Students, faculty, staff, community members and state representatives packed the Val A. Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium on Tuesday to celebrate the inauguration of Charles A. Wight as president of Weber State University.
Wight gave a speech outlining WSU’s core themes of access, learning and community “to ensure that the doorway to dreams is open to students and to the community partners,” through projects such as the College Town Initiative with Ogden City signed earlier this month.
“The success of Weber State University is intertwined with the success of our community,” Wight said. “This charter helps to ensure that we will strive together and thrive together.”
Wight also outlined the five priorities of his presidency, beginning with how he plans to keep college affordable, especially for low-income students.
“Keeping WSU tuition affordable will require a bold new partnership between Utah’s universities and our state government,” he said. “It will also require commitment from the universities to hold the line on costs and to demonstrate how we provide outstanding value to our students.”
Wight announced the major expansion of the Dream Weber scholarship, which provides a critical financial lifeline to low-income students and will now include students with household incomes of up to $40,000.
“I think he is very passionate about the Dream Weber program,” said Nancy Collinwood, executive director of Alumni Relations. “I think he is wanting to look for ways to enhance and really push that forward.”
Wight’s next priority is to increase diversity. Adrienne Andrews, special assistant to the president for diversity, is working on developing, with the collaboration of faculty and staff, a master plan for campus diversity, mapping out WSU’s goals and implementing the programs needed to reach those goals.
Earlier this month, WSU opened the Community Education Center, which is centered on community outreach. The center is designed to help people navigate the university admissions and student financial aid application process.
“That kind of activity is essential for ultimately having the diversity of our student body reflect the diversity of our community,” Wight said.
Collinwood said she has had a few opportunities to interact with Wight, and finds him to be approachable and knowledgeable.
“He has a great passion for Weber State, and I think he brings a great deal of experience, and he is willing to jump in with both feet,” Collinwood said. “He listens to the faculty, staff, students and community and understands the Weber State culture and looks for ways to enhance and improve areas.”
Wight’s third priority is to maintain a beautiful and sustainable campus. The new addition to the Stromberg Complex has been built to help students build strong bodies and minds. The Davis campus now houses high-demand programs that will build bridges to valuable community partners like Hill Air Force Base. On Tuesday evening, Wight dedicated the new Marquardt Field House, part of the Weber County Sports Complex adjacent to the Dee Events Center, and next month, WSU Downtown will open as part of the College Town Initiative.
“All of these projects have been completed as beautiful places for living and learning, and have been constructed with an attention to energy efficiency and sustainability,” Wight said. “This reflects our commitment to become a carbon-neutral university by the year 2050.”
WSU is in the process of securing state funding for a state-of-the-art science lab building, which will be named the Tracy Hall Science Center, in honor of H. Tracy Hall, a distinguished alumnus of Weber College.
“President Wight has been extremely proactive moving forward for the science building, and with his science background, he is really focused on that,” said Bev Rudd, director of special events. “He’s got great visions for how to make Weber State the great campus that it is.”
The fourth priority on Wight’s list is to work with faculty to reimagine how they teach classes at the undergraduate level. With nearly 80 percent of WSU students being employed and more than half being nontraditional, students have high demands on their time, and Wight said a one-size-fits-all approach to education will not serve WSU students well.
“I want teachers to really think about how they can inspire students today to work hard and be prepared for class and to do the kinds of things in class that maximize our learning,” he said.
Wight’s final priority is to ensure the bonds that connect WSU with the community remain strong.
“Through our Center for Community Engaged Learning, WSU students, faculty and staff logged nearly 148,000 hours of community service during the last academic year,” he said.
He requested that faculty continue to stay committed, students keep a desire to learn, staff stay dedicated, and alumni and friends be willing to step forward to commit time, energy and resources to benefit students.
Brady Harris, student senate president, said he believes WSU has great opportunities ahead with Wight’s leadership and support of the students, faculty and community.
“The support that President Wight has speaks volumes on who he is,” Harris said. “The importance that he places on students in his inaugural speech was really satisfying to me and to know that students are first in his mind.”
On Jan. 7, 2014, WSU will celebrate its 125th anniversary and the public phase of the comprehensive fundraising campaign to raise $125 million as the overall goal. Wight expressed his desire for everyone to get involved in the campaign.
“I want every one of you to think about this and decide how you are going to be a part of that campaign for the benefit of our students,” he said. “On the other side of each of our doorways lie endless dreams. Today represents a threshold. Let’s step over that threshold together.”