A. James Wohlpart

A. James Wohlpart

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Soon-to-be Central Washington University President James Wohlpart and his wife, Sasha, met with the students organization, Students with a Purpose, to answer questions and discuss life at CWU during a Zoom forum Wednesday night.

Students with a Purpose (SWAP) provides students with access to nonprofits and social entrepreneurship work. The students in the meeting shared their own experiences at CWU with the Wohlparts and asked questions about what he would do once president to fix any issues.

Wohlpart started the meeting by talking about his own experience with student leadership, how it affected him. While working as a department head at a university he wanted to relocate the writing center at the university, but neglected to ask the student government, who funded the center. Due to this, the student senators voted against his proposal.

“What a powerful moment,” Wohlpart said. “To think about power, and relationships and leadership. I was thinking about leadership in a very transactional way, as opposed to thinking about what makes a community vital, and vibrant and how we build relationships.”

Wohlpart said he wants students at CWU to feel their voice matters, and that they have the ability to speak up when something is wrong.

CWU student Elliott McNear said he said he was an aviation student, but when registering in 2019 he was not told how many applications needed to be filled out so he missed a deadline to register.

He said he spent most of his 2020 year at CWU trying to figure out what went wrong. He was told that because of his actions and others like him, the system is changing. Enough students had gotten up and talked about the issue to change the system to a better one.

“I’m sorry that happened. We set up systems and structures and we sometimes don’t think about the implications of those structures until someone points it out, that it needs to be changed so thank you for doing that,” Wohlpart said.

Meghan Gilbert, graduate student adviser for SWAP, asked what civic engagement training for faculty will help engage students and combat the barriers students face.

Wohlpart said he wants to use his time to make new systems and structures that will make communities more vital and sustainable. Something that will elevate and advance the work and values the community holds dear.

He said the best way to create an effective system is to start with a diverse group of people. This is because bringing different people into a project lets them see it from their own perspective, and they might catch something someone else may not.

Wohlpart also talked about how a president needs to be externally focused, and they need to work with the state to make sure there is funding for the university. He said there will likely be a lot more fundraising in the future. The goal is to provide funding for students so they have food and security during their time at CWU. He doesn’t want to see students dropping out in their last year because they don’t have the funds to continue attending college.

He also said one of the first things he will do when he gets to Ellensburg and starts work at CWU is to lay out norms and expectations for the executive leadership team at CWU. He wants to make it clear to them this will be how he will evaluate them. He said one of the things people want to know is what the expectations are, and it will be much easier for everyone if they know what the goals are.

Wohlpart ended the meeting by thanking the members of SWAP for their time and for being a part of their organization.

“This journey that you’re on and this group that you’re a part of and this life that we are all a part of, is about finding and discovering our gifts and talents and the way in which we can offer those gifts and talents to the world to make it a better place,” he said. “That’s really what it’s all about. What gifts and talents have I been given, and what responsibility do I have to offer those gifts and talents to the communities that I’m a part of to make those communities better?”


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