WSU Tri-Cities graduate has a governing legacy

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 9, 2013 

Amber Eubanks said she wasn't excited about college after her first semester at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

The Kennewick native initially enrolled at the Pullman campus but decided to return to the Tri-Cities in spring 2009 to save money by living with her parents.

But campus life was less than entertaining in Richland and she found herself bored. The following fall, she joined student government.

"I came back with the idea if I found something I was interested in and made time for it I'd be happier," she said.

Eubanks, 22, is graduating with more than 400 other students this week.

A fifth-year senior, she served two consecutive terms as president of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities, along with other leadership roles.

She has been studying biological sciences and wants to attend graduate school.

The legacy of student activism and involvement she's leaving behind is one colleagues and administrators said improved the student experience on campus and moved it toward the future.

"She brought life to student government," said junior Rigo Leon, the recently elected student body vice president.

Eubanks' first role in student government was on committees such as the student activities committee. This was where the challenges facing students first became clear to her.

"We are a commuter campus. When people are done with classes, they leave," she said. That leaves less opportunity for students to mingle, congregate and join student groups, she said.

That drove Eubanks to develop more activities on campus and more opportunities for student interaction. If there are more things to do, then students stick around between classes.

Now there are a variety of activities available, from T-shirt giveaways and slam poetry readings to holiday meals.

There also are bigger events, such as Habitat for Humanity workdays or the recent 5K race to help raise money for student book costs.

Creating and organizing all those activities has meant student government also had to grow.

Instead of 12 to 15 student leaders, there are more than 25, with people specifically dedicated to overseeing multicultural and student life issues.

Eubanks and others also have worked for years to have a student union built near the campus' Consolidated Information Center, or CIC.

Students almost were asked this spring to vote on an additional fee to finance the project. The issue was pulled from the ballot when matching money from the university from a land sale was delayed, but Eubanks said the union still is badly needed.

"Here you have people studying, but there's foosball and a pool table and TVs, it gets pretty chaotic," she said, gesturing about the student lounge crammed onto the ground floor of the West Building.

Interim Chancellor James Pratt said it was unusual to have someone hold the top student government office for two consecutive years, but that it has been to the benefit of the student body. Eubanks has been a quiet but persistent advocate for student issues, especially the student union proposal, he said.

"Under her leadership the students have been pretty clear in their goals," Pratt said.

Allison Rodgers, student services specialist at the university, said Eubanks has worked to establish a number of initiatives, including annually going with a student contingent to Olympia to push student issues with state lawmakers.

She also has reached out to various leaders, from administrators to student representatives on the WSU Board of Regents.

"She's not only a goal-oriented person," Rodgers said. "She really wanted to nurture her staff."

Leon is one of those staff members. He's worked with Eubanks for a year, encouraging him to run for election. He said he and others admire the work she's done and the way she's helped transform the campus.

"When we set up events, tickets get sold out 80 percent of the time," Leon said. "Before she became president, that didn't happen."

WSU Tri-Cities is poised to continue the transformation after Eubanks graduates. Incoming Chancellor Keith Moo-Young has talked about improving community ties on campus and supporting student initiatives.

The student union still is on the table and the campus' master plan calls for a residential hall to be built eventually.

Eubanks said she knows the campus is in transition but she looks forward to the day she can visit the campus and see how student leaders who came after her made it all their own.

"They're coming in with some fresh ideas," she said.

WSU Tri-Cities graduation

-- When: 1 p.m. today

-- Where: Toyota Center, 7016 W. Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick

-- Details: About 300 graduates are expected to walk during the ceremony; 400 total are graduating. Wayne Martin, interim chief operating officer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's National Security Directorate and a WSU Tri-Cities alumnus, is this year's keynote speaker. The public is invited and admission is free.

WSU Tri-Cities nursing graduation

The WSU Tri-Cities nursing program graduation is at 11 a.m. Saturday at City Church, 4624 W. Tenth Ave., Kennewick.

Interim Chancellor James Pratt will speak, along with nursing instructor Susan Campbell. Shawna Pratt of the graduating class also will speak. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

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