October 4, 2013
The State of the University address is a traditional opportunity to welcome you to our new academic year, to review the previous year, and to set the tone for the year to come.
I will begin by underscoring the greatest accomplishment of the past year, and that is your continued focus on quality: quality of teaching, quality of research, and quality of service, even in the midst of challenges and changes.
Chair Morrison is correct that the strength of this university is your unwavering pledge to traditional academic values. Your commitment to our students and your passion for your professions, disciplines, and fields of study cannot be questioned and should always be the touchstone by which we assess our collective achievements.
There can also be no question that your achievements over the past year are exceptional in both quality and quantity. So remarkable was last year that I asked our Public Affairs staff to work with our facilities crews to create and hang banners recognizing those achievements.
There are far too many individuals for me to recognize them all, but I do want to provide some examples of the excellence that exists at this university. Some faculty and staff who are or will be recognized in those banners include:
Last year also brought a wave of incredible new talent to Central. In September, 51 new faculty joined us, and they’re already making an excellent faculty better, stronger, and more diverse. They bring with them new talents and perspectives. They are a highly talented and experienced group of individuals. They come here from across the nation and from around the world. They come to us from premier universities, from large companies, and from elite private organizations.
We have also brought to the university some key academic leaders, who have not yet been formerly introduced to our university. I already mentioned three of our newest deans, Katherine Martel, Sarah Swager, and Kevin Archer.
We also are pleased to welcome Anne Cubilié as the Director of the Douglas Honors Program. Anne joins us from her former position as Program Officer for Humanitarian and Development Policy at the United Nations. Many of you may already have met our new Athletic Director, Dr. Dennis Francois, who joins us from Drake University.
Together these individuals broaden our talents and our base of experience, and they bring new perspectives to our university and they renew our beliefs in what is possible.
Let me give an example.
Scott Wade, our executive director of University Advancement and of the CWU Foundation has also attracted new talent and new ideas to Central. Among the first things Scott did after arriving here was to partner with Linda Schactler, our outstanding executive director of Public Affairs, and with key faculty and staff members to host a series of focus groups with our alumni.
To assist in that outreach effort, we also developed an on-campus call facility from which calls to our alumni and our annual giving program will be centered. That new operation is being managed by Charles Ellis, whom we hired away from UCLA.
Scott also initiated searches to fill positions we were forced to leave vacant because of budgetary restrictions. The talent he has brought to our university includes three new development officers: Jason Roundy, Kari Anderson, and Chris Studenka.
Their work is already paying dividends. Gifts to the CWU Foundation are on the rise, with the most visible of them being a major gift received to help the university improve our tennis facility. Construction is underway and will produce a facility that will not only improve the support we provide to our academic programs, it will enhance the capability to serve on and off campus communities.
We have also been successful in making some important changes come to key academic programs. One example of Central’s respond to a changing environment is the broadening of the mission of our University Centers to include outreach to the regions they serve, rather than focusing primarily on the community colleges on which they are located. This effort is being led by Tracy Pellet and Melanie Palm. It will challenge us to think of University Centers as “portals” to the regions they serve and as places where we can provide face-to-face contact with students who are attending CWU classes online.
Our expansion into online learning is another example of our response to changing expectations. Several years ago, I used the State of the University Address to highlight Central’s traditional commitment to access, particularly to place-bound students. I suggested then that we needed to embrace distance learning methodologies to better serve the many Washington residents for whom those fixed locations were not accessible.
You responded to that challenge by providing access to specific classes and by creating complete degree programs online. Today, Central offers seven undergraduate and seven graduate programs that are completely online.
The number of students taking at least one course online totals 2622, an increase of 600 students, or about 30 percent more than last year’s online enrollment. The number of students enrolled in majors offered online has grown even more rapidly. Program enrollment is 805 students, nearly double last year’s count of 440. Last summer was the first time in the history of the university in which we had more students enrolled online than in person.
Many of those enrollments are coming through the Department of Information Technology and Administrative Management. With the support of Tracy Pellet and Chris Schedler, the innovative ITAM faculty, led by Bob Lupton and Lori Braunstein, have embraced technologies that allow them to reach an entirely new group of students.
This quarter we’ll also break new ground in preparing high school students for college and blazing a path to Central’s front door. We’re launching Running Start Three Ways: on campus, online, and in the high school. CWU will be the only university in Washington to provide this level of outreach. This program will improve college readiness — both academically and in terms of credits earned—and it supports CWU recruitment.
You have undoubtedly learned by now that our enrollment position remains strong. I am particularly pleased that our freshmen enrollment is on target, even in the face of strong competition from other public and private schools. It should be clear that our strong enrollment is not by accident.
Our Enrollment Management, Admissions and Public Affairs staffs have formed teams, coordinated by our AVP for Enrollment Management, John Swiney, to work with faculty and staff members to tell the story that CWU is a great place to learn, to do, and to live. You can see examples of their good work in publications, television commercials, news stories, and swag. You can even see images of our university adorning the walls of Wellington’s and the third floor of Barge Hall, the New Faculty Collaboration Center and our new Seattle office.
