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From the President

Charting a Course for the Washington State University System

The world that has shaped Washington State University the past 130 years is changing more rapidly than ever. Societal, technological, economic, and cultural upheaval is constant.

As we chart the future course of our statewide system in the midst of this dynamic environment—an environment made more dynamic than we ever imagined due to the impact of COVID-19—we must evolve and adapt on a constant basis to maintain the University’s relevancy and value to society. We must expand on our ability to meet the future needs of the state of Washington, the Pacific Northwest, our nation, and beyond. We must serve the public good in new and innovative ways.

Our 2020–2025 system strategic plan sets out the framework for us to do exactly that. The plan builds on our overarching institutional goal as defined by the Drive to 25 (D25):

Washington State University will be recognized as one of the nation’s top 25 public research universities—creating positive outcomes for all.

Already, we have made much progress the past few years in key areas that support the Drive to 25 vision. The number of faculty receiving prestigious national awards is growing. Our research and development funding is at record levels. We are enrolling the highest number of students in our history. We continue to build new relationships and partnerships with communities and stakeholders across the state that advance the public good.

In creating this first-ever strategic plan focused on the WSU system, we have articulated the purpose, values, vision, and goals that connect all of our functions; all of our campuses, colleges, and units; and all of our stakeholders to the Drive to 25. We still have much work to do in this regard, but I am convinced this plan will enable us to leverage our statewide resources and apply them in powerful new ways to benefit the state.

Notably, as well, this plan expands the original desired outcomes and metrics of the D25 to make them more relevant and applicable to the entire University community as well as to our stakeholders. Among the questions the strategic plan answers: Who will benefit from the D25, and in what ways? What outcomes will be achieved, and for whom?

Among the key points that are important to understanding this broadened view of the D25:

  • One of our institutional strengths is providing access to higher education for students who have not yet had the opportunity to reach their full potential. We will expand our commitment in this regard in the future.
  • Rankings in themselves may imply a danger that we are seeking to become elite, thus jeopardizing our focus on people or our sense of self. The Drive to 25 is not a drive toward elite status and a university that is more exclusionary. The D25 is about doing what we do now better than ever, so that we can improve upon the ways in which we serve our stakeholders and, by extension, the greater good.
  • We may achieve additional prestige and higher rankings as we implement this plan, but that would be an ancillary benefit. Most important, we will remain focused on our foundational commitment: to transform lives. We will not chase rankings at the expense of this commitment.
  • In determining the success of this plan, we will measure progress using metrics (see Appendix 3) that matter most to the fulfillment of our mission, such as the social mobility of students and our institutional impact on communities. We will measure the quality, not simply the quantity, of our actions.

As we proceed, this strategic plan also will guide us in making key institutional decisions and allocating resources. We will revisit the plan annually by engaging in conversations with our community, review the checkpoints we establish to measure progress, and adjust our objectives and strategies as the needs of the University evolve and the environment in which we operate as a system change.

My sincere thanks to the entire WSU community, which participated at an unprecedented level, in crafting this plan. I hope you feel as energized about the future of the WSU system as I do. In a world being dramatically reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic, Washington State University’s ability to improve lives has never been more important.


Kirk Schulz
Washington State University System