Our Voice: Community input crucial to success of WSU academic plan

Washington State University Tri-Cities can count among its assets the community's strong sense of ownership in the Richland campus.

It's a phenomenon that has reaped benefits for WSU Tri-City students, from scholarships to donations of computers to internship opportunities.

It's gratifying to see university leaders working to strengthen that connection as they chart an academic master plan to guide the school's growth during the next decade.

WSU Tri-Cities became a four-year university in 2006, after the community rallied behind the idea and lobbied legislators in Olympia to make the change. The successful effort forged deep ties between the college and the community.

The school is drafting an academic master plan to replace the 10-year plan called "Signature 2020," and the exercise provides an opportunity to strengthen community bonds.

The school offers 18 bachelor's degrees, 10 master's degrees, and six doctoral degrees. Mike Mays, vice chancellor for academic affairs, told us the college won't drop any existing programs but wants to be strategic about any additions.

Dynamic community engagement is one of WSU Tri-Cities' core values, so inviting public participation in creating an academic master plan for the next 10 years was a natural extension of an ongoing relationship.

More information is available at www.tricity.wsu.edu/academic plan. While you're there, take a few minutes to fill out the survey. It's a quick and easy way to be heard.

But it's not the only way. The planning committee started the process of creating a new academic plan with three months of listening sessions, primarily geared toward the campus.

A draft of the plan is due in the fall, and WSU will hold public forums to solicit the community's response.

The school is taking a thoughtful and methodical approach to creating the next academic plan. School leaders want to build on a foundation already in place -- a liberal arts-based science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) campus with signature programs in biofuels, wine science and K-12 STEM education.

Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young has outlined what he calls "eight design principles for a 21st century campus." They are: leverage the location; student success; innovative instruction; embracing entrepreneurship; cultural and global inclusion; increase research and development; creating a culture of creativity and building the brand.

It's a smart list that gives some clear direction to the academic planning process that's under way.

It's smart because it builds on existing strengths. Count yourself among those strengths and be part of the process. Watch for announcements about public forums this fall on the academic plan.

And plan to attend. Regardless of your alma mater, WSU Tri-Cities is your school.