Nov. 4, 2022
CWU President Recognizes Challenges, Remains Optimistic About the Future
Central Washington University aspires to reach a new level of influence in the state and region in the years to come by nurturing lasting partnerships with state and local leaders, and committing to a vision of being “a model learning community of equity and belonging” so more people have an opportunity to pursue a higher education degree.
These were among the key messages delivered by CWU President Jim Wohlpart on Friday during his annual State of the University address, which detailed Central’s strategy of creating access and opportunities for people from all walks of life, and establishing a viable budget that will enable Central to prepare for a strong and vibrant future.
During his half-hour address in the Student Union and Recreation Center Ballroom, Wohlpart outlined Central’s ongoing efforts to create a sustainable future that will involve working closely with the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, local and state business leaders, shared governance groups on campus, and members of the Ellensburg and Kittitas Valley communities.
“We must make certain that our work becomes relational, and not transactional,” he said. “That is, for any transformation of our university to occur, for us to lead and work in equitable ways that nurture a culture of belonging, we must do so through building bridges and communities where everyone feels seen and heard.”
Wohlpart pointed out that while first-year enrollment has dipped during the pandemic, CWU is seeing early promise in rebuilding its entering classes post-pandemic—eventual graduates who will support the state’s economy well into the future.
He noted that the total number of high school graduates in the state of Washington is expected to increase for the next 12 years, with a shift in student demographics. For instance, CWU expects significant growth in the Hispanic/Latinx population and a moderate increase in Asian and Pacific Islander and individuals from two or more races.
Wohlpart firmly believes that this change in demographics presents CWU with an opportunity to reimagine itself and become a more diverse, more equity-based destination for people from a wider range of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“This work will require us to become a learning organization, to investigate our patterns of thinking that invisibly guide so much of our daily operations—systems and structures that benefit the few, people like me, while excluding, disadvantaging, and even diminishing so many others,” he said.
As CWU prepares for this inevitable shift, Wohlpart lauded the state’s consistent support for public higher education institutions year after year. Despite some new challenges that have arisen during the pandemic—most notably, a drop in first-year enrollment—Central has put plans in motion to maintain the institution’s strength well into the future.
Wohlpart and other university leaders have been partnering with state representatives this year to deliver on four key priorities, which are outlined in a recent document titled “The Central Experience.” CWU’s legislative priorities for the next biennium (2023-25) include:
- raising employee salaries annually so CWU can keep up with cost-of-living increases and remain competitive in the marketplace;
- expanding the availability of dual-language STEM instruction;
- addressing learning loss brought on by the pandemic; and
- improving financial literacy to help more students take advantage of state and federal financial assistance programs.
The university also continues to work with the Legislature to secure funding for a series of capital projects that will redefine the Ellensburg campus. On the heels of opening a new $63 million Health Sciences facility last spring and beginning work on the $63.5 million Health Education Project on the north end of campus, CWU hopes to secure funding for three additional capital projects:
- construction of a humanities and socials sciences complex;
- design of a behavioral and mental health facility; and
- design and construction of a multicultural center (paid for, in part, by the student activities fund).
To view the State of the University address in its entirety, visit the President’s Office webpage.
Media Contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518