Welcome Back! – A message from Chancellor Haynes

Welcome Back! – A message from Chancellor Haynes

Read WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes’ remarks from the Welcome Back Reception:

Good morning!

It’s great to welcome everyone back for a new school year! Hard to believe that it is the start of my second full academic year here at WSU Tri-Cities. I must admit that by now I know my way around town better, but the room numbering in Floyd still eludes me. At any rate, thank you all for taking a bit of time out of your day this morning to reflect back on last year and look forward to the year ahead.

Let me start by acknowledging the new members of the COUG family who have joined our campus:

  • We have several new faculty members with the College of Nursing:
    • Bevan Briggs, our new interim director
    • Mariana Neeway, clinical assistant professor
    • And 4 nursing instructors
      • Laura Follet
      • Shirley McIntosh
      • Allison Young
      • Jennifer Larson
    • Joan Giese, clinical associate professor in the Carson College of Business joins us from WSU Pullman.
    • Anna Plemons, clinical assistant professor of English also joins us from WSU Pullman
    • And, Che-Hao Yang, instructor of mechanical engineering

We have two faculty members in new roles on campus:

  • Electrical engineering Professor Mohamed Osman now serves as the interim director for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • English instructor Robin Mays will now also serve as the coordinator for the writing center

We have several new members in a variety of departments who have joined us in the last few months:

  • With finance:
    • Five Fiscal Specialists:
      • Christine Beecher
      • Erin Bush
      • Molly Levy
      • Olivia Meza
      • Kelly Unsicker
    • Loreen Olds as a procurement and supply specialist
  • With student affairs:
    • Kristine Cody, student services coordinator and advisor
  • With academic affairs:
    • Mathew Jensen, program coordinator with the exam center
    • Gloria Van Egdom, office assistant with advising
    • Elena Gambacorta, professional worker with wine science

Finally, we have a couple of new administrators:

  • Jaime Heppler joined us as our new executive director of advancement and community engagement
  • And Jon Lobdell joined us as our new executive director of K-12 programming.

Please join me in a round of applause for these new and new-ish WSU Tri-Cities COUGS.

I would also like to recognize the following faculty for their promotions:

  • Manuel Garcia-Perez, promoted to professor of biological systems engineering
  • 3 faculty from The College of Education earned Tenure and Promotion to associate professor
    • Yuliya Ardasheva
    • Yun-Ju Hsiao
    • And Sarah Newcomer
  • As did Yonas Demissie from civil engineering
  • Two faculty earned promotion to clinical associate professor:
    • Allison Matthews – psychology
    • Kate McAteer – biology
  • And two more earned promotion to senior instructor:
    • Kraig Jones – accounting
    • Lee Punch – nursing

We are happy to have you all as part of the WSU Tri-Cities team! When you see these Cougs out and about in their new roles, please extend to them a big Cougar welcome or congratulate those who have been promoted on their accomplishments. I’m excited for their leadership, direction, instruction, innovation, and discovery in their respective areas.

            And speaking of innovation and discovery, these abounded last year among our faculty. Listing all of the accomplishments of our talented community would take all day but here are some exemplars:

  • Bin Yang, associate professor of biological systems engineering, received the Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award, where he is now serving while on sabbatical in Finland – this is the highest honor in the Fulbright program.
  • Martin Klotz, professor of molecular sciences, was named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
  • Two faculty members received the WSU president’s Award— Janet Peters, assistant professor of psychology, and Katie Banks, instructor of politics, philosophy and public affairs.
  • Bob Bauman, associate professor of history and academic director for our liberal arts programming, in partnership with Robert Franklin, assistant director of the Hanford History Project, successfully released their book “Nowhere to Remember: Hanford, White Bluffs and Richland to 1943.” This book got tremendous attention, and the WSU Press said it has been one of their most successful publications to date. The book details the beginnings, development and impact that the Hanford Site has had on many areas of our community – a great read for us all.
  • Xiao Zhang, associate professor of chemical and bioengineering, developed an environmentally-friendly, plant-based material, that for the first time, works better than Styrofoam for insulation.
  • Hanwu Lei, associate professor of biological systems engineering, and his team found a way to turn daily plastic waste products into jet fuel.
  • Tom Collins, clinical assistant professor of viticulture and enology, continues to earn high regard and press for his work in examining and investigating preventative strategies for smoke taint in wine grapes.

