Serving the state through a stronger WSU system

September 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Congratulations on finishing the first 5 weeks of the fall semester. I appreciate the excellent work all of you are doing in using technology to support our students both in and out of the classroom. As I visit with various student groups, I continue to hear positive feedback about the extra efforts each of you is making to ensure our students receive the best Cougar experience possible.

One of the key opportunities identified through our recent strategic planning efforts is to continue the development of the WSU system. During the last several years we have been evolving from a “hub‑and‑spoke” model, in which WSU Pullman is the central hub and each of the other campuses is a spoke, to a more interconnected and interdependent system of campuses across the state of Washington. For me, this is part of our ongoing efforts to better serve the needs of our state and its residents as we fulfill our land‑grant mission.

As we continue this work, I want to be clear that each of our 6 campuses brings unique attributes to Washington State University—and we should not consider any of our locations “mini Pullmans.” During my time as president I have visited and interacted with faculty, staff, and students at all of our campuses, and it has been abundantly clear that people choose their specific campus because they like the unique aspects that each brings to the system while simultaneously being part of the larger WSU family. Each community—whether a physical location or online—strongly values having a WSU campus and expects its campus will focus on helping it grow and thrive. We must continue to find ways to embrace the geographical and cultural diversity of our campuses and not attempt to make them identical.

We have taken several steps in the last 12 to 18 months to continue our evolution toward creating a more interconnected and interdependent set of campuses:

  • We commissioned a report on system‑level roles and responsibilities. This comprehensive analysis provides more than 50 recommendations to assist the maturation of the WSU system. A working group led by Chip Hunter, dean of the Carson College of Business, completed the report in May. Chip was assisted by Laura Griner‑Hill, senior vice provost; Theresa Elliot‑Cheslek, vice president and chief human resource officer; Sandra Haynes, WSU Tri‑Cities chancellor; and AG Rud, distinguished professor of cultural studies and social thought in education and past Faculty Senate chair.
  • Several recommendations in the roles and responsibilities report propose creating various groups of individuals that would assist in making system‑level decisions or recommendations. We currently have created several of these groups and are forming others as recommended. The Faculty Senate has provided suggestions for faculty representation on several of these groups to ensure system operations continue to operate in a spirit of shared governance.
  • We completed our first‑ever 5‑year WSU system strategic plan, which was approved by the WSU Board of Regents during the board’s June meeting.

There are also several other aspects of our system optimization efforts that are ongoing:

  • We have been reticent to assign designations to our 6 campuses, but it is clear that in order to have an interconnected set of unique campuses each needs a distinct designation, mission, and vision while remaining aligned with the One WSU system operating principles identified in the system five‑year strategic plan. I am suggesting that we use the following designations moving forward:
    • Online campus: Global.
      The WSU Global campus provides opportunities for students to complete a WSU degree from anywhere around the world, with no constraints on location.
    • Flagship campus: Pullman.
      The WSU Pullman campus is the largest and most established campus in the WSU system and has significant numbers of both residential undergraduate and graduate students. It is the focal point for a significant majority of research and scholarship.
    • Health Sciences campus: Spokane.
      The WSU Spokane campus is statewide in scope and is the center for education and research in nursing, medicine, and pharmacy.
    • Regional campuses: Everett, Tri‑Cities, and Vancouver.
      The WSU Tri‑Cities and WSU Vancouver campuses offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields. The WSU Everett campus emphasizes opportunities for students in the north Puget Sound area to earn a WSU bachelor’s degree with a special emphasis on industry-aligned learning and applied research.
  • We are establishing an executive budget committee, cochaired by Provost Elizabeth Chilton and Vice President for Finance and Administration Stacy Pearson. The current WSU budget is a patchwork of various financial decisions made over the last 30 years that often do not reflect current best practices. This group will be tasked with formulating an improved budgetary model for the WSU system that will seek to appropriately fund current activities as well as provide funds for new strategic initiatives.
  • We have created a WSU Pullman strategic planning group, chaired by Vice Provost Craig Parks, Student Affairs Associate Vice President Jaime Nolan, and College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Dean André Wright, that will lead development of a 5‑year strategic plan for the Pullman campus. Having a distinct set of strategic priorities for the Pullman campus will further help to identify the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the flagship campus, while also emphasizing its role in the larger 6‑campus system.
  • We also have asked each chancellor, vice chancellor, dean, and vice president to self‑identify campus-specific as well as system responsibilities. We will use this information to develop comprehensive position descriptions that clearly delineate responsibilities in both areas. It is critical to WSU’s future that we specify who has responsibilities for system leadership and campus leadership decisions.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions as we continue to reshape the WSU system to meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff, as well as the communities we serve across our state.

As we move deeper into the fall, please remember to take time for yourselves during this challenging time.

Go Cougs!