RICHLAND -- Washington State University is in the market for a chancellor for its Tri-City campus.
Chancellor Vicky Carwein, who ushered the branch campus through its first years as a four-year institution and worked to expand offerings and the student body, announced her departure Tuesday.
She will become chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Sept. 1. Dick Pratt, vice chancellor for academic affairs, will take on her duties in Richland on an interim basis beginning Aug. 1.
An Indiana native, Carwein described the new job as the capstone of her career, though a difficult decision for her and her husband, Bill Andrews.
"This is the top of the game for me," Carwein told the Herald.
Community leaders in the Tri-Cities said Carwein made important contributions to the Richland campus and Tri-City community and are sad to see Carwein leave, but that it is a great opportunity for her.
"As I told her, 'The things you've done haven't gone unnoticed, even around the country,' " said state Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
Carwein arrived at the Richland campus in September 2006, following stints as chancellor at University of Washington Tacoma and president at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.
The Legislature approved the expansion of the university to a four-year institution in the months before Carwein's arrival. She welcomed the school's first freshman class fall 2007.
The school reached a record enrollment of 1,500 students during her tenure, and she also continued to expand the school's academic offerings in wine science and nursing. This spring, the school made civil engineering a four-year program and brought in key faculty and equipment despite budget cuts in recent years.
Carwein's time at the school wasn't without controversy. The university was sued last fall by three women who said they were sexually and racially discriminated against when working for Jaime Contreras, whom Carwein hired as director of student affairs. Contreras resigned last spring, and the lawsuit is awaiting trial.
Delvin said he worked closely with Carwein in launching a campaign for the Wine Science Center in partnership with industry leaders. He also commended her for her work on fundraising for the university.
President Rich Cummins at Columbia Basin College said Carwein was a skilled leader, demonstrated by her work on the Wine Science Center and construction of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory on the Richland campus and shared with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He also noted her partnering with CBC, which contributes more than half of WSU Tri-Cities' students, and her work with people with diverse backgrounds on the WSU Tri-Cities Advisory Council.
"They've all come to have Cougar blood running through their veins," Cummins said.
Evan Bates, who served as president of the Associated Student Body of WSU Tri-Cities in 2009-10, said Carwein gave him the opportunity to provide a student voice to university officials.
"Carwein was approachable, willing to listen to student concerns, and graciously celebrated student triumphs," he said in an email to the Herald.
Carwein said a consultant hired by IPFW approached her about the position this spring. She said she was initially hesitant about pursuing it, telling the consultant she was happy at WSU Tri-Cities and had projects she was working on.
However, her interest increased after learning IPFW that was courting her. The school has 14,000 students with 16 teams playing NCAA Division 1 sports and a new four-year medical school. Both institutions that run the school are members of the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of research universities.
"It's a very significant expansion of my portfolio, if you will," Carwein said.
The job also offered the opportunity to return to her home state and work for Indiana University, her alma mater. Her husband works for Battelle out of its Columbus, Ohio, office and will be closer after the move. The couple also will be closer to their daughters and grandchildren in North Carolina.
Carwein will replace outgoing chancellor Michael Wartell, who is required to retire because of Purdue's mandatory retirement age of 65. Carwein is 64, but she said she was told the rule would not apply to her for at least six years, though she said she isn't aware of the rule's specifics. She added that she plans for this to be her last job before retirement.
A specific timeline to replace Carwein at the Richland campus hasn't been announced. WSU President Elson S. Floyd will assemble a search committee in the fall to seek Carwein's successor, according to WSU officials.
WSU Regent and Tri-City attorney Fran Forgette said Carwein was WSU's first pick when she was chosen to lead the Richland campus six years ago, largely because of her background, and he hasn't been disappointed. He said he expected the university to take an equal amount of care in finding the next chancellor.
"We've been spoiled, frankly, having such a great person in that position," Forgette said.