Washburn looks at the future

Richard Kelly

Attendants of the 2009 Washburn convocation last Thursday left with some homework.

“What’s next? We need YOU to provide the answers,” was the general message of the day.

The day’s activities included the all-year convocation and the general faculty meeting. It meant for a big day as participants, discussed budget cuts, student retention and new faculty.

President Jerry Farley, expressed optimism at the meetings, though he did point out ways the university could improve.

Farley began convocation with talks of the economic turmoil the country has been through of late. Eventually the discussions lead to talk of reduction of state funds and an increase of tuition for students.

“Change is inevitable. In fact, sometimes it’s even a necessity,” said Farley. “Change causes us to focus.”

While Washburn has made vast improvements in the structure of the university and in construction, there are always other issues to be worked on. Farley said changes may tweak how Washburn appeals to transfer students, how the university works to increase student retention and how many online classes are offered. But Farley later said that the university is in a good place to thrive and that being in a city with opportunities like Topeka will help.

One of the more positive aspects of the announcements at convocation was the release of enrollment numbers for the fall semester. Currently, enrollment is about what it was last year, which is significant because there were less high school graduates last year than the year before, meaning Washburn gained a larger percentage of the graduating class.

The Washburn Endowment Association also spoke and discussed the fact it has had an increased number of donors this year, despite economic struggles. To help the university’s endowment even more, a faculty and staff campaign will start shortly to see who can raise the most money for Washburn. The association hopes to improve its long-term future with the effort and the winner will receive dinner with President Farley and Robin Bowen, vice president of Academic Affairs.

“We’ve learned that focusing on the long-term is usually what makes us truly successful,” said JuliAnn Mazachek, president of the Washburn Endowment Association.

Also discussed Thursday was what Washburn could do to build off the university’s strengths. Farley pointed that class sizes at Washburn are often smaller than competing universities, leading to more interaction between students and their professors. This fact is a a big selling advantage for the university and needs to be established more prominently.

However the main focus of the meeting, was the strategic planning process being implemented at Washburn. Students, faculty and staff are all being asked to give their input and ideas to help the university move forward and succeed. As part of the plan, a 40-member strategic committee has been put in place. The university hopes to host an event to gather and develop ideas that will form the plan for Washburn’s next 10 years. Together, with students, faculty and staff, Washburn is trying to prepare itself for the future.