Opportunities and Challenges
The next President will be called upon to guide and execute several key initiatives that are in motion at Washington State University, shepherding them to success and continuing the institution’s trajectory toward greater excellence. Simultaneously, the President must also be a visionary who can identify new opportunities and lead efforts to fulfill the University’s goal of becoming one of the nation’s pre-eminent land-grant institutions. The President must be an inspirational leader who can cultivate other leaders and build a team that will work collaboratively across the University’s statewide campuses. He or she must be a vocal advocate of WSU and the myriad ways it serves the state of Washington, educating and supporting its citizens and growing the economy. The University is well positioned for the future, but the President must be prepared to understand, assess, and lead the institution as it addresses several opportunities and challenges moving forward, including:
Advancing WSU’s position as Washington state’s university and an engine of the state’s economy
The future of the state of Washington is both inextricably linked to and
dependent upon the future of Washington State University. The next president will lead system-wide efforts to create innovative partnerships, maintain and develop existing and new academic programs, and support research that meets the demands of the state’s economy and continues to ensure WSU’s place as a center of innovation, discovery, and creativity.
The President is also a public and influential leader in the state of Washington as WSU strives to support the aspirations of the state. The President is expected to work closely with policy leaders in the state legislature as well as with Washington’s congressional delegation, local government officials, and corporate and industry leaders to advance the state and the University’s interests.
The President will work with legislative and gubernatorial leadership to obtain fiscal resources while ensuring trust in WSU’s ability to educate current and future citizens and provide support for Washington’s economic and cultural well being. The President will also maintain and enhance a strong working relationship with other higher education leaders in the state and serve as a key voice on issues of importance at both the state and federal levels.
The President also will work with the university community and the state legislature to improve affordability and accessibility to higher education. He or she must understand the changing demographics of the state and the nation and evolve programs, policies, and services to support the needs of students.
Accelerating WSU’s trajectory toward national prominence as a leader in helping solve the world’s problems and creating a promising future
In recent years, WSU has made tremendous strides toward achieving national and international recognition as a research powerhouse while aspiring to the standards of excellence demonstrated by universities that are members of the American Association of Universities (AAU). The University has recruited and retained an excellent faculty, made strategic investments and difficult decisions about academic priorities, built interdisciplinary collaborations across academic units, and expanded its academic offerings statewide.
To further enhance its reputation and to accelerate its AAU aspirations, WSU must strengthen its already impressive efforts to attract and retain exceptional faculty, achieve more external recognition for its most prominent faculty, and continue improving the quality of its undergraduate, professional, and graduate programs. The recent unveiling of WSU’s Grand Challenges further refines the University’s strengths and provides five key areas for investment and focus.
Working closely with the leadership team, faculty, staff, and students, the President will need to develop specific objectives, including identification of research programs, disciplines, and a number of academic programs that can achieve national and international prominence. By setting priorities, clearly defining goals, and inspiring confidence, the President will lead the academic enterprise towards those objectives. The President will also need to ensure the commitment of the leadership team to provide the resources needed for faculty to excel in scholarship and teaching, and to make certain that WSU maintains a steady focus on providing students with a superb educational experience.
Sustaining efforts to increase access to higher education in the state, and ensuring the academic success and personal growth of WSU students
Washington State University seeks to solidify its position as the state’s university by providing improved access to higher education, particularly for first generation college students and students of color. The state of Washington is ranked among the leading exporters of college-bound students nationally, a phenomenon driven in part by perceptions/realities that students can’t access a quality college education in the state.
The WSU community consists of a bright, talented student body whose members often work side-by-side with faculty to address societal needs. The President must continue to enrich the institution’s commitment to its students, demonstrating unwavering support for their academic success, as well as their overall well-being.
The University’s leader resides on the Pullman campus, emblematic of a longstanding WSU tradition in which top administrators are accessible to students and committed to conversing with them about issues of importance.
Integrating the talents and energies of the Greek system more fully into the life of the University
Since 1906, fraternities and sororities have played an integral role at the WSU campus in Pullman, enriching campus life, hosting community service events, and raising money for local and national charities. Today, that legacy continues. Greek life has flourished during the past 10 years, and currently more than 4,000 students participate in the 50-plus Greek chapters active on campus. Fraternity and sorority members contribute more hours of community service than any other student organization, and members serve in leadership roles throughout the University. Greek membership is a contributing factor in the recruitment, retention, and graduation of WSU students.
The next president, working with Greek and community leaders, must explore opportunities to create new synergies and partnerships that will strengthen the bonds between the University and its fraternities and sororities. The leadership, talent, and community-mindedness represented by the Greek system can play a vital role in enriching the daily fabric of campus life in Pullman.
