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Office of the Provost From the Provost

Grad Cougs get a leg up through PDI

Isaiah Hankel, “The Cheeky Scientist,” guides WSU graduate students through a workshop earlier this year. The workshop was a part of WSU’s innovative Professional Development Initiative.

Life as a graduate student can be singularly focused on developing specialized expertise. A new program is helping broaden perspectives for Cougar grad students often while providing useful resources for faculty as well.

Washington State University’s Professional Development Initiative brings the long view into sight with skill development, advice, and anecdotes on life after grad school.

“We want our students to be better students, but we also want them to be looking at their futures as well,” says Lisa Gloss, associate dean in the Graduate School. “How they succeed after grad school is a direct reflection on WSU.”

An ongoing series of workshops addresses a wide variety of topics, from working in academics, to balancing career and family life, to taxes. The series addresses traditional professional development, fused with personal development and skill development.

The Professional Development Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Graduate School, the Graduate Professional Student Association, and WSU’s academic colleges. By combining resources and perspectives, the program is relevant for students across disciplines and timelines.

“A number of our presenters tell us they wish they had this type of program as a graduate student,” says Davi Kallman, a graduate assistant in the Graduate School. “A lot of universities don’t have this.  We’re tapping into the strengths of individual departments, and by combining resources, we’re able to augment and enhance what departments are doing and fit them under our core components.”

Those core components – Academic and Career Development, Communication and Collaboration, Leadership and Professionalism, and Personal Wellbeing – were informed by student and faculty input. The events in the PDI lineup are sometimes specific to a particular field, but most can be applied universally.

Shantel Martinez, GPSA’s director of professional development says with the number of events on the calendar, it’s easy for students to find something that interests them.

“This year we have about 32 events,” Martinez says. “We used to have a leadership class during the spring, but we’d only reach 10 to 20 students per year. So far this year, our lowest attendance was 18, and sometimes we’ve had more than 100.”

Among the most popular events have been the “Industry Job Series,” by Dr. Isaiah Henkel (The Cheeky Scientist), and the “Versatile PhD,” series with Dr. Paula Chambers. On March 28, President Kirk Schulz and Professor Noel Schulz are presenting on, “Family, Career, and Fun – Lessons Learned as a Dual Career Couple.” On April 14-16, all students, faculty, and staff are invited to PDI’s workshop on, “Liberating Structures: Practical Ways to Invite Freedom and Responsibility in the Classroom, Boardroom, and Laboratory,” with special guest Fisher Qua.

Overall attendance for the year is closing in on 1,000, and nearly one in 10 grad students has attended a PDI event already. Grad students are able to livestream events, and the group is working to develop a video archive for those who cannot attend the live events.

The group is keeping close tabs on the results of the events. The Professional Development Advisory Council, to which the college deans appoint representatives, was formed to help assess the outcomes, and find ways to improve. The PDI syncs smoothly with the Strategic Plan’s “Transformative Student Experience,” and “Institutional Effectiveness,” themes.

For more information on the Professional Development Initiative, and to learn how you can get involved, visit

In appreciation of our faculty

Provost Dan Bernardo presented Featured Faculty members, including Nathalie Wall, left, and Dustin McLarty, right, at Cougar basketball games throughout the season. The Provost is also hosting the Faculty Crimson Club, middle, each month throughout the spring semester.

WSU has a tremendous faculty, dedicated to making our university the best that it can be. This is a fact that we should not take for granted. President Schulz has frequently noted this quality when he talks about WSU’s “can-do” spirit, and our nimbleness in embracing challenging projects such as the launch of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and the INTO partnership.

Over the past couple of years, we have augmented our efforts to recognize the outstanding work and accomplishments of our faculty with new awards and recognition events.

One of the new recognitions is the Featured Faculty member at Cougar football and basketball games. Sunday night, during the final home basketball game – a win against the rival Dawgs – we honored our final Featured Faculty member for the year, Dr. Dustin McLarty, an assistant professor in the School of Materials and Mechanical Engineering. The week before, we recognized Dr. Nathalie Wall, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, who attended her first sporting event during her career at WSU. You can see a full summary of all of those recognized through the Featured Faculty Member program at

A popular event we have added on the Pullman campus is the Faculty Crimson Club, held once a month. This event, held in the Club Level of Martin Stadium, provides a venue for faculty to meet in a casual, social environment and get to know one another. Attendance has continued to grow, and I would encourage everyone to give it a try; I think you will find it a fun and worthwhile time. We have heard from some faculty who work at campuses other than Pullman that they would like to see a similar event on their campus. We will be working with the chancellors to bring the Crimson Club to these campuses sometime in the coming months.

