Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear…
— From “The Road Not Taken”
by Robert Frost

Washington State University’s road to the future in Spokane is experiencing increasing traffic these days, but the way is still untrodden by some. Shortening distance, both real and metaphorical, and strengthening connections are both described by Brian Pitcher as important facets of his new role as chancellor for WSU Spokane.

One distance to be collapsed is obvious: The 75 miles between Pullman and Spokane.

Pitcher believes opportunities for synergistic relationships between the residential campus in Pullman and the metropolitan campus in Spokane will reduce the sense of distance.

“This means thinking about what we do in new ways,” he says. “Is a new degree program best suited to the traditional setting, the urban setting, or will the best possible student experience be a combination of both? Yogi Gupta’s Applied Sciences Lab, and the sleep and performance work that brings together James Krueger in Pullman and Greg Belenky in Spokane, show how research collaboration collapses the distance.”

Visionary expectations
“The expectations for WSU in Spokane are sky-high and so is the support,” Pitcher said. “Visionary Spokane leaders are committed to the common good and to the long-term future of the region. We must partner with local business, government and industry, and with sister higher education institutions.”

As a noted sociologist, Pitcher brings a keen sense of the forces at work, both in community development and change and within a growing and evolving organization such as WSU Spokane. He most recently served as provost at the University of Idaho, which also has multiple campuses.

“The talent and infrastructure of a world-class research university are critical forces in creating competitive regional economies,” Pitcher says, “and Spokane is poised to escalate economic and cultural development. WSU has the opportunity to give focused leadership in the region, and Spokane is a critical asset for WSU in achieving universitywide goals for high-quality instruction and world-class research.”

He credits past leadership -— founding campus dean Bill Gray and interim chancellors Rom Markin and Nicholas Lovrich — for recruiting strong faculty and staff and for current programs and initiatives that provide a solid foundation for continued growth in the future.

Exploring new roads does not change WSU’s fundamental purpose. Pitcher, however, believes it will make all the difference for its future.

Seeing is believing
Lovrich, the outgoing interim chancellor, thought he knew Spokane. After all, he had conducted research there for 25 years, working with agencies from the Spokane Police Department and Spokane Bar Association to the Health Improvement Partnership and Spokane County Parks. He had published with Spokane faculty such as Melissa Ahern and Michael Hendryx, of the department of health policy and administration, and David Brody and Mike Erp, in criminal justice.

Six months as interim chancellor, however, brought fresh perspective. As Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

“I had no idea what was here,” Lovrich said. “The caliber of people at WSU Spokane, the work they’re doing, the reputation they have in their disciplines and in the community — you have to see it to believe it. The opportunities for productive research and scholarship are incredible.”

Lovrich now returns to his role as Claudius O. and Mary W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of the Division of Governmental Studies and Services. He says he has a new responsibility as well: “WSU Spokane ambassador in Pullman.”