Washington State University wants to boost its status over the next dozen years by attracting more federal research dollars, diversifying its faculty and graduating more students on time.
Washington State University wants to boost its on-time graduation rate, capture more federal research dollars and attract a more diverse faculty to its campuses as part of a broad mission to raise the university’s status.
The goal of the effort, called “Drive to 25,” is to make WSU one of the nation’s top 25 research universities by 2030.
WSU President Kirk Schulz, who has been in his job for less than a year, was scheduled to talk about the project Wednesday afternoon during his first “State of the University” address, but that speech was postponed because of bad weather. In an interview Tuesday, he explained why he wants to improve WSU’s standing.
He emphasized that the effort isn’t about the status of a higher ranking in the report put together by U.S. News & World Report. (WSU is 143rd.) Rather, he said, the idea is to see improvement in 11 separate measures the university has identified as important.
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WSU will assess its progress yearly on those measures, compare how it’s doing with the performance of other top universities, and use the results to shape future plans.
Among those measures: how many times WSU faculty are cited in research papers, the number of Ph.D. students it educates, the amount of money given to the university each year, and the percentage of undergraduates involved in research and other scholarly pursuits.
WSU also wants to improve its graduation rate, hire a more diverse faculty and snare more federal research dollars.
Schulz said WSU has done a good job of increasing the diversity of its undergraduate enrollment but hasn’t done as well when it comes to faculty.
While about 27 percent of WSU’s undergraduates are Hispanic, black, Asian or two or more races, the percentage of minority faculty members is in the single digits, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, WSU’s six-year graduation rate is 66 percent. That’s above the national average of 42 percent but lower than some other public universities in Washington, including the University of Washington Seattle (83 percent) and Western Washington University (70 percent).
For undergraduates, the focus of “Drive to 25” will be on getting students to graduate on time, and once they do, helping them find a job or get admitted to graduate school within six months.
“It means we’re having conversations with our students right from Day One — what do you want to do, what do you want to accomplish?” Schulz said.
One model is now in use at WSU’s Carson College of Business, he said, which has created a “success center” where students can go to get academic help, assistance in career planning and aid in finding a job after graduation.
Schulz spent last week in China, where he was working with a consulting company that is going to help WSU recruit more international students. That is indirectly tied to the goal of raising the university’s stature because “we’re going to bring in students from around the world that are academically talented” to boost the overall academic profile of the university, Schulz said.
Having more international students may also make it easier to forge partnerships with international universities, which can in turn bring research dollars to the university, he said.
Schulz described the top-25 goal as a journey that will include a continuous focus on progress. He’ll also solicit ideas from faculty, staff, students and alumni. “We want to take the WSU family and engage them in this conversation — how are we going to raise our institutional profile?” he said.