As Washington State University Tri-Cities celebrates its 70th year as an institution of higher education, there is certainly much to look back on and be proud of while keeping an eye on the future.
WSU Tri-Cities occupies a unique space in not only the Tri-Cities community, but also in the state and world. Throughout the past 70 years, as the Mid-Columbia’s leading institution for higher education, we have established a history for training future leaders and initiating groundbreaking research in partnership with the world’s leading industry institutions. There are generations of students who have graduated from WSU Tri-Cities who have gone on to be chief executive officers, researchers and leaders in their communities and throughout the nation.
A polytechnic approach
WSU Tri-Cities has established ourselves as the center for higher education in the Mid-Columbia region using a polytechnic approach. Through the approach, the university facilitates project-based instruction and a “learning while doing” culture, ensuring students have the real-world career experience that ensure their success after graduation.
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WSU Tri-Cities’ polytechnic approach dates back to its beginnings as the Joint Center for Graduate Study in 1946, where its purpose was providing the Hanford Site with a place for its professionals to obtain certifications and grow their backgrounds in engineering and other science, technology, engineering and math-based career fields. In that time, students actively paired what they learned in the classroom to their on-site careers in their respective STEM fields.
Growth as a campus
Since that period, WSU Tri-Cities has grown to meet the undergraduate, graduate and other professional needs of the community, state and beyond. The university now offers 20 bachelor’s, 18 master’s and 15 doctoral degree programs, all of which are paired with hands-on experiences in the students’ respective current or future career fields.
Our timeline since we became solely a WSU Tri-Cities campus in 1989 is also impressive:
▪ In 2007, we admitted our first group of undergraduate students.
▪ In 2009, we admitted our first class of freshman.
▪ This last academic year, we admitted our largest freshman class, growing by approximately 12 percent year over year.
▪ Last year, we earned $23.9 million in research funding and contributed 1,500 jobs and $152 million in revenue to the local economy.
More than anything, though, is our success in graduating students that are career-ready and engaged in their community, embodying the polytechnic experience. Within six months of graduation, 92 percent of our graduates are either pursing graduate degrees or have full-time jobs, which is significantly higher than the national average.
Many of our accomplishments couldn’t have happened without our partnerships with world-renowned industry leaders.
I am proud to say that WSU partners with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for world-class research, internships and we welcome their internationally known researchers as part of our faculty. No other campus in the state is located across the street from and partners with a national laboratory.
WSU Tri-Cities also partners with a variety of other nationally renowned organizations, some of which include AECOM, MSA, CH2M, Frontier Communications, ConAgra Foods and Energy Northwest, to provide students with opportunities for internships and other extracurricular learning opportunities. Pairing those hands-on learning experiences with our “learn while doing” pedagogy, students work together in teams to solve real-world problems similar to those they will see in their jobs after graduation.
Commitment to research
Research remains the backbone to the university’s goal of finding solutions for the world’s greatest challenges. With its land-grant mission, Washington State University Tri-Cities supports the state’s goals of improving the local economy, infrastructure and overall quality of life for the betterment of its residents. Our faculty and students complete research ranging from creating new biofuels to partnering with world-class agencies to research the effects of radiation on human health.
Utilizing our polytechnic approach to education that is based in our 70-year history as a higher education institution, we look forward to growing our hands-on learning opportunities for students, opportunities for partnerships and generally growing our campus to meet the needs of the region, state and nation. The sky is the limit for what is possible for this campus now and into the future.