Select 2009-2010 Accomplishments & Initiatives for 2010-11
In preparation for his Opening Convocation address, President Bruce Shepard asked the leaders of Western's administrative divisions and governance groups to share several major accomplishments over the last year and initiatives or priorities for the year ahead. Please note that these are only highlights; for a full accounting of the past year, please see the 2009-10 Annual Report available today on the University Communications website under the "Publications" tab.
Diversity on the Rise at Western
Diversity on our campus remained a key commitment in 2009-2010, anchored by a faculty and staff diversity recruitment and retention program that was researched, developed, and adopted with the critical help of a revitalized Minority Employee Council (MEC). Despite budget challenges, funding for the Diversity Initiative was fully retained even as support for all other planned initiatives had to be scaled back or eliminated. Recommendations for increasing workforce diversity ranged from developing Diversity Fellows and Residents to proactively identifying pipeline opportunities to recruit from more diverse applicant pools.
Given last year's cuts in state funding, it is noteworthy that minority representation in Western's workforce stayed at 12%, even though the number of employees dropped from 2,300 in 2009 to 2,157 in 2010. Last year posed numerous challenges for increasing the diversity of our student body as well; tuition rose significantly, Work Study was cut back, and State Need Grant funding seemed to be gone during the period when high school seniors were making decisions about their future. Nevertheless, minorities will represent 23.3% of this fall's incoming freshmen, up from 21.7% in 2009.
Overall, Western's student body continues to roughly reflect (and even exceed) the overall ethnic and racial diversity that enriches Washington State, increasing from 20.4% last year to 22.7% this fall. With the help of MEC and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Advocacy Council, a student campus climate survey last year showed Western is on par with or slightly better than peer institutions when it comes to measures of campus climate for diversity. For a university intending to be the best of our type, average is not good enough, and focus groups will be helping us all better understand how the survey results can lead to action and improvement.
Scholarly Achievements in 2009-10
Our campus continues to be a powerful engine of academic research and creative productivity: last year, Western's faculty published more than 65 books and edited volumes, refereed 357 journal articles, presented 628 conference papers, and produced 732 artistic performances, recordings and exhibits.
Western faculty and students conducted research on a dizzying array of topics, with grant awards funding their exploration of new treatments for hemophilia, brain plasticity and communication between neurons, the impact of military service on personal health, "dark energy" in distant galaxy clusters, water quality and toxic algae in Puget Sound, and how to run buses on biomethane from dairy waste, among many others. Importantly at Western, and as was celebrated at Scholars Week last spring, our students were heavily involved in the university's scholarly attainments.
Academic Innovation and Excellence in 2010-11
New programs being launched or developed in the coming year:
- A new Elementary Education major will be offered in Language, Literacy and Cultural Studies combining training in reading, teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), and culturally appropriate instruction. The major shortens time to degree for teachers who previously had to earn separate endorsements in these areas, and makes elementary education majors more marketable and better able to serve Washington's rapidly changing student population.
- A new Professional Science Master's degree will meet a growing need for professionals who understand both science and business principles. The inaugural program will be in environ-mental sciences, with the common business core soon to be supplemented with possible areas of focus in additional sciences.
- The College of Humanities and Social Sciences created a new minor in Islamic Studies, responding to the need for greater understanding of the culture and history of the Islamic world, as well as the Arabic language.
- In 2010-11 Western will begin expanding off-campus offerings to meet the needs of underserved populations in the northwest region, including the very popular Human Services major and MBA program. The attention to quality by WWU faculty in the design of these programs will ensure they sustain Western's reputation for academic excellence.
- Initial planning has also begun for renewable energy and sustainable business programs that will span colleges and disciplines, building on Western's strong faculty and reputation in these areas.
Increased Access to Classes in 2010-11
One of the more frequent comments heard in the 100 Conversations concerned class access: Parents were very excited about the quality of the classes their sons and daughters were taking, but were concerned about their ability to get the classes they needed to graduate on time. With the help of Deans, faculty, and the Registrar's Office, a registration waitlist has been implemented as a pilot program for 100- and 200-level courses starting this fall quarter, with similar measures for addressing 300- and 400-level bottlenecks soon to come. The waitlist will not only allow students to get in a queue for available seats once a class becomes full, it will help the faculty and administration determine when extra class sections should be added in response to higher demand.
Expanded Governance and Decision Making
As part of the university's commitment to open and transparent decision making, the University Planning and Resources Council (UPRC), was established with the leadership of the Faculty Senate to help create and review university policy and procedures with regard to budgetary and strategic planning, financial operations and resource allocation. Among the UPRC's activities over the past academic year:
- Review and endorsement of the capital and operating budget processes
- Discussion and advisement on the revision of Western's Strategic Plan
- Review of capital budget proposals and endorsement of a 10-year capital plan, including ranked capital projects for funding requests
- Review of operating budget initiative proposals for the 2010-11 and 2011-13 budgets and suggested funding priorities
In the spirit of university-wide reflection on efficiency and responsible use of funds, the Associated Students created a Triennial Assessment Program (TAP) to assess each of its program offices over three years. The first year of TAP already led to increased efficiencies and insight on the use of student funds.
