Defining research, WSU innovation in new buildings, extension programs, graduate education, clinical faculty, hybrid teaching positions, faculty/staff recruitment and retention
Q: What are the parameters that define what research is? Do you have several labs? Do you have to be approved by a certain accrediting body? If a professor’s students are testing out three versions of the Mars rover, is that considered research?
Kirk Schulz: So when we talk about our percentage of undergraduate students involved in research, creative activities, and discovery, in my mind, let’s assume that we advance ahead and decide to use that as one of our metrics. Collectively, as faculty, staff, and students, we have to define what are we going to constitute as a research project. How are we going to define that, in my mind, is working on something that hasn’t got a clear solution. It’s working with a faculty mentor, it’s communicating at the end of that the result of what those people did.
Could that be a Mars rover? I think that it absolutely could be a great kind of project. It could be something with the medical school. It could be something within the communications area, a social sciences area, English. It should be the kind of thing that the guidelines we have are loose, but it should be enough that somebody walks up to any of you and says, ‘Well, I heard Washington State’s doing this.‘ Or an employer asks, ’What does it mean if somebody’s participating in one of these experiences?‘
Everybody should say, ’Okay, there’s three or four things that are going to be characteristic of any of those experiences our students have and here’s what they are.‘ So I want to be really clear that this is not completely defined, and a student doing an art exhibition or something else they did, in my mind, counts. Working on a project team counts, working with an individual faculty member should count.
But we need to go through and make sure we define that, and this is the administrator talking now. So that at the end of the day, if somebody says, ’What percentage of your students are actually doing that?‘ We say, well, somewhere between zero and 15 percent, we’re not sure. We need to be able say, this last semester, we had 1,500 students involved in these types of projects across Washington State. And each campus may decide that they want to do things a little different way. In Vancouver it’s really a key issue. It’s part of what they do there, with students having this experiential learning.
We may not be able to do the same thing here in Everett. A campus of this size, as you’re growing, you may say, ’Every student here should participate in something like this before they graduate.‘ And that’s up to you all. Dan, what do you want to add on this?
Dan Bernardo: That’s great.
KS: So thank you, excellent question.
Q: Thinking about the buildings that may be coming up, as they continue to build, one of the things we’ve been really working on here on the west side is developing a cross-laminate timber project. We collaborate a lot with Spokane. Will there be some prioritizing, trying to use some of those innovative technologies as we put forward our capital building projects, so we really are investing in what we’re doing our research on?
KS: The answer is I don’t know. I’m not demeaning the question. I’m thinking at this point in time, we have to be a little careful how we sometimes do things if we’re using state dollars. All I’m saying is, ‘Well, we’re going to use state dollars, but it’s going to be done this particular way.’ It kind of looks like I’m hiring my brother-in-law to do something. So I think we’ve got to be really careful about that. However, there are some public-private partnerships that we’ll clearly have to do to build out Washington State. And if we’re building something with private dollars, for example, we sometimes have some additional flexibility over how it’s done, what types of things we do, special materials we may want to use, and things like that.
So I do think there’s some value, if you will. We’re putting our money where our mouth is, and something that we are proclaiming is really good and innovative and creative. It does make me sad that we never use our own technologies and things that we do. I just think we have to be very deliberative about that. So, should that be part of our conversation? Particularly in a capital campaign, or a fundraising campaign, where some building projects are going be to be part of that? I don’t know what, but some will be clearly part of those objectives. I think that’s something we should keep in mind.
DB: And the current building that just opened in Pullman, you probably do know is PACCAR. The PACCAR building does have that technology feature in a portion of it.
Q: President Schultz, at your last position in Kansas State, you had a very strong extension program. I’m curious what your plans are to strengthen WSU’s extension program in Washington state?
KS: That is the provost’s job.
KS: So there’s a couple of things that I would say in general. Keep in mind I’ve been associated with Washington State formally for about four months, so I’m still learning. And I have not been to all of our extension sites at all. And that’s part of what I’m going to do this spring, as we’re allocating a couple of days where I’m going to go out, have a chance to meet you all, see where you work, and see the type of things that you’re doing. So it’s hard for me to be able to say there’s lots of things I want to do to improve, when I don’t even know everything we do yet.
