Summer is here! While living in the Palouse or elsewhere in the Evergreen State is certainly enjoyable throughout the entire year, summers provide wonderful opportunities for us to delight in the region’s natural beauty and participate in the outdoor opportunities the season offers us.
During my time as a young faculty member, I worked hard to build a summertime to-do list. Like many of you, my list included proposal and manuscript writing, working with graduate students in my laboratory, professional reading, early fall class preparation, and some family vacation time. Often, my list contained 6 months’ worth of activities that I attempted to fit into about 2.5 months.
Not surprisingly, at the end of the summer I often felt that I had not been productive. As I gained more experience, I still had too many to-dos as fall approached, but I learned to appreciate that having time to reflect and think at a more relaxed pace was just as important as completing my projects and tasks.
As summer weather settles in, I continue to enjoy taking early morning walks around the Pullman campus. Much to my surprise, I ran into Butch T. Cougar (BTC) on one of my recent strolls. The following conversation took place.
BTC: Good morning, Kirk! (said as Butch quickly scanned the area to make sure no one was within earshot) It is good to see you up early and exercising on this beautiful morning.
Kirk: Good Morning, Butch! (said somewhat incredulously) I didn’t think you were able to speak—what is up with that?
BTC: Well, you are the president, and it is early in the morning—just promise not to tell anyone.
Kirk: We will see about that…
BTC: You now have been with us for almost a full year. What are your impressions of the Cougar family?
Kirk: It has been an incredible year. The last 12 months were filled with remarkable achievements. We enjoyed the largest enrollment in WSU history with 30,124 students; hired 3 new vice presidents, a new chancellor, and a new dean; recruited our first class of 60 medical students for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine; played in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego; and launched the Drive to 25.
BTC: That sounds like a pretty amazing year! Is there anything in particular that continues to surprise you?
Kirk: The biggest positive surprise to me is that we are very good at so many things at WSU—we simply haven’t told the story of our successes as broadly as we could. I continue to learn about world-class accomplishments by the University community across all of our campuses—from biofuels to eradication of rabies to award-winning musical compositions. Every week I learn about something new and exciting.
BTC: There was quite a bit of fanfare when we launched the Drive to 25, but I haven’t heard much about it lately.
Kirk: We are still working hard to move this exciting initiative forward. We have identified 11 key metrics to measure our success during the next several years toward our goal of being recognized as one of the top 25 public research universities nationally by 2030. This summer, members of the President’s Cabinet will be forming action teams—one team per metric—with the goal of developing an implementation plan for each metric by December.
BTC: I might be interested in serving on one of these teams. Where do I sign up?
Kirk: The chairs will be reaching out to faculty, staff, and students during the summer to build out the rosters of the action teams. Once the teams are set, we will announce them in August on the Drive to 25 website. Each team will be tasked with the development of a 3-year implementation plan focused on ways we can advance the team’s assigned metric.
BTC: If the goal is to be top 25 by 2030, why 3-year plans?
Kirk: A shorter planning period will force us to focus our efforts and resources to make progress. Additionally, we will engage different teams of faculty, staff, and students to develop the second set of 3-year plans that follow the first 3-year plans. I believe this will not only create greater institutional focus on progress, but also compel us to continually re-evaluate what we are doing to advance each metric.
BTC: What if I don’t get selected for one of the teams? How will I be able to provide input?
Kirk: We will post draft action plans on the Drive to 25 website in the fall and ask the University community to provide constructive feedback. In short, everyone will get a chance to provide perspective and advice.
BTC: I think I have held you up from your walk long enough. And I need to get to the weight room and my workout. I have a feeling that I am going to be pretty busy once the fall semester starts!
Kirk: I appreciate the time you took to visit this morning. Are you taking any classes this summer?
BTC: Of course! I am taking some online classes from our Global Campus. I love that I can take classes anywhere or any time. Remember—don’t tell anyone about me talking to you!
Kirk: Mum’s the word. Have a fun summer!
BTC: You too!
May you be productive with your own to-do list this summer. Regardless of how busy you are, I hope that you can take some time to re-energize—fall will arrive before we know it.