The Associated Students also created two new offices last year:
- The Representation and Engagement Program is charged with coordinating the efforts of the Student Senate, Legislative Liaison, Elections Coordination and Western Votes Programs. The goal of the new office is to increase student participation in civic issues on campus and at the state and national level.
- The new Disability Outreach Center evolved from a small club called Students for Disability Awareness created three years ago. Over the past three years the club has had great success hosting an annual Disability Awareness Week, quickly becoming one of the largest student-sponsored events at Western. In 2009 a collaborative effort was made to reaffirm the mission of the club as a value of the Associated Students by giving it a permanent place on campus.
Powerful New Partnerships: The Northwest Higher Education Coalition
The past year saw the formation of important new partnerships among Western and several two-year community and technical colleges in the north Puget Sound area. The Northwest Higher Education Coalition (NWHEC), consisting of Western, Bellingham Technical College, Skagit Valley College, Everett Community College, Olympic College, Whatcom Community College and the Northwest Indian College, have been meeting since last fall to explore how their collaboration can better serve the region and their individual and collective missions.
At its most recent meeting in June, NWHEC started going forward with projects in three areas: increasing support and transfer services for veterans; improving international student recruitment and retention, and providing more and better international experiences for students and faculty; and building shared curriculum and resources in marine sciences and conservation. The veterans' initiative developed particularly quickly and was recently included as one of four special campus initiatives for the 2011-13 state budget request. Western's support of veterans was recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine when it was named as a "Military Friendly School" for 2011, placing it in the top 15% of all higher education institutions nationwide.
'100 Community Conversations' Provide Important Insights
University Advancement conceived and managed President Shepard's hugely successful, 10-month "100 Community Conversations" initiative, involving more than 100 meetings with 1,000 alumni, parents, elected officials, community leaders, educators, and business and civic leaders from across the country. The conversations solicited opinions and ideas for Western's future in the face of rapidly declining state funding and served as groundwork for the university's strategic planning, branding initiatives and upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign. Most immediately, findings from the initiative had a direct impact on Western's basic strategies and priorities in defining the 2010-11 and 2011-13 budgets.
Strategic Marketing & New Media
One of the things heard most clearly—and most often—in the 100 Conversations was the need for Western to market itself better. Participants often said that Western was "a hidden gem," and that, while proud of their affiliation with Western, they didn't have a great sense of Western's unique strengths.
In response, Western completed its first-ever branding initiative to sharpen and clarify Western's image and strengths for prospective and current students, parents, and other stakeholders. Over the course of eight months, a team composed of faculty, staff and students worked with a media consultant to develop a comprehensive brand strategy including a new tagline, positioning statement and logo. In addition, University Communications developed an online presence for Western on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Rollout and implementation of this new integrated marketing and branding platform will begin in the fall, and is expected to yield benefits in recruitment, enrollment, and fundraising, and enhance Western's relations with the legislature, alumni and the community.
Sustainability at Western
Western has been a leader in teaching and practicing sustainability since the Huxley College of the Environment was established 40 years ago. In 2009-2010 Western continued to assert leadership in this area across the campus, with students at the forefront of many initiatives:
- Western was ranked 12th on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of the nation's top 20 green energy purchasers in higher education, the only college or university in Washington to make the list. Western annually purchases 100% of its electrical energy from green sources via renewable energy credits. This spring the WWU student body voted overwhelmingly to renew the Green Energy Fee, the first student-imposed fee for the purchase of green energy to be implemented in the country.
- After a collaborative effort involving students, faculty and staff, Western adopted a Climate Action Plan, a commitment undertaken when former President Karen W. Morse signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007. Western's Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management drafted a plan that commits the campus to a number of goals, including: reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to 36% below 2005 levels by 2020; reaching zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; and incorporating greenhouse gas reductions into the institutional decision making process.
- University Dining Services strengthened its partnership with Growing Washington, a non-profit organization passionate about helping small farmers in western Washington enter new markets, especially schools. In just the second year of this partnership, Growing Washington is providing about 14% of Western's produce, and has leased land—named Viking Field—to keep up with demand.
- Western is among more than 300 campuses participating in the Real Food Challenge, a nationwide movement to measure sustainable food purchases and offer all "real" food by 2020. The four criteria for sustainable food are that it meets fair trade standards, is ecologically sound, supports the local economy, and ensures humane treatment of animals. Western is on target to attain its goal of purchasing 20% real food by 2012, with 14% of current purchases qualifying by challenge standards.
