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Restoring Kansas Mindset

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

I left the Kansas Department of Commerce building nearly a year ago in the first week of March, barely sneaking in under the wire before the COVID shutdown of mid-March. I, along with my good friend, Shelley Paasch, Network Kansas Manager of Rural Entrepreneurship had just presented to Kansas Secretary of Commerce, David Toland and then Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers about the benefits of a maker space in every Kansas community. (Today, David Toland is combination Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor while Lynn Rogers is Kansas Secretary of Commerce.) I always tell our story with pictures of the diverse community that uses Fab Lab, especially before the pandemic. From entrepreneurs to community members to college students to youth, they all benefit from working in the Lab and it positively affects their self-efficacy, a special form of self-confidence helping people make better decisions in their personal, professional and academic lives. Besides all of that, it’s just plain fun. 

In the middle of the presentation, in a small conference room round a table, David looked up from his notes and said “You’re changing culture.” I hadn’t really thought about it that way but “Yes, I guess that’s one way to put it.” I replied.  

Later it struck me that the pioneers who came here and founded this state had a certain mindset. They had to in order to survive and make a living in a new territory called Kansas. They persevered and figured out not only how to survive but also to prosper. At the time when everyone thought Kansas would be a slave state to “balance” the free state of Nebraska to the north, the citizens decided Kansas should be a free state. This decision did not go over well with the southern states, especially Missouri. We became “bleeding Kansas” in the 1850’s, fighting over the ideals of freedom, and had a lot to do with the precipitation of the Civil War. Kansas became a state in 1861 just a few days after eight Southern states seceded from the Union. That was our culture at the time; resilient, self-reliant and free. In the last 150 years, we’ve lost a bit of that culture and it’s time to bring it back especially now as we anticipate the end of the pandemic. My message to the Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor then as it would be today? A maker space in every community in Kansas can go a long way in changing our culture and restoring that original mindset. 

In today’s world, we talk about entrepreneurial mindset being a mindset of problem solving and opportunity, much the same as the original Kansas mindset. People came here for opportunity and there were plenty of problems to solve. We’ve found that working in a Fab Lab and developing an entrepreneurial mindset builds that self-efficacy, giving people a better ability to solve the problems in their lives. After the pandemic of the last year, we can all use a change in thinking to move forward in all aspects of our lives. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349 or by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org. 


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