Q1) Under your leadership, WSU Tri-Cities has initiated a strategic plan process. Can you tell us when you will unveil the results, and in particular, what are your expected outcomes from the plan.
A1) Our campus began a planning process in September of 2018. The process has an extensive baseline phase over this year through August of 2019. By the end of the 2018/2019 academic year, we will have completed 4 town halls, 12 department meetings, 4 brown bag luncheons, 5 community presentations, an online survey and market research. From these engagements, our steering committee will identify a framework that we will use to make our action plans in each department during the 2019/2020 academic year.
I desire to have four or five foci for our campus improvement that everyone can articulate and use to measure success over the next five years.
Q2) Has the University established a set of metrics by which to measure these outcomes?
Yes, there are WSU system-wide metrics we use for accreditation and to meet our Drive to 25 goals. Our campus goals will align with these and be specific to our community, student and campus needs. The WSU system focuses on four themes:
- Exceptional Research, Innovation, and Creativity;
- Transformative Student Experiences;
- Outreach and Engagement;
- Institutional Effectiveness.
Some of the metrics include:
- Total research and development expenditures
- Federal research and development expenditures
- Endowment assets
- Annual giving
- National Academy members
- Faculty awards
- Doctorates granted
- Postdoctoral appointees
- Median SAT scores
- National Merit Scholars
Q3) The Institute spoke before one of the University’s town halls, laying out some of the “landscape” metrics. Are there any measures on the Trends site that you deem particularly important in informing the future of WSU Tri-Cities?
A3) We found the entire Trends website very applicable to our work but specifically, during this initial stage, it has identified the changing demographics of the Columbia Basin Region. While many other communities are getting older and getting smaller, ours is trending younger and growing. Poverty, mental health, and career mobility are all measures outlined in the Trends data that help us to discuss adjustments to academic programming, student life, community supports, and learning modalities.
There are changing economic needs of our community that impact workforce development and readiness to meet the industrial demands of our community. Industrial Agriculture, Food, Healthcare, Education, Hanford workforce, High Technology industry are all emerging as thriving industries in our region that WSU Tri-Cities will be poised to assist without compromise to quality.
The Trends website also identified some social needs of our community that will impact how we do business in the future. First, economic status and the cost of living demonstrate the importance of our institution providing local and affordable top quality education. Our community would not have such convenient access to a Research 1 institution if our campus were not located in the Tri-Cities while living close to work and meeting family needs. Second, we have learned from the Trends data that our community struggles from mental health needs that our faculty and programs can address.
Q4) It’s been a little more than a year since you arrived in the Tri-Cities. Are there any characteristics of life here, as measured by the Trends that jump out at you?
A4) Yes. The standard of living, growing population, and lower cost of living have all been true and added to my smooth and happy transition to becoming a Tri-Citian.
Q5) You have been in academic leadership for many years, as dean, associate provost and now chancellor. Over the years, have you noticed any change in the use of data by higher ed to make decisions?
A5) Oh my goodness, yes. Higher education institutions have started using data and especially big data in many areas for all kinds of decision making. As you note, we are using the Trends data for our strategic planning and setting directions for our future to better meet the needs of the communities we serve. Data is also being used for decisions that may not have been previously on quantitative evidence. For example, course scheduling, including time and place, is more dependent on data. Using data, we better meet the needs of our students and help them to graduate in a timely manner. Data is also used in advising, helping students to reach their goals in a manageable way. Business plans are more and more common include cost of instruction. Using data to manage finances helps ensure fiscal sustainability and good stewardship of state and philanthropic monies.