Congratulations goes out to our amazing faculty! I am continually impressed by the caliber of our faculty and staff and the amount of work they put into ensuring our students’ success. We are a small, but mighty campus.

And these faculty and staff guided our students in accomplishing some incredible things this past year:

  • Student and ASWSUTC Vice President Savanna Kresse earned WSU’s MLK Distinguished Service Award for her commitment to educating others about human rights and social justice, and for putting her own foot forward to make a difference in her local community. As part of her work that earned her this award Savanna and her ASWSUTC colleagues were successful in partnering with the Benton County Auditor’s office to get a ballot box on campus. Students and community members now have an on-campus option to cast their vote, an important civic duty and crucial to positive change in our communities.
  • Our Patriots Club also led an impressive partnership with Bombing Range Brewing Company, where they helped produce their “GIPA” India pale ale honoring veterans and those currently serving. The launch party at Bombing Range welcomed a surprise visit by former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Students Bernie Gagnier and Zachary Hays were crucial in the success of this program, as were mentors Aaron Brumbaugh and Jana Kay Lunstad who helped set it all up.

As a system, WSU accomplished many things that put us closer to our goal of becoming a top-25 public research university last year. We broke records in enrollment with more than 31,000 students. We also had record fundraising of $145.1 million and Research & Development expenditures of $356.9 million. As a system, we did an incredible job at helping to restore our fiscal health by reducing our annual operating deficit by $22 million last fiscal year, surpassing the FY 2018 goal by $12 million. We achieved successful accreditation from The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and that accreditation was reaffirmed through 2025. State capital appropriations amounted to $113 million. President Schulz considers this level of funding a vote of confidence in WSU and the university’s state-wide mission. These funds included money for a new academic building for WSU Tri-Cities – a $27 million endeavor. Near and dear to my heart, WSU was named a “First Forward Institution” for its support and resources for first-generation students. And, Mitzi Montoya was named the provost and executive vice president for WSU, system-wide. She brings a passion, tremendous amount of leadership experience and keen vision for taking WSU to that next chapter in academics and overall excellence. We are excited to have her as part of the WSU system. Please come by to meet her a week from today – that event to be announced to you all via email soon.

Here, on campus, our accomplishments last year are pretty impressive as well here are a few examples of what we did.

Let’s start with the new WSU Tri-Cities academic building. This new facility will include an assortment of teaching laboratories, classrooms with more capacity, meeting spaces for students and faculty, and study spaces for students. The building will be utilized by nearly every student on the WSU Tri-Cities campus as it will hold the majority of our introductory science labs. This is a much-needed space, as most of our teaching laboratories on campus are either over capacity, or in need of an upgrade. We are excited to finally move forward with this new space that will benefit all. Construction expected to begin this March with work on ground preparation starting this fall.

In addition to receiving $27 million in construction funds from the Washington state Legislature for the new building, we did our part to reduce the budget deficit. We began the 2017 fiscal year at $1.2 million in the negative. In 2018, we reduced that figure to $800,000. This past fiscal year, we reduced that further to $400,000. Our target for this upcoming year is to have a balanced budget.

Through taking these mandatory reductions, it became readily apparent that we needed to change the budget process in order to make further progress in balancing the budget. First the budget needed to be more transparent and we held a series of on-campus forums regarding the campus budget to start that process.

We then gathered input on new budget requests and used your input to determine funding priorities for FY20. This was the start of an open and transparent budgeting process for the Tri-Cities campus that will continue to be refined next year. I thank you all for your participation. We learned a great deal, including the need to seek your input earlier in the academic year. By knowing what our resources and needs are, we can make better budget decisions together.

On a good budget note, even without Jaime on campus, we had a stellar year in fundraising. We raised more than $610,000 this past fiscal year.

One particular gift stands out. Lamb Weston donated $50,000 to support the WSU Tri-Cities Cougar Cupboard. The funds will be used to pay student workers for the next two years, increasing the hours of operation for the Cupboard. They also made a pledge for an additional $25,000 for a third year. In addition, they also donated an industrial freezer that, I am told, will be stocked with French fries and other goodies especially during those times where comfort food will come in handiest. The pantry is an incredible resource for our students and their families and will ensure greater student success. A huge thanks to Jordyn Creighton for her fantastic work with the Cougar Cupboard.

