Year End Message to the Western Campus Community

Published On

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 9:11 am

June 19, 2018

To the Campus Community:

As the regular academic year comes to a close and our campus community shifts into the distinct rhythms of summer, I want to thank you for your continued commitment and contributions to advance Western. I often comment that our graduates are the most important contribution we make to society. To deliver on this promise, we just graduated almost 2,200 students during our spring Commencement ceremonies. As I participated in Commencement, I was proud of our graduates and deeply appreciative of our faculty and staff—to the faculty for providing high quality education and mentoring, and to the staff for their work and support that makes Western a great place to learn and work.

During the 2017-18 academic year, we completed the development of the strategic plan, approved by Western’s Board of Trustees in April. I would once again like to thank the members of the strategic planning committee, particularly co-chairs Paqui Paredes Mendez and Brian Burton, for leading and facilitating this effort. I would also like to thank the entire Western community for being engaged and invested in planning for our future. 

The legislative supplemental budget session resulted in positive outcomes for Western, including funding for a new undergraduate degree in Marine Sciences, for an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Development to be delivered in partnership with Olympic Community College at Western on the Peninsulas, and for a feasibility study to assess education needs on Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas to be completed by end of fall 2018.

We are just finalizing compensation plans to go into effect with the new fiscal year, which continues our commitment to work with faculty and staff to offer competitive compensation for recruiting and retaining talent, central to advancing our aspirations.

Thanks to the work of our Enrollment Management group, we met our enrollment goals for the year, including an increase in the number of students of color, and the most diverse class in Western’s history. We entered into an agreement with Study Group to assist us in increasing international student enrollment over the next several years. We now need to focus on providing the necessary resources, support and community to these students to ensure their success at Western.

We expect to complete the recruitment for the LGBTQ+ Director position within the next few weeks. The Executive Director, American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nation Relations & Tribal Liaison to the President position has been posted for recruitment; we expect to evaluate candidates and schedule on-campus interviews during fall 2018.

With input from campus, we have put together a strong set of decision packages (click here to see the full recommendations on the Budget Forum) for the 2019-21 legislative session which includes funding requests for competitive compensation, expanding capacity for pre-healthcare, a BS degree in energy science & technology, expansion of electrical engineering, support for career-connected learning, and increasing the number of teachers in Washington state, all of which focus on advancing the goals of the Washington Student Achievement Council. Moving those packages forward and seeking funding for a new interdisciplinary science building will be central to our legislative efforts in the new academic year.

Implementing the strategic plan is an ongoing process, since the University itself exists in, and must respond to, a dynamic environment every day. For example, in 2017-18 we provided funding to recruit faculty in critical areas of need and to expand the Freshmen Interest Group program. This summer we will collect data relevant to the strategic plan's metrics—and develop a website to transparently share this information. We will initiate a resource planning process in fall and I will charge a committee to assist in the development of the resource plan.

Providing a secure campus is one of the most important and basic responsibilities we have as a University. I personally heard from several student groups and from individuals at my quarterly student listening sessions that we must do more to make students feel safe on campus. I have called for a review of how cases of sexual violence and sexual misconduct have been handled in the past, with an eye towards great accountability and more serious consequences for proven violations. The Equal Opportunity Office will be hiring an additional Title IX investigator to expedite review of sexual misconduct cases.

Earlier this year, multiple incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in the Jewish Studies Collection of the Library caused great distress for our entire community. I was very proud to see so many members of our campus and Bellingham residents at the re-shelving ceremony in April, united in their opposition to all forms of hate and bigotry targeted against marginalized groups. We need to continue to emphasize that fostering a caring and supportive environment where all members are respected and treated fairly is absolutely central to our values and our practices.

We have much work to do to become the institution of our aspirations, but we are making progress. Advancing our aspirations is a journey, not always simple and straightforward. It will require resources, both human and physical. It will also require us to sustain an environment where we can have conversations on a range of topics and issues, perhaps difficult at times, and where all members of the university community have an opportunity to participate and provide input. Most importantly, this journey requires that we come together to do what is in the best long-term interests of advancing our goals and aspirations.

Thank you again for your support and partnership. I’m honored to be a part of this community.

I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable Summer!