October 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Happy Halloween week! I hope the big day conjures up as many happy memories for you as it does for me.

I clearly remember the excitement as a child of going trick‑or‑treating in our neighborhood in Virginia. There was the neighbor that always forgot about Halloween and would rummage around their house for some fruit (apples or oranges). Another set of neighbors (the ones with no children!) would give us a handful of candy. And there were the neighbors who were delighted by our homemade costumes. Recalling those days still brings a smile to my face.

Here’s a little Halloween and higher‑education humor to lighten your day:

Q: Why did the scarecrow get a promotion?

A: He was outstanding in his field!


As we continue to take the next steps in acting on our new WSU system strategic plan that I described in my September letter, I want to highlight 3 major areas of emphasis related to WSU system optimization:

Implementation of the WSU system strategic plan

We launched our System Strategy Series with an event on October 8 that was designed to spark conversations among faculty, staff, and students about potential opportunities to create additional system‑wide partnerships among campuses, colleges, and units to deliver improved health care to rural and underserved areas of Washington.

The event featured 8 presentations by faculty and staff from WSU Extension, the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine that demonstrated how the current partnerships they have created are delivering the University’s expertise to rural communities in the state.

The 2‑hour virtual session, which was attended by WSU community members statewide, was shorter in length than our previous all‑day planning sessions in order to enable more faculty and staff to participate. The event advanced Goal 3 of the strategic plan, which calls for the University to become a national leader in outreach, extension, service, and engagement while addressing quality of life issues facing Washington residents.

One of the key takeaways from the October 8 discussions is that we need to find additional ways to quickly connect faculty with similar interests who are working in and conducting research in health care delivery.

I encourage you to participate in future strategy sessions. This is an ideal way to directly influence the evolution of the WSU system.

Establishment of councils and collaboratives as structures for implementing a system approach

One of the sets of recommendations made in the recent report on WSU system‑level roles and responsibilities is to establish groups of faculty and staff to assist in the management and leadership of the WSU system. Provost Elizabeth Chilton and I are continuing to work with chancellors, deans, and vice presidents to create many of the groups recommended in the report. We are also engaged with the Faculty Senate leadership to make certain there is appropriate faculty representation. I will provide additional details in my November letter, including a link to a website with more information about the groups, their membership, meeting frequency, and decision-making authority.

Utilization of “vice president” and associated titles for WSU system‑level leadership and “chancellor” and associated titles for WSU campus‑level leadership

During the course of the academic year we will be working with the WSU Board of Regents and other leadership groups to ensure we clearly define which leadership positions have system‑level responsibilities and which positions are more campus focused. This can be especially confusing for the WSU Pullman campus, where system‑level decisions are often conflated with campus-specific decisions. I will provide additional updates as I work with University governance groups and administrative colleagues to clarify system/campus roles and responsibilities of current administrators.


With Election Day now less than a week away, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote—a process fundamental to the effective operation of a democratic society. Voting is our opportunity to have a say in the people who represent us as well as an opportunity to determine the rules that govern our day‑to‑day lives and the allocation of public funds.

No matter what you believe or whom you support, please make use of this key freedom of American life.


I do want to continue to emphasize the need to find creative ways to destress during these challenging times. In August I shared some tips about destressing our work environment, and this time I want to share some things the Schulz family is doing to destress during after work hours:

  • We are catching up on some of our favorite streaming television series. Among the current family favorites are The Right Stuff on Disney+, Lucifer on Netflix, and Shakespeare & Hathaway on Britbox. Noel enjoys Murdoch Mysteries when I am not around while I watch Grimm when I am by myself. I am sure many of you have favorite television shows you view to escape from some of the day to day stresses.
  • Noel also has started scheduling end of workday Zoom happy half hours with fun themes for some of her work colleagues and graduate students. During a recent gathering, everyone shared their favorite Star Trek series memory.
  • We do not get to see our sons in person like we normally would, so each Sunday we have an hour long personal Zoom meeting during breakfast to catch up with each other. We get to laugh, and we support each other—albeit from a distance. It is one of the highlights of our week.

I would love to hear what you are doing to stay safe and have fun during these challenging COVID times. Send me a note, and I will include the best responses in my November letter (with your permission, of course!).

Remember: wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and keep at least 6 feet apart when possible.

Stay safe, Cougs!
Kirk