CWU News

CWU President, Microsoft Executive Call for Innovation in Education Delivery and Outreach

Central Washington University president, James L. Gaudino, today challenged his university to re-examine what a baccalaureate degree should mean as CWU enters its 125th year. Gaudino’s remarks came during his annual State of the University address.

“We have a long and proud history dating to our roots as a Normal School, but we have been a university for only 39 years,” said Gaudino, reminding his audience of CWU’s founding in 1891 as a school to prepare teachers, a so-called “Normal School.”

“This is an opportune moment to rethink some of our assumptions about who we are and what we want to be,” he said to a near capacity crowd in McConnell Hall Auditorium. “We need to step back from the immediate agenda and think of about the university as we want it to be.”

He said he would ask university divisions to create aspirational budgets to support change and achieve new goals, rejecting traditional fiscal systems based on adding onto the same functions each year.

“Expand your thinking about how to manifest the vision we create,” urged Gaudino. “As we think about ourselves in the coming years, remember the words of students who rallied in our Student Union in December: ‘Don’t lose sight of us. We are why Central exists, and we are here right now.’”

Gaudino was joined during his annual address by Orlando Ayala, Microsoft’s chairman and corporate vice president of emerging businesses. The two said innovation was one of the keys to the university’s future success.

“We must adapt and to adapt we must use all our tools in our kit and create new ones if we don’t have them,” Gaudino said.

Gaudino said the challenge for the university community is to expand its thinking to embrace new ideas and apply innovations to core values.

The president said that 2015 was “an amazing year” for Central and pointed to successes such as more than $100 million in new state-funded campus construction, a 21 percent increase in freshman enrollment, and a number one ranking in the state of Washington by The Economist magazine.

“That year demonstrated that magic can and does happen when we all come together under a collective mission and when we all lend our shoulders to the work of discover, learning and service,” he said while applauding faculty, students and staff for their many accomplishments during the year.

“Being part of a supportive community is key to our happiness and our success,” he added.

“Learning together is what sets us apart from other institutions and it is what makes teaching and learning exciting and fun at Central,” Gaudino said. “But I worry that these accomplishments might cause some to question whether it makes sense to change. After all, when things are going so well why not leave it exactly as it is? Well, it’s because everything around us is changing.”

Ayala echoed Gaudino’s call for embracing innovation and change, saying it’s important for everyone to try to learn something new everyday. He also commended CWU for its commitment to inclusiveness.

“This institution has this amazing mission, which is opportunity for all,” he said.

Ayala said we live in a time when technology is changing the way we learn, work, and play. For example, he spoke of the “invisible revolution” that is underway. Soon the average home will consist of “smart” technology items, which will communicate with us and keep track of our needs.

Additionally, he said education will be one of the areas most transformed by new technology, such as augmented reality devices, and CWU is well positioned to take advantage of that revolution.

“Truly technology is at the center, he said. “I was telling President Gaudino that probably this university, if it focuses on these ideas, it could be one of the smartest campuses in the world.”

Media contact: Rich Moreno, director of content development, 509-963-2417,

 Highlights of State of the University:

State of the University presentations: