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Great visits in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane Counties

Yesterday was a very busy day on the road – it seems I can teach an entire minor in Washington State highways these days.  We resumed our Engagement Tour with stops in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane Counties.

For any of you who think Eastern Washington is simply made up of the desert-like terrains of Central Washington and Palouse Hills in Southeastern Washington, you should take a trip north of Spokane.  You’ll see some of the most magnificent forests and valleys imaginable.  The lumber and cattle industry in this area plays a significant role to the vitality of the area, and WSU’s extension offices provide great assistance to farmers in this region. 

We received a great briefing from Sandi Everson in Stevens County about the impact WSU Extension has had in developing many of the youth – getting them engaged and involved in activities that are healthy for their growth as well as for  their communities.  Police reports are down significantly since a new facility was built years ago, and the members of the area called it the “tipping point” for them – after the positive impact the center generated, many other aspects of the community grabbed onto that momentum and showed very tangible improvements. 

Yesterday was an extremely rewarding day and one that provided a great source of pride for me as president about the work we are doing across the state.  Cuts to higher education continue to come, but we will remain as committed to Extension as possible as we endure these difficult times.  Yesterday provided yet another illustration of the important role that higher education services play in the livelihood of our state.




Preparing for tomorrow night’s first pitch

Well, tonight I spent a great deal of time “warming up” in the bullpen at Bailey Brayton Field on campus.  Tomorrow night I’ll be throwing out the first pitch at the Tacoma Rainiers game to take part in WSU Night with the Tacoma Rainiers.  When they asked me if I’d be willing to do it, I told them they were about 20 years late in asking.  But they insisted, and since we have a full day of activities tomorrow in Tacoma — I’ll be visiting our extension station and visiting with some community leaders — I decided to give it a go.  We’ll see how this goes tomorrow night.  (I’ll actually have a better gauge on this when I wake up in the morning and see how stiff my arm and back feel after tonight.)  See all you Cougs out at the ballpark tomorrow night!




New technology helping incoming students transition

Well, you certainly wouldn’t know it was summer session by the way Lighty looks these days.  It is busy with prospective students and our Alive! counselors and members of our admissions staff, who have done a remarkable job preparing what will be the largest incoming class in WSU history. 

To help better facilitate the requirements of preparing such a robust incoming class, we have increased the use of technology throughout the process. That should make the process easier and streamline costs in the long run.  Down in the atrium by the Lighty Coffee Cart, lunch tables have been replaced by large work stations where 50 computers are set up for our incoming students to register for classes, sign up for various activities they’ll engage in and begin to take advantage of the various resources we’ll provide for them in their time at WSU.  If you are a parent of an incoming student, the Alive! Program has a concurrent program exclusively for parents, which is a tremendous opportunity for parents to learn about their student’s future at WSU and get acclimated with many transitions.

Alive! is an essential part of the transition process for our students and parents of our students, which is why we have invested so heavily in it and have made it a requirement for all students.  I look forward to seeing and meeting with many more students and parents as the summer continues – even if it means a longer line for my morning Espresso.




Feedback on schedule welcome

Pullman commencement was a great experience this past weekend and, as always, congratulations to our graduates on their tremendous achievements.

Of course, you wouldn’t know the semester was over given the vibrancy of campus the past couple days. WSU Summer Session has really developed into a popular choice for many of our students who utilize it to get an education quicker and cheaper.  Its popularity would make it hard to notice that the main academic year is, in fact, completed, were it not for the U-Hauls traveling in and out of town right now.  (For the record, those who did choose to stay have been rewarded with nicer weather, finally.)

As per some feedback I received on Saturday, we are considering making a change to the academic calendar as it pertains to Summer Session.  One of the concerns I have heard from students is the lack of a break between the spring semester and Summer Session.

Students wishing to take first session Summer Session courses must do so two days after completing the traditional academic year.  It seems like it might be a valid concern.  Would anyone like to see a one-week break between spring semester and first session to regroup?

We are also considering a shift in December commencement.  As it stands now, we have final exams for that semester the week following the December commencement ceremony.  I am considering changing that date so the completion of exams occurs the week before the ceremony instead.

Feel free to weigh in below on this blog, or in person.  I’ll be giving it some thought and would welcome feedback……




Congratulations to Michael Young

I would like to congratulate and welcome Michael Young, who was announced as the new president of the University of Washington this morning.  His appointment brings a great deal of excitement for me and my colleagues in the state.  I have worked with Michael most recently regarding the University of Utah joining the new Pac-12.  He is an innovative leader, and UW and the entire higher education community in the state look forward to having him as a colleague.  I am delighted to begin working with him on higher education matters in Washington.  It has been a special pleasure working with Interim President Phyllis Wise over the past several months.  I will miss her energy, intellect and passion.




Thoughts on Saturday’s final theatre performance

Saturday night I attended the final performance of the WSU Theatre Program – The Laramie Project.  Our students did a tremendous job, as they always have, and I am very grateful they extended an invitation for me to share the experience.  It was clearly an emotional night for all of us.  One student came to me at the end of the evening and said, “Do you feel bad about this too?”  I immediately responded, “Yes, I do as well.”

I have always maintained that it is important for WSU to have a strong Theatre and Dance Program.  It was for that precise reason I made significant investments in the program to enhance its quality upon my arrival here.  Unfortunately, too many additional resources were required in both personnel and its physical plant and I had no place to turn when our budget continued to be reduced by the state.  Eliminating Theatre and Dance was something I would have thought to been unimaginable several years ago.  Our students, faculty and staff have always worked hard and with passion.

However, higher education is currently operating in a budget crisis – there is simply no other way to put it at this point – which has forced unfair and unthinkable decisions.

Please know that I have tried to be as fair as possible in this entire process – hosting forums, responding to letters and encouraging our students to express their views.  They should do so, and as president, I should listen to them – and I promise, I did.

Those in the department always treated me with respect, and under the circumstances, I could not be more grateful for that.  I have developed many meaningful relationships through these experiences, and I thank everyone for their very thoughtful and measured discussions.  I just wish the circumstances were different.

The purpose of this blog is to help facilitate an open dialogue among current WSU students, staff, and faculty on relevant subjects relating to WSU. All are welcome to view it, but a WSU email address is necessary to register for comments.