You can also see it in the fresh new website that supports more than 90 percent of new student “first-looks.” It provides the quick, easy, and rich exchange of information between other faculty, other schools, students, grantors, and more.
What you may see as easily is the work of Diane Fishell Hall. She and her team of staff and students manage a database and electronic communication systems that support recruitment and retention of students. They send out thousands of letters, emails, video, and other forms of digital communication to tens of thousands of students and prospective students.
Last year, we initiated the Improving CWU’s Applications and Technology project, better known as iCAT. This ambitious project involves reviewing all of the university’s administrative systems, streamlining processes whenever possible, and employing digital solutions when applicable.
This project has several objectives, not the least of which is to make us all for efficient and effective.
In order to ensure the appropriate support and coordination between the iCAT team and workgroups across campus, I asked our Chief of Staff, Sherer Holter, to take on the coordination of this huge project. She has quickly built a team that is redefining and streamlining most of our business and administrative processes – 14 in all. Key leaders of this effort, in addition to Sherer, include Steve DeSoer, our Chief of Human Resources; Connie Williams, our Associate Vice President of Business and Financial Services; and Gene Schoda, Project Manager for Cedar Crestone, our primary contractor.
When completed at the end of this year, this project will enable us to deliver and process information more quickly, more securely, more transparently, and in a more personalized manner than ever before. I am pleased to report that the iCAT team is on-schedule and on- budget. And, they have already completed a number of projects that are making our lives easier.
Those who travel are enjoying new digital authorization and reimbursement processes. The new system reduces the number of signatures required and shortens the time to approval or reimbursement to just a few days. The process is also made easier for the traveler by providing intelligent forms that are preloaded with information. Our hiring approval process has also been streamlined and enjoys the same new features.
There is also good news for faculty members, and department administrative assistants, who will no longer need hand carts to move tenure and promotion review binders through the processes. Those binders won’t even be needed as they will be replaced by new program called Faculty 180. Following much collaboration and testing with faculty groups, Faculty 180 was selected to provide a digital space into which they can assemble and maintain the information needed for professional reviews. Faculty will be able to easily upload journal citations from reference management software and bibliographic databases, and information about the courses taught can be downloaded from campus systems.
A change that I’m especially excited about is the replacement of our old intranet with a “portal,” a kind of doorway to your personalized work space. It will be available to all students, faculty members, and staff members. It will be called “My CWU,” and will work a little like your own personal webpage. When the portal launches in January, you’ll be able to sign on with your email credentials and enter a virtual space created just for you. You’ll be able to see all of your assignments, benefits information, contracts and forms, and other business information.
As we fully embrace technology and place information at our fingertips, we also must be constantly aware of the need to protect that information. That’s why we created an information security office, headed by Andreas Bohman. Andreas joined us in May after 15 years specializing in cyber-security for Fortune 500 companies and the military. Andreas and his staff will be developing a campus-wide information security framework to ensure the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of our customer’s information.
He will also be constantly reminding us all that information security is everyone’s responsibility.
As large as these efforts are, they’re only a first phase in a long process of improving our
information systems. When I came to CWU, we didn’t have reliable data to answer even the most basic questions about the university. A prime cause of that shortfall was the very paper- based systems we employed to collect and store the core data. Data is rarely useful in raw form. Its value is found after it is synthesized in meaningful ways. The resulting information can be used to inform our decision-making and will allow us to improve our work.
Last year, Jim DePaepe’s data-management expertise related to our teacher preparation programs earned glowing praise from state reviewers. I’ve asked him to expand his work to encompass a university-wide Office of Organizational Effectiveness. Jim’s job is to work with the iCAT project team to help insure data reliability and validity. It is also to work with the university community to build a data warehouse that we can all use produce reliable and consistent information.
Another key player in this undertaking is Dr. Melody Madlem, our newly appointed Director of Strategic Planning. In addition to helping to organize the teams working to achieve our desired outcomes, Melody will work with Jim’s team to produce the indicators we need to monitor our progress. Together, Melody and Jim will produce a dashboard of indicators and the analytical tools we need to sustain or improve our programs. Again, this is a major undertaking, but it is also a critical one.
Finally, what would the state of the university address in our state be complete without fiscal news? Don’t worry! This year it’s good news, not the dark forecasts of four or five years ago.
The financial state of the university is stronger today than it was a year ago. It is actually stronger than it has been for the past five years. Our financial health is buoyed by several factors.
The primary forces are the strong enrollment I described earlier, coupled with sound fiscal management. Vice President George Clark and his excellent budget and financial teams provide the opportunity for our trustees to plan for long-term fiscal health.
Another factor is the state’s reversal of a long period of disinvestment in higher education. For the first time in the past five years, the state of Washington increased its financial support for universities. Their support allowed us to not raise tuition this year. That is a trend we all hope will continue.
