Washburn University announced today that Clark Coco will retire as dean of Washburn University Institute of Technology (Washburn Tech) at the end of June. He leaves a legacy that stems from his mantra of imagine, inspire and transform.
“Seven years ago, Dean Clark Coco imagined what technical education could become in Topeka. He inspired a group of very talented instructors and staff to create a new vision. And, as dean, he has been instrumental in transforming Washburn Tech into a premiere technical institution,” said Jerry Farley, president, Washburn University.
Enrollment at Washburn Tech has increased more than 55% under Coco’s tenure. When he arrived, Washburn Tech hosted students from 16 area high schools. Today, more than 42 area high schools send a total of 700 students to Washburn Tech for technical training.
Coco has also attracted more business partners to campus, leading to the creation of five national training centers.
“Washburn Tech is now home to five state-of-the-art labs featuring partners such as BSNF Railway, Case Construction, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Greenlee, Trane and Snap-on,” said Farley. “These efforts have evolved from Dean Coco’s relationship with National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), a network of education providers and corporations that supports, advances and validates new and emerging technology skills in the transportation, aviation and energy industry sectors.”
Under his leadership, Washburn Tech created several new career programs in direct response to community need. Those programs include Commercial Truck Driving, Cosmetology, Emergency Communications, EMT, Locomotive Diesel Technology and Phlebotomy.
Dean Coco founded National Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day in 2014, which mirrors the NCAA’s National Signing Day for athletes who commit to play sports in college. The event is designed to honor students who are entering a technical field and has now become a national event with approximately 75 colleges expected to participate in 2019.
Coco most recently set-up new virtual opportunities, offering technical courses through online and distance learning. By utilizing virtual reality and augmented reality, high school students are learning valuable technical skills without ever leaving their hometowns.
In 2015, Coco was named SkillsUSA Kansas Administrator of the Year. Under his encouragement, Washburn Tech’s participation in SkillsUSA has grown dramatically. Last year, more than 100 students competed in the state skills competitions. More than 40 students qualified to compete at the national level and earned seven medals including three gold medals. In all, seven students won medals and 22 competitors finished in the top five in 2018.
Other accomplishments include Washburn Tech East, a multi-million dollar health care simulation lab on the main campus, widespread renovation of facilities and technical education programs in the Kansas corrections system. Coco also created the Tech Town concept whereby Washburn Tech takes technical education demonstrations to area high schools. In addition, he has bolstered relationships with state and local business leaders and has had a tremendous impact on technical education throughout the region.
Washburn University plans to conduct a national search for Dean Coco’s replacement.