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Kirk Schulz kick starts Drive to 25

Earlier this month Washington State University President Kirk Schulz hosted a town hall meeting at the WSU Vancouver campus, in which he outlined some of the goals of the university’s Drive to 25 plan. The Oct. 6 gathering was an informative session open to students and faculty that provided insight of the university’s research goals by 2030, budgeting for the years of 2015-2017, and a strategic plan to improve undergraduate experience.

The Drive to 25 is the university’s initiative to improve the statistics and ratings of the research program across all WSU campuses. One of the main goals of this campaign is to move WSU up in national research rankings. “WSU will be recognized as one of the nation’s top public universities in research and discovery by 2030,” Schulz said.

Schulz plans to pursue this goal by having all students more involved in discovery. Undergraduate and graduate students will complete research portfolios that will help them succeed. “The nation is unaware of WSU’s remarkable accomplishments,” Schulz said.

Schulz shared an example of these accomplishments with the multidisciplinary research project for storm water runoff. WSU Vancouver is a leading campus for water resource research in the Pacific Northwest, and is one of the top universities in the world for tackling storm water runoff.

During the town hall Schulz also introduced the budget criteria for all campuses. To stay up to date with his vision for WSU, Schulz said that he would be back to Vancouver every fall to discuss the university’s goals and budget.

In 2015, the university as a whole received $167 million dollars in donations from private donors. The donations have been allocated to fund new buildings and expand the campuses.

Some of the federal funding for the university research comes from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department Health and Human Services. Forty percent of the overall budget is composed of fees and tuition to operate the university. “We are a tuition-dependent institution,” Schulz said.

A slideshow accompanying Schulz’s remarks provided a more in depth look at historical WSU budget trends and how the current budget fits within the budget history. Schulz said he hopes to “make the budget more transparent,” and plans to hold town hall meetings annually to ensure that WSU students university wide are kept informed.

The Drive to 25 also encompasses the student research experience at WSU. Schultz said there are five main areas of research that undergraduate programs are projected to focus on. The goals include sustaining health, resources, opportunity and equality in research, smart systems and projects that help address national security.

Schulz said he hopes the Drive to 25 makes the experience from student to student at WSU a positive one that encourages everyone to commit and be involved in activities.

Schulz closed the meeting by taking questions from WSU Vancouver students, staff and faculty in attendance, such as what the university is “doing to increase public funding.” Schulz said that University leadership has asked the state legislature to increase public funding. However, Schulz acknowledged that any such request would need to be both politically and economically reasonable. This year $11 million in public funding went towards the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine that will have its first class of students in the summer of 2017.

When asked by The VanCougar whether a growing $13 million athletics deficit will be made up by student fees, and if such fees would impact WSU Vancouver, Schulz gave a careful response.

He said that he would like to see the current university budget deficit gap close in a few years. If students were required to pay a special fee, it would help pay for only $2 million of the deficit.

Undergrads in Pullman would vote up or down on the proposal, which is currently under review by administrators and generating debate among students.

Schulz said that part of the cause of this deficit is due to the fact that “the university [has] the smallest budget in the Pac-12.”  The Pac-12 is a collegiate athletic conference comprised of schools in the Western states.

He was also asked what the university is doing to help support marginalized students. Schulz maintained that the university provides a transformative experience for all students. “WSU continues to build communication, support and a safe atmosphere for all of our diverse students,” Schulz said.

For more information on the Drive to 25, visit: https://wsu.edu/drive-to-25.

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