Guest Opinions

Celebrating 30 years as WSU Tri-Cities

Washington State University Tri-Cities celebrates a 30th anniversary on Friday, May 10, 2019.
Washington State University Tri-Cities celebrates a 30th anniversary on Friday, May 10, 2019.

Today marks 30 years since the Washington state Legislature established Washington State University Tri-Cities.

With WSU Tri-Cities, the state Legislature established WSU campuses at Spokane and Vancouver and University of Washington campuses at Bothell and Tacoma. These university campuses, formerly known as branch campuses, were established as a means to provide access to a university education to those who, for many reasons, could not or did not wish to relocate to WSU Pullman and UW in Seattle.

Now, we no longer refer to ourselves as branch campuses at WSU, but one university geographically dispersed. It is exciting to see how we have grown. Combined with our local community colleges, university educational access in key regions across the state has grown tremendously. This is truly something to celebrate.

And at WSU Tri-Cities, this would not be possible without the support of our Tri-Cities and surrounding communities. We are grateful for all of your support.

A history of supporting the Mid-Columbia

The origins of WSU Tri-Cities dates back to 1946 where we were first established as the General Electric School of Nuclear Engineering. The school was a partnership between WSU, UW and Oregon State University to offer graduate-level engineering programs to support the Hanford Site workforce.

We have since grown tremendously. In our first year as a singular WSU campus in 1989, we had a handful of programs, 800 part-time students, six full-time faculty and 100 part-time faculty offering only upper division and graduate level courses. In 2007, we opened our doors to freshmen. We have grown to 1,841 full-time students, more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs, more than 90 full-time faculty and approximately 50 adjunct faculty.

Our student population is 40 percent students of color and more than 40 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college. We are holding true to the land grant mission of providing access.

A few years ago, we implemented a running start program that welcomes high school juniors and seniors to take classes at no charge. We also lead GEAR UP throughout the region, a program implemented in our K-12 local schools to prepare students for college, and a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that provides after school and extracurricular programming in local K-12 schools.

Expanded facilities

Our campus now includes several educational and research facilities, many of which were made possible by generous community support. The newest of those are the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, made possible by the Washington Wine Commission and a variety of public and private supporters, and the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Last year, we opened our Student Union Building. And this spring, the Washington state Legislature approved the full funding for a new $30 million academic building at WSU Tri-Cities. With this, we can expand our offerings and provide students with state-of-the-art laboratory, classroom, study and meeting spaces.

A great time to be a WSU Tri-Cities Coug

There has never been a better time to be a WSU Tri-Cities Coug. More than 90 percent of students surveyed are employed within six months of graduation, and the majority remain in Benton and Franklin counties after graduation — further supporting our regional economy.

Happy 30th anniversary, WSU Tri-Cities! Go Cougs!

Sandra Haynes is chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities.