Symposium eyes value of public research universities

PULLMAN, Wash. – WSU President Kirk Schulz will serve as a panelist at a symposium on Tuesday, May 2, that will examine the importance of public research universities in creating an educated citizenry and a robust national research enterprise.

The symposium will take place from 3-5 p.m. at the University of Washington Student Union Building 160 (Lyceum) in Seattle. A reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. will follow.

Abraham Lincoln’s vision

The symposium is part of The Lincoln Project, a national initiative of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) named for President Abraham Lincoln, who in 1862 signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the nation’s modern system of land-grant universities.

“Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision: An Educational Compact for the 21st Century,” is one in a series of similar forums held across the country by the AAAS. During the past three years, The Lincoln Project has studied the challenges facing public research universities, particularly focused on current and changing financial models and how that has affected the ability of public universities to meet their educational, research and public service mission.

Critical investment

“The national investment in public higher education played an instrumental role in our country’s competitiveness in the 20th century, and that investment is more critical as the 21st century evolves,” Schulz said. “Higher education is essential to preparing the next generation for careers of the future — we believe government must continue to share in this investment so that access to higher education, regardless of family income, is assured.”

Daniel Greenstein, director of Education, Postsecondary Success in the United States Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will deliver keynote remarks. University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Emeritus Bob Birgeneau, who co-chaired The Lincoln Project, will discuss the project and its recommendations. Greenstein and Schulz will join University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce and former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire for a panel discussion.

Margaret O’Mara, UW associate professor of history, will moderate the discussion.

Three strategies to ensure research

The Lincoln Project recommends three strategies to ensure the well being of public research institutions and the communities they serve:

  • Address current financial challenges through renewed state support and new cost efficiencies and additional revenue streams at public research universities
  • Create public-private partnerships to sustain and strengthen research and education for the future
  • Improve student access and performance by simplifying financial aid, tracking student performance and improving transfer pathways

The Lincoln Project published a series of five publications that present key facts about public research universities; examine the challenges facing higher education funding at the state level; discuss current and changing financial models of public research universities; and consider the myriad impacts of the research conducted at these institutions. In its final report, the Lincoln Project offered substantive recommendations for sustaining these institutions and advancing their growth for the benefits of the states they serve and the nation as a whole.

Some of WSU’s recent contributions to the state:

  • Expansion of health care statewide

The new Elson S.  Floyd College of Medicine, created in 2015, will expand health care in underserved areas of the state and give more Washingtonians a chance to earn a medical degree in the state. The college’s innovative community-based model of medical education will rely on partnerships with existing clinics and hospitals statewide to provide clinical education. The inaugural class of 60 medical students enrolls in August.

  • Development of environment-friendly jet fuel

In November, Alaska Airlines flew a demonstration flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., using 1,000 gallons of alternative biojet fuel produced by the WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). The alliance thrives  due to a public-private partnership that includes private industry partners such as Alaska Air, Weyerhaeuser, Gevo and Cosmos Specialty Fibers, and public support and funding from the USDA.

  • Launch of Cosmic Crisp

The new apple variety Cosmic Crisp™ is the latest example of the university’s world-class tree fruit breeding program. Sales of Cosmic Crisp™ trees to the state’s apple growers have exceeded projections — putting Cosmic Crisp™ on track to become the largest launch of any apple variety in the world as consumers await arrival of the crisp and sweet apple in grocery stores in 2020.

  • Advancement of wine science research

The new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center on the WSU Tri-Cities campus is considered one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world. The center is the result of a partnership between WSU and Ste. Michelle, the world’s largest producer of Riesling wine and one of the largest producers of wine in the nation. The new facility is expected to become a magnet for attracting world-class researchers and students in addition to boosting the state’s $5 billion a year state wine industry.

  • Top choice of Washington students for higher education

The university enrolled a record 30,142 students statewide fall semester. Enrolling students who reflect the state’s diversity is a priority: students of color represented more than 31 percent of the undergraduate population, and first-generation students represented nearly 38 percent of freshmen and 43 percent of entering transfer students.