December 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

As we prepare to celebrate the holidays and close out 2020, I want to take a moment to extend my sincere appreciation to you for the conclusion of a successful fall semester. Just a year ago, I wrote to you describing the University’s recent accomplishments and the optimism I felt about 2020. How little did I—or any of us—know about the challenges awaiting in the new year.

I have been involved in higher education for nearly 30 years, and the past 9 months certainly have been the most challenging of my career as an academic leader. The combination of a global pandemic, a highly contested presidential election, an uncertain economy, acknowledgement of longtime systemic racism in our country, and the need to interact with students and colleagues through Zoom created unprecedented challenges and worries for all of us. I am sure most of us are glad to say goodbye to 2020, and look forward to a better year in 2021.

In the face of seemingly never-ending challenges during the past 12 months, our community never wavered in its commitment to carrying out our land-grant mission and serving the state’s needs. All of you demonstrated creativity, resiliency, and perseverance in ensuring Cougs got the best educational experience possible. Universities are ultimately about the people who work there. Thank you for continuing to step up to make a difference.

I consider myself an optimist—generally believing that the proverbial glass is half full and not half empty. I do believe that 2021 will bring new and unexpected challenges, but I also believe we have much to look forward to in the new year:

  • We will welcome new Cougs to all 6 of our campuses in 2021—including recent graduates from high school taking the next steps in their life journey.
  • We will welcome new Cougs from around the world who attend WSU to experience higher education in the United States.
  • We will welcome new graduate students who attend WSU to get an advanced degree.
  • We will welcome new faculty and staff system-wide who are dedicated to making a difference in our students’ lives.
  • We will graduate our first Cougs with the doctor of medicine degree. They will take their place alongside other Coug health care professionals in nursing, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and other health care-related fields.
  • We will announce scientific and scholarly discoveries by our faculty, staff, and students that promise a profound impact on people’s lives in Washington, the nation, and around the world.

In short, in 2021 we will continue to carry out WSU’s mission to the best of our abilities.

Meanwhile, I hope you will get some time away from Zoom, email, and other work-related tasks during the holiday break.

What will I be doing? I will be in the kitchen cooking, doing some star gazing, prepping our camper for the 2021 season, and learning how to shoot and edit YouTube videos.

It is an honor to serve as WSU’s president. I look forward to working together in 2021 to educate the next generation of Cougs.

Happy holidays!
Kirk