Of course, the signature event to honor and recognize our faculty’s accomplishments is Academic Showcase, which takes place the week of March 27-31, concluding with the Celebrating Excellence Recognition Banquet on Friday night. If you have not taken in some of the Showcase events, I would encourage you to do so. The events are always inspiring and make one proud to be a Coug. The full calendar can be found at

I understand that the most important way we can show appreciation to our faculty is to provide them a quality environment in which they can pursue their scholarship and help educate the next generation of leaders. We will always strive to do better in achieving this objective, but sometimes the little things, like those mentioned above, are also important in making sure that our faculty feel appreciated for the great job they do.

Teaching Innovation Forum coming up

Sola Adesope will be one of the featured presenters at the Teaching Innovation Forum on Feb. 20.

If you’re an instructor looking for ways to engage with the University’s Drive to 25 and the Strategic Plan, next week’s Teaching Innovation Forum is a great place to start.

Teaching is central to our mission as a University. It’s a challenging job, but an incredibly rewarding one when we’re able to connect with students and see the transformative experience before our eyes.

We know that an engaging teacher can bring subjects to life for students. Most of us involved in higher education had at least one, and usually multiple instructors who served as inspiration for our career paths.

Our 2015 National Survey of Student Engagement data shows that WSU scores well compared with our peers when it comes to student-faculty interactions. It’s a sign that our dedicated faculty are motivating our students, and providing a stimulating teaching experience.

Faculty are encouraged to pursue lifelong learning, not only in their fields of expertise, but also in the field of teaching. The Teaching Innovation Forum is a great way to explore new teaching techniques, hone and refresh your skills, and share ideas with colleagues.

The Office of Academic Outreach and Innovation will host the Teaching Forum on February 20 in CUE 518 and 512. It will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and includes a networking lunch, courtesy of AOI.

The days’ topics are varied, but instructors will find them practical and informative. WSU faculty will present on: “Teaching International Students,” “Backward Redesign of Courses,” “How to Engage Students Using the Experiential Learning Model,” and, “Teaching and Learning with Concept Maps.”

Please RSVP for the Teaching Innovation Forum before Friday, Feb. 17.

If you have comments or questions about this post, or any other matter concerning the Office of the Provost, please email to

Advisors take turn in the spotlight

The transformative student experience that we aim to provide every Washington State University student requires a team effort from faculty, staff, and the WSU community. And some of the MVPs on our team are our academic advisors.

President Schulz and I had the pleasure of honoring our academic advisors in Pullman last week at the Year of the Advisor reception. It was a chance to shine a spotlight on the excellent work our advisors are doing, and celebrate the challenges they’re overcoming in guiding our students.

Advisors’ jobs have changed dramatically over the past few years. They’ve embraced SSC Campus, our online advising platform. Despite the learning curve, the SSC Campus platform is beginning to positively impact our students. For example, the vast majority of our students can now book appointments with their advisors online, and enhancements are on the way that will enable advisors to refer students to tutoring and other student services, all online. By meeting our students in this online space, advisors are providing excellent service, and they’re doing it efficiently.

We established the University Academic Advising Executive Council in 2015, and it is making major strides in establishing standards and organization for our advising community. A great number of advisors are engaged in leading their peers through training, putting in place new advising roles and guidelines, and organizing professional development events.

While we largely employ a decentralized advising model, with students being advised within the department or college of their major, it is absolutely critical that our advisors’ primary objective is the retention and success of the student at WSU. Therefore, our advisors (and all of us) must work as a team, assuring that students are successful, regardless of academic major or field of study.

Advisors are a big part of helping students transition to WSU. They’re playing a major role in advancing our goals of increasing our freshman retention rates, and ultimately, our graduation rates – the foremost indicators when it comes to the transformative student experience.

Our advisors are more efficient, more technologically savvy, and more data-informed than they’ve ever been. Please join me in offering kudos to our academic advisors, who serve as linchpins to student success at WSU.

