Ensuring the success of the next generation of Cougs

Dear Colleagues,

Over the course of the semester, Provost Chilton and I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many of you (virtually) at our town halls. We really appreciate the thoughtful feedback, questions, and lively discussions we have had at these events. Though these discussions are targeted for areas of interest for each of your units, we have noticed recurring questions around budget, recruitment, and retention. With this in mind, I wanted to provide a few key updates on where we are as an institution.

First, effective January 1, 2022, I will be dropping the “designate” from WSU Pullman Chancellor Chilton’s title. Chancellor Chilton will be taking on more of the operational leadership of the Pullman campus, including emergency response management in collaboration with Vice President Stacy Pearson and Associate Vice President and Executive Director of Public Safety Bill Gardner. This shift will allow me to spend more time traveling and meeting with donors and legislators to advocate for the advancement of WSU.

Second, I want to give a particular shout out to Vice President Stacy Pearson and the entire Finance and Administration team for their efforts to mitigate the effects of revenue loss from mandatory closures and our current decrease in enrollment. In her email to the University at the start of the semester, Stacy detailed the three budget principles that WSU will be committed to for FY 2022:

  • Prioritize core and mission critical activities to support high quality academic delivery and student success functions.
  • Work to sustain as many WSU jobs as possible.
  • Maintain a focus on revenue generation, including accelerating revenue enhancement opportunities in fiscally responsible ways.

Using these principles as the basis for our supplemental budget request to the state, the largest portion of our ask ($9.365 million) is for a merit-based retention and compensation increase in FY 2023. These funds would be used to ease a chronic recruitment and retention problem among the university’s faculty and staff ranks and keep pace with the rising cost of living. We also want to use this compensation increase to recognize the continued excellent work from each of you throughout the pandemic. You are ensuring the success of the next generation of Cougs.

We also requested an additional $4.5 million to support the establishment of undergraduate programs in cybersecurity—critical to the success of Washington’s workforce. These programs would be established on three of our campuses: WSU Everett, WSU Tri‑Cities, and WSU Pullman, specifically in the Voiland College of Engineering and the Carson College of Business. Additionally, we submitted a joint request in partnership with the University of Washington to develop separate one‑year residency programs to address mental and behavioral health across the state of Washington. If funded, this proposal would create a pathway to train postgraduate pharmacists in behavioral health—an opportunity that does not currently exist in Washington. Trainees from this unique program will serve as primary care providers throughout rural Washington, enhancing access to care and helping to improve health disparities. We anticipate we will have more information about all these requests in the spring of next year.

In other positive news, our fundraising efforts have been going exceedingly well. A huge congratulations to Cougar Athletics on surpassing their fundraising goals for both the Indoor Practice Facility ($27 million) and the Champion’s Complex ($12.8 million). We have also made great progress on securing private support for two new facilities for WSU: the WSU Vancouver Sciences building (which broke ground this month) and the VCEA Student Success building. It is important to remember that most of the time when donors support WSU, they specifically earmark where they want their donation to go. It is WSU’s job to steward those gifts to meet the donor’s wishes.

In the coming months, I’m looking forward to spending more time garnering support for the WSU system. In addition to traveling more, I will be working out of WSU Spokane for a portion of each month and hope to do the same at all of our campuses as we continue through our OneWSU evolution. I’ve also noticed more and more of our system leadership doing the same—which I highly encourage. Being on‑site and getting to interact with our students, faculty, and staff across the state ensures that we are continuing to meet WSU’s land-grant mission of providing education to all. I’m also excited to participate in two commencement ceremonies Saturday, December 11. One will recognize our graduates this fall, and the other is for all our students whose ceremonies were conducted virtually last year. This second ceremony is such a wonderful way to provide an in‑person congratulations to all of our Cougs across the system who persevered through the pandemic. Please email commencement@wsu.edu if you are in Pullman on the 11th and are interested in volunteering for either ceremony.

In closing, I want to wish you all well as we head into the holiday season. I hope you are able to disconnect and spend time with your loved ones.

Go Cougs!

Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University

P.S. — Congratulations to our Cougar Football team for the win on Friday! Being able to finally hoist the Apple Cup trophy was an incredible experience! I cannot wait to see what is next for this program under Coach Dickert’s leadership.