Reflections on our accomplishments to date

Dear Faculty and Staff:

I hope all of you enjoyed some well-deserved time off over the Thanksgiving break. I had the opportunity to represent the University at several Apple Cup events in Seattle last weekend, including at a WSU Alumni Association event Friday evening. More than 300 enthusiastic alumni and friends turned out to hear about some of our university-wide successes this academic year and to cheer on the Cougar football team before we took on the University of Washington in the Apple Cup game Saturday evening.

Each year, UW President Ana Mari Cauce and I agree to a friendly wager involving the outcome of the game. If WSU wins, President Cauce sends me chocolate. If the Huskies win, I send her Cougar Gold cheese.

While the result of the game was not what we hoped for (I am already packing up the Cougar Gold cheese), the Apple Cup is a great time to remind Cougars and Huskies alike about all that Washington State University and the University of Washington do to advance our state and region. Put simply, we partner to produce a talented workforce, perform cutting-edge research, and develop bipartisan policies to address key state issues, often utilizing the resources of the jointly managed WSU/UW William D. Ruckelshaus Center.

As I enjoyed eating Thanksgiving turkey with my family, I reflected on the recent amazing accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff. These successes are a great reminder of the significant work that all of you are doing to ensure our students have a transformational experience at WSU. Among our accomplishments since August:

Student success

  • Undergraduate student Margaux McBirney was first author on a paper published in the journal PloS One that has been viewed online more than 6,000 times since its publication in September. Margaux’s research in the laboratory of professor Michael Skinner determined the epigenetic effects of atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the agricultural industry. An Honors College student, Margaux is majoring in genetics and cell biology and minoring in French.
  • Carson College students Emelia StephanJohn Rouse,Gunnar Zielinski, and David Yingling teamed up to win the San Diego State University International Business Case Competition. The team was coached by clinical associate professor Kal Joshi.
  • Women’s soccer posted a 10-8-4 record and reached the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time in school history.
  • 12 members of the men’s and women’s cross-country teamsreceived Pac-12 All-Academic honors. Honorees for football, volleyball, and soccer will be announced soon.
  • A student team consisting of Tucker Jones, David Chun, Frederick Stidhams, Kelli Young, Collin Schweikl, and faculty coach David Gunderson won the Design-Build Institute of America’s 2017 national student competition.
  • The American Advertising Federation selected Murrow College of Communication student Jacqueline Quiroz for its 2018 Most Promising Multicultural Student program. Jacqueline will be honored with other 2018 class members at the Building Bridges for Our Future Awards Luncheon in New York City.
  • 3 of the 4 prestigious Goldwater Scholarships awarded in 2017 to students in the state of Washington were earned by WSU undergraduate students: Julianna Brutman, mentored by Jon Davis (CVM); Keesha Matz, mentored by Hector Aguilar-CarrenoAlan Goodman, and Troy Bankhead (CVM); and Amelia Brown, mentored by Scott Beckman and Kshitij Jerath (Voiland College). This is the fourth year in a row that 3 Cougs have won Goldwaters.

Faculty highlights

  • A research team that included Allan Pessier, a clinical associate professor of pathology in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, received a prestigious 2017 Golden Goose Award for its role in identifying the fungus responsible for the severe decline of amphibian species worldwide. Allen’s award, The Silence of the Frogs, was for the discovery and description of the role of this amphibian fungus at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
  • Principal Investigators Francene WatsonRenee Holt, and Tariq Akmal from the College of Education were awarded $210,000 for the first year of the Ti’tooqan Cuukweneewit AlterNATIVE Route to prepare 15 teacher candidates and build capacity and sustainability for preparing Indigenous teachers. This innovative project will build a regional teaching certification program on the Pullman campus using Indigenous education models of teaching and learning to prepare Indigenous teachers. The project consortium includes WSU’s teacher preparation program; the Spokane, Kalispel, and Nez Perce Tribes; district partners; and the NorthEast Washington Education Service District 101.
  • Marc Kramer, assistant professor in the School of the Environment, has found that when a technique involving the rotational grazing of cattle is used, the soil begins to stash away carbon—and it quickly starts to resemble native forest soils prior to heavy land development.
  • Greg Yasinitsky, Regents professor and director of the WSU School of Music, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Music for his composition Jazz Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Winners will be announced in April.


