One of the many aspects of Fort Hays State University that I really value is how focused we are on making sure our students do not just sit in a classroom but that they actually have an opportunity to apply what they are learning to real-life situations – they “get their hands dirty,” so to speak. We excel at this, and that makes learning rewarding, practical and effective.
As I think about the abundance of opportunities our students have to really engage in their education, I think about the faculty who take the time to design and oversee these amazing experiences, and then I think of the numerous and generous donors who provide funding to support them. Indeed, our university is very blessed.
One of our many generous philanthropists is the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. This past week I spent time with the foundation’s trustees talking about their extraordinary vision and support of entrepreneurship in Northwest Kansas and Hansen Hall on our campus specifically – just one of many ways the Hansen Foundation supports active learning at Fort Hays State.
The Dane G. Hansen Scholarship Hall is a three-story, residential home to 33 students. Each student has a private room, and each floor has a community lounge.
The residents of Hansen Hall are immersed in a living and learning community focused on inspiring creativity, innovation, and opportunities to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that they will carry through their lives – clearly the hallmarks of FHSU! They will spend the year traveling, competing, learning from successful business people and developing skills that will eventually help them become successful, following in the footsteps of the hall’s namesake: Dane G. Hansen.
Soon the students will arrive to begin an incredible year. This year’s residents, representing 16 different majors, will begin building relationships and networks that will support them long after they leave FHSU – emphasizing our belief that entrepreneurs are not confined to business majors.
I loved spending time with the Hansen Foundation trustees. Dr. Melissa Hunsicker Walburn, interim dean of the W.R. and Yvonne Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship, talked about the larger vision of business, community connections and how various programming options at FHSU are elements in a vision of an entrepreneurial education program.
She described how our programming includes a variety of inspirational speakers, numerous competitions to challenge students and hone their skills, and opportunities to venture out and connect with thriving businesses that contribute to the regional economy. Most importantly, they are able to connect with business people on a personal level to gain advice and insight.
This year’s activities will also include a Lender’s Rodeo, which involves a partnership with the Robbins Banking Institute and the Small Business Development Center. The event will bring together ideas and financing opportunities.
A highlight from last year’s schedule of events was listening to recent graduate Hayden Hutchinson talk about his experiences as a student fully immersed in the Hansen Hall living and learning community. He was enthusiastic about the friends he made, the environment that turned those friendships toward potential business partnerships, and the thrill of the competitions.
Hayden was on teams that won two Faulkner Challenges, an annual event that provides professional experience in business plan development. One year, Hayden’s team won with a plan for a technology-sensing solution that can rapidly alert law enforcement to live shooter events. Hayden was also the founder of the college’s Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization.
I equally enjoyed listening to Dustin Roths describe the highs and lows of his adventures as a budding entrepreneur while he was a student at FHSU. Dustin went on to found Diamond R Jewelry on his 26th birthday.
It is such a gift to have the opportunity to listen to our alumni and former students, their post-graduate stories, and how their lives were influenced by FHSU. I cannot help but smile as they draw me into compelling stories, enthusiasm and wisdom. It does my heart good when I think about how their thriving businesses contribute in so many ways to the prosperity of their communities.
Jason Williby, president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation, shared with the trustees the fact that the Hansen Foundation’s investment in Hansen Hall has been the catalyst for many other programs. The commitment and vision that built the hall enabled FHSU to grow our entrepreneurship activities to their current scale and quality. Their investment also led others to contribute financially to the vision of an entrepreneurial ecosystem with Hansen Hall at its heart.
We are so grateful to the Hansen Foundation for believing in our vision and in our students, and for their ongoing generous support. Together, our eagerness to innovate is pushing students to be their best and cultivating the understanding that their successes become a community success and a university success. We couldn’t be more proud of the partnership we have forged with the Dane G. Hanson Foundation.