WSU wants to launch agriculture-related programs at Everett campus

OLYMPIA — Washington State University wants to expand its offerings in Everett if the governor and state lawmakers will provide the money.

Officials are seeking $832,000 in state funds to launch four agriculture-related degree programs at WSU North Puget Sound headquartered on the campus of Everett Community College.

The request went to Gov. Jay Inslee last month who will consider including it in his 2016 supplemental budget proposal due out in December. WSU also will need lawmakers’ support next year.

For WSU, this is a chance to provide research and training opportunities long available to the agricultural community east of the Cascades.

“People know WSU supports the production of agriculture in Eastern Washington,” said Chris Mulick, director of state relations for WSU. “We haven’t done quite as much in Western Washington for small independent farms and those farming on smaller plots of land.”

If funding comes through, the university intends in 2017 to bring its renowned Organic Agriculture Systems degree program to Everett. Now offered on WSU’s main campus in Pullman, it would give students instruction in all aspects of organic food production.

Also in 2017, WSU would provide a degree in agriculture and food security. In this program, students would be studying ways of protecting crops from pests, diseases and other external influences that are not harmful to the health of humans or the environment.

Faculty from WSU extension centers in Mount Vernon and Puyallup would be involved in these programs, Mulick said.

Two other two degree offerings — sustainable food systems and urban horticulture — would be phased in later, according to materials submitted to the governor.

This won’t be WSU’s first try to get these programs going. Officials attempted to get the required money this year and had support in the House but not the Senate.

If the university is successful in 2016, it will further fortify its academic presence in the city.

Washington State University began offering classes for a mechanical engineering degree through the University Center in 2012. The center is a WSU-managed collaboration of public and private colleges based on the EvCC campus.

Two years later, WSU launched bachelor’s degree programs in electrical engineering, communications and hospitality-business management.

And in June, the university did receive money to add courses in software engineering and data analytics.

Plus, the final capital construction budget for the state included $54.6 million for WSU to construct a four-story, 95,000-square-foot building in the north corner of the College Plaza parking lot on North Broadway and Tower Street. The site is owned by Everett Community College, whose main campus is across the street.

This will be the future home of WSU North Puget Sound and the University Center.

Work is expected to finish in time for the start of the 2017 school year. When it opens, it will have at least a dozen classrooms, 10 laboratories, offices, a small café and an area for public gatherings.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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