Chancellor Vicky Carwein's departure from Washington State University Tri-Cities is a big blow to the burgeoning branch campus.
Carwein, who came to WSU Tri-Cities in September 2006, has shepherded the launch of many pivotal programs and helped the campus succeed despite a never-ending series of major cuts in state funding.
Carwein came to the Tri-City campus at just the right time to make a lasting impression. The state had just expanded the Richland campus to a four-year university, and she oversaw the arrival of the school's first freshman class.
It was a heady time, with much fanfare and the community pitching in to provide mentors, free laptops and scholarships for the first wave of freshmen.
Never miss a local story.
Then came BESL -- the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory -- with a star hire in Birgitte K. Ahring that immediately rocketed the new lab into the upper echelons of biofuels science.
Carwein also helped launch a $25 million fundraising campaign and pushed for the development of the WSU Wine Science Center.
With more than 700 wineries in the state, expectations are high for research and training at the wine facility. It comes with another star hire, Thomas Henick-Kling. The 45,000-square-foot facility is expected to be a showcase for research as well as a gathering place for the wine industry.
Under Carwein's tutelage, WSU Tri-Cities has grown to 1,500 students.
While we wish her well in her new role as chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, she leaves some big shoes to fill in Richland. Carwein was almost immediately embraced by the community, built lasting partnerships with key organizations and helped further WSU's research mission.
"She has built a strong leadership team, launched a campaign that already has raised more than $11 million toward a $25 million goal, implemented creative partnerships and built passionate community support for higher education," said Mike Kluse, chairman of the WSU-Tri-Cities Advisory Board and director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
"While Vicky will be sorely missed, she is leaving WSU Tri-Cities poised for the next level of growth and future success," Kluse added.
He's right, of course. Now, WSU must ensure it has the team in place to exploit that potential.
WSU President Elson Floyd plans to assemble a search committee to find her successor, and James R. "Dick" Pratt, vice chancellor for academic affairs, will serve as interim chancellor. Carwein has built a great foundation for someone to further enhance and develop. Floyd needs to choose wisely to keep the existing momentum and strength of WSU-Tri-Cities.
For Carwein, the move will be a homecoming. She grew up in Indiana and earned two degrees from Indiana University. She will be in charge of a campus of 14,000 students, a school of medicine and a NCAA Division I athletics program. At age 64, it's a career-capping station.
We wish Carwein all the best and thank her for the care she took of our campus and the amazing developments that happened under her guidance.
Change can be difficult but it also can bring innovation and new perspective. We look forward to greeting a new chancellor, and to the amazing things that he or she will bring to our community.