Some individuals are born to thrive in their profession. Christopher L. Washington, Ph.D., is one of those people, and he loves what he does on a daily basis as Urbana University’s new executive vice president and provost.
“It’s a blessing I get to do what I do,” Washington said. “My mom told me very early on that I was an educator, and I denied her for many years. She was right as I do have a real passion for teaching others.
“I was a faculty member for a number of years, and I learned that I really liked developing leaders who develop leaders. Universities are the right places for that.”
Washington, who holds a Ph.D. in human resource development from The Ohio State University, joined Franklin University as a faculty member in the MBA program in 1999. Franklin University acquired UU in 2014 and is working toward approval to make the Urbana institution of higher learning a branch campus of Franklin. Prior to accepting his new role with UU in late April, Washington was in the midst of a nearly 12-year run as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Franklin.
The website for the Columbus-based university credits Washington with introducing over 20 new degrees and programs over the past five years at Franklin to help meet the needs of students and employers.
Washington said since arriving on the UU campus, he is confident he is in the right place to continue expanding on the work he was doing at Franklin.
“I like the idea of being a lifelong learner and contributing to communities that foster lifelong learning,” he said. “Urbana is just a great context for that.
“It’s not very difficult to fall in love with this place once you come out here, and that happened to me right away,” Washington added.
Currently living in central Ohio, Washington and his wife, Shannon, have five children between the ages of 4 and 26. They have been exploring the area and local housing market.
When it comes to higher education, Washington’s experience runs the gamut.
Along with his 18 years in varying roles at Franklin, Washington has served on or is currently part of a number of organizations and committees in academia. The list includes consultant evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission, member of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio Provost’s Council, member of various Ohio Board of Regents committees, vice chairperson of the Education Committee of the Columbus Council on World Affairs, member of the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Educators, member of the American Council of Education, and vice chairperson of the the Global Ties U.S. Board of Directors.
Washington’s experience in a university setting as well as his years of service to various higher education groups has aided him in developing what he refers to as his three principal academic strategies: academic quality, student success, and relationships in the community.
Washington said UU must look at ways to align the programs it offers to help meet the needs of the community.
“Number one is we have to look at academic quality and the range of programs we offer,” he said. “It’s not very hard to look around here in the seven-county area and see where the needs are.
“We can fill those needs through academic programs,” he added. “We can leverage the programs that are offered at Franklin, and we can offer new programs in collaboration with our corporate partners to meet their needs.”
His second academic strategy involves making sure UU students are given the tools they need to become well-rounded, successful members of society.
“We need to look at how do we really amplify our efforts to ensure student success,” Washington said. “This success is something that happens both inside the classroom and outside of it. If I can give students internships, practicums, and field experiences in the workplace, they will get a better sense of why they are doing this to begin with.
“I believe they will be more successful, and I believe it will increase graduation rates and improve average starting salaries of our graduates,” he added.
The third area Washington plans to focus on as part of his principal strategies toward helping UU thrive in the future is building relationships.
With this in mind, Washington said he has made it a point over the past several weeks to meet with university alums, current students and area business leaders.
“Alumni are really an important part of the picture,” he said. “This community has so many of our alums, and I think they are sitting on the sidelines wondering what’s next and what’s going to happen here.
“I’m here to tell them we are in this for the long term, and I need their help,” Washington added.
While there are numerous ways alumni can help the university, Washington suggested some graduates may be able to provide internships to current students, while others in the business world may consider dropping by a classroom or two to speak to students.
“Of course, I want alumni to come out to our football and basketball games, too,” he said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.