President-designate lays out future of CWU


President A. James Wohlpart

Mitchell Roland, Editor-in-Chief

While he isn’t scheduled to assume the office for up to six months, CWU’s president-designate has already begun mapping out his early tenure at CWU.

CWU announced A. James Wohlpart as its next president late last week, replacing James L. Gaudino. Gaudino announced in February 2020 that he planned to step down by July of this year.

One of Wohlpart’s priorities as president is increasing diversity and inclusivity, though the demographics at CWU greatly differ from his current and previous institutions.

The student population at UNI is 82.3% white, while the student population at Wohlpart’s previous institution, FGCU, is 65.3% white. During the current academic year, the student population at CWU is 54% white.

“What I’m interested in is creating a culture of belonging for everyone at the institution, so that they can feel their whole human selves and feel welcomed for who they are,” Wohlpart said.

Wohlpart said it is a “moral obligation” for CWU to ensure that every admitted student can be successful, and said he plans to review the curriculum, hiring and other policies at CWU. Wohlpart said at FGCU he was “part of that process” to increase diversity on campus.

“The work that I’ve done, both at [FGCU] and UNI, is to help those students of color be successful,” Wohlpart said. “I think that I have incredible experience with understanding how to build teams and initiatives that allow those students to thrive.”

Wohlpart has an extensive history in university administration and currently serves as the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). He previously served as interim president at Northern Iowa from July 2016 to January 2017.

Before his work at UNI, Wohlpart served in various roles over 21 years at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) including as dean of undergraduate studies from 2011 to 2015, the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2005-2011 and chair of the Division of Humanities and Arts from 2000 – 2005.

Wohlpart holds both a Ph.D. and B.A. in English as well as a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee and an M.A. in English from Colorado State University.

During an all-faculty forum on Jan. 14, Wohlpart said it is “essential” for CWU to diversify its resources and that he planned to look at CWU’s budget model.

“We know that the state resources ebb and flow, and we also know that they may ebb more than they have in the past,” Wohlpart said. “And we need to be prepared for that and have a resilient budget model.”

Part of his plans to address CWU’s budget will be to increase the university’s fundraising efforts.

“I will be elevating the profile of the university in terms of fundraising so that we can greatly increase student scholarships,” Wohlpart said.

When Wohlpart began at UNI, the university had just begun a three-year effort to raise $50 million for student scholarships. UNI hit the $50 million mark in a year and a half and ended the drive after raising a total of $75 million.

“I really will focus a lot of my energy on those kinds of work, to support [students],” Wohlpart said. “It will be about [students] when I am off campus doing that leadership.”

This effort for additional scholarship funding could include endowed professorships and named colleges at CWU, Wohlpart said, and he estimated as much as half of his time would be spent off-campus and speaking with legislators and donors.

While much of Wohlpart’s time in office will be spent off campus, CWU’s next president has visited campus before. After his interview for the presidency, which took place in Seattle, he drove to Ellensburg afterward to tour the campus.

“I will tell you it’s a beautiful campus,” Wohlpart. “You all have a spectacular campus.”

Wohlpart will stay at UNI through their spring commencement, which is scheduled for May 8, and will officially take over for Gaudino no later than June 21, though his start date could be moved up.

Wohlpart plans to take several trips to Ellensburg before he officially starts the job, though this is contingent on his ability to travel safely.

“I will spend a lot of time between now and then meeting people, and building those relationships,” Wohlpart. “That is a priority for me.”

Nathaniel McMillion, the BOT student representative as well as a member of the search committee, said in a student forum on Jan. 15 that Wohlpart has “a lengthy history of inclusion, of diversity, of making sure that all voices at the table are heard.”

McMillion said Wohlpart was not only the candidate ranked in the top five for everyone on the search committee, he was also the only candidate ranked either first or second among all the trustees.

“I’m really, really excited to see what he’s going to be doing with [CWU],” McMillion said in the forum.

During an exempt and classified staff forum on Jan. 14, Carolyn Thurston, director of academic concerns and dispute resolution and a member of the search advisory committee, said that during the interview process, Wohlpart talked about things that matter to her.

“He talked about having spent an enormous time studying leadership philosophies. He mentioned specific authors of books on leadership, culturally sustaining pedagogies and the coming realities for higher ed,” Thurston said. “All things very, very timely and important for us here at CWU.”