President Jim Wohlpart

New Central Washington University president Jim Wohlpart is quickly getting accustomed the campus and the surrounding community.

Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


In terms of first impressions, new Central Washington University President James Wohlpart likes what he sees on campus and in the surrounding landscape.

Wohlpart has had the position for around six weeks, and seems to be getting the hang of life in Ellensburg. Currently, he is enjoying what the Pacific Northwest has to offer with his wife, Sasha, while also preparing the university for the incoming flood of fall quarter students, who will be taking classes fully in-person for the first time since the pandemic.

“What I find is a remarkable passion and a deep care for students here at Central Washington University,” Wohlpart said. “What happens here is magical.”

While Wohlpart worked as Interim President for the University of Northern Iowa from 2016 to 2017, this will be the first time he has officially and permanently held the presidential position at a university.

However, he feels prepared to for the job thanks to the help and mentorship provided to him by presidents from other universities around the county. These mentors have helped “shape” his understanding of what it means to be president.

He is also is thankful to be surrounded by what he called a fantastic team of people at CWU, who have helped him transition into the position of university president.

“In leadership, you’re successful based on what happens in your team and community,” he said. “We are blessed here at Central Washington University to have a remarkable group of people.”

Wohlpart worked at Northern Iowa University as the Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs before and after his stint as the Interim President at the same university. He was at the University of Iowa from 2015 to 2021. Before Iowa, he was the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University from 2011 to 2015.

The Wohlparts have been adapting to life in the Pacific Northwest, and have been living in the President’s House, provided by the university, for the last month and a half. During that time, they have been enjoying the natural beauty Washington state provides.

“We love hiking and we just love the mountains, so it’s been great to get up there and do some hiking,” Wohlpart said. “There’s not many mountains in Iowa or in Florida.”

DREAM JOB

Working as the president at CWU is a dream job for Wohlpart, and he sees the position as an honor. He said he did a lot of research when searching for a new position.

Wohlpart said former CWU President James Gaudino told him that being president is like being in a relay race, passing the baton from one leader to the next.

Wohlpart said he is humbled to take the baton and do his best as president to continue to improve the school for the next decade or so before passing the baton to the next runner.

“The reason I looked at Central Washington University, and I’m honored to be the president, is because the work that happens transforming students’ lives and families’ lives and the community,” he said. “We really are special in that we have smaller class sizes, smaller campuses and the faculty works really closely with students both inside and outside the class.”

As president, Wohlpart now needs to prepare the university for fall quarter, which will bring in-person learning back to CWU in full.

The university made the decision to require vaccinations before Wohlpart took office, although he feels confident this decision will be to the benefit of the well being and safety of students, staff and faculty.

“The first and foremost concern that we have is the health and safety of everybody in the campus community. Faculty, staff, students, administrators and the Ellensburg community and the county. That always has to be a top priority, the health and safety of those people,” he said. “And what the science shows us, what the CDC is telling us, what the Department of Health in the state of Washington is telling us and the Department of Health here in the county is telling us is, if everybody gets vaccinated we will be safe.”

The management of the coronavirus is far from the only thing the university needs to do to prepare for fall quarter. Wohlpart said there’s a lot of planning and thought that goes into this process, and it’s important to be on top of everything when classes begin Sept. 22.

LISTENING AND LEARNING

To Wohlpart, this means listening from everyone involved in the university. He said he has been listening and learning a lot during his transition to the university and during his time as president. He hopes to learn about the culture of the campus as well as the “desires and dreams” of those involved.

Wohlpart said a powerful institution of learning such as CWU has a responsibility to aid not just the community, but the country in the challenges that it faces. The three main challenges he mentions are climate change, racial injustice and the fraying of our democracy.

“Those are three issues that we really need to address as a university and a community and that we really need to imbed into the teaching and learning experience,” he said.

He sees climate change as a critical issue that affects all people, and knows will continue to affect us more and more each year, especially here in the Pacific Northwest.

The racial injustice is something that can’t be solved easily and has been happening for a long while. Wohlpart said higher education should be interested in building bridges, and helping students learn how to communicate across different world views, races, religions, gender identities and ethnicities.

“Our democracy is a bit tattered and worn. We really need to do a better job as an institution of education, making certain that we can model the kinds of conversations that we want to see happen in our nation,” Wohlpart said.

Wohlpart believes the university has another responsibility to the local community of Ellensburg. He would like to see the university work closer with the community in the not too distant future, and has already been meeting with the Ellensburg City Council to discuss how this would be possible.

He believes everyone in the Central Washington area needs to think of themselves as all being a part of the education process, and as a part of the community. These two seemingly separate entities can work together to make each other and themselves stronger.

One example Wohlpart gave was parking. While the university needs more parking during the academic year, the city needs more parking in the summer. By working together this issue can be solved quite simply, and is something Wohlpart sees as an opportunity to become closer.

All in all, President Wohlpart is eager to continue CWU’s and Kittitas County’s journey forward, and hopes his time here will be a benefit to both.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.