Draft strategic plan sets WSU’s course

January 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Happy new year! I hope you had some quality time away during the holiday break and that the beginning of the semester is going well.

As we begin 2020, I cannot help but reflect on how fantastic the past decade has been from the University’s standpoint.

In 2010, WSU’s system enrollment was 25,989, research expenditures totaled $304 million, and philanthropic support amounted to $97.9 million for the prior year. The nation had just emerged from the Great Recession, which led to an unprecedented set of reductions in financial support for public higher education, including WSU.

Today, we enroll nearly 31,500 students, research expenditures surpass $365 million, and philanthropic support totaled more than $145 million last year. In the last 10 years, we have established a college of medicine, added a campus in Everett, and now enroll more than 3,000 students through our Global Campus. We have enjoyed record levels of financial support from the Washington legislature. Just recently, we re‑established a positive fiscal outlook for the University.

As we consider the future, it is important that we think carefully as a campus community about the WSU of 2030. Our future vision and direction as an institution need to be shared collectively, both within and outside the University community. We need to review our vision and direction frequently given the rapidly changing environment in which higher education exists today, and we need to be willing to adjust our plans in response to internal and external factors. As such, strategic planning for the next decade will be a more dynamic rather than static process. Constant reassessment of and revisions to our plan—and a willingness to be opportunistic—should be the norm going forward.

With this outlook in mind, we started the process of developing our first WSU system strategic plan in early 2019. For the development of the 2020–2025 plan, we knew it was going to be important to engage the University community like no time previously in our planning history. Between the land‑grant symposium in May, the visioning conference in October, and the online survey about mission/vision/values, we have directly engaged with about 2,500 members of the WSU community statewide.

Many of you have participated up to this point by expressing your views about what you feel is important about WSU. The comments we received have been brutally frank, inspirational, and heartfelt. I am heartened by the number of you who not only want to see—but are committed to helping—WSU become more than what it is today.

All of the feedback provided was reviewed and considered in the writing of the first draft of the plan, which will be available for you to review beginning on Monday, February 3. I urge you to read the plan and offer your comments and critique via an online survey that also will be available on Monday. There are several key points in the draft that I ask you in particular to carefully review:

  • Many of you let us know that the Drive to 25—our goal to be recognized as one of the top 25 public research universities by 2030—did not align with the activities and passions of some of our faculty, staff, and students. As a result, the D25 goals as described in the draft have been broadened to reflect a more inclusive range of activities.
  • Our land‑grant status is an important part of our institutional DNA—particularly the parts about affordability and access to a WSU education—and the draft plan highlights this.
  • While some of the metrics we proposed previously to measure the Drive to 25 were embraced by the campus community, many felt that other key attributes—such as social mobility—should be measured and included as an integral part of how we define our success. We accomplished that in this draft. We will continue to modify our metrics as we receive feedback about the draft plan.
  • The draft also includes a set of core governing principles that describe how we will operate WSU as a system. This is the first time these principles have been committed to writing and articulated for the broader WSU community. Because these principles will drive much of how we structure our operations for the next decade, your input about this section of the plan is vital.

No strategic plan can satisfy everyone in a community as diverse and complex as WSU. There will always be something that we need to emphasize more—or just as important, something that we need to de‑emphasize—moving forward. To ensure a dynamic planning environment, we will schedule an annual system‑wide revisioning conference to review—and to challenge as necessary—our annual operating plan. These annual meetings also will allow us to continually scan the environment in which WSU operates as a system, enabling us to keep pace with a rapidly changing external environment.

At the end of the day, the success of any plan depends on its utilization to inform area‑level planning and to tie our collective aspirations to the University budget. There is a saying that if you want to know the real priorities of an organization, follow the money. The establishment of our 2020–25 WSU strategic plan is an important first step toward revising our budget model and aligning our resources with clearly established priorities.

I remain bullish about our future as Washington’s land‑grant university. I am eager to hear your feedback as together we plan the next decade of excellence at WSU.

Go Cougs!