Washburn Tech front of main building


Growing Confidence

Faculty, staff and industry partners continue investing in Washburn Tech East

Chaz Havens at Tech announcement

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
By Jeremy Wangler

With a waiting list in some programs and room to grow in others, Washburn Tech East is becoming a catalyst for workforce development in the region and a lifeline for residents in East Topeka seeking easier access to adult education.

And there’s no “wait and see” approach as COVID-19 limited enrollment capacity in some programs and tapered demand in others. Washburn University Institute of Technology leadership and faculty are working now to adapt program offerings at Washburn Tech East as the job market adjusts and hopefully rebounds after the effects of COVID-19.

Tech East opened in spring 2019 and offers programs in certified nurse aide, certified medication aide, home health aide, certified production technician, electrical technology and building technology (carpentry). It also offers adult education in GED preparation, English as a second language and commercial truck driving.

Recent developments are showing the wide commitment to Washburn Tech East’s success:

A gift from Mars Wrigley and an Innovative Technology Grant from the Kansas Board of Regents helped buy equipment for the certified production technician program that will start this fall and prepare graduates to work in manufacturing plants and distribution centers. “Mars, in effect can pick the cream of the crop,” said Gary Bayens, bs ’90, dean, Washburn Tech. “If you really excel in the CPT program, there’s a good chance you’re going to be hired when those positions become available.”

To continue meeting the needs of the community, Tech East started offering evening classes in the certified nurse aid and electrical technology programs.

Washburn, in partnership with GO Topeka, the Joint Economic Development Organization and the East Topeka community, opened Washburn Tech East in response to a market research study that confirmed the need for an educational facility in East Topeka that teaches desired skills.

“I really enjoyed the fact that Washburn University and GO Topeka were willing to put in the effort and the money to help build up this side of town,” said Chaz Havens, m ed ’16, director, Washburn Tech East. “Being an integral part of the growth and development of this side of town I've been living on really means a lot to me.”

Havens saw the lack of access East Topeka residents had to adult education and training for in-demand jobs.

“We have students who couldn't take the GED where it was over on the Huntoon campus,” Havens said. “Imagine, you start your day with an hour bus drive, do classes for an hour and ride the bus back for an hour; Most of your day is gone and you haven't had a chance to go to work or anything. This way, they can work, provide for their families and go to classes at the same time.”

He said the smaller East campus has a family feel among the faculty, staff and students. One of those staff members is Mandy Cox, bas ’02, director, Washburn Tech’s Advantage Center. The center offers adult education including English as a second language and preparation for the GED exam – the two Tech East programs with waiting lists during spring 2021.

“I love this work and being able to help somebody change and to watch in that excitement,” Cox said. “Just watching students come in, they usually have their head down and a lack of confidence. Then when they're done, watching them grow, that impact is something we can never take away from them.”

With dedicated faculty and staff and continued commitments from partners in the workforce, there is a strong sense of optimism at Tech East.

“The students are being successful, and that's what it's all about,” Bayens said. “When I talk to students, they tell me what they're learning on that campus is putting them on a path to a job. It's about workforce development. That's the core of the mission of Washburn Tech - to educate students so they are marketable and can compete for good-paying jobs.”

“My hope and outlook for Tech East is just to be a beacon of career technical education for East Topeka,” Havens said. “The community really enjoys having us here, and we've really enjoyed being a part of this community.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483
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