HAYS, KS -- Southwestern Bell Foundation and Fort Hays State University today announced a $100,000 gift from the foundation to establish an endowed scholarship fund for students studying information networking and telecommunications at FHSU. This gift is part of the university's Centennial Campaign.
In a news conference Friday on the campus, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said, "Fort Hays State University and Southwestern Bell have developed a series of valuable partnerships over the last 15 years that have been win/win/win for the university, Southwestern Bell, and most importantly, the people of Kansas."
Shawn McKenzie, president of Southwestern Bell of Kansas, said, "The telecommunications and networking field is a great career choice for students. Very few careers at any time in history have offered so much opportunity. University graduates who understand technology have tremendous opportunities ahead of them. Southwestern Bell wants this to be a career that students can embark upon regardless of their families' financial backgrounds. We see this scholarship as a tool for attracting the diverse workforce that our company and many other companies need as we enter a new century."
McKenzie added, "We at Southwestern Bell want this gift to be a challenge gift to other major players in the information economy. We want to see other companies who are benefiting from the substantial talent of Fort Hays State University graduates to contribute and to build this scholarship program. We can make a positive difference in this state if we continue to develop a highly technologically trained workforce."
Hammond said, "Fort Hays State University is very proud to receive this gift from Southwestern Bell. One of the targeted areas of the Centennial Campaign is raising funds for scholarships. Fort Hays State University seeks not only to bring the best and brightest students to our campus, but also to support our students who might not otherwise be able to access higher education. Gifts like Southwestern Bell's will also allow us to support a variety of students from diverse backgrounds."
Hammond continued: "Studies have shown the 'Digital Divide' is not simply a question of geography. One component of the Digital Divide is that students from economically challenged families are less likely to enter a technology career. They may not have grown up in a family with a computer in the home. They may believe that a technology-oriented college degree is beyond their financial reach. A significant scholarship like the one that Southwestern Bell established today may make the difference between whether a student can or cannot attend the university. It certainly will make a difference in the number of hours a student may have to work in a week to stay in school. These are important matters for the traditional or non-traditional student. Fort Hays State University is one of the best university values in the United States. A scholarship like this one helps a student access a high quality education at an affordable price or, as we say, 'affordable success.'"
Mark Bannister, chair of the Department of Information Networking and Telecommunications, said, "The future of Kansas is tied to the availability of people with high-end telecommunications and networking skills. Cisco Corporation estimates that currently, nationwide, there is a shortage of more than 800,000 telecommunication and networking engineers such as those educated at Fort Hays State University. The Governor's Task Force on Work Force Training found that Kansas needs people with these critical skills and the market reflects that demand. The Department of Information Networking and Telecommunications at Fort Hays State University produces students who both design and build networks. We also educate the students who create network content on the Internet. The May 2000 graduates from FHSU in the telecommunications and networking field started with average salaries of $45,000. Several students started their first job earning $50,000 or more, and one new graduate started with a first-year package in excess of $60,000. These numbers demonstrate industry need and student opportunity."
Bannister added, "This scholarship started with a suggestion from students. Last year, the Advanced Technology Student Organization asked me to speak to the group shortly after I became chair of the Information Networking and Telecommunications Department. One question that students asked was whether I would help raise money for scholarships because so many of our students have financial need. I made a commitment to help. With the generosity of Southwestern Bell, we have taken a substantial step forward. I want to thank Shawn McKenzie, Richard Shank and the SBC Foundation Board for this crucial gift. I want to thank President Hammond and our provost, Dr. Larry Gould, for support of the Information Networking and Telecommunications Program. I also want to thank Bill Robbins, chair of the Centennial Campaign Steering Committee, and Virgil Scott, president and CEO of the FHSU Endowment Association, for the work of the Endowment Association. With great internal and external support, we can do great things for students and for Kansas."
Bannister concluded by stating, "This is an endowed fund that will produce revenue for scholarships into perpetuity. The endowment shows how much Southwestern Bell believes in our program. A scholarship like this is a long-term commitment. We hope to offer one $1,000 scholarship from the earnings on the Southwestern Bell Scholarship Fund for the 2001-2002 school year. After interest has been allowed to accrue, several scholarships will be awarded in the 2002-2003 school year.
Potential students can learn more about Fort Hays State University's INT Department by visiting .