Editor's Note: After each Board of Trustees meeting, Western Today provides a recap of decisions and discussion.
Trustees Hear Western-Port Presentation on Waterfront Innovation Park
Western's Board of Trustees on Friday heard a presentation on a public-private partnership model at the Bellingham waterfront.
Donna Gibbs, vice president for University Relations and Marketing at Western, said that a working group comprised of Port of Bellingham and Western officials have been regularly meeting since mid-April to develop a new approach to Western on the waterfront that will serve the interests of the Port, university and the community.
The focus of the collaborative planning efforts has been to define a public-private partnership model that proposes a mix of private sector industries and developers, public agencies and a multi-institutional higher education presence. The goal is a set of facilities that would both expand the area employer base and provide potential opportunities for applied learning, integrated research in undergraduate and graduate programs, and desirable jobs for WWU alumni and residents.
The University has leveraged existing partnerships in private and public organizations to facilitate introductions for Port economic development staff in the following sectors:
• Naval architecture and marine engineering services;
• A national laboratory focused on climate research, electric power grid modernization and cybersecurity;
• Companies focused on designing, building, operating and maintaining high-performance, energy-efficient buildings.
Gibbs was joined in the presentation by Port officials Brian Gouran, director of Environmental and Planning Services, and Economic Development Director Don Goldberg.
Goldberg said the proposal was presented to the Port Commission earlier last week, which supported it. 'We had a very positive response,' he said.
The public-private partnership model envisioned - one form of what is called a P3 - involves a contractual arrangement that is formed between public and private-sector partners. These arrangements typically involve a government agency contracting with a private partner to renovate, construct, operate, maintain, and/or manage a facility or system, in whole or in part, that provides a public service. Under these arrangements, the agency may retain ownership of the public facility or system, but the private party generally invests its own capital to design and develop the properties.
Gibbs mentioned several similar projects under way in the region. Those include the Catalyst Building, Spokane's first zero energy, zero carbon construction project set to open by fall of 2020; Eastern Washington University will be the anchor tenant, and an expansion of the health sciences partnership by the University of Washington and Gonzaga into a $60 million building in Spokane to be built by McKinstry, a design and construction company.
Goldberg said the next step will be to develop a request for proposals from companies on what the project might look like.
Past concepts at the waterfront, including moving an entire WWU college, or building a publically financed Western building there on an earmarked six acres for the University, have met with daunting logistical and financial constraints.
Trustee John Meyer said he welcomed the new approach, saying that eight months ago 'something that looked like it was going nowhere' is now 'back on track and moving in the right direction.'
In other business, the trustees:
Welcomed state Sen. Emily Randall, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, and discussed with her higher education issues as well as Western's presence on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. Trustees thanked Randall for her leadership when the Legislature last session established the Washington College grant, which replaced the State Need Grant and significantly expanded access for the state's lowest-income students to pursue undergraduate degrees. Randall, who grew up in Port Orchard, said that area for many years has been heavily dependent for jobs on the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, but is now seeing more economic diversification. She said that Western can help with that area's economic revitalization by providing higher education opportunities on the peninsulas. Trustee Karen Lee asked Randall how Western was perceived in Olympia, and Randall responded that WWU has a very strong reputation and is regarded as innovative.
Heard an update from President Sabah Randhawa, who discussed some priorities going forward, including projects related to the University's Strategic Plan, such as advancing inclusive success; increasing impacts to the state of Washington; climate and culture, and resources. Randhawa said there have been discussions on expansion of the honors program; and expansion of the summer degree program, which can assist in reducing time to degree for students. In addition, he mentioned Sen. Randall's encouragement for Western's expansion on the peninsulas, and discussed expanded graduate studies, with a proposed doctorate in education. On campus climate, he said a key is to increase graduation rates for all students and eliminate achievement gaps; and fostering a more equitable and inclusive campus culture. He also said the University will be conducting a review similar to the recent institutional resource modeling process, but this time focused on campus space needed to achieve strategic goals.
Approved a 3 percent increase in President Randhawa's salary by means of an amendment to his contract. The 3-percent increase is consistent with a statewide legislative authorization to increase state-funded salaries on July 1, 2019; other Western employees also received a similar pay increase on July 1.
Discussed strategic directions with the WWU Foundation and Alumni Association with Stephanie Bowers, vice president for University Advancement; Jack Cullen, chair of the WWU Foundation Board, and Shawn Kemp, president of the WWU Alumni Board. Bowers said the support and alignment of the two boards was 'better than ever' in supporting the University. Cullen said Foundation priorities included increasing philanthropy for the University; determining the feasibility of a strategic real estate project, a University-based retirement community now under consideration by the Foundation; working toward financial independence by the Foundation by 2025, which would free up more resources to benefit Western; and continuing the successful evolution of the board. The Foundation has two major fundraising priorities: the $20 million campaign for the Electrical Engineering/Computer Science Building and the $10 million campaign for Student Success. Kemp said the Alumni Association Board is working to increase engagement; foster campus-wide collaborations and connections; enhance benefits that matter and build meaningful connections with alumni; and use data to better drive decision-making.
Heard a report from Jeff Young, president of the Faculty Senate, who said the Senate is working to address the use of racially charged language in the classroom in the Faculty Code of Ethics. He said the Senate passed a resolution to form a task force comprised of three students and three faculty, which will report back to the Senate no later than Nov. 4.
AS President Lani Defiesta said that the 28th annual ESC Conference was to be held this past weekend at the Multicultural Center and at Camp Casey.
Approved a construction contract for Parks Hall and Science Lecture electronic safety and security upgrade.
Welcomed Sislena Ledbetter, new executive director for Health and Wellness.
Recognized Convocation award recipients.
Toured the new quarters for the Disability Access Center and the Veterans Center.
Approved the fiscal year 2019 Internal Audit Report and Internal Audit Plan, following a discussion with Antonia Allen, director of the Office of the Internal Audit.
Heard a report from Trustee and committee chair John Meyer on the Board Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee.
Trustee Mo West, committee chair, reported on the Board Student Success Committee.
On Thursday, the trustees also had a wide-ranging discussion on strategic opportunities and challenges for Western.
The next regular meeting of the Board of trustees will be Dec. 12 and 13. Meeting documents are available at the Board of Trustees website at https://trustees.wwu.edu/meeting-materials