February 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Happy end of February! This is the time of year when I get so tired of winter that I allow myself to imagine tropical weather settling over the Palouse starting March 1. For our colleagues who are winter sports enthusiasts, the beginning of March typically signals the end of skiing and other snow sports for 6 or 7 months. Meanwhile, for me March is when I get the Airstream ready for the summer camping season—I can’t wait.


I encourage everyone to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census effort that kicks off April 1. This once-a-decade endeavor provides critical information that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support to us and our communities.

In short, billions of dollars in federal funding is routed to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data. From a university perspective, that makes it particularly important that students complete the census form and are counted based on where they are living as of April 1. It takes just 10 minutes to answer 10 questions that will shape investments in our communities for the next 10 years.


My thanks to everyone across all of our campuses who helped organize this month’s celebrations of Black History Month. This important annual event, which grew out of the vision of Harvard scholar Carter Wood in 1926, reminds us of the wide-ranging contributions of Black Americans to our country. If you weren’t able to attend any of the scheduled activities this year, I encourage you to do so next year—you will be enriched by the experience.


As you know, the current academic year has been marked by discussions focused on the development of the University’s 2020–2025 system strategic plan. We are now in the process of revising the first draft to incorporate feedback received during the comment period that just closed on Tuesday.

I know that many of you have questions about the next steps in the planning process. People are wondering about an implementation plan, the metrics that will measure our progress, the timeline for creation of the WSU Pullman strategic plan, and the process for determining how we will spell out the system responsibilities of chancellors, deans, and vice presidents as we rewrite Executive Policy 29. Here’s how I envision moving forward during the next 6 to 9 months:

WSU 2020–2025 SYSTEM STRATEGIC PLAN

Next steps in finalization and implementation

""

March

Draft plan revised to reflect additional community input

""

April

Draft revised to incorporate language clarifying roles and responsibilities of chancellors, deans, and vice presidents system wide

""

May

Revised draft plan presented to Regents for approval

""

May

Development of WSU Pullman 2020–2025 strategic plan begins

""

May & June

Provost’s office launches academic planning process with colleges

""

August

Academic leaders discuss implications of plan implementation

""

August

Development of new fiscal models to support strategic plan begins

""

September

Working group begins to modify Executive Policy 29 (defines the general academic program roles and responsibilities of University administrators) to reflect new strategic plan

""

October

Revisioning conference held to re evaluate the strategic plan and adjust objectives and strategies as needed

  • First, it is critical that we finalize and launch the WSU system strategic plan by the end of the semester in order to meet accreditation requirements. We will brief the Regents on the most current draft of the plan at their March meeting, and we expect board approval of the final version at the May meeting held during commencement weekend.
  • I have asked our chancellors, deans, and vice presidents during the month ahead to document how the implications of the plan (particularly the system operating principles) affect their areas of responsibility. As an example, one colleague mentioned that if we keep “one degree” as part of our core operating principles, we will need to make selected curriculum revisions, as the academic requirements for some programs currently vary from location to location.
  • Also in March, the working group focused on clarifying the system level roles and responsibilities of University leaders such as chancellors, deans, and vice presidents, will continue its work. Chaired by Carson College Dean Chip Hunter, the team began the effort in December. Aspects of their analysis and recommendations will be incorporated into the system strategic plan.
  • In May and June, as we finalize the system strategic plan, the Office of the Provost will begin working with the colleges to launch a collective academic planning process. We will ensure there is considerable input from and discussion with academic leadership from the campuses and the vice presidents as we proceed.
  • Beginning in May, we also will start of the process of developing a 5 year strategic plan for WSU Pullman that aligns with the system plan. Vice Provost for System Innovation and Policy Craig Parks will lead the effort.
  • Following the launch of the Workday system this summer, we then will use the finalized system plan and its operating principles to develop new fiscal models for the University. We will spend a significant time during the 2020–2021 academic year studying the implications of these new models, using the improved data and fiscal information that Workday will provide.
  • In August, we will discuss the implications of implementing the system plan with academic leadership. This discussion will help shape the agenda for our new annual system wide revisioning conference, which will be held in October.
  • Then in September, we will convene a small working group to begin the process of modifying EP 29 to reflect our system plan and the recommendations of the roles and responsibilities group. Our new provost will play a key role in the process. Tackling this critical work in the fall also will allow us time to incorporate any other issues identified by University leadership or faculty, staff, or student shared-governance groups.

There are many people who are working diligently on a multitude of planning efforts. I appreciate the passion so many of you continue to bring to helping map our future.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I am always open to hearing them. Meanwhile, I will continue to dream about warmer weather and campgrounds free of snow.

Go Cougs!
Kirk