If you have comments or questions about this post, or any other matter relating to the Office of the Provost, please email to

Happy Holidays, and thank you for a great semester

The holidays give us a chance to reflect on the past year and as Cougars, we have many reasons to feel proud. I hope the winter break gives you a chance to enjoy time with loved ones, cheer on our Cougars in the Holiday Bowl, and aspire to new goals in 2017.

Thank you to our faculty, staff, and students for your dedication to our land grant mission and your devotion to provide students with a transformative experience at WSU. Here is a quick look back on some of our highlights from the fall semester:

  • In this, the Year of the Advisor, our academic advisors have pursued outstanding work, and in new, innovative ways:
    • Leadership developed and approved a set of “Core Advising Responsibilities” to help define and refine advisors’ roles in student success.
    • A revamped training program for advisors is in place, and training sessions are beginning this month.
    • Through SSC Campus, our new online advising platform, students booked more than 20,000 online appointments this fall. More than 70 percent of our students now can schedule advising appointments online. Look for more details coming soon regarding our Year of the Advisor reception on Jan. 31 in the CUB.
    • The Equitable Advising pilot, an effort to prioritize advising resources in the places they’re needed most, is underway and assessment will determine if the program warrants expansion.
    • Congratulations and appreciation to the following individuals, who earned Advising Awards this fall from the WSU Academic Advising Association: Robin Bond – Faculty Advisor; Kasey Schertenleib – Advising Administrator; Matthew Jeffries – New Advisor; and Doug Juneau – Primary Advising.
  • Faculty, staff, and students are teaming up to find new and innovative ways to provide better value when it comes to course materials. Explore these exciting opportunities for faculty in the area of open education resources, including an Open Textbook Workshop on March 6, and applications for Affordable Learning Grants, open through February 15.
  • Outstanding faculty members were honored at Cougar football home games for the second year, receiving well-deserved cheers from fans. The following individuals were honored this fall: Terri Levien and Marin Maquivar, Kartina Mealey and Benjamin Shors, Jesus Bravo and Sandy Carollo, Sandy Cooper and Gay Selby, Mary Gilles and Carl Heine, and John Petrie and Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe. Read up on all of our Featured Faculty Members, and look for more throughout the basketball season.
  • Our students navigated the new, earlier FAFSA deadline thanks to outstanding effort from Student Financial Services and partners across WSU. More than 22,000 students have turned in FAFSAs for 2017-18. As they return for the spring semester, please remind students of the WSU General Scholarship Application deadline on Jan. 31, 2017.
  • Thanks to your efforts we received encouraging news regarding freshman retention in October, with a slight improvement overall. We are committed to continuous improvement in this area, and are working to implement tools that will help students feel comfortable, and empowered to reach their goals at WSU.
  • Overall student enrollment climbed to a record 30,142 for the fall semester, an all-time high for WSU, and our class of new students is well prepared academically.

We look forward to sharing more success stories, and hearing about the great work happening in your area of WSU, in 2017. Happy holidays, and Go Cougs!

If you have comments or questions about this communication, or any other matters concerning the Office of the Provost, please email to

Undergraduate research: A WSU hallmark

Providing opportunities to participate in research and creative activities marks a fundamental aspect of WSU’s commitment to provide undergraduate students with a truly transformational college experience.

Hundreds of our world-class faculty members mentor undergraduate students to offer an experience few institutions can match. Students benefit from these hands-on lessons in numerous ways: working in teams, creative problem solving, exploring potential careers, mentorship from faculty members, and better understanding of others’ research.

Oscar Ulloa, who plans to graduate this spring, says he’s found many opportunities after graduation thanks to his undergraduate research experience in food science labs.

“It’s been great. Whenever I have an interview, the employers and graduate schools always like to see that I’ve done research,” says Ulloa, who would like to work in the wine industry. “It’s something that shows you’re not just going through the motions to get your degree, you’re getting involved.”

In some cases, students are able to land funding for research. In November, 25 undergraduates landed scholarships – typically $1,000 – funded by the Auvil Scholars Fellowship, and the Scott and Linda Carson Undergraduate Research Endowed Excellence Fund.

National studies consistently show students involved in research graduate at a significantly higher rate than those who do not participate. Hands-on experience often enhances and expands on class subjects.

“There are many cases in which students aren’t really excited about their field of study, but they start doing research and recognize that they are connecting classroom material with what they’re doing in the lab,” says Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “In a lot of cases, their GPAs will increase.”

