Private support helps grow new programs, attract top faculty

Jim MartinJim Martin scanned the room at Meet the Firms, an annual event introducing Washburn accounting and finance students to more than 25 companies from Topeka and surrounding cities.

One thing stood out to Martin and made him proud.

“You looked around,” said Martin, bba ’79. “Who was working the booths? It was our alumni. Half the people giving interviews were Washburn business alumni talking to the next generation of workers.”

Martin, the Snyder Distinguished Lecturer in the School of Business, aligns students with internships in more than 30 companies each year.

He helped recent graduate Alexandria Fisher, bba ’14, get an internship in the property accounting department at Westar Energy her final semester. That paid off with a full-time job with the company offer after graduation.

“I was working in a great environment and learning professional expectations,” Fisher said. “Westar really cared about helping me grow and succeed. It was nice to know I didn’t have to go somewhere like Kansas City to get experience with a major corporation.”

The relationships between Washburn and companies like Westar Energy help fill the local workforce with talented graduates who already have real-world experience. They also help Washburn shape the programs it offers.

“We work with the business community,” Martin said. “We ask them what needs aren’t being met and make the changes.”

Martin mentioned the addition of a master of accountancy, a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, and a bachelor’s degree in international business.

“People don’t realize the global nature in which we deal. Global needs require a global solution, and that’s what we’re doing with the international program,” he said.

Martin started his career as a high-ranking executive at Westar Energy and had a firm grasp on the business community when he came to Washburn in 2003.

“I spent many years in the corporate world before coming here. I tell everybody this is the greatest job you could ever have,” he said.

Private donations fund Martin’s professorship, make new programs possible and give the University the ability to hire the best faculty available.

“We’ve done a lot of growing and hiring in recent years. Professorships and other funds give us more options,” Martin said. “If we see a person we think is a perfect fit, we can afford to get them.”

Martin is one of many Washburn employees who believe so much in what they’re doing that they give back to the University.

“I’m an alumnus who came here on scholarships,” he said. “I’m paying it back. I’m blessed to have this opportunity to be a teacher and shape people.”