Oct. 20, 2021
CWU President Focuses on Vision, Community During State of the University Address
Central Washington University President Jim Wohlpart delivered his first State of the University address Wednesday, sharing his vision for what CWU is striving to become and what the institution’s role should be in the community and the state.
Wohlpart’s insightful, forward-looking address paid tribute to CWU’s mission of providing “transformative” higher-education experiences to students from all walks of life from all over the world. Wohlpart, whose term in office began a little more than four months ago, said ensuring that experience for increasingly diverse students will require deeper understanding of and commitment to new approaches to teaching and learning, and equity and inclusion.
“We have a great responsibility to take our work to the next level,” said Wohlpart, the former Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Northern Iowa. “Given the impact of our work on the lives of students and Washington communities, we must consider ways in which we can broaden our reach and deepen our commitment.”
A second key theme in the address was the importance of shared governance and collective leadership of the university, which Wohlpart referred to as “the work of democracy.” He encouraged employees to think beyond their own areas to support the institution as a whole as the university embraces a robust future.
“As we elevate shared governance together, we must recognize the responsibility we have to share our voice and our perspective while balancing that responsibility with what I call ‘institutional thinking’ — remembering that our decisions must be grounded in doing what is best for the university as a whole,” Wohlpart said, adding that it will be crucial for CWU to further its collaboration with the Ellensburg and Kittitas County communities.
Another top priority for the new president is the development of a clear, inspirational vision and mission, last updated a decade ago. Wohlpart said a new strategic plan will support the updated mission and vision. He recently formed a broadly representative steering committee to help create the blueprint for how CWU will execute its strategy and achieve its long-term vision.
Wohlpart said the strategic plan will be used to guide all decision-making, including budget allocations and reallocations, new program development, and personnel. The focus, he said, always should be centered on student engagement and success.
The president returned to his overarching theme of creating a more culturally diverse, equity-focused institution that celebrates all races, ethnicities, and identities, noting that 43 percent of CWU’s students are people of color. He spoke of the need to promote intercultural literacy and learn to communicate and collaborate with people who have different perspectives and world views.
“Central Washington University could become a model in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps the nation for engaged learning experiences with a special focus on bringing individuals with diverse backgrounds together,” Wohlpart said.
Elaborating on his desire to incorporate as many viewpoints as possible into the decision-making process, Wohlpart explained that deep care and deep purpose are more essential than ever to achieving the university’s goals. He also spoke about the importance of caring for individuals and balancing that with caring for the community as a whole.
“We not only ask everyone to think beyond themselves,” he said. “We also expect the highest level of quality and excellence in all we do. True care is not about keeping the bar low so that it takes no effort to leap over the bar; it is about raising the bar and then providing support and professional development so that individuals can flourish.”
Wohlpart later shared thoughts about Central’s greater purpose of providing every student with an opportunity to realize who they are, find confidence in who they are becoming, and giving them a pathway forward so they can thrive.
Wohlpart finished the speech by touching on three of the most pressing issues of our time: climate change, social injustice, and the polarization of democracy. He said he expects Central to become a model for working together and engaging these challenges—not just on campuses, but in the broader community.
“Everyone will have a role to play as our work moves to (the) next level,” the president said. “We must remember that we are one institution and one community made up of rich and diverse perspectives, and that creativity and innovation come from honoring our diversity even while we remember our wholeness.”
View the full State of the University on the CWU State of the University web page.
Media contact: Linda Schactler, Chief of Staff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-607-4103.