Many reasons for optimism despite challenges

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Greetings as we close out January and the first weeks of spring semester. It is great to see all of our students, faculty, and staff back at all 6 campuses. Noel and I enjoyed some down time with both of our sons and daughter-in-law over the holiday break. I trust that everyone was able to take some time for reflection and rest.

Being around and interacting with our students is always exhilarating and makes me tremendously proud—the future is bright for so many of members of the Cougar family. It is for those reasons that I grieve for Tyler Hilinski and for all the Cougars we have lost recently. It is devastating, whenever we lose one of our students, to experience a bright light being extinguished way too soon.

Going forward, I encourage you to continue leaning on each other as our community heals. Take time for yourself when stress levels rise. Talk to family and friends about life’s challenges. And please remember that a variety of helpful resources are available at all of our campuses.

The last few weeks have also been marked by several notable accomplishments across the WSU system. Among the achievements I am eager to celebrate with you:

The hiring of 3 new members of our senior leadership team

In December, we welcomed Sandra Haynes as our new chancellor of the Tri-Cities campus. Sandra comes to WSU from Metropolitan State University in Denver, where she served as deputy provost and vice president of academic affairs and a professor in the Department of Human Services. She officially starts her duties in late February.

Two weeks ago, we welcomed André-Denis Girard Wright as our new dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. André joins us from the University of Arizona, where he served as director of the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences and professor of animal sciences. His start date is June 1.

Finally, this past week, we welcomed Patrick Chun as our new director of athletics. Pat comes to Washington State from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton where he served as AD for the past 5.5 years. Pat’s official first day on the job is February 5, but as you may know, he already has visited many Cougar fans on both sides of the Cascades—with many more visits planned.

Please join me in welcoming these very talented, passionate leaders to the Cougar Nation.

Great news from Olympia regarding the capital budget

We received wonderful news from Olympia this month when the Washington legislature approved $113.9 million in capital project funds for the WSU system.

The allocation will fund construction of a new plant sciences building and phase II construction of the Global Animal Health Building on the Pullman campus. It also includes funds for facility preservation and maintenance, the planning of new academic buildings at our Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses, and the establishment of the Joint Research Center for Deployment and Research in Earth Abundant Materials, to be jointly managed by WSU, PNNL, and the University of Washington. The center will accelerate the development of next-generation clean energy and transportation technologies in Washington.

I especially want to thank Colleen Kerr, vice president for government relations and external affairs, and Chris Mulick, director of legislative affairs, for their dedicated efforts to partner with our elected officials to make these projects a reality. At a time when many states are cutting back support for public higher education, it is inspiring to see our state continue to invest in the future.

Implementation of faculty and staff salary increases

Faculty, administrative professional staff, and graduate assistants should have received the first of two planned 1% across-the-board salary increases during the most recent pay cycle. In addition, the annual leave accrual rate for eligible faculty and AP was increased from 14.67 to 16.67 hours per month, effective September 1. I appreciate all of the excellent work done by our faculty and staff, and increasing salaries to more competitive levels will be one of the priorities as the Drive to 25 advances.

Improved internal communications

When I came to WSU about 18 months ago, I pledged to keep communication lines open and to do all that we could to ensure timely communications from the senior administration to rest of the university community. One part of this effort involved the development of a centralized portal with news and useful information about all things WSU: details about upcoming speakers, training opportunities, and musical performances, for example, and stories about the achievements of our faculty, staff, and students.

This semester, Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications, and his team debuted WSU Insider to accomplish these objectives. I hope that you will take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to browse Insider. We also want your feedback about what you like and don’t like about the site’s content. Please email your thoughts to Phil.

Good luck as the semester unfolds. My State of the University address is scheduled for March 27, and I look forward to celebrating all of the tremendous accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni with you at that time.

Go Cougs!