Student success, the humanities, funding the Drive to 25, and the roles of development and other campuses
Q: In one of the slides I saw a mention of parental involvement for student success. How do you envision that?
Dan Bernardo: That is part of a grant proposal that was submitted by both CAHNRS and the College of Arts and Sciences. There is a strategy within the grant to better involve and communicate with parents to encourage student success. At other universities where they have implemented this strategy it has been quite successful in helping to retain students.
Q: Can you talk about the timeline for the search for the dean of CAHNRS?
DB: We anticipate launching that search in next few weeks, firming up a search committee and working with a search firm. It’s a very complex college, I can attest to that … it includes about 52 locations. And we’ll be providing opportunities for people both inside and outside the University to provide feedback on what we should be looking for in a dean.
Kirk Schulz: This applies to all of these position searches. We have an effective search firm and search committees, but if someone in the faculty or staff knows someone who would be a good candidate, we invite them to reach out and make a personal contact and let them know that this would be a great opportunity at WSU. It’s amazing the difference that makes.
Q: When we talk about research at WSU, it’s almost always sciences or engineering, etc. That’s great and we have a lot to be proud of. What I’m concerned about is the arts and humanities are not part of that discussion to the same degree. And my belief is that one of the primary roles of a university is to develop good citizens, as well as job applicants. And the arts and humanities play a very important role in that process. So, I’d like to know how to bring that conversation into the Drive for 25?
DB: There are a variety of ways to answer that. The first thing I would suggest is to look at the research planning effort, in which Christopher Keane (vice president for research) went to extreme lengths to engage with the arts, humanities, and social sciences during the 120-day study in 2014. The result is there are themes in our research initiatives where every humanist can definitely become engaged. And there also is a theme that is not at all related to life sciences, physical sciences, or engineering, but around diversity, inclusion, and social justice. These provide a forum in which the arts and humanities can be actively involved.
In addition, there is a pool of money from the reallocation funds that has been set strictly to support engagement from the arts, humanities and social sciences.
KS: I want us to be good in a multitude of areas, and not really focus on just specific areas. And, if you look at the areas that characterize top 25 public research universities, you’ll see expertise in areas that we already have, both disciplinary tracts and interdisciplinary.
Q: In looking at the Drive for 25, I think we’re all on board. But, how are we going to fund these efforts statewide?
KS: Ultimately, we have all these great plans but if we don’t have the resources to put behind them to hire faculty and staff, to procure resources, we’re not going to go anywhere.
We have reinstituted a budgeting planning process that many of our deans, department heads, and fiscal officers are involved and engaged in. This is not meant to be a punitive process, as much as we need to know what our academic units need and want to do and what resources need to be available. At the same time, revenues and expenses for all of our units have to match up, whether it’s athletics or anything else.
What we want to do is put some fiscal discipline in place. It doesn’t mean that we’re not willing to take risks, but we have to balance that out.
The second thing is, as we do some more initiatives, institutionally we’re looking at some exciting things involving international initiatives and enhancing international student enrollment, which means we might have to take some dollars and apply them back to some of these institutional things.
Another example is the need to do some IT infrastructure upgrades. This is not an administrative issue, this is a campus system issue.
So, I think we always have to identify what we want to do first, then get strategic about what it’s going to take to allow us to get there, then the dollars have to come. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money at something without thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish.
I don’t want to downplay the money part, because eventually we’ll have to find it. But I think it’s more important that collectively we come together and say this is a goal we want to achieve, and here are a bunch of things that are going to have to happen in order for us to get there, and then it becomes tactical as to how we’re going to generate those funds, whether it is philanthropy, internal reallocation, or increasing Washington state support. We have a lot of those options in play.
Are we in a budget crisis? Absolutely not.
Do we need to be careful about what we do as we move ahead? Yes.
We need to always ask ourselves, what are we going to do, how are we going to pay for it, how are we going to sustain it. Those sorts of things.
And, we have to be comfortable as an institution having those discussions. If we don’t know the answer to all those, it’s okay. But we can’t start 6 projects that are all going to cost a lot of money and say, ‘We don’t know where the money is going to come from, but it’s a great idea, so let’s go do it.’ That’s where we have to have some discipline.
Q: What is the expectation of development regarding the Drive to 25 campaign?
KS: As we look out ahead a year, we’ll likely have a list of things we need to do, from hiring additional faculty, to adding scholarships and constructing new buildings, etc. Of those, there are certain things that are going to fit philanthropy really well. To me, new buildings or building expansions or renovations fit philanthropy very well. Adding faculty lines probably does not fit philanthropy well, and we’ll need to find other ways of funding that. But, creating endowed chairs or professorships to enhance faculty and research might fit philanthropy.
In my mind, the role of philanthropy is to help us reach our goals on things that make the most sense for our donors and that intersect with our institutional goals. I believe we have lots of room to maneuver when you consider just facilities, endowed professorships, and scholarship support for undergraduate and graduate students. We could easily raise $2 billion dollars for those four things alone and it wouldn’t be enough to do it all.
… We have some givers—every university does—who are more obligatory: ‘I went there to school, it was a great experience, I learned a lot, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so here’s a check.’
I want passionate givers who say ‘Man, I had a great experience, but I love where the institution is going and I want to be part of it, and I want to do whatever I can to help us get there.’
I don’t think we’ve moved to that super-passionate level yet with some of our alumni and donors.
Q: What will be the roles of the regional campuses in the Drive for 25?
KS: First, terminology wise, I prefer to say that all WSU has statewide is ‘campuses.’ I don’t want us to use the terms regional or branch. I think they made sense some time ago, but folks, the Vancouver campus has about 3,600 students. That’s larger than stand-alone regional campuses in many states.
Every campus needs to contribute in its own particular way. For example, we have a variety of corporate partnerships with major and small companies. But many of those companies want to work with the campuses from which they hire graduates.
There are a number of large, Fortune 500 companies in the Portland area that might have a better relationship with our Vancouver campus than they do with Pullman. That’s not a problem, that’s a real opportunity for that company to be involved and engaged.
And, from a research standpoint, each campus has its own strengths. For example, our Tri-Cities campus is located next to a billion-dollar research laboratory. And there are unique opportunities that are going to be created through the Wine Science Center there. These are things that probably are not going to happen in Pullman because of location and research specialties.
DB: If you look and compare WSU to others peer universities in the top 25, one of the greatest challenges is our size. Think of Ohio State with nearly 65,000 students. We are 30,000-plus with all the campuses added together. It is absolutely critical that we as a system pursue this goal and everybody contribute in the way that is best for them. We will have no chance of attaining that goal as a Pullman-alone effort. It has to be systemwide.