Our Voice: Public's role in WSU Tri-Cities success an asset for next chancellor in selecting WSU leader

Washington State University Tri-Cities is more than just the name of a branch campus.

The title accurately reflects the sense of ownership this community has for the school, a strength that the next chancellor should build upon.

Tri-City residents forged deep connections to this institution -- especially in rallying together to turn it into a four-year university. The community has been there every step of the way, from the initial concept to the first graduating class and beyond.

Community leaders and citizens came together to form a vision of higher education in the Tri-Cities. They took not just one, but two, runs at the Legislature to make it happen.

Since the school opened its doors to freshmen in 2007, the community has created opportunities and partnerships for WSU-Tri-Cities' students that far exceed what happens in most other communities.

All first-year students received a $1,000 scholarship for their freshman and senior years. And they were given laptops -- all through community partnerships. And that was only the beginning.

The Wine Science Center that's under construction in north Richland is a stellar example of the partnership with and the broader community.

WSU-Tri-Cities, the city of Richland and the wine industry united to form the Wine Science Center Development Authority, which pulled together funds to make the center a reality.

The Washington Wine Commission pledged $7.4 million toward building the research facility. The collaborative effort between WSU Tri-Cities and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to build and operate the school's biofuels lab is another great example.

If synergy hadn't become an overused buzzword, it would perfectly describe the relationships WSU Tri-Cities has forged with its neighbors.

Synergy -- the working together of two things to produce results greater than either could accomplish on its own -- has been the backbone of the school's success.

Nearly all of these partnerships were under the leadership of former Chancellor Vicky Carwein. She was the right leader for this community and campus, but she has moved on.

Carwein accepted a new post this summer at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, and her seat in the Tri-Cities needs to be filled.

We were glad to see the search for her replacement make good use of the strong bonds between the community and branch campus.

The 17-member search committee is a mix of academic officials and community leaders. PNNL Director Mike Kluse and Danny Talbot, clinical associate professor at WSU Tri-Cities, are co-chairmen of the committee.

It's equally appropriate that the search committee is introducing the finalists to the community, after narrowing their choices down from 40 candidates to a handful. It would be especially encouraging -- and instructive to the prospects -- if community members take advantage of the opportunity.

The first of the candidate, Karla V. Hughes, provost and vice president of academic affairs for Morehead State University in Kentucky, will be on the Richland campus today. Campus and community members are invited to meet her during a forum from 12:10-1:15 p.m. in the auditorium of the East Building at 2719 Crimson Way.

A second candidate, Ronald T. Brown, is provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The public forum with Brown is Monday at the same time in the same building.

We appreciate the search committee giving the community the opportunity to meet the candidates. The relationship between the chancellor and the community has been vital over the past seven years. It's crucial to the school and the Tri-Cities for those ties to continue.