That being said, there are a couple of things I think are critical. The first is extension touches a lot of the university and, no matter what people do and say, if you’re not careful, sometimes people tend to think it’s only agriculture. And so one of the things that I think is valuable—and we started doing this at my previous institution—is once a year we actually had a one- or two-page letter about the extension program to the campus faculty and staff about, ‘Here’s some of the stuff that happened in extension this year, this is a reminder. Here’s the breadth of activities that we do.‘
We did it one time like that, and we said, ‘You know what: People learn so much that we need do this on annual basis.’ Now extension clearly puts out an annual report and lots of that kind of stuff, but this was really like a ’dear colleague letter‘ that was like, ‘Hey folks, I know you know a lot of this, here’s some stuff that we’ve been working on, and here’s how we work together across campus.’ So, there’s some things like that I think we need to constantly as we get new faculty and staff and lead us to remind people the impact extension has. Right now that’s the extent of that conversation. I would say the other part is, as we talk about capital projects, extension’s easy to forget, right? We need this building on this campus, and this building on this campus. I’m well aware that we have some significant needs for enhanced facilities at different extension sites, and that’s going to be something that we’ll work on together.
Q: Along the lines of extension, I was wondering what your thoughts are in terms of how extension fits into the Drive to 25 picture? What is the role of extension? How do we contribute to that as extension?
KS: Well, I think there are several areas right away. Clearly, research and scholarship. Many, many extension faculty have a percentage of their appointment at this resource center, not everybody, but a lot do, a lot publish, and they are doing important things for building the economy, so I think there are those things right away. There are students that are involved in research projects and things in all of our extension places as well, so that’s another place that we could be really creative about these types of things.
But I want to turn around a little bit. Part of the reason we are out doing all of this is to get feedback from you, the extension professionals. So you will go back and say, ‘There are four areas I think we can contribute to,’ and I want that communication to be coming back in our direction, where people say, ‘Hey, we may not really do these areas, but I know we can do more in these particular areas and work here to help.’ And let’s make sure we are part of that conversation. I don’t have all the answers about how we are going to get to Drive to 25, right? I think you can see clearly, as an administrator, about one year ahead. The second year it’s a little fuzzy, and anybody who claims they can tell exactly where we’re going to be in three years, they’ve been in the bar for a couple of hours, right (chuckle)
And so I want your input as you hear this and think about it.
Audience member: So, should we email you?
KS: Fill out the comment card, you can email Dan and myself, go online and fill out the response form… any of those work. This is not your one opportunity to give us input. I know two months from now you’ll think ’Hey, here’s something else I didn’t think of.‘ Fire away. We both appreciate those kinds of suggestions, especially the positive suggestions. They are really nice too.
DB: Well, I really think that extension has much to contribute. If you look at the metrics we are trying to advance, we have extension faculty that mentor Ph.D. students. If you think about extramural funding, really extension is the number two college, if you will, in terms of extramural funding after the CAHNRS Ag Research Center. After the Ag Research Center, it’s extension, and then some other colleges. I made a comment—and I can make it here and I know most of you extension people—in the CAHNRS forum that I do think we need to think broader about extension. And sometimes that’s what a lot of people fear because they think of it as zero sum game or we’re going to cut out the pie. Extension is an activity that a land-grand university participates in in a variety of areas.
If you think about our medical school, it is a land-grant medical school and actually our CIO, our new chief information officer, and our med school team have been collaborating on some ideas about how to deliver medical health care to 39 counties via our local extension presence. See, we have an asset there that nobody else has, and we can deliver that asset if we improve our AMS, or video conferencing technology. Your local extension office may look a little different, in terms of the clientele— we are not going to turn it into a (health) clinic—but it could serve a very interesting purpose for addressing one of the great challenges that every county in this state faces: how to get health care to its people. I think we’re going to need to be a lot more creative together in how we use the comparative advantage.
