First-ever faculty regent appointed

Closeup of Judi McDonald
Judi McDonald

Washington State University has its first-ever faculty regent.

Judi McDonald, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was chosen by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as a voting member of the WSU Board of Regents from a pool of candidates submitted by the WSU Faculty Senate.

“I know all of us who were nominated were excited to do the job, and I had confidence that any others chosen would do a phenomenal job,” McDonald said. “We all really value this role as something important for faculty with shared governance experience to do.”

During her time at WSU, McDonald has accumulated more than a decade of university governance experience. She’s previously chaired the Faculty Affairs Committee of the WSU Faculty Senate, a representative body that she has also served as chair-elect, chair and past chair. As chair, McDonald advocated for adding a faculty representative to the Board of Regents, which was done in 2018. She was the first person at WSU to serve in the role.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Legislature’s amended state law to add an empowered faculty regent to the governing boards of WSU as well as the University of Washington.

“Now that we have a voting member at the table, it’s exciting and frightening to be at the table and have the task of sticking up for faculty.”

The opportunity to work with graduate students and have more flexibility in the types of courses she could teach drew McDonald to WSU in 2001. She received tenure in 2004, and says her love of the university, its students and the Palouse has kept her firmly planted in Pullman.

 “We are extremely fortunate to have Judi serving in this new role, as she is a proven advocate for faculty and has demonstrated an eagerness to collaborate with members of the Board of Regents,” Marty Dickinson, chair of the WSU Board of Regents, said.

McDonald’s research is focused on making predictions based on patterns in linear algebraic structures, something she describes as being like Sudoku, albeit a bit more complex. It’s a field that’s taken off in recent years, McDonald says, with industry representatives coming to her to ensure students know enough to be able to get to work right away after graduating.

McDonald is also a co-author of the textbook “Linear Algebra and Its Application,” which allows her influence over how the field is taught beyond WSU. She’s currently teaching intro to linear algebra as well as a course for seniors and graduate students and has relished the return of normal classroom environments following two years of remote or in-person masked teaching.

McDonald’s first meetings as faculty regent will take place Nov. 17 and 18 in Vancouver. She’s looking forward to continuing her advocacy for faculty and serving as a bridge between the faculty and a group of regents she characterizes as being generous with their ideas and receptive to feedback.

“It’s really great for WSU that we’re strengthening this exchange of ideas between regents and faculty, which is incredibly valuable for both groups.”

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