Washington’s land-grant college opened in 1892 to educate the working class and focus on agriculture. Times and the college changed, but it remains dedicated to accessible education, research, and service to the public.
Washington State University President Kirk Schulz—himself a graduate, faculty, administrator, and president of land-grant universities—has witnessed the ongoing transformation. When Schulz read the 2018 book Land-Grant Universities for the Future, by Stephen M. Gavazzi of The Ohio State University and West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee, it struck a chord. Gavazzi and Gee had interviewed land-grant leaders, and identified strengths and changing threats.
The book, and the questions it raises, led to a WSU-wide symposium in May, where several hundred members of the WSU community turned out for the conversation about WSU’s future, kicked off by Gavazzi.
Gavazzi emphasized that land-grants must remain centered on communities. They should teach those in communities who most need it, research issues of importance to them, and serve specific community needs.
But the University now faces many, sometimes competing, priorities. How does it serve both rural and urban communities? How do we keep education affordable and accessible? What part does technology play?
During the symposium, WSU faculty and staff asked tough questions and offered many examples of service to the state.
“I cannot recall a similar event focused on the land-grant mission, nor one which created the level of impassioned intensity I felt from the WSU community,” wrote Schulz.
The event spurred several thoughts for Schulz. “WSU must be seen as a preferred problem solver for issues facing the state and the Pacific Northwest,” he wrote. Schulz also identified the need for equity and inclusion, greater integration of Extension with research faculty, evolving faculty roles, and identifying a statewide educational “Cougar Experience.”
It’s more than an academic exercise. Schulz and new Provost Mitzi Montoya are leading development of the next University strategic plan that embraces the future land-grant. It’s also integrated with the Drive to 25, WSU’s effort to become one of the nation’s top 25 public research universities by 2030.
There’s homework for alumni and other members of the WSU community, as well. We want to know: How did land-grant values of service and accessibility affect your education at WSU, and your life beyond college? How can WSU better serve the public good, and specifically your community?
Tell us your answers using the form below, or contact us by snail mail or email.