crop failure depleted financial resources and prevented teachers from coming to Hays to renew their certification, President William Picken dispatched faculty to towns across western Kansas to provide the needed classes. FHSU has been delivering education across western Kansas ever since through correspondence courses, in face-to-face classes and by means of the latest communication technologies.
Most recently, FHSU announced in December that it would offer its Social Work Program starting this spring in Garden City through the Access University Systems Program, which is called Access US for short. It is a program created and governed by the Board of Regents to help students complete a bachelor's degree close to home. FHSU, Emporia State University and Kansas State University have partnered with six community colleges, including Garden City Community College, to bring higher education opportunities to the people of western Kansas.
There will be some on-line classes, but most of the Social Work Program courses will be taught face-to-face at GCCC.