Ten things: Mel Netzhammer, WSU Vancouver chancellor

Mel Netzhammer, chancellor of Washington State University Vancouver, was the featured guest at our September 2, 2015 Boardroom Breakfast, held at the Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks.

Here are ten things we learned during the discussion:

  1. Netzhammer grew up an avid television watcher, regularly tuning in to shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island.” That upbringing, he said, sparked an interest in communications. Netzhammer ended up earning three degrees in communication: a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Utah.
  2. In his spare time, Netzhammer enjoys a number of diverse activities including traveling, outdoor activities and going to the theater.
  3. Why WSU Vancouver? Netzhammer said the Pacific Northwest felt like the right fit. In addition, he was drawn to how involved in the community the university was, saying that he would not have considered the position of chancellor if the community involvement wasn’t there.
  4. When asked about challenges in his current role, Netzhammer explained that living up to the community’s expectations for the campus is daunting, but it’s a good challenge.
  5. Discussing new degree programs at WSU Vancouver, Netzhammer said the school always considers current workforce needs while anticipating future workforce needs.
  6. Netzhammer said new WSU Vancouver degree programs on the horizon include: electrical engineering (master’s degree); human services in mental health (master’s degree); and communications (in partnership with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication). Over the next five years, the university hopes to add about 10 new degree programs, he said.
  7. Netzhammer praised the Washington state Legislature for their efforts to reduce the cost of tuition. WSU Vancouver students will pay 5% less in tuition this year and an additional 10% less next year.
  8. When asked about the potential for residence halls on campus, Netzhammer said such a venture would have to be a public/private project. He said the school has had “very preliminary discussions” about where on campus residence halls could be located, and “we’ll probably be ready by around 2020.”
  9. When asked about the nationwide movement to make community college free, Netzhammer said he would prefer to see a plan to fund the first two years of college no matter where a student decides to go because, “community college is the right fit for a large number of students, but not everyone.” However, he added, “anything that’s going to get students to go to college has its advantages.”
  10. Netzhammer said Washington State University’s new medical school, which was authorized by the legislature and governor during the 2015 legislative session, will have a “huge impact” on WSU Vancouver, even though the school will be based in Spokane. Because the new medical school is utilizing a community-based model, Netzhammer explained that students will spend years three and four in various community-based settings. “Vancouver will be the number one location for that,” he said.

Our next Boardroom Breakfast is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7. Our scheduled featured guest is Rick Goode, president of Columbia Machine. Tickets can be purchased here.


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