What does the future hold for Western Washington University, and how does the public view the role of public universities like WWU? To get feedback on those and related questions, Western has begun an effort titled “100 Community Conversations.”
The initiative, funded through the generosity of Jack and Jo Ann Bowman, is a way to engage alumni, parents, civic and business leaders, philanthropists and community members in talking about the future of WWU. Conversations will be held across Washington and in select out-of-state locations. Western is currently the top master’s-granting university in the Pacific Northwest. These conversations will help WWU prioritize and focus as the university works to become the top comprehensive university in the nation.
A primary goal is to learn how to better meet the needs of our state and the country at large by creating closer ties and meaningful partnerships. The intention is to create more opportunities for dialogue among key leaders in business and industry, education, the arts, the sciences and non-profit organizations.
“Why is this important to do now? Our world is changing. Steeply declining state revenues and the subsequent inability of the state to sustain a significant funding level for higher education give us pause to consider our future,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard. “The global economy, climate change, increasing diversity of our cultures, technological innovation and advances are transforming the world around us. Western, like all higher education institutions, will have to transform itself to meet the needs of the state and the communities of people who make up the ‘public’ in public education.”
The initiative will include holding at least 100 community conversations during the fall and winter 2009-2010, initiated by friends of Western, and involving people from all walks of life. President Shepard, along with his administrative and academic leadership team, faculty, staff and students will work in tandem with Trustees, Foundation and Alumni Board leadership and other WWU advocates, to coordinate these conversations and report findings back to stakeholders.
Activities planned range from small dinner parties to meeting with the members of community organizations. Many of the conversations will be led by Western’s vice presidents and deans, in addition to those led by the president.
This is an inclusive university initiative, and students will participate by helping listen and record community opinions. All comments will remain confidential and will be summarized in a report back to the campus and community by President Shepard in early spring 2010.