Q: If you look at the top research universities, graduate and doctoral students are extremely important. There is a strong demand for graduate students in our satellite campuses, especially here in Everett near the big city. To attract graduate students, we need TA positions and funding. If we don’t offer that, they don’t come. Any possibility or any plan to aggressively extend graduate education?
DB: I think that challenge that you posed applies to all campuses. You’re right… I’m not so concerned about grad to undergrad ratio, it’s just overall number of graduate students, particularly doctoral students. We have a couple problems at WSU. One is the number of faculty who are engaged actively in mentoring graduate students. That percentage has to go up significantly. Now, one way to drive that up, and I’ve been pretty vocal about this in my time as provost, is our capacity. There’s a lot of capacity on the other campuses that’s not being accessed.
Now, this one’s a little bit of a challenge, but it can be conquered. In Vancouver and Tri-Cities, in particular, there’s capacity there that’s not being accessed because, to be honest with you, the departments aren’t trying to figure it out. And so, our challenge, and my challenge to every department is, if you’re going to have a faculty member, a tenure-track faculty member, out on a campus, you should be working with that faculty member and those faculty on that campus to deliver graduate education. If you do the math, that could result in a huge increase.
Now, we have people from CAHNRS here that were delivering Ph.D. programs to Mount Vernon, Wenatchee, and Prosser. I have to believe that if we can do that in Prosser, we can do it anywhere. I mean that is—I hate to say it—a little bit Third World out there, and we’re still doing it. But the reason is, there’s a commitment on the part of the college and the faculty to deliver it. They’re not doing all the courses, they’re using whatever means possible, mainly AMS, to get those courses out there.
And that’s the expectation we need to have for all of our programs. And that’s how Everett, I think, would work. You don’t have to have every course here but you have to have the commitment of your colleagues that you can get the courses here, or perhaps that there might be a year in Pullman where the Ph.D. student is doing intensive study and then they’re out here with you and getting the remainder of that coursework via AMS or whatever media.
So I think there has to be a commitment on the part of the University, and I’m committed there because I think, like you say, some of these people will actually pay to come to graduate school. Which is a novel concept, rather than us pay them. So, I agree with you 100% on that.
KS: I would say, part of the reason for this campus here is to allow, in my mind, if I look out five, 10 years, is to allow us to access the people, the companies, the high-tech industry, and for us to provide Washington state degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level to that particular area. So I’ll be extremely disappointed during my tenure as president if we don’t move to master’s and Ph.D. programs that make sense for this particular area. It’ll be a missed opportunity for us, and we don’t want to let the University of Washington have all the fun.
Q: Virginia Tech built a university center in Washington, D.C. It is not just undergraduate education, but also research with a lot of funding.
KS: That’s, in my mind, a model of how to do it. When I was an undergraduate (at Virginia Tech), everybody thought they were crazy for doing this branch campus up there. And now it’s got 4,000, 5,000 students and multiple buildings and a lot of the faculty never go back to the Blacksburg campus; they’re resident there. And you’re right. I mean it’s focused, right? They did not decide to duplicate every program in Blacksburg there, they went to what made sense for the community, which was strong electrical engineering, pure science, math, statistics, things like that that there was huge demand for and brought that brand into that marketplace. I think we can do that here. So I appreciate that.
Q: Temporary faculty members founded most of our programs this year, I believe, so my colleagues share the same feeling as me. We want to build the most visible and recognized undergraduate programs here. And then, we’d like to identify that vision for the University. So my question is, as university leader, do you have any plans to help us as clinical faculty members in career investment or with some professional development opportunities?
KS: That’s a really good question.
DB: That’s a really good question that we actually have been talking quite a bit about. And the first thing you said is technically accurate and really pains me, and I’m sure it pains you, and that is you said ‘temporary faculty.’ So to me, a clinical faculty member here, we want them here to have a career here, and it’s not a temporary position. We’re actually working right now to try to change that designation that’s in the faculty manual, which creates all kinds of interesting dynamics, but the Faculty Senate understands and wants to change that as well.
