‘Drive to 25’ to showcase WSU’s strengths

Greetings from French Administration. It has been a special treat to watch all of our students and faculty return from summer activities as we begin the fall semester. A college town reflects a new energy and vitality at the start of an academic year, so if everyday tasks around Pullman require a little longer to accomplish, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment!

In my July letter to campus, I discussed the need to have a broad ranging and measurable goal to guide WSU for the next decade. I proposed this as our overarching focus:

Washington State University will be recognized as one of the nation’s Top 25 public research universities, preeminent in research and discovery, teaching, and engagement by 2030.

I have had a variety of conversations with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and corporate partners about this goal. Additionally, I have asked our senior leadership team to assess, by administrative area, the opportunities and challenges associated with a Top 25 effort. There are several common themes that have arisen out of these conversations. I will be the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers yet, but I would like to share some key thoughts about often repeated themes I have heard:

  • WSU will provide an exceptional undergraduate student experience. A goal of a Top 25 public research university does NOT mean that the undergraduate educational experience needs to be diminished in order to enhance scholarship and research. Indeed, we want to strive to be a Top 25 university in all that we do—at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
  • Reputation is important. The WSU community has already embraced improving the institution’s reputation and has a head start in implementing and measuring effective actions to reach the goal. Enhancing our reputation has the potential to grow corporate partnerships, international collaborations, and philanthropy. Most importantly, sharpening our focus to boost WSU’s reputation can lead to better opportunities for our students—both in the workplace and in graduate school.
  • A Top 25 university has a modern and flexible infrastructure.This includes areas such as IT, financial systems, efficient laboratory spaces, institutional support of key equipment, and adequate staffing.
  • Institutional size makes a difference. Many metrics (and some national standings) can be improved simply by being larger. Together, we need to decide the appropriate size for Washington State University. As a first step, we will need to aggressively increase the number of tenure-track faculty members across many of our disciplines.
  • The Top 25 goal is a WSU system goal, not just a WSU Pullman goal. Moving forward, it is important that we continue to involve each part of the WSU system—our physical campuses, Global Campus, and WSU Extension—in the effort to achieve Top 25 status.
  • We will need to focus. It will be important for us to excel broadly and across many disciplines to achieve our goal, but the effort also may require that we stop or modify efforts we know are not working well. While these types of decisions can be difficult, I believe that with a strong commitment to shared governance we can elect to focus our resources and energy in areas where we can be most successful.
  • How do we measure our success? We need to select 8-10 metrics from those already part of the WSU Strategic Plan—metrics related to research, graduate and undergraduate students, faculty achievement, and philanthropic support—as our institutional focus for the next 4 or 5 years. We must then link these metrics with resource allocation and hold leadership accountable for progress.

As you reflect on these themes, I am sure that you will have additional input. It will be important that we engage in ongoing campus-wide discussions about the Top 25 initiative and that we establish a repository for sharing information about our “Drive to 25.”

In that vein, we will discuss the Top 25 initiative at a series of town hall meetings in September and October at each of our campuses and colleges. These meetings are open to all faculty, staff, and students, and I encourage you to attend and share your ideas. Please see the complete schedule of town hall meetings at our Drive to 25 website, which will keep you informed with regular updates about progress on this initiative.

I am excited about our future at WSU, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts as we progress through the fall semester!