WSU President Kirk Schulz (Illustration Derek Mueller)
As the close of the fall semester approaches, the University continues to make a significant difference in the lives of Washingtonians and people far beyond the state’s borders—despite the continuing challenges of COVID-19, systemic racism, and state funding.
Our fall semester enrollment is one testament to the quality of education we continue to deliver. Although many universities experienced double-digit decreases in enrollment this fall, WSU’s system-wide enrollment declined less than 2 percent from a year ago. Our emphasis on access in our enrollment policies continues to yield results. Nearly one-third of the 31,159 students enrolled statewide fall semester are first-generation college students. The percentage of students of color is at an all-time high, totaling 31.5 percent of the student body.
Our faculty and staff continue to creatively deliver life-changing experiences to students in a largely online environment. Professor David Thiessen, for example, who teaches chemical engineering, set up multiple web cameras in his lab that allow students to design and conduct experiments in chemical processes remotely. Another professor, Stephen Hines, from the College of Veterinary Medicine, was awarded fourth place in an international competition for his podcast-style discussions.
Meanwhile, we continue to ramp up efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among the newest actions under way: creation of a President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a thorough review of longstanding university policies to bring about a truly inclusive environment, and a faculty cluster hire focused on “Racism and Social Equality in the Americas.” Our new provost, Elizabeth Chilton, will play a leading role in these efforts.
Our budget continues to be a challenge. As the financial impact of COVID-19 on state revenues became apparent last spring, we were asked to cut spending by about $37.5 million. We were able to meet that goal, but it required many painful decisions. Positions were eliminated, services reduced, and equipment purchases curtailed. We expect to face additional financial challenges when the legislature convenes in January.
That brings me to Washington State Magazine. WSM is the University’s flagship communication vehicle, delivering stories that demonstrate the impact of this remarkable institution on lives worldwide. Bringing this information to you in a quality manner is costly. As part of our budget trimming, we reluctantly decided to eliminate the print edition of the February magazine and will limit distribution of the May issue. This is just one instance of the distressing choices we have made in recent months.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the University. I continue to be filled with appreciation and gratitude for our entire Cougar family, which rallies in remarkable ways to overcome every challenge that comes our way.
President, Washington State University