Dear Western Community:
Welcome back to campus and to the beginning of spring quarter. I hope that you had a good spring break,whether travelling to a desirable destination or just enjoying some quiet time at home between quarters.
As we look ahead to spring quarter and the remainder of the regular academic year, I wanted to provide some updates on what remain my top priorities.
Increasing access and student success: As we continue advocating in Olympia for our legislative decisions packages to address bottlenecks in STEM courses and enhance basic services required for student success, including advising, tutoring and mental health counseling, we have been providing one-time funds to add class sections in various bottleneck areas, with the intention to provide permanent funding for hiring faculty to address those bottleneck areas. We have been increasing advising outreach efforts to improve graduation rates in several majors. We have also conducted analyses to better understand the needs of students who are both first-generation and Pell-eligible, and have identified interventions and programs that increase retention rates for students in their first two years at Western.
Complete the strategic planning process by the end of summer: By now you have received several invitations to participate in the strategic planning process through an online survey, and in-person at several focus group listening sessions. Broad community engagement is essential to creating a strategic plan that is right for Western. So is “dreaming big”: a true strategic plan needs to aspire to more than just doing what we already do,better. The Strategic Planning Committee is grateful for your input, and I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming sessions to tell them your hopes and dreams for Western.
Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion:
- Over the past several weeks, and in the weeks ahead, Western students, faculty and staff will each receive an email invitation from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) to participate in a confidential web-based survey. HERI is highly regarded in the field, and we chose to partner with them because they provide comprehensive and highly reliable surveys that will allow us to compare our results across the institution and with other universities. Please know that your responses are confidential and are submitted directly to HERI. For this reason, we hope for candid, thoughtful and broad participation that will ultimately enhance the climate at Western for everyone.
- We are finalizing description for a position to facilitate, coordinate and provide oversight to LGBTQ activities and resources for all students, faculty and staff, and we will start recruitment for a Tribal Liaison position in spring 2017.
- We are also continuing to proactively monitor and address issues of safety and a supportive educational environment for undocumented students and other vulnerable student groups.
- Last week, I shared with you a message that we—the Western community—will not tolerate acts of anti-Semitism, or any other kind of bias, bigotry, or hate on our campus.
And of course, in the background throughout the spring is the eventual outcome of the Washington State Legislative Session and what it will mean for our budget and our legislative priorities. We have now seen operating budget proposals from the Governor, the Senate and the House. More detail on the comparison of these budgets and Western`s budget request can be found here.
As you probably know, the elephant in the proverbial room is the McCleary decision requiring the state to fully fund basic education, which applies enormous pressure on non-discretionary parts of the budget, of which higher education is a part. The good news is that higher education is seen as an important part of the state`s economic vitality and development, and Western in particular is viewed with respect. But there are no easy answers for those working in Olympia, and we expect that the legislature may require one or more “special” sessions to ultimately pass a compromise budget. Until then, we are continuing to work hard in support of Western`s main budget priorities, and I would like to thank our Associated Students, as well as our faculty, staff and unions representatives for their efforts to present a united and effective case for Western in Olympia.
As we head into the end of the academic year, longer (and hopefully warmer!) days, and graduation for many, I continue to feel honored to be a part of this community. I look forward to our continuing conversations this year, and as always, please don`t hesitate to let me know what`s on your mind.