K-State Salina names aviation workforce development veteran as airport management program lead

By Julee Cobb

With more than 30 years of experience as a pilot, business owner, consultant, researcher and professor, Tara Harl is the new airport management program lead at Kansas State University Salina. Harl is the first full-time faculty member hired specifically for the program since it was established in 2011.

Tara Harl has joined Kansas State University Salina has the new airport management program lead.

Tara Harl has joined Kansas State University Salina as the new airport management program lead.

“Aviation is in our blood — we are well known for our professional pilot and aviation maintenance programs, and we’re ready to take airport management to the next level,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of K-State Salina. “With Tara’s versatile expertise in aviation, specifically workforce development, she brings many new ideas, and her industry connections will provide a substantial benefit to the program and our students. We are excited to have her join our community.”

Harl arrived at K-State Salina in February and in the few short months since she has been on campus, she is already working to grow the program. Harl says she would like to expand airport management to also include the areas of general aviation and airline management.

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From cadet to college student: Kansas State University, St. John’s Military School sign institutional partnership agreement

By Julee Cobb

Kansas State University will enhance its support of St. John’s Military School after signing a partnership agreement with the institution on April 14 to assist the school’s students in preparing for higher education.

Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, left, and St. John's Military School President Andrew England sign an institutional partnership agreement that will serve the collegiate needs of St. John's students.

Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, left, and St. John’s Military School President Andrew England sign an institutional partnership agreement that will serve the collegiate needs of St. John’s students.

At a ceremony on the St. John’s campus, Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz and St. John’s Military School President Andrew England sealed the collaboration with their signatures in front of community members, St. John’s alumni, staff from both institutions and the school’s cadets.

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K-State Salina’s Civic Luncheon Lecture to examine big data and its use in business decisions

By: Julee Cobb

In today’s technological era, data is everywhere: in every digital process, social media exchange and mobile device transmit. Kansas State University Salina’s latest Civic Luncheon Lecture will explore how all this information is effectively being gathered and incorporated into business operations and client experience.

“Big Data: Implications and Applications” will be presented at noon Thursday, April 9, at K-State Salina’s College Center conference room. Kissan Joseph, University of Kansas professor and co-director of the Center for Integrated Customer Experience, will lead the discussion. Les Kinsler, professor in K-State Salina’s computer systems technology program, will act as the moderator.

Big data, the term used to refer to the large volume of generated information, has meaningful value to industries because they can analyze trends and patterns from it that are related to human behavior. Businesses then integrate those findings into their practices and decision-making to enhance the customer experience. Joseph will highlight the varying potential of big data for businesses and beyond.

The Civic Luncheon Lecture Series is free and the public is invited. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch or purchase their lunch at the K-State Café and then bring their tray into the conference room.

Greg Stephens, associate professor of arts, sciences and business, created K-State Salina’s Civic Luncheon Lecture Series to provide the campus and the community with an opportunity to learn about and participate in various current events impacting local issues. For more information on the series, contact Stephens at 785-819-6887 or gregs@k-state.edu, or visit http://www.salina.k-state.edu/civicluncheon/.

Good as gold: K-State Salina’s journey of 50 revolutionary years

By: Julee Cobb

The year was 1965. “The Sound of Music” was released in theaters and shows like “Green Acres” and “I Dream of Jeannie” ruled on television. The average price of gas was 13 cents a gallon and a new car cost around $2,600. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama – a demonstration that later led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

In Salina, change was afoot on the Schilling Air Force Base on Centennial Road. It was announced the previous year that 150 military installations would close across the country. At the same time, Henry Neely and Thomas Creech, both faculty members at Kansas State University, had been tasked with designing a degree program for a potential engineering technology college. With Schilling Air Force Base shutting down, Neely and Creech met with base commander Col. Mike Scanlan about using some of their facilities and equipment.

K-State Salina is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their campus in 2015.

K-State Salina is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its campus in 2015.

Much to Neely and Creech’s surprise, the Kansas Legislature approved of their plans and officially established Schilling Institute on the base property on April 26, 1965 after the passage of House Bill 1101. The college would offer two-year degree programs in electronic engineering technology, detail design technology, civil engineering technology and aeronautical technology. Neely was appointed the president of Schilling Institute and Creech was named director of academic affairs.

Once the base was officially vacated in the summer of 1966, Neely and Creech, along with the other hired faculty and staff, moved onto the campus and started making the buildings and barracks suitable for students. They acted as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters as there was no extra money available to hire any tradesmen to complete the necessary work. Students arrived for classes in the fall and an additional program, computer science technology, was created – the first of its kind in the state. In 1968, Schilling Institute graduated its first 10 students.

The next year, the college was placed under the control of the State Board of Education and changed its name to Kansas Technical Institute, or KTI. Creech was selected as the campus’s third president in 1976 and during KTI’s reign, seven more degree programs were added. Students even picked the peacock as an unofficial mascot for the school, frequently appearing in the campus newspaper and yearbook.