So we really want to rethink faculty ranks, and we are working right now with Faculty Senate. We don’t even know what it’s going to be called. Some people like ‘professor of practice.’ I don’t really care what it is. I just want to make sure that we have a rank for people who are primarily in our instructional space who can advance just like somebody, assistant professor or associate professor or full professor. We also need to figure out a way, obviously, to have more tenure-track faculty here. And that means we have to sort out the infrastructure issues, we have to sort out the graduate program delivery issues— but those can all be done.
I will continue to say, if we can do it in fewer hours in Mount Vernon, I know we can do it in Everett, Vancouver, or Tri-Cities. So I think that’s a great point, and we definitely are addressing that quite actively this year. The clinical and instructor ranks are really critical. They shouldn’t be regarded as sub to the tenure and tenure-track faculty. They’re parallel in importance to delivering the mission at WSU. In fact, if you look at the statistics, one can say they teach more of the courses in terms of total FTE of students than any other group of individuals at WSU. They’re absolutely critical people to us. So I appreciate you bringing it up. I’m pretty passionate about this topic.
KS: We’ve had several discussions with multiple faculty members about this, and I think Dan’s right. We’re not going to punt this down the road. We have to get this fixed in a way so that faculty that are building careers, building programs, interacting with our students don’t feel that, ‘Hey, I’m one month away from somebody giving me a pink slip, even though I’ve been doing everything I want to.’ And I don’t think anybody purposefully set it up that way, but we migrated to that and you can’t be in a faculty meeting where somebody says, ‘Well it’s been a rough kind of budget year, we can get rid of our clinical faculty.’ I mean, I’ve heard people say offhand things like that in Pullman, and I don’t think they really realize that they’re demeaning their colleagues and people who are working really hard. So Dan is very passionate about this, and we are going to get it fixed.
Q: Talking about extension and talking about branch campuses, I was wondering if you’ve ever taken a look at maybe, or would consider, doing hybrid positions. This would be an extension faculty member that was actually teaching faculty, particularly if there were like programs within a community. That’s my first question.
And my second question is about attracting, recruiting, and sustaining faculty in an urban area like this and/or Vancouver or Spokane, which costs very different money than it does in Pullman, and it’s very difficult to recruit folks. They can be successful as tenured faculty wherever and they could get paid the same amount on the east side that they could get paid here where we don’t have the salary. We have a salary difference. And I’m expecting that WSU Everett is probably going to face that same thing with recruiting and retaining quality faculty, and I’m wondering if there is any thought of, or would there be any thought of, looking at that. It’s not just faculty, it’s our staff as well. We can bring in really good staff and a nonprofit down the street can hire them away in six months with more salary because we are based on salary schedules out of Pullman. So those are two questions I have regarding extension and branching.
KS: You’re implying that something that might be good for Pullman is not good for here? I’m just trying to make sure I understand that.
I think we’ve had several conversations about what we might need to do to recognize the cost of living in different locations, and I’d be disingenuous if I thought six months from now I could say it is easily fixable. The good news is, I think we are starting to have conversations. Because think about it. It wasn’t too many years ago this was even an issue for Washington State as a whole and as we expand our presence on the west side of the state, not just here, but other places, I think this is something we are going to have to take into account. And there’s plenty of simple ways to do it that we don’t even have to go figure out, but I think the question is, do we want to do it, and we need to have further dialogue on that. So I have been in conversations about that and will continue to do that. As for split appointments, we’ve already got about 85 different faculty tracks. I can’t keep track of all of them, but there should be ways to develop hybrid appointments when it makes sense.
DB: We have done some of that with extension faculty, and I think that those of you who work in the food and ag space are going to get a really great opportunity because we have a program to deliver over here now. And we have a lot of faculty in and around the area that can make contributions, and we could put some on teaching appointments and they would be great. Several of you in the room do that type of work. We tried a little bit with different combinations in the Tri-Cities, for example. It could work. It just takes administrators and faculty who are creative and want to make it work. I think it’s another powerful way that extension can really contribute.
KS: I know we’re out of time, so thank you all for being here, and we appreciate everything that you all are doing as we build this campus up. As I interact with so many of the faculty here, you bring this great sense of enthusiasm and want to go and build something great and we really appreciate that, so Go Cougs. Thank you.