Skip to body


2017 State of the University Address


Download the PDF of President Gaudino's speech.

Full text of the speech:

State of the University – President James L. Gaudino, February 16, 2017

The State of the University Address is typically a celebratory occasion—at least for
me—because it provides an opportunity to review the previous year and to outline
goals for the next twelve months.

Even though I have many successes to report to you today, this event feels different
than it has in the past. Perhaps it is because I am addressing you at a time of political
turmoil and hyper-partisanship that is unprecedented in my lifetime.

The acerbic and conflicting rhetoric makes it hard to know what the facts are from
day to day—and sometimes even from hour to hour.

I was disappointed and discouraged by the cacophony of civil discourse that seemed
to divide, confuse, and alienate. The sum of it left me feeling anxious about our
present and our future.

What buoyed me was, and continues to be, all of you, and this place. Here, I see an
unwavering commitment to students and a deep passion for learning.

Here, I see colleagues who do not judge people by the origin of their birth, the tone of
their skin, their sexual orientation, or any factors other than their character and their
desire to learn. Every day I witness the dedication to offer a learning environment
enriched by diverse experiences, abilities, and cultures.

Together, we renew our pledge and our promise to protect the freedom and security of
all of our students and employees.

Together, we will continue to be a welcoming community that places the highest value
on inclusiveness, free speech, and the exploration of ideas, identities, and cultures.

The volume of the public exclamations over the past year has sometimes made me
wonder if I still had a voice. You remind me that I do. We have all have voices. When
combined, and when coupled with our actions, we can make a difference. Nowhere
do our actions and words have more power than in our academic and student support
programs. I am proud of the learning environment we offer to our students. It’s better
than any university in our region. We are, simply put, the “Best in the West.” Our
collective commitment to student achievement is palpable. It’s why our students
come—and it’s why they stay.

Recently, external organizations, such as Forbes and The Economist magazines have
agreed. They have given Central well-earned recognition for excellence.

Central’s welcoming environment and commitment to student success attracts a
remarkable faculty, staff, and administrative team to CWU.

In 2016, we welcomed just under 200 new faculty and staff to Central. They
came not just for a job, but for an opportunity to improve the lives of our students.
To each of our newcomers, I offer my welcome, and my thanks for joining the Wildcat

One of those new arrivals is Central’s Provost, Dr. Katherine Frank. She has wasted no
time in identifying ways to bring faculty, staff and students together to make our “Best
in the West” learning environment even better.

The most ambitious and critical project is taking a fresh look at what makes our
general education and baccalaureate experiences distinctive. The team she has formed
is asking important and complex questions that will guide our learning environment
for years to come. The project is moving forward under the day-to-day leadership of
Associate Provost Bernadette Jungblut, Dean Stacey Robertson, and Professors Lena
Petersen and Eric Cheney. They are collaborating closely with our faculty senate chair,
Sathy Rajendran.

Please take the opportunity to participate in this important project. You can
contribute ideas through surveys, focus groups, and open forums.

Provost Frank is also working closely with our Chief Financial Officer, Joel Klucking,
to complete the transition to a new way of making decisions and managing resources.

Vice President Klucking’s fresh ideas and practical work style has produced much needed
financial stability for Central, even as other universities across the nation continue to struggle. Joel’s steady hand, guided by our trustees, gives me confidence in
the financial health of Central Washington University.

For example:

• We ended the 2016 Fiscal Year with budget surpluses. They were small, but they
were positive.

• We are holding administrative budgets flat, so we’re able to drive more resources to
academic activities.

• We ended the practice of “sweeping,” or placing unspent revenue into a central
account. Our colleges now operate on what is budgeted—and keep what they save.

• We are forecasting salary and wage enhancements in the coming years.

• The legislature is now considering contracts with our classified staff that, when
ratified, will include multiple years of wage increases.

• This month, we begin bargaining with our faculty union with the same expectation.
It is my intent to extend the increases to non-represented employees as well.

• In 2016, Moody’s provided an objective evaluation of our fiscal strength. They
reaffirmed an A-1 rating, which is effectively the highest rating a comprehensive
university can achieve—and a very strong indicator of our financial health.

Even though we have achieved a level of stability, I remain concerned about the
future. The window through which I view our external environment prevents me from
taking our current success for granted. From my viewpoint, the near future may not be
kind to public higher education.