Transforming WSU into a system of campuses working together seamlessly to accomplish the University’s objectives
The Washington State University system was carefully and uniquely designed to create a single university with multiple campuses. The administrative homes of most colleges are the Pullman campus; the health sciences colleges are based at WSU Health Sciences Spokane. Faculty are distributed across all campuses and academic programs are offered at each location. With the exception of Pullman, a chancellor leads each campus.
In recent years, the newer campuses have increased enrollments and expanded program offerings. Now, WSU is considering ways to further extend the University to provide better access to higher education to the state’s citizens. The multi-campus system presents an incredible opportunity to respond to demographic and workforce changes, and the needs of nontraditional students across the state. It also presents an opportunity to apply digital technology and the resources of the Global Campus to further leverage all of WSU’s assets. However, as the campuses expand and establish specialized strengths and fulfill unique community needs, there may be a need to explore different structures and support systems. The next President, working with the Board of Regents as well as the University’s leadership team, must identify a future pathway that allows each campus to function to its maximum effectiveness while still maintaining the efficiencies of a single university.
Although WSU has grown, the systems and structures that support it have not always kept pace. The next president must ensure that the University is able to operate seamlessly, effectively, and efficiently. He or she will need to prioritize enhancements to the financial, information technology, and student information systems and infrastructure. The President must also ensure that the appropriate governance structures, policies, and processes are in place to support the system and that the campus chancellors have the resources they need to succeed.
Inspiring, leading, and instilling “Cougar pride” across the university, the state of Washington, and throughout the world
It is not enough for WSU to be great. It is equally important that state, national, and international leaders, including those in higher education, as well as the citizens of the state of Washington, understand and recognize WSU for its leadership and its contributions to society. “Cougar Pride” is a strong and palpable sentiment across the state of Washington. It extends beyond the current students, staff, and faculty to alumni, parents, members of the community, and friends of the University. It manifests itself not only at athletic events, but also in nearly every aspect of life in the state as WSU alumni and friends support each other and celebrate the University’s accomplishments.
However, beyond the state, and to some extent, the western part of the United States, awareness of WSU’s accomplishments and mission is under recognized. The next President must continue to raise public understanding of and support for the University’s contributions. The President must deliver the message that WSU provides a high-quality education, that it promotes research that contributes to making the world a better place, that it cares deeply about the future of the state and its citizens, and that it embraces partnerships with public and private entities to share its knowledge and expertise.
To accomplish this goal, the President must communicate effectively with public and civic bodies, including domestic and international business and professional leaders, the media, and opinion leaders. The President must also establish relationships with national higher education organizations, foundations, corporations, and business organizations that focus on education, and encourage members of the administration and the faculty to be active in their professional societies, on the University campuses, and in the state and nation. A tireless advocate for WSU is required to succeed in this quest.
Developing and stewarding the financial resources to fulfill WSU’s aspirations
The next President must be fiscally ingenious. Like other public universities, Washington State University has had to rely increasingly on sources of funding beyond appropriations from the state of Washington. Sources of revenue for WSU include tuition, research grants and contracts, athletics, and philanthropy. The President must ensure that these dollars continue to flow, and he or she must seek substantial efficiencies to manage, and ideally reduce, the cost of education for students while enhancing excellence in all aspects of WSU’s mission. The President must also lead efforts to carefully steward resources and create ways to invest and reinvest in the University.
Although WSU recently completed its $1 billion campaign, the next President must continue to focus on philanthropy. He or she will work closely with the Board of Regents and the WSU Foundation in the execution of future philanthropic campaigns, engaging major donors personally, creating a culture of philanthropy, and growing the development program. The President must develop plans for continued advancement for the future and ensure that WSU’s fundraising efforts are competitive with the finest development programs in the country.
Leading and managing a complex and dynamic organization
Washington State University is a large, complex land-grant institution. The University is particularly complex when compared with many other public research institutions due to the combination of multiple geographical locations and campuses, a new medical school, a research infrastructure that is heavily supported by external funding, the Global Campus, the relationship with state governmental leaders, an international presence, and the Pac-12 Conference. This requires the President to oversee an especially dynamic and multidimensional administrative structure. This responsibility includes promoting a culture of innovation, responsiveness, and accountability for the leadership team that extends to all campuses.
The President must be a visionary leader, able to inspire others, and lead with grace and humility. WSU is fortunate to have a strong and vibrant system of shared governance that includes the Board of Regents, the Faculty Senate, several associated student associations, an administrative and professional staff advisory council, and the President’s executive leadership team. The President must understand, appreciate, and know how to collaborate with these various organizations, individually and collectively, to ensure appropriate transparency and inclusion in decision making.