CWU News

State of the University address: Hold on to core values, embrace change

James GaudinoIn his annual State of the University address, Central Washington University President James L. Gaudino today highlighted the university's success in core values "to a convergent digital environment that moves with terrifying speed and encompasses overwhelming dimension." The speech was Gaudino's sixth annual State of the University address, with several hundred faculty, staff, and students in the McConnell Hall audience.

"The only element with greater force and inevitability than the Ellensburg wind is the demand for change," said Gaudino, who entered office January 2009. "We must respond to new technological social, political, and economic realities, while protecting the values and practices that make CWU distinctive and successful."   

Gaudino said national and regional recognition for academic quality, inclusiveness, and effective teaching are proof that CWU has been able to adapt to rapid change while staying true to core values, including a determination to provide a pathway to a university degree for Washington residents from all walks of life. CWU was named number one in Washington for improving earnings and ensuring employability of graduates, and placed in the top 10 percent nationally for student career success after graduation. CWU is second in the nation for graduation rates for minority students.

"Our innovation and determination to see students succeed is prevailing in spite of a dramatic drop in state support," said Gaudino, adding that CWU must redouble its efforts to ensure more Washington residents have the opportunity to earn a degree. "I know Washington’s high-tech industries will find the highly skilled employees they need--they'll just get them from another state. But what will be left for our children?"

CWU has addressed rising demand in the face of failing state support by providing more degree programs fully online than any other public university in Washington. Central has launched one of the state's first competency-based, online programs. The FlexIT PACE program is a bachelor of science degree in information technology and administrative management (ITAM) that is completely self-paced, allowing people to complete it on their own time. The Affordable Colleges Foundation has named CWU among the top 46 colleges or universities nationally in quality and affordability of online programs.

According to employment consulting firm, Burning Glass, significant gaps exist between education employers want workers to have and the education levels people possess. The gaps are greatest in management (26 percent), office and administrative services (25 percent), business and financial (21 percent), and computer and mathematical occupations (21 percent). The gap is particularly severe in Washington, where leading industries like computer science, biotechnology, and aerospace experience chronic shortages of highly prepared employees.

Gaudino said the negative impacts of limited educational opportunity extend well beyond the job market. "Education is a potent inoculation against some of society's most intractable ills, such as crime, poor health, racism, civic apathy, and cynicism," he said, adding that CWU has intentionally cultivated a campus climate that is welcoming to all students.

In order to ensure the focus on student success in spite of a drop in state funding, CWU has streamlined administrative systems and costs. CWU is concluding a two-year initiative to convert old paper systems into digital ones, eliminating more than 90 servers in the process. The project includes the development of a "data warehouse," that has standardized the way the university defines and collects information. The result is better advising, smarter recruiting, and faster reporting.

Gaudino referred to an alchemy that produces a purity of purpose, which is CWU's obsession with the success of each and every student.

"The Philosopher's Stone in this alchemy, the quality that turns the typical into the remarkable is compassion—the care we show one another, and especially to our students," Gaudino said.

Prior to delivering his speech, Gaudino met with the President’s Advisory Team to brief university leaders on his remarks. After his speech, he met with faculty in the Mary Grupe Center. Gaudino extended an invitation to all departments to meet and discuss the address and the challenges it describes. 

Read the full 2015 State of the University address here.

January 12, 2015