Spokane Journal of Business

Exiting WSU chancellor mulls next challenge

Brown foresees health care remaining big focus for her

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Outgoing Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown says she considers her work to help develop the medical school among her biggest accomplishments while at WSU.

As Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown enters her final months in that position, she says timing and opportunity have intersected to mold her time at the school. 

“In some ways, I’ve just been in the right place at the right time,” she says. “I’ve been part of a leadership team here at WSU that’s accomplished a lot, and together. I think we’ve set the stage for a positive future.”

Brown, who has served as chancellor for the past four years, announced earlier this month she plans to step down from her position in August, after which she says she may run for Congress, although she hasn’t confirmed her candidacy yet. 

Brown already has a history in politics, having served in the Washington Legislature for 20 years, first in the House and later in the Senate, prior to joining WSU in January 2013.

During her time in the Legislature, Brown worked closely with late WSU President Elson S. Floyd to initiate a formal study that eventually led the state Legislature to authorize creation of a second public medical school and  the formation of the WSU College of Medical Sciences here. Since renamed the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, it received preliminary accreditation last October, and will see its inaugural class of 60 medical students begin studies this August.

As a state legislator, Brown also helped secure funding for two medical buildings on the Spokane campus, the nursing building and the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences building. 

“It was a momentous occasion to be a part of the creation of the new medical school,” she says. “I think seeing it through to the charter class in August will be a fitting finish to my time here.” 

Brown says she considers her work with the medical school to be one of her three biggest accomplishments as chancellor, the other two being initiating a partnership with local health providers to create the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic and helping to increase WSU-led research opportunities.

Originally from Robinson, Ill., Brown studied economics at the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana, and at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, where she earned a doctorate degree. 

Brown says both her economics and legislative backgrounds have served her well in her position as chancellor for WSU’s Spokane campus, a place that she says has shifted its focus in the last 10 years.

 “Both WSU leadership and the state legislature have really embraced and invested in moving this campus toward a health science focus,” she says. 

As chancellor, Brown says she’s worked to increase awareness of WSU research efforts, partnerships, and programs through community outreach, and encouraged support for projects being developed in the University District.

“We’ve been increasing our outreach in order to better educate people on what we do here, and what we can offer the community,” she says. 

Brown says upcoming infrastructure projects like the University District Gateway Bridge, and others being developed through the Urbanova smart city initiative, also should serve to link the campus and its students with surrounding communities better.

“One thing I struggled with as chancellor was the lack of student amenities on this campus,” she says. “But a lot of these projects will connect students and faculty with area businesses, helping to build relationships and stronger community connections. It’ll be nice to see how these areas are able to grow into one another in the coming years.”

Although she has yet to decide whether she will for sure be running for Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Brown says if she did, her platform would include a focus on health care. 

“Health care and medical research are areas that I’m interested in and connected to already,” she says. “Many programs within those areas are federally funded, and I’d like to keep working to ensure that continues.”

Brown says her successor, Daryll DeWald, will have several upcoming projects and initiatives to focus on, including the development of the Jensen Byrd building, adding student amenities to campus, and continuing to increase interdisciplinary and interinstitutional relationships.

DeWald, the current dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences, is expected to begin his new duties on Sept. 1.

“He has an excellent reputation as both a scientist and an academic leader at WSU,” says Brown. “I look forward to meeting with him over the summer and helping him transition into the position.”

DeWald joined WSU in 2011 as dean of the former College of Sciences, which merged with the former College of Liberal Arts to form the College of Arts and Sciences in 2012. 

Brown says DeWald will be introduced to the Spokane community at a reception June 6 on the WSU Spokane campus.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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