An army of frogs lived in a small pond about half a mile from my childhood home, sharing the space among the cattails with turtles and red-winged blackbirds. My friend and I built a small raft and tried to catch those noisy frogs—probably Pacific chorus frogs—but they were fast. I also witnessed the full life cycle of the amphibians there, from egg to tadpole, froglet to frog.
The fond memories of that small bit of water with its abundant animals came back to the surface as I considered the breakthrough research of Washington State University scientists into devastating diseases that have killed and endangered amphibians around the world. These animals play a vital role in the food web of our environments, so it’s heartening to know that WSU researchers might break the disease cycle.
Our lives, too, revolve around recurring events, large and small. From the changing seasons to the switching of traffic signals, we move within a pattern. Here at the University, fall brings students and faculty back to campuses soon covered with colorful leaves, and the academic year begins anew. Yet, even as the months and years pass in that pattern, there’s a shared goal that transcends the cycle and informs WSU’s work.
The frogs in the pond, as generations went through their life cycles, shared a simple purpose: eat, avoid being eaten, reproduce. The University has its own higher purpose: access to excellent education, innovative research, and meaningful community outreach. Those noble goals go back to the origin of our land-grant institution and still resonate.
However, how do those goals translate into our era? How does WSU best serve the state, and beyond, as people move around, industries change, and scientific knowledge expands? It’s a question addressed by presidents throughout Washington State’s history, including our eleventh president Kirk Schulz. He and the WSU community continued that conversation in May, and now work toward a plan to honor and expand our land-grant mission into the 2020s.
Cycles can shift, hopefully for the better, as with more efficient traffic signals, improving health behaviors, or regenerating textiles from used clothes. Yet there is also a beauty in long-lasting repetition, like the flow of University life or the changes in leaves, flowers, and fruit on trees through the seasons.