In 1988, the property on Centennial Road would see another name change, to Kansas College of Technology. By this time, there were around 800 students enrolled and 11 programs led to an Associate of Technology degree. Kansas College of Technology, or KCT, also offered an Associate of Applied Science and an aviation maintenance certificate program.

In a full circle moment – as two K-State faculty were instrumental in founding the first institution on the grounds – KCT merged with Kansas State University in 1991 and became its ninth college, the College of Technology and Aviation. K-State Salina upgraded many of the previous two-year degrees to bachelor’s degrees. Most recently, it has added an unmanned aircraft systems program as well as family studies and human services, personal financial planning and social work. The landscape of the campus has also evolved, with the building of two residence halls, the College Center, the Student Life Center and a renovated Welcome Center.

Now the year is 2015, and popular comedic series aren’t just watched on television anymore. There are cell phones that are really smart phones, allowing access to the Internet and streaming music and social media. Movies are seen in theaters with 3D glasses and the price of gas continues to fluctuate between $2 and $3. Agreeably, times have dramatically changed since that day in 1965 when Schilling Institute was born. The students on campus now bleed purple, but K-State Salina wouldn’t be what it is today without the three colleges that came before.

K-State Salina is honoring the 50 years of those four educational institutions with a golden anniversary. If you would like to participate in the celebration, click here for the listed signature events that run April through September.

Kansas State University Salina honors 50 years of higher education, kicks off anniversary celebration at open house

By: Julee Cobb

The Kansas State University Salina campus established itself on the educational landscape in 1965, and the university will honor its 50 years of tradition starting April 11 with a kickoff to the golden anniversary celebration at the K-State Salina Open House.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., K-State Salina will open its campus to the community to showcase programs, student projects, clubs and achievements. Many of the displays and activities will have a 50th anniversary theme, such as every 50th person that stops by the welcome booth will receive a prize; the gerontology program will exhibit population pyramids from the 1960s; the alumni booth will test visitors’ knowledge of campus history; and a special timeline from 1965 through 2015 will be presented in the library. The university also will serve ice cream and cake in honor of the campus’s 50 years.

“We are very proud of our campus history and the traditions created throughout the years,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, K-State Salina CEO and dean. “Open house is the perfect way to start the 50th anniversary festivities because we want to share the celebration with Salina and the surrounding communities who have supported this campus from the beginning.”

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K-State Salina family studies and human services program to host community poverty simulation

SALINA — Kansas State University Salina will offer an educational and interactive workshop about the struggles of living in a low-income family and the realities of poverty within the community and across the nation.

The Poverty Simulation will be 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 28, in the College Center conference room and is open to the public. Each attendee will participate in the demonstration and will assume the role of someone going through financial hardships, from a single parent trying to provide for children to a senior citizen making ends meet on Social Security. Participants will be given real-life scenarios to act out and in a debriefing that follows, can discuss their experiences and observations.

“People in our community have no idea how many families are considered impoverished in Salina,” said Kate Behan, K-State Salina assistant professor of family studies and human services. “At least half of the schoolchildren in USD 305 are part of the free and reduced lunch program. It’s time we start talking about this issue so we can find ways to make a change.”

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K-State Salina’s Civic Luncheon Lecture to look at new ways of effective discipline in criminal justice

By Julee Cobb

As an alternative to incarceration, Kansas State University Salina’s latest Civic Luncheon Lecture will explore the idea of rehabilitating criminal offenders through restorative justice — a process that involves the victim and the community affected.

“Restorative Justice: A New Way to Look at Criminal Justice” will be presented at noon Thursday, March 12, at K-State Salina’s College Center conference room. Lisa Bedinger, a Salina Central High School graduate and coordinator of the South Burlington Community Justice Center in South Burlington, Vermont, will lead the discussion. Ann Zimmerman, a member of the Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice steering committee, will act as the moderator.

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Celebrating Charlie Sojka: K-State Salina campus comes together to honor director of aviation maintenance

By Julee Cobb

Described as a jovial, straight shooter that was fascinated by every part of an airplane, Charlie Sojka, director of maintenance in K-State Salina’s aviation department, was honored on Feb. 27 during a celebration of his life on campus. Dean Verna Fitzsimmons along with faculty members, students both former and current, friends and his family gathered in the university’s College Center conference room to share stories about his time at K-State Salina and his earlier years.

Sojka's daughter, Candice Clark, far left, speaks at his memorial service at K-State Salina. Other photos feature Sojka with one of his favorite things, airplanes, through the years.

Sojka passed away on Nov. 30, 2014 after an aircraft accident while he was visiting family in Missouri. Sojka had been employed at K-State Salina for 11 years, first as an instructor in the aviation maintenance management program and then starting in 2013, as the director of maintenance. Outside of his responsibilities with the university, Sojka was a flight instructor and enjoyed restoring old airplanes.

The gathering began with a presentation of colors from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1432 Honor Guard since Sojka served in the U.S. Army for two years. Dean Fitzsimmons welcomed the guests and then Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement, who was Sojka’s supervisor for seven years, spoke about his character and qualities as an educator.

