Ichabods In Depth

Published Jan. 7, 2013

New year, new energy at Washburn Institute of Technology

Energy filled the halls at Washburn Institute of Technology as students returned Monday (Jan. 7, 2013) from winter break. It's an energy that has grown this academic year as Dean Clark Coco has moved the entire place toward a new vision.

"We're going to work hard and build a flagship institution," said Coco, 59, who joined Washburn Tech in June. "I want people saying: 'I go to Washburn Tech!'"

Already, he has overseen a modest but meaningful improvement to the physical appearance of Huntoon Street campus. There is new paint, even a mural inside. Outside, the grounds are newly landscaped, light posts are freshly painted and the sidewalk edges are crisply manicured. Coco has other ideas, too, from new aluminum and glass garage doors to a cafeteria with even more variety.

“I want them to feel like they have ownership," Coco said of the more than 75 full-time faculty and staff members and about 920 students.

David Praisewater, who is in his eighth year at Washburn Tech, said everyone on the campus has a different outlook.

"Everyone's attitude is better. This is the most positive outlook we've ever had," he said at an in-service turned New Year's party at the Tech Campus on Friday. "Most of that is (Coco's) pep talks."

Praisewater teaches commercial construction and serves as advisor of the SkillsUSA chapter.

Eric Showalter, who teaches auto collision repair and is in his ninth year at Tech, agreed. "It's a whole different outlook for us. The changes we've already made are huge. It's brought a whole new energy level to the staff," he said.

Students can feel it, too, he said: "When they came in August, if they were here last year, they saw a different campus.

"There were more improvements while they were gone for three weeks," Showalter said. "It's continual improvement. It's got new life."

Washburn Tech offers 25 technical programs and even the programs themselves are benefiting from the new energy on campus. The Midwest Training Center, set to open in a few months, will be the state-of-the-industry home to the Climate and Energy Control Technology program (formerly Heating and Air Conditioning). The largely grant-funded facility is one of only two of its caliber in the nation.

At Friday's gathering, Coco toasted the New Year and Washburn Tech with sparkling grape juice: "To the Tech - where we've been, where we're going and what we're doing for ... the State of Kansas."