In a continuing effort to improve Western Washington University’s adherence to its mission, university officials are soliciting feedback on six specific questions raised by President Bruce Shepard during his 2013 convocation speech.
In that speech, Shepard raised issues of diversity, access to education and Western’s role in an increasingly global economy.
“State colleges and universities, historically and around the country, have been points of access for first generation college students,” Shepard said. “Here, Western is an outlier. We have a reputation as a selective and premier institution, and our students are more likely to come from the upper middle class families where parents have gone to college.”
He continued: “In Washington, where we draw 90 percent of our students, high school graduation numbers have recently declined. They are projected to now remain flat. Those flat lines mask a shift: the strata of high school grads from which we have traditionally drawn our students are shrinking; they are being replaced by those coming from different socioeconomic strata. How do we respond?”
That response, Shepard said, begins with the Western community and its answers to six critical questions:
- What should be our responses to the changing demography of Washington high school graduates?
- What can we at WWU do to address issues of affordable access to a quality education?
- How do we make sure that in future years “we are not as white as we are today?”
- What should our approach be to meeting educational needs off our campus?
- How is WWU going to play in a future where leading universities, of necessity, are globally engaged universities?
- What, in the years ahead, are to be the roles of the liberal arts and sciences at WWU?
“These questions address areas that are vital for Western as we think about strategic options for the next several years,” said Brian Burton, Western's Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and co-chair with Western Provost Brent Carbajal of a special committee tasked with gathering this feedback. “The conversations we are starting now will continue, and the voices of faculty, staff and students will guide us in those continuing discussions. It’s very important that we hear from all interested members of the Western community.”
The committee is collecting and reviewing the responses and pulling out common themes and suggestions to include in a report to campus at the end of this academic year. The conversations will continue into future years, though, as the Western community works to maintain and even enhance Western’s excellence.