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Washington State University

Office of the PResident

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 12/12/07 

Excellence Across the University

During public forums, I am frequently asked about my vision and plans for Washington State University. In response, I usually cite the continued development of several programs that are excellent now and are poised for even greater things.

Of course, any such answer can provide only a brief account of our university’s assets. A comprehensive public research institution with four campuses, extension offices in each of Washington’s counties, more than 24,000 students, 2,300 faculty members and nearly 6,000 employees does not lend itself to a simple description.

I have been reminded of the breadth of our university’s strengths by some recent recognition that our colleagues have received.

In October, the American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded the distinction of fellow to four Washington State University professors -- Timothy A. Kohler, regents professor of anthropology, professors of veterinary medicine Wendy Brown and David Prieur and WSU Tri-Cities professor of physics and materials science Lai-Sheng Wang.

AAAS fellowships have been awarded since 1874 to members “whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.”

It is worth noting that the new fellows represent three different colleges – Veterinary Medicine, Sciences and Liberal Arts – and bring WSU’s total of emeritus and current faculty members in the society to 23 from colleges across the university.

Similarly, in the recently released Faculty Productivity Analytic Index, WSU faculty members placed among the most productive in the nation, ranking in the top 10 in almost every agriculture-related discipline. Also earning Top 10 rankings in that survey were faculty members in veterinary medical sciences, in zoology and in American studies. Again, it shows the broad reach of outstanding programs across the university.

That range of faculty excellence is critical to our aspirations. Our world-class faculty members are the cornerstones of our efforts to enhance graduate and undergraduate education. They raise our university’s academic reputation. They attract research grants. They earn recognition from leading academic societies.

As Washington State University continues to build its portfolio for membership in the Association of American Universities, all these factors will come into play.

While I often point to the budgetary and strategic problems that result when an institution tries to be all things to all people, neither do I see a day when Washington State University will be narrowly focused on just a few areas.

There is a balance to be struck here. As we have been reminded again in recent months, we are a comprehensive university with many diverse areas of strength. How effectively we recognize and build on those strengths will determine our success in achieving our goals.