“Charlie always led by example,” said Barnhart. “He wasn’t someone that just sat behind a desk and drank coffee; he was always inside the plane doing all the hard jobs. And he maintained high standards in his classroom. Although the students thought he was being tough at first, they always thanked him later for what they learned.”

One prime example of Sojka’s dedication to his students came when aviation maintenance management senior, Gunner Wiles, took to the podium to express his appreciation for Sojka teaching him how to fly.

“Every time I’m on an approach, I’ll think of him,” said Wiles. “Every time I’m alone up there flying, I’ll think of him. When you can share your passion, what you do, with other people, I don’t think there’s a greater honor in the world.”

All three of Sojka’s children addressed the crowd at the memorial, speaking about their favorite memories with their father. Sojka’s daughter, Candice Clark, reminisced about the time he flew her to K-State in Manhattan for a campus visit; Sojka’s son, Nick Sojka, said he never met anyone as smart as his dad when it came to aviation; and Jesse Sojka, Sojka’s other son, shared with the group how his father’s love of airplanes began.

“Dad grew up in Oklahoma on an airport and his father taught him how to fly,” said Jesse Sojka. “So it was a great source of pride for Dad to teach me to fly.”

Sojka earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education with a teaching certification and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, both from Oklahoma State University. Before his employment with K-State Salina, Sojka worked as a high school teacher and an accountant.

Sojka was also honored from afar, as some that couldn’t attend the gathering sent in messages to be read during the memorial. Brian Aden, ’13, one of Sojka’s students both at K-State Salina in aviation maintenance and independently in flight instruction, said he owed Sojka a great deal.

“If it wasn’t for Charlie, I wouldn’t be a pilot,” Aden said.

Kansas State University Salina becomes first entity in the country to receive statewide access for flight operations of small unmanned aircraft systems

Kansas State University Salina has reached a national milestone in the unmanned aircraft systems industry, becoming the first entity in the country to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, for statewide access during flight operations.

Kurt Carraway, left, is K-State Salina's UAS flight operations manager, and Mark Blanks, right, is K-State Salina's UAS program manager.

The university has received three Certificates of Authorization that will allow its unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program to conduct research anywhere in the state on public property, or on private property with landowner permission.

“These new authorizations are yet another example of how K-State Salina is truly a leader in unmanned aircraft systems,” said Kurt Carraway, K-State Salina’s UAS flight operations manager. “Our statewide access will allow us to continue to provide practical applications of technology to our students and will further develop our research abilities for the university, the FAA and our industry partners.”

K-State Salina’s UAS program will use the three new Certificates of Authorization, or COAs, primarily to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems operating requirements for remote sensing in agriculture and emergency response. The certificates are effective for two years, giving the university’s UAS program a flexibility and immediacy in collecting research data, specifically in agriculture remote sensing, when conditions promptly change.

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K-State Salina’s UAS program boosts fleet with special filmmaking aircraft

Kansas State University Salina’s unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program has grown its fleet to 27 with the recent addition of the DJI Inspire 1 — a vehicle designed primarily for cinematography. The university becomes one of the first entities in the country to have access to this particular aircraft.

K-State Salina's unmanned aircraft systems program manager, Mark Blanks, flies the new DJI Inspire 1 in the Student Life Center.

K-State Salina’s UAS program plans to use the DJI Inspire 1 for indoor demonstrations with prospective students and industry partners and at conventions because of its stability, dual flight control system and a unique computer vision system that allows the aircraft to hold position without GPS. The DJI Inspire 1 is configured with two controllers — one for the aircraft and one for the camera — allowing qualified UAS staff to pilot the vehicle while interested parties operate the camera. And with its dramatic filmmaking quality, the program’s latest addition can also be utilized for special research projects after proper approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This new aircraft gives us the opportunity to show visitors and audiences what a small UAS can do and will help build excitement around the capabilities of UAS technology,” said Mark Blanks, K-State Salina’s UAS program manager. “Two to three years ago, this kind of video from the Inspire wasn’t even possible, at any price. Now we have Hollywood quality imagery.”

Blanks worked with K-State Salina alumnus Bill Badnaruk, ’09, when purchasing the DJI Inspire 1. Badnaruk, a technology management graduate, is employed with Troy Built Models, which builds, customizes, services and distributes small unmanned aircraft systems from Sarasota, Florida.

The DJI Inspire 1 has many unique features that are putting it in high demand. It is an electric quadrotor that can fly for 20 minutes after each charge and only weighs about 6 1/2 pounds. The airframe transforms after takeoff from an A-shape to a V-shape, giving the camera full 360-degree unobstructed views. And the video is filmed in up to 4K resolution at 24 frames per second with full streaming capabilities to tablets mounted on the controllers and optional TV outputs.

K-State Salina is one of the first universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, which started in 2011. Since then, the program has doubled its enrollment every year and has been selected for numerous research projects by many widely known enterprises such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.