The newly established advisory boards for CWU’s University Centers are already paying off. After only one year, these industry professionals are providing valuable insight and influence for CWU locations statewide.
“The goal for the advisory boards is to provide a distinct CWU educational experience to support student success for diverse populations in multiple locations,” said Lauren Hibbs, executive director for CWU Extended Learning. “The advisory boards were developed to address local educational and workforce needs.”
That relationship is evident at CWU-JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and CWU-Pierce County, where Central alumnus Arnie Norem is an advisory board member.
In his day job, he is the U.S. Army’s JBLM education services officer/education branch chief for the Directorate of Personnel and Family Readiness. In that role, Norem oversees about 3,500 on-post students who take classes each quarter through JBLM’s Stone Education Center.
“That’s a combination of active-duty service members, their families, veterans, and some civilians,” Norem said. “We can take more, especially since many of the classes are online.”
Through his work on the advisory board, Norem hopes to see new, innovative courses developed and offered so that more students can take advantage of them through both CWU-JBLM and CWU-Pierce County, located at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood.
“I can address the military-affiliated students who are coming here, and how to reach them,” Norem said. “But the board also has some outside business partners—who offer really great perspectives—who can help us determine and develop the programs businesses are looking for, so we can graduate the students they need.”
Norem noted that the Army conducts a needs assessment every three years to determine if its educational offerings are meeting the needs of service members, their families, and veterans.
A previous survey found that JBLM needed a logistics-related degree. That led to CWU’s College of Business being
selected to launch its supply chain management degree and certificate programs on post in 2016. CWU is one of just eight higher education institutions authorized to provide on-base instruction.
Such needs can differ between sites, however. CWU-Lynnwood is located on the Edmonds Community College campus. Thirty percent of area residents are non-native speakers and non-native born. Many of them are already highly skilled in areas including the legal and medical professions, but they require additional English-language proficiency.
“They come here to get a better life with such talent and passion,” said Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith, who is a member of the CWU-Lynnwood advisory board. “I’m hopeful that we can figure out how to get them certified in a profession where they can actually make a living wage.
“The bottom line is, I really need Central to be successful here. Whatever support we can muster up to make that happen, I’m all about that.”
Before being elected mayor, Smith worked in student services at Edmonds Community College and was highly involved in establishing CWU-Lynnwood.
“I feel like the mother of the beginning of Central at Edmonds Community College,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to be part of the circle of influence to make the bonds between the two even stronger and successfully educate a relevant workforce.”
Kevin Chase, Superintendent of Educational Service District 105 and a member of the CWU-Yakima advisory board, brings an intimate knowledge of the educational system and its needs to that board. His district supports about 65,000 K-12 students in 25 public school districts and more than 20 state-approved private and tribal schools throughout Yakima, Kittitas, and portions of Grant and Klickitat counties.
“A lot of the students that are graduating from Central are being hired by schools in my region,” Chase said. “What I try to provide is information about what districts need now. We’re your consumer, so it’s nice to be able to talk to the producer. With Central, it’s been a great dialogue because they are receptive and interested in how to improve their programs.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Vick Agarwal, director of planning and launch at Microsoft and member of the advisory board at CWU-Sammamish.
“It’s been wonderful to learn about new [CWU] programs and offerings, understand the direction of the local campus, and hear directly from students on their needs,” he said. “At the same time, it gives me and other industry professionals an opportunity to provide insight into industry needs as well as to support and sponsor new course offerings.”
Agarwal notes that the CWU advisory boards provide an atypical forum to connect industry professionals with the University Centers and instructional sites.
“This is a great way to help ensure the needs of the local community,” Agarwal said.