University Advancement Prepares for Comprehensive Fundraising Campaign
University Advancement and the WWU Foundation Board built momentum throughout the past year toward launching a comprehensive fundraising campaign, Western's first in 17 years. The planning process has been extensive: funding priorities across the university were put forward by Deans, and the Foundation's Campaign Planning Committee met every 6 weeks in preparation for a feasibility study to be conducted this fall to create a campaign case statement, set fundraising goals, and identify key constituents. The 100 Conversations also played a large part in helping to determine campaign priorities, confirmed by feedback at meetings with the 200 Western Advocates and the Seattle Business Forum this spring. These events raised nearly $150,000 for scholarships, and they will continue to be an important resource as the campaign approaches. Gifts in 2009-10 also helped the WWU Foundation's assets climb to an all-time high of $46.2 million.
Increased Efficiency with Banner Finance & Office of Capital Planning and Development
As Western continues to navigate uncertain economic conditions, increased efficiencies contribute to the fiscal health of the institution and help make a strong case to legislators that Western is a good steward of its resources.
- In July 2009 the Office of Capital Planning and Development was established to improve the efficiency and transparency of the planning process for major capital and minor works projects, and to accelerate project completion. This is particularly important, as state funding for capital projects is determined far in advance—Western is required to submit a 10-year capital budget plan—and may only be used toward specific projects in the years for which it is requested. Moreover, these funds are not only earmarked solely for capital projects, they must be returned to the state if not used in a timely fashion. Thus, the new Office's role in reducing the planning and construction timeline for small capital projects ensures that building funds deliver maximum benefit for the campus.
- This past winter the Banner Finance and HR Initiatives Project was launched in order to bring Western's business and accounting practices up to industry standards. This three-phase project is designed to fully utilize the functionality of the existing Banner systems in Finance, HR and Budgeting, automating many existing processes. Phase I was completed at the end of June, and Phase II will be continuing throughout this fall and winter, including analysis of Western's business policies, procedures, practices and process flow to ensure maximum system and personnel efficiency.
- Western's Financial Aid office converted approximately 14,000 student records to an electronic system in 2009-10, making it the first Financial Aid department in the state of Washington to go paperless. The conversion enables counselors to serve students more quickly, saves in material costs, and provides a more convenient, online format for students to access their own records and financial aid award notifications.
- A comprehensive financial and policy review will be conducted of Western's Parking and Transportation System in 2010-11, and master planning of Parking Services and Alternative Transportation is currently under discussion.
VRI Team Reaches Finals in $10 million X-Prize Competition
Besting the majority of an international field, the Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) Viking 45 advanced to the second-to-last day of trials and events in the Progressive Automotive X-Prize competition, a quest to build an easily mass-produced, 100-mpg automobile. From the 136 vehicles that started the competition, the Viking 45 finished in the top ten, making it further than any other university team in the United States. During three months of rigorous testing, including range tests and safety trials, VRI students gained invaluable experience working together and alongside professional competitors.
2009-10 Viking Athletics Highlights
- Western placed sixth nationally among 310 NCAA Division II schools in the final 2009-10 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. It is the Vikings' highest placing in school history and the school's second top 10 finish, as they placed 10th last year.
- Western won its second straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference all-sports title and its sixth in the nine-year history of the conference. The Vikings won league titles in men's cross country, men's golf and men's outdoor track & field as well as the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference championship.
- The WWU women's crew team won their sixth consecutive national championship. Theirs is the longest string of consecutive rowing championships by any school in all divisions of the NCAA. Additionally, the 16 Viking rowers who went to nationals had a combined GPA of 3.1.
- In the 2009-10 academic year, 30 Western athletes received NCAA Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Awards for having cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 (4.0 scale) or higher, 23 Vikings were named national scholar-athletes, and the WWU volleyball team earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association Academic Award, one of just two in the Western Region and only 55 in the division, for having an accumulative GPA of 3.31.
- In 2009-10 every head coach on Western's staff had been at the school for at least 10 years, led by the 25 seasons of men's basketball coach Brad Jackson and the 23 years of cross country and track & field coach Pee Wee Halsell.
Western's National Accolades:
- Western ranked sixth among medium-sized college and universities with alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 2009.
- According to U.S. News and World Report, Western is the best public, master's granting university in the Pacific Northwest and third among such universities from Texas to the Pacific.
- Western ranked 54th on Kiplinger's list of the 100 Best Values in Public Colleges for 2009-2010, a ranking of schools that "deliver strong academics at affordable prices."
- Western was selected by G.I. Jobs magazine as a "Military Friendly School" for 2011, putting it in the top 15% of all higher educational institutions nationwide.
- Western's MBA program once again made the Aspen Institute's top 100 programs worldwide, finishing 72nd out of 600 business schools. Western finished ahead of MIT, Vanderbilt and Washington State University in the rankings based on superior integration of social and environmental issues into its MBA curriculum.