PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University Provost Robert C. Bates talked of excellence at the university during his address Thursday (April 4) at the 2002 Faculty Honors Convocation.
“As it celebrates a Century of Graduate Education, Washington State University is a tier one or Research Extensive Doctoral University,” the provost told those who gathered to recognize six faculty members who received major university awards this spring.
Faculty members honored this year were Don A. Dillman , Frances K. McSweeney, Ronald C. Mittelhammer, John L. “Skip” Paznokas, Lynda (Hatch) Paznokas and Kerry W. Hipps.
Dillman, the Eminent Faculty Award winner, is a social scientist and statistical survey expert. He is recognized internationally as a major contributor to the development of modern mail and telephone survey methods. His book, “Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method,” was the first to provide detailed procedures for conducting surveys by these methods.
McSweeney, a professor of psychology, received the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship and Arts. A faculty member at WSU since 1974, she is known for her fundamental work on behavior and reinforcement, which helps with the understanding of learning and other human behaviors.
The Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Instruction went to Mittelhammer, an agricultural economics professor. He is one of the most effective teachers of statistics and econometrics in the United States.
Skip Paznokas received the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service. School science teacher preparation has dramatically improved thanks to his work. Paznokas’ efforts with teachers of science, including those in biology, have been honored statewide.
Lynda Paznokas, a WSU Boeing Distinguished Professor of Science Education, received the Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award that recognizes significant and meritorious achievement in teaching. She has had an impact on WSU students who are already science teachers or who will teach elementary science.
Hipps will deliver the Distinguished Faculty Address at 7:30 p.m., April 23, in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education, Room 203. A professor in both the Department of Chemistry and the Program in Materials Science since 1978, he is a researcher and teacher of physics and the chemistry of molecules and solids. His accomplishments in single molecule electronics using the scanning tunneling microscope provide a base to launch a number of new technologies.
In congratulating the faculty winners, Bates said it isn’t simply the size of the institution or its facilities but rather the quality of the teaching and research that occurs within those facilities — and those activities are guided by WSU’s world-class faculty.
“Just imagine the gains that we will make in this, the new century with the faculty being recognized today, and other faculty who will join them in reaching such distinction,” he said.
“An excellent institution requires persuasive leaders who are proponents of thoughtful conversation. Stimulating and visionary leadership should inspire excellence,” the provost said. “Leaders need to provide action and yet delegate where appropriate. Faculty, staff and students need to be integrally involved.”
“Can we achieve excellence by simply saying that we are, as an institution, committed to it?” he said. “Yes, we can and we will. Committing to excellence is the crucial, most important first step. One can achieve excellence in the same manner as the planning process by deciding which areas we want to make truly outstanding.”
Bates said the university’s strategic positioning process now has a written strategic plan and that marks an important milestone in the overall planning process. “Achieving our established goals will require effort and attention from every part of our great institution,” the provost said.
Research and teaching are integral parts of our institution, Bates said. “To attain excellence in both areas, they must be complementary. To elevate one above the other is to compromise the integrated whole that is so essential to the learning environment of our academic community.
“We must recognize the importance of teaching, and strive to maintain the best classroom, studio, laboratory and field experiences, and first-rate curricula and academic advising,” Bates said.
At the same time, he said original research and creative scholarship of faculty and advanced students must be nurtured, since many of the most exciting ideas in the classroom emanate from researchers and practitioners poised at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines.
“Research that is retained only within the institution limits the possibilities. So, we must transfer the results to the greater society to make useful progress and effect change,” Bates said. “The students who graduate from our programs provide a seamless and lasting transfer of knowledge as they find positions in academia, industry and the public sector. They shape the future based on the experiences, education and training received from our faculty.”
Can we measure institutional excellence “just by the numbers?” Within that creative process and dissemination, quality and excellence must be the important outcomes.
“However, we must understand that education is not like a factory; we do not produce identical widgets,” he said. Much of the discovery and life-transforming work that happens in academe is a long-term investment.
“I think that Washington State University is, and can be even more so, a caring and supportive university. That is what we need to communicate through engagement in the community and convey to the general public,” he said. “We are truly a comprehensive university based on our heritage of the land-grant tradition that is rich in so many dimensions.
“I want to put forth a challenge to the faculty, staff and students. We must all strive to move our institution to the next level of development, maturity, quality and yes, excellence.
“Excellence is the ultimate goal,” Bates said.
The provost joined the university shortly after the first of the year. Previously he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of microbiology at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Bates is responsible for the academic programs of the university.