In his first meetings with students, staff and the media Friday, Washington State University President-elect Kirk Schulz said WSU’s new medical school in Spokane was one of the reasons he applied for the job.
He called it a unique opportunity to combine the traditional interests of a land-grant university with medical research. Schulz referenced the Zika virus as a potential area of research that combines agricultural and land use concerns with medicine.
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience in Spokane, Schulz laid out few specific ideas or plans for his presidency, saying he wanted to get to know the university first.
“Presidents are really facilitators of resources,” he said of his role. “I don’t have to bring a lot of great ideas.”
He added, “Making a lot of big bold moves in the first month is not a smart thing to do.”
Earlier in the day Schulz visited and spoke in Pullman and the Tri-Cities.
Schulz told the Spokane audience, “I think people are going to be proud of what we are going to be able to do over the next decade with medical education.”
Additionally, he emphasized the benefits of working closely with local business.
Schulz said the quality of the professors at WSU, the medical school and the land-grant mission of the university attracted him to the job. He wants to publicize the quality of the university outside the Pacific Northwest.
“We have an opportunity to tell the WSU story in a much more effective way,” he said, adding, “We have great content and terrific things happening on an international front and what we just have to do is do a better job telling that.”
Panshak Dakup, a PhD candidate in WSU Spokane’s pharmaceutical sciences program, said he hopes Schulz “maintains the momentum of whats going on (in Spokane).”
Schulz’s predecessor Elson Floyd launched WSU’s quest to establish a medical school on the Spokane campus before dying of cancer in June 2015; the school, which is pursuing accreditation, will bear Floyd’s name.
Fellow PhD student Mahamudul Haque echoed Dakup.
“My expectations (of Schulz) will be expanding the campus like we did in Pullman,” Haque said.
Schulz’s wife, Noel Schulz, joined him in the address. Noel, who accepted a job teaching in WSU’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, said she will remind Schulz about faculty and staff concerns.
One problem with working at WSU, Schulz joked, was that Kansas State’s colors are purple.
“Kirk has 55 purple ties he’s going to be donating,” Noel Schulz said.
The WSU president-elect said he didn’t have a specific plan for balancing the athletic department’s $13 million deficit, but he said to expect something within the next several months.
At an earlier appearance on the Pullman campus, Jeff Guillory, the director of WSU’s diversity education programs, asked Schulz what he would do to promote cultural awareness on campus. “It always starts at the top,” Schulz responded, saying he wants to “facilitate good leadership” in that area without taking a micromanagement approach.
Next a faculty member asked Schulz about his plans to prepare students for various industries in and around Washington. Schulz, an engineer, said he wants to increase WSU’s focus on “meeting employers’ needs” without losing sight of liberal arts programs.
“Sometimes, when we think about liberal arts, we get hung up on what people need immediately,” Schulz said. But the humanities are just as important as science and engineering fields in the long term, he said.
Schulz has led Kansas State, a land-grant university in Manhattan, Kansas, since 2009. He is also the chairman of the NCAA’s board of governors, serving a term that runs until 2017.
Correspondent Chad Sokol contributed to this report.
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