Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. – 9/17/08
The jobs of a modern research university are many and varied. But it all starts with students.
The news in that regard is excellent for Washington State University this fall. Enrollment is up on all of our campuses and is at record levels university-wide. Our Pullman campus welcomed its largest and most academically qualified freshman class in its history. WSU is becoming the university of choice for a diverse group of students from around our region.
When I took over as president in May 2007, I knew that the university needed to establish a pattern of steady enrollment growth. Fortunately, we had already made strides in that direction. We were well on our way to attracting what was then the largest freshman class in Pullman history for fall 2007. And the Legislature had empowered us to serve more students from across our state by establishing four-year programs at WSU Vancouver (starting in fall 2006) and WSU Tri-Cities (beginning in the fall of 2007.)
For years, Washington has depended on importing college graduates, who are attracted by good jobs and the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. As one such “import,” I certainly understand the attraction. But it also is vital for the long-term health of our state’s economy to produce more of our own graduates. Our enrollment growth responds to that need.
Our responsibility goes beyond simply identifying and recruiting students. Universities also must reach out into the community with a message of inclusiveness. Students, especially those who hope to be the first members of their families to attend college, need to be inspired and informed early on, so they can take the classes they need to prepare themselves to succeed in college. John Fraire, our vice president for enrollment management, has made outreach a major part of his job and we should see the results of that in the years ahead.
I know that many of you reading this column have played a role in our communication with future students, whether freshmen, transfer students or graduate and professional students. Thank you to all of our faculty and staff who have interacted with our prospective students, helping them see that Washington State University offers the world-class academic programs and campus life experiences that meet their needs.
In the end, our success will be determined not just by how many students we bring in, but by how many earn degrees and how those graduates transform the world in which they will live.
Based on the students I see on our campuses every day, and on my knowledge of the faculty and staff who work here, I am confident of our ability to be judged by those high standards.