Sydney Roberts says research stoked her interest in a career as a physician and continues to bolster her confidence.

“It definitely deepened my experience and my understanding of my field in general,” says Roberts, a neuroscience major. “My dream job is to be a family physician, but I’d like to somehow do research on the side. Research has given me the confidence to pursue a PhD, or M.D. I have the confidence now to know I can take the next step and that’s definitely something I would not have gotten if I wouldn’t have been involved in research.”

Research experience isn’t limited to science and technology majors. There are undergraduate research opportunities in every college and every major. In non-scientific fields, “research” may take the form of scholarly or creative activities. The benefits for both faculty and students are still significant.

“For faculty, it’s a great opportunity to recruit potential graduate students, and it’s also a way for faculty to broaden participation in their research, to engage with students from outside their discipline,” Pressley says. “Sometimes undergraduates are more productive, and more engaged. We have pre-research programs to give students basic skills so that they can hit the ground running.”

Hector Aguilar-Carreno, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, works with undergraduates in his virology lab.

“Usually when they come into the lab, they know very little about research, but it’s wonderful to see them go from knowing nothing to being authors on papers and becoming independent thinkers,” Aguilar-Carreno says. “They vary wildly in their interests and research is not for everyone, but some really grow and it’s exciting to see. I’ve had students go on to PhD programs at Harvard, the University of Chicago and Yale, and I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

The sixth annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) will be held Monday, March 27. Online applications for SURCA are available now, and are due Feb. 21. The event continues to grow at a steady pace. Last spring, a record 235 students presented abstracts. Faculty can volunteer as judges, which Pressley says is a great way for them to realize the capabilities of undergraduate researchers.

Pressley developed a passion for research as an undergraduate through a summer research program at the University of Maine. Now she’s able to expose undergraduates to pass along the transformative power of research and hands-on experience.

“Research transformed my career as an undergraduate. It made a huge impact,” Pressley says. “All of these experiences students have really prepare them for careers, or for graduate school. They’re developing skills that employers are looking for, beyond what they learn in the classroom.”

Visit the Office of Undergraduate Research for more information, and other opportunities to connect with undergraduate research.

If you have questions or comments on this post, or other matters regarding the Office of the Provost, please email to

Fill out the FAFSA by Nov. 30

In 2015, President Obama took action to change the timeline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students now use their prior year’s tax information to fill out the FAFSA, and the priority deadline is November 30.

After more than a year of preparation, WSU’s Office of Student Financial Services is seeing a strong response to the change. More than half of our students have already filled out their 2017 FAFSA. They should expect an earlier, more accurate picture of their anticipated financial aid and college costs for next year.

Nearly 80 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid, and the first step to receiving aid is filling out the FAFSA. Even relatively small financial challenges can hinder students’ progress toward graduation, which is one more reason for them to file their FAFSA before the Nov. 30 deadline.

In Pullman, ASWSU partnered with SFS to host a FAFSA/WAFSA Pizza Feed on Thursday in the CUB Junior Ballroom. Similar events at our other campuses are helping students get answers to their financial aid questions, and get help with their FAFSA/WAFSA, while enjoying a slice of pie.

Faculty, please download the FAFSA Slide and share it with your students before the end of the month. It could make a big difference.

For more information, visit

Faculty: Order textbooks before Oct. 28 to save students money

The Office of the Provost is partnering with students, faculty, and staff to explore and implement ways to save students money on textbooks and classroom materials.

One of the simplest ways faculty can help is by submitting textbook orders for future terms as early as possible. Submitting orders for the spring 2017 semester by Oct. 28 allows the Bookie to buy back students’ used books at a higher rate. Students are able to recoup more of their money spent on textbooks.

There are many ways faculty members can submit textbook orders:

  • Call the Bookie at 509-335-2537
  • Email your textbook request to
  • Stop by the Bookie and ask for Regina
  • Request a time when a Bookie staff member can come to your office to meet
  • Use the Enlight online program to submit book orders, and research textbooks or other course materials.

Costs of textbooks and classroom materials are a barrier to academic success for many students. We appreciate the dedication of student groups, as well as faculty and staff, for working quickly to come up with resources and tools designed to minimize classroom materials costs.

