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Celebrating accomplishments and looking to the future

The State of the University address is a long-time university tradition in which the president addresses past successes and outlines future opportunities for Washington State University. This year, President Kirk Schulz declared the address “a celebration of accomplishments [rather than] talking about some future trends which I’m sure if I predict them, will be wrong anyway.” Schulz expressed continued commitment to growing WSU as a research university and remaining a “family friendly environment.”

This celebration of accomplishments is only a small cross-section or sampling of all that WSU has done in the past year. Accomplishments accompanied future goals in Schulz’s hour-long address.

To begin, Schulz discussed the expansion of WSU’s healthcare education department. This fall, 60 students will begin their education at the new publicly funded medical school. WSU’s medical school is the second medical school in the state of Washington. These students will spend their first two years at the Spokane campus and finish their education at other WSU campuses across the state.

In keeping with WSU’s commitment to scientific advancement, Schulz outlined some of the research accomplishments of the university. In a collaborative effort between WSU and MIT, and with a $40 million research grant from the USDA, researchers produced environmentally friendly jet-fuel from by-products of forest harvesting. An Alaska Airlines flight departed from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., fueled entirely by biofuel developed in part by WSU researchers.

WSU works closely with local industry to research and create new developments. Schulz said that agriculture is an important industry in Washington, and that WSU seeks to support this industry. For example, Schulz said that the “cosmic crisp” apple, developed with support from WSU, is on course to become available to consumers by the year 2020.  “This is the fruition of lots and lots of years of research and working together,” Schulz said.

Schulz then discussed university enrollment. The 2016-2017 school year boasted record enrollment numbers. As of last fall, WSU enrollment peaked at 30,142 students. Over the past four years, applications have increased by about 50% and the average GPA is also steadily increasing.

WSU aims to be an inclusive and diverse school, Schulz said, and current enrollment numbers reflect this. One-third of incoming freshman are underrepresented minority students and 40% of students are first generation students.

Briefly discussing recent federal immigration laws, Schulz said “there [are] going to be lots of things happening over the next several months out of the federal government and we remain committed to a family friendly environment that’s diverse and supportive

of students, faculty and staff.”

WSU is spread across the state of Washington and has struggled with being Pullman-centric, Schulz said.  Schulz said that other campuses will no longer be considered “branch campuses,” as some of the campuses are large enough to be standalone universities.

Schulz also highlighted accomplishments at each campus in the past year. With much focus in science and research, WSU has also done a great deal for the enrichment of the arts through the construction of a new art museum. The goal now, Schulz said, is to find creative ways to integrate the art museum into more curriculums and education experiences.

In a recent international competition, WSU North Puget Sound at Everett’s Mars Rover Team finished second. This project allowed students from all disciplines to work together which is a key part of the educational environment. Schulz said that WSU’s team beat out competition from another research university in Washington. The competition was the “mars rover apple cup” Schulz said.

Schulz also said that WSU is making efforts to internationalize the student body by partnering with an organization that helps universities expand their international student population.

“A great faculty is also a part of a great university,” Schulz said, as he recognized the achievements of several WSU staff members. Four faculty members were elected to the Washington Academy of Sciences and may eventually become a part of the National Academy of Sciences. Schulz said that a lot of focus will go into ensuring that future faculty achievements are recognized.

Looking ahead, Schulz said WSU must acquire future funding. The new medical school requires $10.8 million to support the 60 first year medical students and this amount will be needed again for the next incoming class. As part of capital funding, $58.9 million is needed to build a plant sciences building and $38.1 million to build a diagnostic lab for veterinary medicine. According to Schulz, WSU’s philosophy to gain funding is to describe its needs, advocate for programs and provide information to allow the state legislature to figure out creative ways to make university funding goals happen.

Schulz then publicly launched The Drive to 25 at the event. The Drive to 25 is WSU’s goal to become one of the nation’s top 25 research universities by 2030.  Emphasis is placed on accelerating the development of a preeminent research portfolio as well as to offer students a transformational experience. Progress towards these goals will be measured by 11 metrics determined by the Association of American Universities, peer comparisons and a few WSU specific metrics.

To help WSU’s continuing growth, Schulz recommended that people share their suggestions, join efforts to advance the Drive to 25 and incorporate the Drive to 25 in messaging.

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