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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

EWU is helping transform our region

Mary Cullinan

Eastern Washington University is not the college it was 100 years ago. It’s not the university of 15 years ago. As a public university, EWU has always been responsive, adapting to needs in our state and our region.

However, in the volatile and complex environment of the 21st century, EWU must also ignite change. Not simply responding to upheavals and disruptions in our environment, we must increasingly be a major change agent ourselves.

Deeply committed to our role in a region where advanced skills and a highly educated population are vitally important, EWU plans to increase the capacity of the regional workforce in key areas such as engineering, computer science, data analytics, digital media, and tech commercialization and transfer. We are also committed to forging partnerships that will help build a distinctive advantage for the region, developing talented leaders, generating jobs and improving the quality of life.

Two major events have converged to move our goals forward: we will build an Interdisciplinary Science Center in Cheney, and we will be the anchor tenant in the first phase of Avista’s Catalyst Project in Spokane’s South University District.

First, we are very grateful to the Washington state Legislature, which approved $67 million in this year’s capital budget for an Interdisciplinary Science Center on our Cheney campus. This state-of-the-art science center, with enclosed walkways that connect to the existing science building, will form a dynamic science complex to meet growing needs of our STEM programs in biology, chemistry, geology and physics as well as coursework that supports all academic areas. Eventually, we will renovate the older science building to modernize research labs and classrooms.

Second, we are extremely excited to be partnering with Avista and McKinstry as we become anchor tenants in the beautiful, environmentally friendly Catalyst Building in Spokane’s University District. EWU will move Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Visual Communication Design programs from our Cheney campus to technology-rich spaces in a remarkable building that will provide students with unique learning experiences and provide faculty and the community with new opportunities for research and collaboration.

A high-tech Innovation Hub in the building will be a convening point for the community and the university, a place where people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge work together creatively to solve problems and generate ideas.

Currently, EWU’s College of Business and Public Administration and our College of Health Science and Public Health bring 3,000 students to the University District campus. With the addition of 50 EWU computer science and engineering faculty and 1,000 students in the Catalyst Building, we will dramatically increase opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration with companies and other universities, while interaction between the community and university faculty and students will foster ideas and expand opportunities for innovation and high-tech commercialization and transfer.

This confluence of creativity and skills will help to further establish our region as a magnet for entrepreneurs and companies seeking a talented workforce and an innovative, forward-thinking environment.

Increasing knowledge, collaboration and creative thinking, EWU is igniting change that is crucial to the continuing and expanding success of our part of the state. Inspired by two beautiful new buildings in Cheney and Spokane, we are committed to harnessing talent and skills that spur the economy and attract talented individuals to our region.

Mary Cullinan is president of Eastern Washington University.

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