Of course, the future has always presented opportunities and challenges. What will
be different is the speed and the breadth of change. I believe the next ten years will
require that we be increasingly flexible, innovative, and entrepreneurial.

To continue to be successful, we must bring committed, experienced, intelligent
people together to identify and solve problems and to take advantage of opportunities.

We need a more decentralized culture that promotes participation and gives voice
to people and ideas. That is especially true at Central, a place rich with talent and
strengthened by our mission and a shared commitment to student achievement.

We also need a budgeting model that aligns with this decentralized method of
decision-making. That is what we are building. It will take time to fully implement the
changes, and there will be differences in how they manifest across the five divisions
of the university. We should expect, even applaud, differences within a complex
organization. What is key, however, is that we all strive toward the same goal, which is
to empower and to unleash the full capability of Central.

I know that some of you feel uncomfortable, even frightened, by changes of this
magnitude. Rest assured that many people have worked hard to develop data sets
and algorithms, policies and procedures to guide the changes.

The provost and CFO have had public meetings and countless training sessions.
The feedback you have provided has been important and has influenced the new
approaches. I believe that we are ready for the “training wheels” to come off in July,
and I am confident that we can ride without them.

As I have previously reported, the current biennial state budget provided Central
with more than $140 million dollars for construction and renovation of our facilities.
That’s a lot of money for a university our size, and it has definitely taxed our facilities
and capital planning staff. However, they are getting it done with the excellence we
have come to expect from them.

I extend my congratulations and appreciation to the entire division.

Our former interim Vice President of Operations, Gene Shoda, did an outstanding
job of juggling projects, priorities, and people. Our current interim vice president,
Kurtis Lohide, took the baton from Gene without missing a step. Next month we will
greet a new and permanent Vice President for Operations, Dr. Joseph Han. He will tell
you that it was the energy and the welcoming spirit of this campus that influenced his
decision to come here from Cleveland State University.

We cut the ribbon on a remarkable new physics and geological sciences facility last
summer. The faculty, administrators, staff, and contractors who brought Science II to
life should be proud of their efforts. If you have not yet walked through the building,
please take time to do so. In addition to viewing a beautiful, state-of-the-art science
building, you’ll see our faculty, staff, and students engaged in the activities that make
us the best undergraduate experience in the West.

The infusion of funding is also reshaping one of our oldest and most iconic structures,
the Samuelson  Student Union Building. The new ironwork is now visible and
produces a skeletal outline of a modern, computational science center that will house
the departments of Math, Computer Science, and Information Technology and
Administrative Management.

Those three programs are critical to the success of Washington’s economy and to the
careers of many of our students.

Our good fortune in construction funding is allowing us to reinvent the southern half of campus. Between now and July, we will move 175 people among five locations: Lind, Bouillon, Mitchell, Hertz, and Hebeler halls. Bill Yarwood says it’s like three dimensional chess with 175 pieces. His staff calls it Movezilla.

Lind emptied when Geology and Physics moved to Science II. Crews are now renovating that space so that ROTC programs and the Department of Communication can move in over the summer. The move of our Comm. Department from Bouillon makes possible the realization of a long-desired center for student services. When completed later this year, it will give our students as close to a “one-stop-shop,” as we can provide. Right now, students have to go to four buildings to conduct basic business: to register, pay bills, get help with financial aid, get a Connection Card, and so on. Soon, services provided by the registrar, admissions, financial aid, student accounts, and advising, will be located in one building—

Bouillon. Not all those student-service units can fit in the space left behind by the
Communication faculty. Teamwork and a commitment to student success brought
people together to address the opportunity. As a result of that collaboration,
Enrollment Management agreed to move from Mitchell to Hebeler; and Human
Resources will move into the space they left behind in Mitchell. Together, these
moves free up enough space in Bouillon to create the student services center.

One more project is underway: after nearly 40 years we will reopen the steam plant
on University Way, the building we affectionately call Old Heat. When renovated,
Old Heat will be our Welcome Center, greeting visitors and prospective students
and providing office space for Housing and visitation staff. Our architectural staff is
doing everything possible to preserve the historic character of the building, including
leaving the industrial tile and some of the original equipment in place. I’ve seen the
drawings. It’s going to be a great facility.

