Institutional support for research, the role of students in the Drive to 25, and telling the WSU story effectively

Q: How will the University support research at the institutional level? We recently got an email stating that the library system budget had been cut by more than $200,000. And in other realms, all of the faculty here can tell you about difficulties with getting timely responses from the Institutional Review Board. These are issues that are important when we’re trying to maintain and recruit top faculty at a top 25 university level. So, are there plans to address research support in the Drive to 25?

Kirk Schulz: First, this is exactly the kind of input we need to receive campuswide from you and your colleagues to be successful in the Drive to 25 initiative.

Chris Keane, the vice president for research, has done a massive amount of restructuring in trying to bring resources to bear to help faculty in all disciplines. I would encourage you to continue to visit with him in the future about the types of things you need.

Regarding the immediate library needs, I’ve heard from our faculty saying this is going to have a very serious effect on our ability to conduct research, and that for every top 25 field of research we’re going to need top 25 support resources.

To address this, we’re going to have to take a step back before we take a step forward. We’re going to have to identify the resources we need in specific areas.

Believe it or not, we’re not sitting on big bales of money in the French Administration building, but we have to have a process to address issues like this when they come up, and establish permanent resources to put toward those goals.

That being said, we’re going to have to look at the way we do budgeting institutionally.

Meanwhile, we have infrastructure needs that by comparison are going to make the library issue look small. For example, the finance system that WSU currently use was implemented in the 1970s and is woefully out of date. Fixing that is about a $25-$30 million price tag.

Dan Bernardo: The library has really done a masterful job dealing with increased costs—and please note what they are facing is increases in costs, not budget cuts. There have been dramatic increases in the cost of publications, and we don’t have a way to adequately address those costs.

I will say that in the short run we have been able to identify some one-time money to help us delay this decision by another year. So, we will take that time to make sure that we have a good process in place to make decisions on publications and subscriptions.

The answer can’t be, ‘We just need more.’

What has happened is that we have cut publications to the point that the cuts are really getting deep. Suffice it to say, we have heard that message.

 

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Q: What role will students play in the Drive to 25, besides excelling in the classroom?

KS: One of the strengths that students bring to the process is indeed that they are bright and articulate and often look at things differently than many of us veteran participants who might have become more jaded. We need your fresh, new ideas and your perspective. You don’t see all the limitations, but rather the possibilities. And, we also need the input of our alumni, who can tell us what made their experiences here great and how we can improve.

DB: The Drive to 25 is also about having a top 25 undergraduate experience. We need to define what that transformative student experience is. We need to work with you all—whether you’re a Murrow student, or an engineering student, or in Everett, or Pullman—and get your insights into what that looks like, and what makes the WSU experience truly unique.

KS: Let me add that we need you to encourage your fellow students to be engaged in this. Not just the student senate and a few student leaders, but all of you. And if they say, ‘nah, it doesn’t really matter,’ tell them, ‘yes it does, they’re inviting us and you need to give them your opinions so they can consider them.’

We need you to encourage all your colleagues to log into the Drive to 25 site (https://wsu.edu/drive-to-25) and take 10 minutes to give us your insights and opinions.

 

Q: How would you describe our current situation in terms of reaching a top 25 university position?

KS: I’m confident that when people review the information in the Drive to 25 packets they will discover a lot of accomplishments that we have already attained.

Position wise, many people already are familiar with our alumni enthusiasm, and our logo and brand, and the Go Cougs! saying. But, there are a multitude of other things I don’t think they are aware of. For example, I found out about the WSU Wine Science Center when I was preparing to be interviewed for the president’s job, and thought ‘Wow, more people ought to know about this.’

As we move ahead, I think we need to ask ourselves how are we promoting and using those areas where we are already leaders and national influencers to our advantage. For example, the upcoming introduction of the Cosmic Crisp apple: maybe we could put a WSU logo tag on each of those apples.

This is a good example of why they don’t want engineers doing marketing, but there’s a multitude of things like that where we need to learn how to creatively tell our story better.

Now, I would rather be in our current situation where we have a lot of great things happening—great research, inventions, accomplishments, education and service—but we’re not telling it very well, rather than find ourselves in the opposite circumstance where we’re attempting to tell it all too well but we really are not doing much.

So, I think we’re in an ideal situation and people are going to be amazed nationally over the next couple years as they learn more and more about the great things we are doing at WSU.

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