WSU President Kirk Schulz (Illustration Derek Mueller)
With the Washington state legislature currently in session and wrestling with a multitude of fiscal challenges born in the aftermath of COVID-19, the University is among the dozens of state agencies making the case for funding to support priorities. It’s moments like these—when we’re asked to demonstrate how investments in the University pay off for the state—that I feel immense pride about the benefits WSU delivers to Washingtonians and people beyond our borders.
Examples of those benefits are numerous. I need only walk a block on Stadium Way from my office in the French Administration Building to see one such form of our enormous—and expanding—contributions to the state. The new four-story Plant Sciences Building provides a modern venue for faculty, staff, and students to support Washington’s $51 billion food and agriculture industry.
The $66 million cost of the facility was funded by the legislature. Dedicated in November, the building provides a massive upgrade in the quality of lab space that was built decades ago. The facility will be home to the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Biosciences, and portions of the Departments of Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Crop and Soil Sciences.
The open-concept labs will enhance the interdisciplinary efforts critical to fostering successful cutting-edge research. Our scientists will use new technologies to explore complex traits in plants, defend against parasites and diseases, and improve the nation’s cyber infrastructure, among other efforts. The knowledge gained from the research will improve hundreds of crops important to our state’s economy, including wheat, potatoes, apples, cherries, legumes, forest trees, and turfgrass.
The University’s efforts to help the state with the storage and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine are similarly noteworthy. Thanks to the ultra-cold freezers available in our Pullman research facilities, we are storing doses of the vaccine at suitable temperatures for distribution to 10 counties in eastern Washington as well as to the Colville, Kalispel, and Spokane tribes. In addition, WSU pharmacy students have been trained to administer the vaccine.
We’re exceptionally grateful to the Washington legislature and state leadership for the trust they place in the University to address some of the state’s needs. It’s a trust we intend to continue repaying many times over in the years ahead. After all, serving the state is central to our land-grant DNA. It’s a mantle of responsibility we’ve proudly worn since the University’s founding nearly 131 years ago.
President, Washington State University