Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services
PULLMAN, Wash. – President Elson S. Floyd provided an optimistic appraisal of the present and future during his fifth State of the University address Wednesday.
Speaking at Bryan Hall on the Pullman campus and to a university-wide audience watching a live web-stream, Floyd discussed a series of positive developments that had occurred in recent weeks.
He was in Seattle earlier Wednesday to join U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in announcing a five-year, $40 million grant to WSU to help develop biofuel alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and chemicals. Last week, the president was in Prosser at the announcement of a $27 million gift from the tree fruit industry to support university research, the largest gift in WSU’s history.
“Why did the USDA single out our university? Why did the tree fruit growers vote an assessment on themselves to support WSU research? Quite simply, both groups think that our university is uniquely qualified to bring best practices to bear in these critical areas. And you won’t be surprised to hear that I wholeheartedly agree,” Floyd said.
He pointed to a 54 percent growth in grant funding to the university over the past three years: “That is clearly a reflection of the work of this faculty and the staff that is around them.”
The university’s record enrollment this fall, which featured the largest class of incoming freshman in history, is another sign of WSU’s continued strength, he said.
However, the president also acknowledged the strains created by a series of budget cuts.
“I know that today I am speaking to an audience that is, in my words, budget weary. We have faced an unprecedented series of reductions in our state allocation. We have weathered storm after storm after storm,” Floyd said.
He thanked the WSU employees who have taken on increasing workloads without salary increases in recent years.
Earlier Wednesday, the university circulated a memorandum spelling out the steps being taken to address the $40 million budget shortfall over the current biennium. As part of the plan, the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be integrated into a single college. Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly will appoint a committee to develop a plan for the integration, with a goal of completing its work by June 30, 2012.
In the memorandum, the president suggested the new college be called the College of Letters and Sciences. He said during the day he had received considerable feedback about that name, and he now said part of the committee’s charge would be to come up with a name for the college.
He said the integration of the two colleges would be only one part of a continuing effort to reinvent and restructure the university: “While the budget cuts provide a major impetus for that effort, they also will not define our work.”
Enhancing best programs, fundraising
Floyd said, in meetings with administrative and academic leaders last week, some of the most productive discussion focused on the potential of the university’s best programs.
“What do we want to be known for? In what areas do we have singular expertise?” he asked.
He said the university’s planning process going forward will focus on how to build around and enhance those signature programs.
He also stressed the continued importance of private fundraising and the “Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas.”
He said private fundraising is crucial to providing any institution with the margin of excellence, especially in difficult economic times. The campaign has raised more than $620 million toward its $1 billion goal.