What does this all mean in operational terms? One effect should be obvious from my previous statements. We are now able to fill many positions that were forced to freeze, and we’re able to open planned positions that we had to delay implementing.
The second impact is the ability to provide increases to staff and faculty compensation. All employee groups—including faculty, classified, and exempt staff—are scheduled to receive increased compensation this year. Because of the sound financial management by our business and administration staff and the budget planning by our trustees, it is my hope to be able to continue providing increases into the future.
A key element in that planning is the fundamental change in our budgeting model. As you are aware, for the past year I’ve been speaking with small groups about the transition to a budget model in which revenue is used to support the programs that produce it. The new model will also place greater budgetary and financial responsibility with unit leaders, particularly our deans. Vice President Clark’s team has been able to post all unit budgets, which will be updated as soon as we have approval of the compensation increases.
He’ll also issue a “shadow budget,” which represents the revenue a unit would have received had we implemented the new budget model in July. One of the tasks for this year will be to examine the assumptions and models used to produce this shadow budget and to develop plans to implement it next fiscal year.
On the capital side of the budget, CWU had incredibly good fortune to receive full funding for a new academic building, with the working name of “Science Phase II.” This rare achievement is the result of a team effort. Key members of that team include Associate Vice President Bill Yarwood, Dean Kirk Johnson, Professor Michael Jackson, and Linda Schactler’s government relations team of Ann Anderson and Steve Dupont. I also extend my appreciation to our 13th District State Senator Janéa Holmquist Newbry, and Representatives Judy Warnick and Matt Manweller; 15th District Senator and CWU alumnus, Jim Honeyford; and the more than 100 alumni, and community and business leaders who wrote to the legislature in support of the project.
Work on Science II is already under way, with crews putting in the underground connections that will bring heat, communication, and power to the new facility. We’ll break ground early next calendar year and open the new facility two years after.
I hope by now, the theme my remarks is clear: 2012-13 was a very successful year! The question before all of us is how to build on the remarkable year just passed. We already have the answer: your commitment to quality and student success.
The changes embedded in the projects I’ve discussed are compelling us to do things differently, to work with new people, and to think more creatively.
For some, these changes are exciting and enjoyable. For others, change can be disconcerting. In both cases, we may find ourselves working outside our comfort zones. That’s okay, as long as we do not retreat from change or forget why we are here – to serve our students and to discover new knowledge.
My challenge to you for the coming year is to also step outside comfortable places or routines to apply your creativity and your dedication to continue to support student success. This will be a year in which we begin to benefit from the initiatives I’ve described.
I believe that this year we will find out that some of our students—individuals who are prepared to learn at the college level—are not succeeding, are not progressing to graduation.
I appreciated Chair Morrison’s comments that we are living in a very dynamic world. As we look closely at our students, we can see meaningful change in the rhythms, preferences, and obligations of their lives. Assuming that to be true, we will need to ways to honor traditional values, but also embrace the needs of our students.
I not suggesting that we abandon traditional pedagogies. I am suggesting we look even harder for ways to adapt them to cultural and intellectual references of our students. As educators, we have always tried to connect with our students, and it makes sense that we do so by understanding the patterns and media in which they live.
They live, for example, in a digital world that helps to liberate them from time constraints. Researchers are finding that among the most significant impact of these new digital environments is that that they provide ever increasing choice over virtually unlimited content and that they give us more control over how, where, and when we obtain it. Our students simply assume those choices and controls will be available in all aspects of their lives.
The digital world in which students thrive has also had a democratizing effect that has helped produce the most multicultural freshman classes ever. This “small-d” democratic, digital environment is not a fashion choice. It’s not a matter of taste. It’s not a trend. It’s a new way of obtaining and using information.
This is not about catering to students. Adapting established pedagogy to digital environments is the next evolution in teaching and learning. It’s a choice we must make to be more effective and compelling educators. Using modern tools for teaching and learning doesn’t mean we must alter or devalue the content of curriculum. It simply suggests we must translate it to different forms.
We will discover that we have administrative policies and procedures that place obstacles before our students. We need to examine them and remove them if we can.
We found two such obstacles just this week. One involves the need for students to pay tuition and fees in whole at the beginning of the quarter. This places a high financial bar that some students cannot clear. So they stop-out until they have the cash to pay. Some do not return. On Wednesday, we approved a new monthly payment plan, which we put into effect immediately, for this quarter.
We are also learning that financial aid policies and procedures—ours, the state’s and those of federal government—sometimes combine to deny students aid. We have already changed some of our policies, and are working on those of the high levels of government.
I know we are up to these challenges. I have seen breathtaking innovation from CWU faculty and staff. We have peerless leaders on this campus, and I have seen their transformational impact on this community. We’ve become stronger when circumstances predicted we would not. We have succeeded where other universities have not. We have even surprised ourselves with our success.
I know that we possess the talent and the energy to take us wherever we want to go, wherever we need to go, if we will set our hearts and minds to the shared goal of student success.