WSU Tri-Cities gets new chancellor

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 13, 2013 

H. Keith Moo-Young will be the next chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities.

President Elson S. Floyd announced the decision Tuesday. Floyd and other university officials and members of the chancellor search committee cited Moo-Young's entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and leadership as the basis for his hire.

"He has experience building community and business partnerships -- which are vital to WSU Tri-Cities -- and he expressed a vision for the campus that will strengthen its role within WSU and in the state's economy," Floyd said in a release.

Moo-Young, who will leave his position as dean of engineering at California State University-Los Angeles to come to the north Richland campus, will be paid $300,000 a year, according to his five-year contract. He will start June 1.

"I am a person who likes to accomplish things," Moo-Young told the Herald on Tuesday. "I want to give my heart and soul to build a better campus."

WSU Tri-Cities is one of three urban campuses in the WSU system, with more than 1,400 students, 90 full-time faculty and more than 400 additional staff.

A 17-member search committee brought Moo-Young and two other candidates to the campus in February for public visits.

During a public forum in late February, Moo-Young said he would want more emphasis on the arts at the university in order to produce creative engineers and scientists. He said he'd also want any regional performing arts center to be built on campus.

Moo-Young said more needs to be done to increase the school's enrollment. He also would want to cultivate connections to wine grape growers in the region, as well as to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

He told the Herald his No. 1 priority will be student success, but that he also wants to see more faculty innovation and public-private partnerships. He wants to achieve those goals through collective cooperation with faculty, staff and students.

"I'm taking a lot of calls, a lot of feedback," he said.

Moo-Young replaces Vicky Carwein, who left to become chancellor at Indiana University Purdue University at Fort Wayne in late August. James R. Pratt, vice chancellor of academic affairs, has been interim chancellor since then.

Moo-Young's salary is higher than his predecessor's $220,500 per year. His pay will be comparable to that of Chancellor Mel Netzhammer at WSU Vancouver, a campus with more than double the number of students as WSU Tri-Cities. Netzhammer was hired at this time last year.

Amber Eubanks, outgoing president of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities and a search committee member, said she and other student leaders found Moo-Young "refreshing," particularly his approaches to working with students and teaching the sciences and arts.

"I'm kind of bummed I won't get to work with him next year, but I'm happy for everyone else," said Eubanks, who will graduate in May.

Columbia Basin College President Rich Cummins, also a search committee member, said he was excited about Moo-Young's hire, adding the new chancellor has a great vision for the campus.

"He really lit up the room with his ideas," Cummins said of Moo-Young's visit last month to the campus.

Challenges await Moo-Young when he arrives, such as diminishing support for higher education from state government and rising tuition costs. Enrollment at WSU Tri-Cities has declined since hitting a peak of more than 1,500 students in 2010.

Many of the school's students come from low-income backgrounds and are the first in their family to attend college. More than one out of four students are part of an ethnic minority and there's a sizeable number of military veterans.

But Moo-Young, the son of Jamaican immigrants, said he sees this new job as a great opportunity to build a legacy for future students at WSU Tri-Cities. He said he and his wife, Monika Moo-Young, are equally eager to raise their three children -- sons aged 11 and 9 and a 22-month-old daughter -- in the Tri-Cities. The welcoming nature of the community was a big factor in their decision.

"I want to make this a long-term commitment," he told the Herald.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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