WSU has an impact on every city where it has a campus. But clearly, it is in Pullman where that impact is felt most powerfully.
As one of the smallest cities nationwide to host a major research university, Pullman is a singular spot. Certainly, it holds a fond place in the hearts of all those alumni who have earned degrees here. In the past months, I have greatly enjoyed getting acquainted with the distinctive people and places of the Palouse.
The Pullman campus plays an enormous role in the everyday life of its home city; we must make sure that influence is a beneficial one. During my previous two presidencies – at the University of Missouri and Western Michigan University – I made “town-gown” relations a priority, and I intend to do the same thing here.
This week, I had the opportunity to talk with the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. We discussed some of the ways that WSU can have an even more affirmative impact on its hometown.
I see those initiatives, broadly speaking, in two different categories. Some are Pullman-specific. Over the Homecoming weekend, for example, we held a dialogue for Greek alumni, advisors and student leaders, which touched on a variety of issues, including concerns about the College Hill neighborhood. Living in the president’s residence on campus, I think I see the overall picture – both the good and the bad – of what happens there daily. We want to build a collaborative relationship that enhances the contributions that Greek organizations make to the community.
The university also has been active in recent years renovating historic structures on College Hill and encouraging economic and residential development.
Some of our initiatives are broader in scope. I believe the School of Global Animal Health, for example, can be an internationally recognized resource for teaching and research in this vital, emerging area.
What does that mean for Pullman? In the supplemental budget proposal we recently submitted to the state, we asked for funding to create the school, money that would go, in part, to hire four top-flight researchers and their research teams. We also asked for design funds for the latest in our series of research buildings, focused on veterinary researchers. If approved, these requests mean outstanding new scientists joining our community, as well as new construction creating local sales tax revenues.
Meanwhile, the ripples of this research effort, and so many others, would be felt in Pullman and would spread regionally, nationally and worldwide.
The futures of Pullman and Washington State University are inextricably linked. The quality of life and economic vitality of Pullman is instrumental in attracting students, faculty and staff to this unique place.
Like any important relationship, the one between WSU and its hometown needs regular maintenance. And, I can assure you, we are going to keep working on it.