Dear Faculty and Staff:

Happy summer to all of you across our beautiful state! This is the third summer Noel and I have lived in the Palouse, and we continue to enjoy the season’s long days and cool nights—ideal weather for our favorite outdoor activities. I also enjoy the more relaxed pace in Pullman during the summer months and appreciate the opportunities to explore the local area a bit more on the weekends.


Our Board of Regents meets 5 times a year to conduct University business. These meetings typically take place over a 2‑day period. An afternoon is allotted for committee meetings, which are followed the next morning with a session during which votes are held on previously discussed agenda items.

While we have some time for robust discussion at these business meetings, there are always significant issues in higher education of importance to WSU which are not addressed due to time constraints. In order to allow more in‑depth conversations about some of these important topics, twice a year our Regents and senior leadership team participate in day‑and‑a‑half long retreats.

At our retreat held earlier this month, we discussed a wide range of issues, including progress on both the WSU 2014‑19 strategic plan and our Drive to 25 benchmarks, upcoming challenges in student health and safety, the continuing need to update our IT infrastructure, current University marketing initiatives, and the finances of the athletic department.

I want to share summaries of the discussion about 2 of these topics with you. This month, I am highlighting some of the data related to our Drive to 25 benchmarks. Next month, I’ll highlight the discussion surrounding the athletic department budget.


The Drive to 25 serves as the roadmap for WSU’s future direction. The Drive to 25 website includes descriptions of our overall goal, the key metrics used to measure progress, and draft action plans for each of the 11 metrics by which we will measure our progress. Much of the information below will also be posted to this website by the end of the summer for your reference.

First, let’s consider some significant questions.

Why is the Drive to 25 important for WSU?

There are several key reasons. First, we will elevate the stature of the University regionally and nationally. Second, we will add marketplace value to our undergraduate and graduate degrees. Third, we will attract interest from additional prospective students. Fourth, we will create new opportunities for external research funding, including enhanced public and private partnerships. Fifth—and most important—we will create richer educational experiences for our current and future students.

Where are we today in terms of our key metrics?

We are using 11 metrics to measure progress. Of the 11, 6 reflect metrics used by the Center for Measuring University Performance (CMUP) at Arizona State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst to identify the top American research universities.

  • Total research expenditures
  • Federal research expenditures
  • Annual giving
  • Number of National Academy members
  • Faculty awards
  • Doctorates granted

The graphs below show our national rank in these categories as compared to our peer public research universities as identified in WSU’s strategic plan. Additionally, the yellow-colored bar identifies the institution currently ranked 25th in each category—providing a sense of what would be required of us today to rank at this level.

Total research expenditures

WSU’s current rank: 49

Total research expenditures graph
Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

Federal research expenditures

WSU’s current rank: 60

Federal research expenditures
Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

Annual giving

WSU’s current rank: 47

Annual giving graph
Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

Number of National Academy members

WSU’s current rank: 41

National Academy membership graph
Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

Faculty awards

WSU’s current rank: 60

Faculty awards graph
Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

Doctorates granted

WSU’s current rank: 54


Click graph to enlarge | Graph description

What is our current overall ranking using these metrics?

Our current composite rank (taking the average of our ranking in each of the 6 CMUP metrics) is 52. This will serve as our baseline to measure progress as we carry out each of the Drive to 25 action plans posted on our website.

Each of the CMUP‑based metrics is largely focused on aspects of the research enterprise. It is important to note that the Drive to 25 also directs significant efforts toward improving the student experience to advance metrics such as the 6‑year graduation rate, the number of undergraduate students involved in research and scholarship activities, and the job placement rate of undergraduates after graduation.

There is much to be proud of when we examine our CMUP rankings compared to our peer institutions. In many cases, we enroll significantly fewer students and employ fewer faculty compared to our peers—which shows that WSU faculty and staff continue to outperform their peers. This point also reinforces the need and priority we have attached to increasing our number of research-active faculty.

As I mentioned, the Regents reviewed this data earlier this month. The rest of the WSU community will have ample opportunity to discuss all of our Drive to 25 metrics—and our key action steps to advance year one goals—in some detail during the fall 2018 town hall meetings when Provost Bernardo and I visit with each campus, college, and major unit across the state.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Until next month, enjoy the gorgeous summer days wherever you live and work.

Go Cougs!
Kirk