  • The Spark building—which provides state-of-the-art technology to implement innovative teaching and learning practices that will increase student success—opened on the Pullman campus.
  • The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation donated $1 million to our viticulture and enology program. Half of the gift will support construction of a teaching lab at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities. The remainder will fund a five-year stream of scholarships for V&E students.
  • The Board of Regents approved moving forward with the design phase for 2 major state-funded buildings on the Pullman campus: Phase II of the Global Animal Health Building and the Plant Sciences Building. Construction will begin after the designs are completed and the state distributes capital funds.
  • Construction of the first student housing at WSU Tri-Cities is scheduled to begin this month.

Institutional accomplishments

  • Student Affairs leaders system-wide are partnering to expand efforts to address sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. WSU has received major grants from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women to support the effort. Among the areas of focus: improving coordination of awareness and prevention programs, increasing services to students who are traditionally underserved, and developing training for students who are studying to be nurses, doctors, and pharmacists.
  • The College of Nursing recently completed a year-long, collaborative process across all campuses to develop a new strategic plan. It calls for creating a respectful, ethical workplace; nurturing educational innovation; strengthening our alliances within communities and across professions; and increasing research activities and support.
  • We introduced WSU Insider, our daily internal news and information website for faculty and staff. Currently in beta form, the website keeps you up-to-date on happenings and achievements from across the WSU system. Check out the Insider and let us know what you think.
  • The Amazon Catalyst program was launched, which will provide opportunities and mentorship to support bold, impactful, and disruptive projects proposed by students, faculty, and staff system-wide.
  • The WSU Libraries continue to foster collaboration across all of our programs in order to better serve our students, faculty, and residents of the state. The Libraries recently expanded its collaboration with the Writing Program, now offering even more hours of tutoring services near the reference desk in Holland & Terrell Library.
  • The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine has secured $9.8 million in new total research grant and contract awards to date in FY 18, a nearly $2.6 million (36%) increase from all of FY 17.
  • The Office of International Programs has enjoyed remarkable success in its mission to help WSU achieve diversity and global impact in both education and research. A successful launch of the WSU-INTO partnership resulted in an additional 160 new students for the fall semester, raising the international student body to a total of 2,260 students. In addition, the number of domestic students participating in WSU-sponsored international experiences rose to more than 800.
  • The University has made outstanding progress in theassessment of student learning, thanks to the efforts of faculty and program leaders. Program assessment reports completed for 63 degrees with over 90 majors and 80 minors in 2017 revealed that nearly all undergraduate degree programs (98%) reported making decisions in each of the past 3 years based on assessment results. This reflects a dramatic improvement in assessment outcomes observed during the completion of our last accreditation cycle 7 years ago.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected WSU Everett for a national project designed to drive organizational transformation and postsecondary success.
  • Information Technology Services completed the migration of all centrally managed email accounts to the Office 365 Cloud. This enables our faculty, staff, and students to access their accounts from anywhere at any time from any device, securely. This transition also has made available the use of OneDrive, file storage that is accessible from any device. The overall storage limits have been significantly increased—to 50 gigabytes. This project helped the University avoid at minimum a $500,000 investment in computer hardware and software.
  • Alexandra Navrotsky, Edmund and Beatriz Schweitzer, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories made transformational gifts to the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture that will empower new discoveries.
  • The University, along with the City of Everett and Snohomish County, won a 2017 VISION 2040 Award from the Puget Sound Regional Council for creation of WSU Everett. The award program recognizes innovative projects and programs that help ensure a sustainable future as the region grows.
  • WSU, University of Idaho, Montana State University, and University of Montana recently were awarded grants totaling $400,000 to host the 2019 Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) National Forum May 20–22 in Coeur d’Alene. AGEP leaders and researchers will gather to share best practices in increasing STEM diversity. The Graduate School represents WSU as part of an 8-institution alliance awarded $2.4 million in 2014 by the National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate-Transformation (NSF AGEP-T) program for a project aimed at increasing the participation of Native Americans and Alaska Natives in STEM graduate programs.
  • WSU Pullman students led 2 multicultural student recruitment conferences (Shaping High School Asian Pacific Islanders for the Next Generation and Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education) held on campus during the fall. The conferences attracted nearly 300 high school seniors and juniors, 67 of whom were admitted to WSU. The Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students conference will be held on campus in February.
  • The Office of the President, Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration, and Office of Research partnered to sponsor a Safety Fair and Recognition event in November. The event recognized 23 individuals and groups for their outstanding contributions to enhancing the safety of the WSU community system-wide.

There are many more accomplishments that I could have listed. I am proud of the successes of our faculty, staff, and students—and look forward to continued successes in 2018.

Good luck to everyone as we finish up the semester.

Go Cougs!