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Consider six crucial questions about Western’s future

Message from the President

By Bruce Shepard | WWU President

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Dan Levine

I’ve always found the beginning of the academic year to be a time of renewal. The carefree, active days of summer give way to a more introspective climate. We begin again the journey within to discover and reflect on the world, and our place in it.

In that spirit of reflection, I pose six critical questions about Western’s future to form the basis of a campus conversation this year:

How must we respond to the changing demography of Washington high school graduates and transfers?

A majority of high school graduates will soon come from families where parents have not gone to college. How should Western support the needs of the state and its changing populations?

How do we keep affordable access to a quality college education?

Believe it or not, the cost of a Western education has been declining for the last 15 years, even though its price – tuition – has gone up due to a dramatic decline in state support. In five years, the state’s share of the costs of instruction here at Western has gone from 60 percent to 32 percent. What can we do at Western to keep access to higher education affordable without compromising quality?

How do we ensure, in the years ahead, Western is not as white as it is today?

Of this year’s entering freshman class, 25.4 percent are students of color, and the diversity of our new faculty and staff continues to surpass records every year. But we have a long way to go in ensuring that Western reflects the diversity in our state.

How do we best apply our strengths to meet Washington’s needs, both on and off campus?

We recently made a commitment to meeting the needs of underserved populations on the Olympic Peninsula by partnering with Olympic College to deliver four-year degrees in Poulsbo. How else must we build on – and support – our campus-based efforts?

How is Western going to play in a future where leading universities must be globally engaged?

The U.S. is no longer the central “hub” of international education, but one of many nodes in a complex network. Any university wanting to stay at the cutting edge must be immersed in this international web – but how?

What are to be the roles of the liberal arts and sciences at Western?

The centrality of the liberal arts, an essential part of a Western education, is written in the accomplishments of our alumni who excel in all walks of professional life. While acknowledging the increasing importance of STEM fields and career preparation, what will this hallmark of a Western education look like in the future?

We will discuss these questions all year on campus, and I invite you to join the conversation. Watch or read my Opening Convocation remarks at www.wwu.edu/president/speeches and let me know your thoughts at President@wwu.edu. I’ll provide updates on the campus conversation on Twitter @PresBruce.

I look forward to staying in touch, and to a great year ahead for Western.