Visit for information on how open education resources are gaining currency at WSU through partnerships and collaboration. There are a number of ways faculty can engage in the effort, including an Open Textbook Workshop coming up in January.

Please make every effort to submit your textbook orders by Oct. 28, and thank you for all you do to support the success of our students.

If you have questions or comments regarding this blog post, or any other matter concerning the Office of the Provost, please email them to

Freshman retention numbers improving

Washington State University retained 78.9 percent of freshmen students system-wide from 2015 to 2016, an improvement of one percent from the previous year.

We are happy to see improvement in this area and dedicated to making sure every student admitted to WSU is afforded every opportunity to earn a degree. Thank you to the faculty, staff and other WSU community members who have worked to effect the changes that have increased our students’ success rates.

On the WSU Pullman campus, 3,354 students from the 2015 entering class of 4,220 returned to WSU for the fall semester. This reflects an improvement of 1.2 percent over 2014, to 79.5 percent. Retention rates also improved on almost all of WSU’s non-Pullman campuses, where the smaller numbers overall can create larger fluctuations that make year-to-year figures more difficult to interpret. We saw improvements across nearly all student groups, including first-generation, under-represented groups, and honors students.

The system-wide engagement of our faculty, and staff and administrators has been key to increased student success. Their focus on engaging students early in their academic journeys and finding ways to connect them with valuable resources on our campuses has enabled students to more proactively anticipate and meet their needs.

We are investing in technology to improve communication with students, and to provide the right resources at the right times. We’re also expanding mentor programs and undergraduate research programs proven to increase students’ chances of earning degrees at WSU. Faculty are exploring ways to use open-education and lower-cost course materials, with support from Provost seed grants, the Office of Academic Outreach and Innovation, and the OpenStax project. Please continue to do all you can to help with these efforts and to ensure that more students find success at Washington State University. You can find more information at

With your help we will provide a “top-25” instructional experience for our students. We’re committed to giving all Cougars every opportunity to reach their academic goals.

If you have questions, comments, or feedback on this post, or other matters concerning the Office of the Provost, please email them to


Advisors play key role in student success

Academic advisors have always played a central role in the success of our students. A rapid increase in our student population, including more first-generation students, has elevated the importance of our advisors even more.

That is why, in 2016-17, we’re celebrating the Year of the Advisor. We aim to recognize their contributions and strengths, along with the challenges they face, and are overcoming, through working together, embracing new technologies and taking on new responsibilities.

Advisors are true liaisons among faculty, the University’s administrative systems, support staff and students. They’re sources of support, guidance and wisdom for students who sometimes need a calming voice, especially early in their college careers. In short, advisors are the linchpin for student success.

Many advisors are serving more students, and helping them navigate more challenges, than ever before. In addition, as decentralization has altered the advising structure in recent years, advisors have responded in innovative ways. Individually and together with other staff and faculty they are making a difference for WSU students.

No longer do advisors simply schedule classes for students. They use technology to track students’ progress toward graduation, and intervene when they veer off track. They reach out to targeted groups of students at strategic times to efficiently and effectively boost their success rates. And advisors work together across departments and colleges to share best practices and support one another.

We’ve made key investments in tools for advisors. Student Success Collaborative Campus launched earlier this year, offering powerful communication and outreach capabilities. Students can now log in online and schedule appointments with their advisors in SSC Campus, if the advisors have synced their Outlook calendars. The majority of our advisors across WSU are using SSC Campus, and we have a team of advisors and staff working to provide training and support. Visit for more details.

The University Academic Advising Executive Council provides oversight to advising across all campuses and is developing a training protocol that will ensure advisors are well equipped to serve our students.

The Guide mobile app will launch in 2017, giving advisors—and other staff and faculty—another powerful tool to connect with students. Advisors, and other student support staff and faculty can prompt students at key times throughout the year to point them to WSU resources and services that can help them when they need it most.

Everyone from faculty to staff to fellow students can and must play a role in student support. We’re working to make awareness of, and referrals to student support services a smooth, seamless process. Our goal is to provide students a smooth pathway to a university degree, and that takes coordination and cooperation across departments, colleges, campuses, and student support units.

The Year of the Advisor is about recognizing the remarkable job our WSU advisors are doing, but also joining them in supporting student success. When we all work together, we can help each of our students reach their goals.

Thank you to our advisors, who are leading the way!

Washington State University