$2 million gift creates new communication faculty position

12:42:42 PM CDT - Thursday, August 25, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

The WSU Foundation has received one of the largest gifts for a faculty position at WSU, it was announced earlier this week.

The Kansas Health Foundation provided $2 million to fund the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair of Strategic Communication in the Elliott School of Communication.

This is the largest gift endowed to support faculty in the history of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It qualifies for the state's Faculty of Distinction program, under which the state supplements the gift annually with the interest it earns on the same amount of the original donation. The gift is also part of the WSU Foundation's We Are Wichita State campaign, which is focusing on support for scholarships and faculty.

"This gift will enable us to better teach the full spectrum of skill sets strategic planning, writing, speaking, videography, graphic design, and communication technology," Elliott School director Susan Schultz Huxman said. Strategic communications involves all aspects of communication taught in the Elliott School, she said, including public relations, advertising, organizational and interpersonal communication, and journalism.

A national search will start immediately, in order to have a person in place by fall 2006, Huxman said.

The gift will also help fund professional development opportunities, establish a graduate teaching assistant, and make possible a visiting professor lecture series.

"We have a fierce commitment to communication," Marni Vliet, Kansas Health Foundation president and CEO, said during the announcement of the gift Aug. 22. She said communication is a very common thread in all of the organization's projects to better the health and lives of Kansans. "We begin in the beginning by listening," she said, when they undertake new projects.

The Elliott School has worked with the Kansas Health Foundation on some of those projects, including the foundation's new "Turn a page, touch a mind" campaign that promotes the importance of reading to young children. Faculty members Rick Armstrong and Mike Boyle are involved in the campaign, which was announced Aug. 24. Armstrong helped in developing the campaign, while Boyle will do a baseline study on the campaign's effects, according to Janet Miller, the Kansas Health Foundation's director of communication.

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