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Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 1/30/08

Imagining Tomorrow

Two of the primary responsibilities of a major public research university are to seek solutions to the pressing issues facing our society and to educate the next generation of scientists, scholars and problem-solvers.

Those missions are coming together in a particularly exciting way in the “Imagine Tomorrow” competition that Washington State University is sponsoring in high schools across the state.

The idea is to put the initiative and energy of high school students together with the resources of our university and of Washington’s business and technology leaders. The goal is to develop innovative answers to a very real dilemma – how to meet the world’s growing need for energy in a sustainable manner.

I am pleased that WSU is acting as a catalyst for this important project. I do not know if the old “ivory tower” image of academia as being disconnected from the real world was ever completely accurate. But clearly there is no room for that sort of approach today. A university – particularly a public land-grant institution such as Washington State University – must actively engage in the issues and dialogue of the day.

As a result of this competition, small teams of students in high schools around the state will be taking on various challenges that focus on technology, design, society or behavior. This is, very much, a real-world scenario. The format encourages exactly the kind of interdisciplinary research and teamwork that are becoming fundamental in universities and research centers worldwide.

In May, the teams will be on our Pullman campus and will present their ideas before a panel of judges, including WSU professors and Washington business and enterprise leaders. Winning teams will be awarded up to $5,000 for themselves and their schools. More details of the competition are available at www.imagine.wsu.edu .

I hope that our leadership in this effort will send a clear message to our state’s students. Don’t just worry about problems on the horizon. Get organized. Get involved. Make a difference.

Those students who are busy imagining tomorrow will be instrumental in making those tomorrows better for all of us.