April 2019

Dear Faculty and Staff:

It is hard to believe that we have little more than a week to go in the 2018‑19 academic year. While everyone is busy with teaching, research, and service responsibilities, I have found that the time between spring break and commencement also offers many events and opportunities to celebrate and recognize outstanding colleagues and students. I hope you have reserved time to participate in some of these activities as we wind down the semester.

I appreciated everyone who attended and participated in the 2019 State of the University address. This year we had more than 300 people who joined us in person and more than 400 viewers online.

I believe that the purpose of the annual SOTU address is to celebrate our achievements as a university community—we have much to be proud of across our state and beyond. We also changed up the SOTU format this year to include a fireside chat dialogue that allowed a deeper conversation about some of the system‑wide initiatives underway—including strategic planning, campus culture, Drive to 25, and internationalization—that will strengthen us as a university going forward.

If you didn’t have a chance to see the SOTU live, it is available online. It’s been viewed more than 1,100 times already. If you have comments or suggestions for future State of the University events, please send me a note with your ideas.

One of the topics I discussed with Professor Donna Paul during the dialogue portion of the SOTU address was the importance of long‑term planning. While all universities engage in such exercises, we are at a pivotal point in WSU’s history when it comes to planning compared to previous institutional efforts.

First, consider that today we have 6 campuses (Everett, Global, Pullman, Spokane, Tri‑Cities, and Vancouver), multiple degree programs in 2 other locations (Bremerton and Yakima), and 4 Research and Extension Centers (Mt. Vernon, Prosser, Puyallup, Wenatchee). In short, we have significant numbers of WSU students in 11 different geographic locations across Washington. Of course, we also have Extension offices in every county in the state and 25 Small Business Development Centers on both sides of the Cascades.

Given this reality, it is abundantly clear moving forward that we need to create a comprehensive 5‑year strategic plan that addresses the future of the entire WSU system of campuses and locations.

Second, we need to develop a separate strategic plan for the Pullman campus. WSU Everett and WSU Vancouver already have completed this step and published carefully thought‑out plans. In addition, both WSU Tri‑Cities and WSU Spokane are in the process of completing plans.

Third, many of our faculty, staff, and students have been involved in planning efforts in recent years that have thoroughly addressed a wide range of priorities: the Drive to 25, the Modernization Initiative, Campus Culture and Climate, the INTO Initiative, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Grand Challenges.

But now all of these plans need to be reflected in our system‑ and campus‑level planning efforts. To accomplish this task, we have increased the size of our existing Institutional Effectiveness Council (IEC) to broaden representation from across the system and renamed it the Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Council (SPIEC).

Provost Bernardo and I will lead this group. SPIEC is meeting on a monthly basis to begin the process of assimilating our various plans and planning efforts. Our goal is to develop strategic plans for both the WSU system and the Pullman campus that ensure a thriving future not only for the University but for our state.

So far, I have described the mechanics of the planning process. But this does not address the larger questions and key challenges facing public higher education in Washington that we must address going forward, including:

  • How is WSU evolving to meet the future needs of the state of Washington?
  • How do we balance the pursuit of an enhanced national reputation with a strong focus on serving as Washington’s land‑grant university?
  • What does the future of public higher education look like—and how can we secure WSU’s place as a leader in public university education and student success?

Campus‑wide conversations around these questions must be an integral part of our planning process. To get us started with the discussion, we have invited author Stephen Gavazzi to visit Pullman on May 7 to engage the WSU community statewide in a series of dialogues about the future of land‑grant universities. I urge you to join your colleagues and participate in several of the panel discussions during the symposium. The event is free to attend; please register by April 30.

I am excited to continue our journey of discussion, dialogue, and planning for our future. I look forward to more engagement with the WSU community during the next academic year.

Go Cougs!