WSU Tri-Cities chancellor announces resignation

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Tri-Cities chancellor said Friday he would soon leave his position, the second campus chancellor to announce their resignation in the past two weeks.

The university will begin a national search to replace Keith Moo-Young, who has headed the Tri-Cities campus since 2013. He will stay on until his successor takes over, likely in early 2018.

“We … wanted a good transition to a new leader to continue the momentum with a smooth hand off to the new chancellor,” Moo-Young wrote in an email.

Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities director of marketing and communications, said now that President Kirk Schulz has had a year to establish his new mission for the university, both Schulz and Moo-Young felt it was a good time to “pursue new options.”

Moo-Young added that he is entering the final year of his contract, and that the average term for a university chancellor is four years.

WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown, who has also served for four years, said earlier this month she would step down in August. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Daryll DeWald will take her place. News reports have speculated that Brown is considering challenging 5th Congressional District Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2018.

Both Moo-Young and Brown earned $361,000 in 2015, according to The Olympian’s database of Washington state employee salaries. About 1,800 students were enrolled at the Tri-Cities campus this spring, and about 1,500 were enrolled at the Spokane campus.

WSU spokesman Rob Strenge said the chancellor resignations at two campuses should not pose any major challenges to the university, beyond recruiting new people. He compared it to having open vice president positions, as WSU has in the past.

He said though the university tries to avoid turnover, the campuses should not have trouble coping.

“It’s kind of a normal part of the business,” he said.

Strenge said over his career, he has seen a trend in both the public and private sectors toward higher turnover among senior leadership.

Now, he said, people focus more on pursuing their careers, but there was a time when managers and executives spent closer to 20 years in their positions.

“That has changed pretty dramatically,” he said. “I don’t think you see much of that anymore.”

Schulz visited the Tri-Cities campus on Tuesday to meet with the campus Advisory Council, which includes vice chancellors and assistant vice chancellors, as well as students, faculty and staff, to hear what they want in their new leader.

ASWSU Tri-Cities President Israa Alshaikhli said student-centeredness, interaction and transparency head the list of qualities students care most about. They also want someone who will create a strategic plan for building their identity as a campus.

Though Moo-Young held lunches with freshmen, Alshaikhli said some people wished he would have been more active with the student body.

She said they wanted to see him in ASWSUTC Senate meetings, at important events, and even just around campus.

She acknowledged that a chancellor’s schedule does not always allow for this, but noted that students said in the meeting Tuesday they would have appreciated Moo-Young finding time to be more visible around campus.

“They definitely want that interaction from the chancellor,” she said.

Alshaikhli said one of their biggest concerns is the uncertainty Moo-Young’s departure brings to campus projects.

For example, a recreation facility is currently underway at Tri-Cities, and she said they do not know how the transition will affect this project.

“These things need to be figured out,” she said.

She added that, as a campus rich with STEM majors, students in these fields worry the next chancellor will not give them the attention Moo-Young has.

“They really want that and they really like that about our chancellor,” she said. “And there are other students that … just want a change, they want to see something new.”

With Moo-Young’s resignation coming at the start of summer, many students have already left campus, resulting in an attendance of just seven students for the first meeting.

However, Schulz said the administration would continue accepting feedback into fall semester, according to Alshaikhli.

Dennison, who attended the staff meeting, said he and other staff members want someone who focuses on student achievement and building consensus, and who is positive and has Cougar spirit.

Dennison said suggestions would be compiled into a profile so the university can begin the search for a replacement, likely with the help of a search firm.

Schulz, in a WSU News release, noted several key developments at the Tri-Cities campus during Moo-Young’s tenure.

“From enrollment growth to the establishment of strong partnerships with community groups throughout the greater Columbia Basin,” Schulz said, “Keith is leaving the campus in a better position than it was in four years ago. I greatly appreciate his leadership.”