May 2019

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Greetings from French Administration, and congratulations on all of your hard work and accomplishments during the just-completed academic year.

As I reflect on the past 10 months, I feel energized by the progress we have made as a university to advance our priorities. I am also excited to build on our momentum as we plan for the fall.

I hope you have opportunities to recharge in the coming weeks. The beautiful weather we are enjoying statewide reminds me that May and June are 2 of the best months of the year to be living in Washington.


Onboarding our new provost

I was very pleased to announce the appointment of Mitzi Montoya as our next provost and executive vice president earlier this month. Mitzi brings a wealth of experience to WSU from the time she has spent at NC State, Arizona State, and Oregon State universities.

Although she officially begins her duties here on August 1, Mitzi is already engaging with many of our leaders system‑wide, and she will attend several WSU summer events as she transitions from OSU to WSU. We will ensure she has an opportunity to visit all of our colleges and campuses soon after she arrives in Pullman. If you would like to send Mitzi a message of welcome, please drop her an email.

I again want to express my appreciation to all the members of the search committee for a job well done in recruiting and screening provost candidates. And special kudos to Dave Cillay, vice president for academic outreach and innovation, for leading the search.


Post land-grant symposium thoughts

Our May 7 land-grant symposium with Stephen Gavazzi was a remarkable day for the University—the success of the event portends a bright future for WSU. I write those words with conviction because of the enthusiasm and energy generated by both symposium participants and attendees.

More than 550 colleagues from throughout the WSU system attended the event, which explored our land-grant mission and the ways in which we can more effectively fulfill that mission and evolve to become an even more successful modern public research university. During the 20 years I have been involved in higher education leadership, I cannot recall a similar event focused on the land-grant mission, nor one which created the level of impassioned intensity I felt from the WSU community.

I applaud and encourage that level of engagement in discussions about our mission. I look forward to building on our momentum.

In sum, May 7 was a call to action for all of us. If we are truly successful going forward, the symposium will have provided a jumpstart for more frequent dialogues about important topics such as our land-grant mission, as well as broader engagement in the development of our first truly system-wide strategic plan, which will be driven by our Drive to 25 vision. I am committed to making these opportunities for involvement across our system a regular part of how we work together as a community.

Thanks to all who provided feedback about the symposium. We received excellent insights. In the coming weeks and months, you will receive information about additional activities that will provide further opportunities for you to share thoughts that help us move toward the completion of our strategic plan.

I jotted down 6 key takeaways from the symposium. I am sure you have your own as well. I invite you to comment on my takeaways and share your own top‑of‑mind impressions by sending an email to our Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Council (SPIEC), which is comprised of senior leaders across the system. Provost Dan Bernardo and I co‑chair the group.

Key symposium takeaways

  1. WSU must be seen as a preferred problem solver for issues facing the state and the Pacific Northwest.
  2. WSU’s planning process must include continued engagement of the broad university community on a regular basis.
  3. We need to better integrate Extension specialists with the rest of the University’s faculty.
  4. Equity, inclusion, and diversity need to be foundational components of our entire strategic plan—not stand-alone initiatives.
  5. We must recognize that faculty roles continue to evolve—and our reward structure (promotion and tenure)—must evolve as well.
  6. We must define the “Cougar Experience,” those core characteristics of a WSU education that are consistent throughout our system.

In my letters to the WSU community during the summer, I will share more detailed thoughts about these takeaways, as well as more specific information about how your input will be incorporated into the next steps of our strategic plan development.

Know that we are already planning to hold the next system-wide conversation in the fall. It will be more interactive, providing increased opportunities for you to share input about the strategic plan, our land-grant mission, and the ways we can most effectively serve the state of Washington and its residents.


Finalizing the next budget

As you know, we have made remarkable progress over the past few years in improving the University’s overall financial position. As we finish up the 2018–19 fiscal year, I want to remind everyone that there are still many moving parts that will influence the finalization of the University budget for the 2019–20 fiscal year.

For example, while the legislature has finished the 2019 session, we still need to finalize and gain approval for our tuition rates for the upcoming year, finalize details on salary increases for faculty and staff, and review the year-ending fiscal status of the colleges and campuses. As such, it probably will be August before we can complete the final details of the University budget for the upcoming year. We will endeavor to keep you as informed as possible.


One of best legislative sessions

WSU enjoyed one of its best legislative sessions since prior to the Great Recession during the just-concluded session. I want to thank all of the community members who came together to advocate for University priorities.

WSU’s advocacy program is managed by the Office of External Affairs and Government Relations, which is led by Colleen Kerr, vice president for external affairs and government relations. Colleen and her colleague Chris Mulick, director of state relations, in particular deserve our thanks for a job well done. I also want to acknowledge our chancellors, several of our deans, faculty and student representatives, Regents, alumni, and others who advocated for WSU priorities.

Effective legislative advocacy is a team effort. I appreciate the all hands on deck approach that continues to serve the University well.

In a nutshell, the legislature invested $519 million in WSU for the next biennium. The allocations fall into 2 broad categories: operating funds and capital funds.

Operating budget

  • $14.4 million—Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
  • $5.353 million—Compensation and central services support (“foundation funds”)
  • $1.411 million—WSU Energy Program
  • $500,000—Soil Health Initiative
  • $383,000 (FY20); $1.06 million (FY21)—Maintenance and operations for new buildings
  • $264,000—Children’s mental health legislation
  • $173,000—Domestic violence legislation
  • $53,000—Opioid overdose medication legislation

The $14.4 million includes operating funds to completely fund the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine for 60 medical students for all 4 years and to initiate the planned expansion of our August 2019 entering class to 80 students. We appreciate the leadership of the Washington legislature in making this investment in access to health care.

The so called foundation funds are also noteworthy. They are flexible monies that can be used for a variety of purposes. We intend to use them to pay for some of our previously unfunded commitments made over the past several years. We will share a list of the commitments that will receive funding as we finalize our budget. The other items listed are specific appropriations for ongoing initiatives.

Capital budget

  • $36.4 million—Completes construction of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (WADDL) in Pullman
  • $27 million—Construction of a new academic building at WSU Tri Cities
  • $21.4 million—Minor works preservation
  • $10 million—Supports a land purchase for future growth at WSU Everett
  • $5.328 million—Minor works program
  • $500,000—Pre design of a new Biomedical and Health Sciences Building (Phase 2) at WSU Spokane

We are excited about the new facilities across the WSU system that will expand research and teaching infrastructure at many of our campuses. The proposed life sciences building at WSU Vancouver was not included in the state’s final capital budget, but it will be a WSU priority during the interim legislative session in January 2020.


A more generous state aid grant

As part of a sweeping higher education bill that will allow more Washington residents to attend college for less money, the legislature replaced the State Need Grant with the more generous Washington College Grant.

For the 2020 fiscal year, the new program will provide financial aid to an estimated 6,000 additional aid-eligible students statewide who did not previously receive State Need Grants because the program was not fully funded. The maximum Washington College Grant also will fully cover tuition and fees.

In the 2021 fiscal year, the new program will provide guaranteed funding for all eligible students. The eligibility threshold for need-based aid also will be increased to assist more middle class families.

The new program greatly enhances our ability to continue providing higher education access to deserving students. We are grateful to the legislature for its investment in the life-changing opportunities a college education offers.

It is a great time to be a Coug. I am proud of our accomplishments this year, and I am very excited about our future. As always, please send me any thoughts, questions or concerns that you have.

Go Cougs!
Kirk