More college options key to our economy

It has been a year since I joined the team at Washington State University and partnered with Dean Paul Pitre to engage with the community and expand access to higher education and the academic offerings at Everett University Center and WSU North Puget Sound at Everett.

What a year it has been.

We have worked side-by-side with our academic partners, civic leaders and advisers to continue the evolution of offering quality higher education opportunities for the residents of North Puget Sound. Our efforts include completing the design for a new building for classrooms, laboratories and other student services that, if approved by the Legislature, will be built immediately adjacent to Everett Community College. We are implementing the strategic plan and have asked the Legislature to support the delivery of 10 new academic degree programs in the fields of aviation maintenance, aviation management, software engineering, data analytics and agriculture.

The new building and proposed academic programs align with the Legislature’s strategic vision for the growth of the the Everett University Center. It also aligns with WSU’s role in managing the consortium while focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematic programs that will fuel the workforce needs for advanced manufacturing, high tech and service industries.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to offer junior- and senior-level courses in degrees that are in high demand in our area. We not only want to ensure students have the options to start their post-secondary education at a community college and then earn his/her bachelor’s degree right here in Everett, we want our graduates to be employable in the high demand fields that define our region.

We are proud that WSU North Puget Sound at Everett now has more than 90 students on the way to completing their college degrees in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, integrated communications and hospitality business management. WSU will forever be identified in part by the skills, ingenuity and contributions of our graduates, many who are raising families and working in the North Puget Sound region; we are pleased that WSU NPS at Everett will be adding to the illustrious list of 125 years of alumni.

We also recognize how WSU’s research has and will continue to tackle complex societal problems in a tangible and practical way. Our WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center is a shining example of how research benefits the character and economic impact of our area’s agriculture sector by helping expand new crops and value-added production in the Skagit Valley.

Successfully increasing higher education access reflects a 30-year dream for many in our community. We are immensely pleased that WSU has been able play a part in furthering collaborative efforts that are unique both in the delivery of higher education and bringing post secondary institutions together in Everett, for the North Puget Sound region. WSU is excited at what the future holds and looks forward to many more years in advancing our academic and research mission in benefit to our state and Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.

Bob Drewel is the interim chancellor at WSU North Puget Sound at Everett.

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