Taking Flight: Turbulent Times, Resilient Eagles

Across the nation, institutions of higher education are facing difficult times. Due to a declining population of high-school age students — and a false but persistent narrative that a four-year degree isn’t a good value — university enrollment numbers are dropping. How serious is the problem? This year alone there has been an average of one college shutting down each week. Add to that the highly publicized, often disruptive protests at some of our nation’s most prominent universities, and it’s not surprising that many of you tell me you are concerned.

But I’ve got confidence in Eastern. Despite our challenges, we’ve always been resilient, and you can be sure that we will continue to ready the next generation of Eagle leaders and innovators who will power the prosperity of our region.

I’m especially proud that, thanks to EWU’s dedicated faculty and staff, we’re proactively addressing our own enrollment challenges. We’re engaging in collaborative efforts that will make our students’ journey to graduation clearer, even as we help them focus on high-demand fields. We’re refining our budget model to maximize revenue and allow for investments and flexibility. And, as you may have read about in these pages last fall, we’re developing a new strategic plan that will not just provide a road map for the future, but will also reaffirm our focus on academic excellence, community engagement and providing a transformative education.

As EWU’s president, attending student events is always a highlight of my day, and this year’s activities were a great affirmation of why universities remain such vital places. Just recently, for example, I listened as the Spokane String Quartet played original compositions from our talented music majors. In May, I was amazed by the student contributions to our Research and Creative Works Symposium, a two-day event that gave hundreds of students a professional environment to showcase their work. (If you see me at an event, ask me about the lichen poster!) And I loved watching the historic season in women’s basketball, one in which EWU set new benchmarks for success.  And this is just a small sample — every week it was something new, exciting and inspiring from our talented students.

It is these students who inspire me, and everyone here at Eastern, to rededicate themselves to ensuring that we remain competitive and relevant in the shifting higher education landscape. Together, we are not just facing the future; at EWU, we are shaping it. With your support and engagement, I’m confident the best is yet to come.

Shari McMahan, PhD
President, Eastern Washington University