CWU News

Washington Lt. Gov. Habib to Address CWU Class of 2018

In his role as Washington’s chief opportunity officer, Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib dedicates himself to increasing and developing new opportunities in higher education and employment. Habib will discuss his efforts—and why they are so important right now—during his address at the 2018 CWU Ellensburg commencement.

“We’re seeing the most drastic shift in labor-market demands since the Industrial Revolution and, in some ways, even a more substantial transition,” Habib said. “The way that we will, as a country, not only survive but, indeed, thrive in the new knowledge economy will be by substantially—even drastically—increasing access to higher education.”

Increased public rhetoric is now casting doubt on the value of a university education and the importance of a college degree. Habib calls that criticism, at best, misguided or, at worst, disingenuous. 

“When you look at the economic indicators, it’s clear that college graduates have been the winners for the past 10 years, in fact, the past 35 years,” Habib pointed out, as to one of the reasons he has become such a strong advocate. “Despite being a huge area of public expenditure in our state, higher education is unique in that it does not have its own elected or appointed state secretary or director. So, there is an opportunity—I would even say need—to have increased statewide leadership on higher education.”

Habib’s leadership included collaboration with CWU on the Complete Washington Initiative, which is designed to assist working adults attain a college degree based on prior learning, and the recent launch of the Washington World Fellows program, which allows 15 students selected from Washington high schools to earn college credit for courses taken at the University of Léon, in Spain, and supports their long-term academic goals through high school and beyond.

Habib is now in Spain to formalize the partnership. CWU’s Office of International Studies and Programs will coordinate the study abroad program and help supervise the students during their time overseas.

“CWU is asking the right questions about expanding access and it’s excited to find innovative ways to address that need,” Habib stated. “We just began these discussions with Central a year ago, so I find it very impressive that the university and its administration has been so eager and productive in turning abstract ideas into concrete results.”

Habib, who has been blind since he was eight years old, says his address will also include comments about the opportunities he received through higher education.

“What I like to share with students at these moments of celebration and transition is that I recognize how many obstacles they have had to overcome in order to get there, because I’ve been there myself,” Habib noted. “Sometimes those obstacles are more obvious than at other times. But, in all cases, it takes such a monumental effort to achieve something like this. To graduate from college is something everyone should be proud of.”

Habib will address the university’s two graduation ceremonies, the first, at 9:30 a.m. for graduates from the College of Education and Professional Studies and College of Business. At 2 p.m., those earning degrees from the College of Arts and Humanities and College of the Sciences will be honored. CWU will award more than 38-hundred bachelor’s and master’s diplomas to students who completed coursework this academic year.

“When our whole country seems like we’re feuding and bitter about so many things, this is a positive time of year,” Habib said, adding that he is excited and to have the chance to address the CWU Class of 2018.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,