We ramped up our emergency and campus safety planning to ensure a safer campus community. Look for more opportunities to participate in training. And, yes, there will be unannounced drills. We all need to be prepared for campus emergencies.

But this new academic year will be an extra special one, because we are celebrating a milestone for the WSU Tri-Cities campus. This year, WSU Tri-Cities celebrates its 30th year as a WSU campus, while most of you know that our campus extends well beyond that – in fact to the 1940s where we began as the General Electric School of Nuclear Engineering.

WSU Tri-Cities was officially named a WSU Campus by the Washington state Legislature on May 10, 1989, after sharing our role in educating our local community with several other state institutions prior to that date. Think back to 1989 (if you can). That was the year the Berlin Wall came down; surgeons completed the first successful liver transplant. Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” won Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammys. To this day, that song makes its way into gifs and memes across our younger generations. Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Rain Man led the charts for highest grossing movies. Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” led in non-fiction book sales, and “The Joy Luck Club” led in fiction sales. And, in 1989, a little thing called the World Wide Web was created. We now find it almost impossible to imagine working in a world without it.

As we look back throughout the last 30 years as a campus, we have seen many changes as well. What has not changed is a passion for student success, discovery, and service to the community. Through thick and thin, we have stuck together as Cougs to make things happen, educate our future workforce, and truly make an impact on the future of our state. I am proud to be a part of the legacy of this campus, and I am even more excited for what is to come.

In the year ahead we will complete our strategic planning process. This process has taken slightly longer than I had hoped because we want to make sure we get it right. We want to make sure we have a solid foundation for this campus moving forward with what we hope to accomplish in the next five years. It is a vital component for setting our campus up for success in the coming years. And we are working with a great team, led by Sarah Tragesser and John Mancinelli, who are working diligently to meet with each campus group for their perspective on our campus trajectory. What will the strategic plan consist of? Line items will include a plan for growth and expansion, a plan for staffing and faculty needs, a plan for technology needs, a plan for research growth, and a plan for degree programs based on the information we have gathered through research and speaking to each campus department

We must continue to work toward a balanced budget and a solid reserve. Fortunately, we are down far less in enrollment than we had projected – we are down 1 percent, overall and 3.9 percent in new students. But know that that one small percentage point still hits a big punch. Recall that for every percentage drop in enrollment, we take a $100,000 hit in revenue. Official enrollment numbers will be released after the 10th day of classes. We have a talented team of recruiters, we are increasing campus advertising, both online and in the community to raise awareness of the campus, and we have a contract with a higher education marketing firm to ramp up our marketing content to attract the next classes of Tri-Cities Cougs.

As part of our budget and community engagement efforts, we are revamping our professional and continuing education training and certificate programs in partnership with the Office of Academic Outreach and Innovation. Whether it be technical training for the Hanford workforce, leadership training for executives, specific area training for our local educators, or resources for our local businesses, we are planning to develop a one-stop shop for our local Tri-Cities community. We will be starting small, offering a few courses and growing our programming from there. This is instrumental, both as a potential revenue source for us, but also in serving a need for our community. We are excited to see this program grow.

And, finally, we need to become more efficient and user friendly. I have enlisted the help of Ian Jameson, a green belt in Lean Six Sigma, to help us transform processes. There are many, many processes here that are inefficient. That is frustrating to those who need to follow them, costly, and something we can change. We need your help to do this. He will be forming Kaison groups soon!

Our partnership with PNNL will continue to grow. Next year, we will see the development of a PNNL/WSUTC STEM Education Hub. Plans are preliminary and this year we will work to create a regional STEM learning and collaboration hub that would provide transformative, immersive STEM learning experiences; ensure dedicated spaces for student and teacher research; and generate strong community collaboration among employers, educators, and community leaders. The gap that exists is beyond the classroom. We are exploring how the eastern side of the state can better provide the career-connected, experiential learning needed to change the game and meet capacity, while embracing the will of the community to get it done.

There are many more exciting things coming in this new year so that even with our budgetary challenges, it will be a great year. We must continue to band together to make this 30th anniversary of WSU Tri-Cities a positive one. It is by working together that we all win as a WSU TC community. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the road ahead alongside such a talented group of Cougs.

Go Cougs!