Thanks—and some initial impressions

Greetings to the WSU family! Through the transition period, I am spending part of my time in Kansas and part in Washington. I look forward to being in the state full-time in mid-June.

Let me begin by thanking all of the faculty, staff, students, community members, and elected officials who came out to greet Noel and me during our campus visits in Pullman, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Vancouver, and Everett. It was inspiring to see the honor and joy that everyone takes in being part of Washington State University—regardless of their location within the state.

Some early reflections from our nearly week-long introduction to the campuses—

  • There is a great deal of institutional pride in what Washington State is doing: by faculty, staff, and students in each of our five campus communities; by elected officials and community members; and by members of the media. I have heard from many of you over the last month describing how much you like working at Washington State and sharing some of the opportunities we have in the coming years.
  • I see a significant opportunity to strengthen our partnerships with business and industry throughout the state of Washington and Pacific Northwest to build upon the Washington State University brand. In my conversations this past month with some of our current partners, it is clear that they value WSU graduates and have echoed a consistent message: they want more of them!
  • The state of Washington has invested significant resources in striving to ensure an affordable and accessible educational experience for our students. However, as we look towards the future, private philanthropy must play a larger role in helping to meet and achieve WSU aspirations.
  • Each of our 5 campus locations is unique and plays a vital role in our ability to deliver a great educational experience throughout the state of Washington. As a campus community, we need to continue looking for ways to enhance the entire WSU brand, while also encouraging each of our campuses to grow and thrive in their respective communities.
  • There is a great deal of pride around Cougar Athletics, which for many people around the nation is their first introduction to WSU. It will be important to continue to build our athletic programs in a financially sustainable way in order to compete for Pac-12 championships while ensuring our student-athletes graduate and represent the Cougar nation well on and off the field.

As with any major university, during a presidential transition there are often delays in filling senior leadership positions until the new president has been identified. I want to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on filling our interim leadership positions at WSU in a timely manner.

First, I believe that it is important to conduct comprehensive, national searches to fill university leadership positions. While we will consider outstanding internal candidates in the selection process, we will also provide opportunities for interested external candidates. We will appropriately vet all candidates. Second, the best way to get great candidates to consider leadership opportunities is when a long-term colleague reaches out to them and suggests they consider a position. As we conduct several leadership searches over the next several months, please use your networks to encourage outstanding candidates to seek opportunities at Washington State.

With this in mind, we will be restarting the search for the vice president for Finance and Administration. I will also work with Dan Bernardo to assemble a search committee to begin the search for a permanent vice president for Student Affairs. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Finally, I appreciate all of the great suggestions on camping spots—it will take us at least a decade to hit all of the great recommendations!

As I get to know our campuses more fully, I will certainly have more thoughts and reflections in the coming months, which I will share in my monthly campus updates.