President Gaudino: His closing words

Outgoing President Gaudino reflects on 12 years he served as CWU’s President


Sean Bessette, Assistant News Editor

As the school year comes to a close, so does James Gaudino’s tenure as President. Gaudino shared some of his favorite and least favorite moments over the past 12 years and provided an update to some of his university-wide goals before his successor, A. James Wohlpart, steps in.

University-Wide Goals

Retention Rate

The pandemic has not been kind to the university’s retention rate, according to Gaudino.

“We were on the right trajectory, but then, somewhat not surprising, COVID,” Gaudino said.

The retention rate won’t be known until the fall, but Gaudino said he’s had students tell the university that they’ve dropped out because of the online environment and the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Faculty and Staff Diversity

According to Gaudino, CWU’s diversity among faculty and staff has continued to improve, but this isn’t the easiest metric to improve.

“We bring in, you know, 2,000 plus students every year. We don’t bring in 2,000 plus faculty and staff every year,” Gaudino said. “So we only have an opportunity to hire when, you know, someone leaves for whatever reason.

Gaudino is proud of the progress the university has had towards diversifying the faculty and staff with the somewhat limited opportunities.

“When we look at our success rates among our opportunities to diversify, it’s quite good,” Gaudino said. “We are leading the state there.”

Carbon Footprint Reduction

CWU is continuing to make progress towards lowering its carbon footprint, according to Gaudino.

“One of the things we do that we’re very, very proud of is that we build new buildings to LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] standards and that’s important because one of the criteria of a LEED certified building is its carbon footprint,” Gaudino said.

When a university vehicle needs to be replaced, CWU is purchasing an all-electric or hybrid vehicle instead of a gas-powered one. There will be an all-electric campus police car seen on campus next fall, according to Gaudino.

Gaudino pointed towards the hire of Kathleen Klaniecki, CWU’s sustainability director, as an additional measure towards reducing the school’s carbon footprint. According to Gaudino, Klaniecki is involved in the decision-making process of issues, trying to point out sustainable solutions.

Under Gaudino’s leadership, the current capital master plan has been completed to a large extent and the school is looking towards the next capital master plan. The next plan will have a large focus on sustainability, according to Gaudino.

“Under the leadership of James Wohlpart, my successor, I think you’re going to see almost a next wave of sustainability,” Gaudino said.

Biggest Success

The biggest success of Gaudino’s tenure is the growing sense of pride around the university, according to Gaudino.

“When I arrived here, I would sometimes be told by faculty, staff and students, ‘You know I could have gone to school somewhere,’” Gaudino said.

Nowadays, Gaudino said there is a lot less of that. The growing sense of pride has resulted in more donations, higher annual giving and more capital funding from the state legislature.

“People are recognizing things are happening at CWU and then that brings resources to us and of course, resources brings greater pride,” Gaudino said.

Biggest Regret

“I was brought up to give it my all, so that even if there was something that I didn’t achieve, I knew that it wasn’t because I didn’t give it every ounce of effort that I could,” Gaudino said. “I used every tool in my toolbox to make it happen, and I believe in my heart that I did that so I didn’t, you know, shrug or didn’t let something go by without giving it my full effort.”

Due to those things, Gaudino doesn’t have a biggest regret. 

He does wish there were things he could’ve accomplished earlier, such as diversifying the faculty and staff sooner and to a greater extent.

“It would be nice if, for example, every student who comes to CWU could see themselves in a faculty member every quarter they’re here,” Gaudino said. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to be exactly like them, right, but they could see someone who was of color, they could see someone who has their background, they could see someone who has their sexual orientation or whatever the personal identity is.”

Gaudino said that statement isn’t true just yet, as a student might go a few quarters without seeing a faculty or staff member like them, but the foundation has been laid for that statement to be true in the near future.

Biggest Hardship

“The biggest hardship was the first three years when we had those incredible budget crises and overcoming it was not easy,” Gaudino said.

Instead of laying employees off, he reduced people’s FTE by 10% so all of the full-time employees were sharing the burden. He also froze salary increases.

“Was that a popular decision at the time? No, it was not,” Gaudino said. “But looking back, was it the right way? Yeah.”

The lack of layoffs under Gaudino’s leadership during the economic crisis benefited the school as society recovered.

“We were all still here,” Gaudino said. “Where in other universities they had lost hundreds of people and were all still here, and we could then return the 0.9’s to 1.0’s [FTE], we could start giving raises and we saw a quicker rebuild.”

Favorite Memories

One of Gaudino’s favorite memories are all of the times students have competed against other schools.

One specific competition Gaudino shared was when the jazz combo competed against schools such as the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles and won best combo at a festival and was invited to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

“It was pretty cool and that was a very, very prideful moment but that’s been repeated time and time again across the spectrum of activities,” Gaudino said.

Another prideful moment for Gaudino was the last accreditation visit.

Gaudino said the accreditation process is a nerve-wracking one, but this one was a little different.

“They said, ‘Well, this is our conclusion of Central Washington University. You are an excellent university on the cusp of greatness,’” Gaudino said.

That statement served as a sense of validation for Gaudino.

Gaudino’s Lasting Legacy

For Gaudino, his legacy isn’t something he gets to proclaim but rather something that people remember him for. He hopes he’s remembered for his sense of community.

“It is my hope that we all have learned that we are stronger working together than we are fighting one another, arguing with one another and competing with one another,” Gaudino said. “If we all sit down and work together towards a common goal, there’s really nothing we can’t achieve.

He said as long as students are on the forefront of decisions, there is no problem too big for the university to navigate through.

“[Students] success really becomes our success and the collective of everybody at the university,” Gaudino said. “It’s the proof of the singularity of our mission, which is to provide an educational experience that is second to none.”