So, you get the picture…and the reason for the name, Movezilla.

Given all of these successes, it should surprise no one that 2016 brought to
Central a record freshman class. Two thousand first-time college students arrived in
Ellensburg in September. Transfer student enrollment was also healthy, giving us a
total enrollment of about 12,000 students, an increase of almost 25 percent in the
past decade.

Reaching that milestone required coordinated efforts by every single one of us. Our
public affairs staff, under the leadership of Vice President Linda Schactler, tilled the
ground with a variety of new and award-winning marketing materials. Our recruiters,
led by Matt Cziske, left no stone unturned and no high school unvisited.

The academic community, from deans to new faculty, met with students and their
families to discuss the value of Central. Our advising and student life teams, and our
auxiliary staff, were there as well, showing our new students what will be available to
them as they begin new chapters of their lives with us.

Our Facilities and Maintenance staffs kept the campus clean, repaired, and manicured.
Our visitation staff, led by Andres Moreno, welcomed more than 15,000 students and
moms and dads to our beautiful campus.

The smiling faces and outstretched hands made students know that this place is where
they would want to live and study.

Perhaps the only group who might have viewed the enrollment increase with a little
anxiety was the staff of our residence life programs. They played a key role in their
recruitment and were rightly proud to see the new students arrive. But it was also
their responsibility to find beds for them to sleep in. It was a challenge, but one well
met by Richard DeShields and his professional staff.

Everyone, whether working in Ellensburg or at one of the University Centers, should
take great pride in their achievements during 2016.

When I arrived here eight years ago, and every year since, I have asked you to hold
to the values of a public, access-focused, comprehensive university, while employing
some of the practices of private schools. We must embrace this duality because
competition for enrollments will continue to be challenging and competitive. It is
clear that a strategic approach to enrollment management is required. Therefore, in
the summer of 2016, I created the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and
brought Sharon O’Hare to Central from the University of Montana.

Vice President O’Hare is currently engaged in directing the recruitment of students
who will arrive in the fall of 2017. She is also collaborating with our Institutional
Effectiveness staff to produce an environmental scan. It will inform a planning process
that will extend our efforts into the next decade. This effort is another example of a
university-wide effort, and I encourage all of you to become involved.

There is no question that the environmental scan will detail the rapidly changing
characteristics of our students. It is happening now, right before our eyes. Consider
for example, that in 2004, students of color comprised just 14 percent of our total
enrollment. In 2016, students of color represented fully a third of our freshman class. Our student body will continue to grow in racial, ethnic, and cultural richness. We must be prepared to ensure the success of these students—just as we have for all students since 1891. To do so, we must hold firmly to the characteristics that make Central the best undergraduate experience in the West.

We must never lessen our commitment offering our students a learning
environment that is based on discovery and creative expression.

We must never lessen our commitment to the experiential learning opportunities
that make our graduates sought after by employers and graduate schools.

We must never lessen our commitment to maintaining an environment that
permits our students, our faculty, and our staff, the freedom to explore, to develop,
and to express themselves.

At the same time, we must recognize the need to change the ways in which we
manifest these core values and activities.

Perhaps the most deeply held value and most significant characteristic of a sound
learning environment is that of academic freedom. This ancient principle provides
that to discover, we must all be free to explore and to express our own ideas, our
experiences, and our identities.

Academic freedom must extend to students as well as to faculty and staff. Our
students deserve, and, increasingly, demand an environment in which they are safe
from ridicule, retribution, or persecution. Why should we not give it to them? Just as
important, how do we know if we are? I have proudly worked and lived in academic
environments for most of my life. I came and stayed because it continues to give
me satisfaction to be part of a noble profession that seeks to improve the lives of
others through knowledge and empowerment. Through those years, I have become
comfortable within the culture of the academy and with its guild-like structures and
systems. It is home to me. It’s also enjoyable, especially the time I spend talking with
students. Their youthful perspectives and energies are rejuvenating. They help me see
the world differently and remind me of the time I spent asking questions, demanding
answers, and generally pushing on the boundaries of conventions.

But my interactions with students also remind me that I should work to resist the
comfort that is associated with seniority. Our conversations cause me to ask myself if
Central is as secure for them as it is for me? Are we giving each of them the freedom to
explore and express ideas that we enjoy for ourselves? If not, why not? I ask these and
similar questions because the freedom to explore and express is essential to our Best-in-the-West learning environment. If we are to remain the best, we must look at our
curriculum and our pedagogical practices through fresh and diverse perspectives.

As I hope you are hearing, I reject the suggestion that feelings of safety and security
somehow retard or restrict the learning process. Research indicates just the opposite
is true.

For example, in 2015, Gallup surveyed African American and black graduates of Ivy
League schools and of historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. The
survey measured five common indicators of achievement and a number of educational
practices. For example, they were asked:

• Did they have a professor who cared about them as a person?

• Did they experience a professor or staff member who encouraged them to follow
their dreams?

• Did their time at school prepare them for their lives after graduation?

• Did they have a sense of well-being in regard to their working environment?

Gallup found that the black graduates of HBCUs were more than twice as likely
as black students who graduated from Ivy League schools to have experienced an
engaged and motivating professor or staff member. Black students from HBCU’s
were also twice as likely to report that their college or university “prepared them
well for life outside of college.”

The survey yielded similar findings when it came to earnings.

• 51 percent of black HBCU graduates reported strong financial and personal

• Just 29 percent of black graduates from the Ivys had similar responses.

The study shows that the way faculty and staff relate to students is what matters, not
the price, acceptance rate, or prestige of the school.

Of course, we know that. That is why we are here.

I have stated my belief that safety and security are the foundation for the freedom
needed to explore and learn. Let me be just as clear that I do not reject the need
for some discomfort. Honest and candid self-examination and reflection can be
challenging and unsettling. So, can learning. They are also processes that will never be
completed. None of us is likely to catch up to or overtake change, but we need to try.

We must institutionalize a pattern of inclusive excellence. In 2016, I took two
steps toward that goal.

First, I asked our Human Resources department to identify strategies to improve
the quality of service to our students and to one another. The goal was to help us understand how people—based on their culture—may differently interpret the way we respond to requests for information or for help. Under the leadership of Staci Sleigh-Layman, Central launched the Wildcat Way campaign, and I believe it’s already changing behaviors and conversations about diversity. The Wildcat Way helps us understand how be to welcoming, inclusive, knowledgeable, and responsive, regardless of whom we are serving. If you have not already engaged in some of the activities offered within this program, please do so.

I also expanded the half-time role of Dr. Kandee Cleary, our Chief Diversity Officer, to the full-time role of Vice President of Diversity and Inclusivity. Her responsibilities are many, but can be summarized as helping us all see outside our own points of view. She’s identified an online educational opportunity designed for just that purpose. She’s meeting now with departments to introduce “Diversity-E-D-U,” an online learning initiative that helps prepare academic communities to serve society at large.

I’m asking each of us to take advantage of this opportunity because, while the changes confronting us can be uncomfortable, adapting to them effectively is critical to our future.

That’s why I elected to share my time today with a person who knows Central, who
has seen the world from multiple perspectives, and who has devoted his life to public
service. That person is, of course, Ron Sims, a proud alumnus of Central Washington

Mr. Sims is an icon of political and public service in Washington and on behalf of
our nation. During his 12 years as King County Executive, Mr. Sims earned national
recognition for his integration of environmental, social equity and public health
policies. His leadership helped produce groundbreaking work on climate change,
health care reform, affordable housing, mass transit, environmental protection, land
use, and equity and social justice. That work and his advocacy for public health led to
his appointment as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, a position he held from 2009 to 2011.

He now chairs the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board, a public-private
partnership responsible for the creation of Washington Healthplanfinder, where
individuals, families and small businesses can enroll in health plans. Mr. Sims formerly
served on the Puget Sound Leadership Council, a seven-member citizen group that
leads initiatives to improve the ecological health of our state’s largest estuary. He
now chairs the executive committee of the Regional Open Space Strategy, which
seeks strategies to conserve and enhance the ecological, economic, recreational, and
aesthetic vitality of the central Puget Sound region. Sims was named Leader of the
Year by American City and County Magazine in July 2008, and was recognized as one
of Governing Magazine’s Government Officials of the Year in 2007.

Please join me in welcoming Ron Sims.

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.