New EWU president visits Tri-City business community

Shari McMahan

As many students returned to campus at the end of August, the new president of Eastern Washington University visited the Tri-Cities to meet with local business leaders.

Shari McMahan wanted to learn how EWU could position itself to meet the needs of area employers and how to better prepare its students for the future workforce.

Among McMahan’s goals as Eastern’s new president are to bolster student enrollment and retention rates and to fine-tune programs to ensure student success post-graduation.

A first-generation college student, McMahan has a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in social ecology from UC Irvine, and a master’s degree in health science from Cal State Northridge. She most recently worked as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, San Bernardino.

McMahan said EWU is working on its five-year strategic plan as its current one expires at the end of the year.

She said the Tri-Cities is an important market for EWU, which is in Cheney.

Nearly 500 undergraduate students from Benton and Franklin counties are enrolled in 2022, up from nearly 400 students in fall 2021. The top three majors are computer science, psychology and exercise science.

Nearly 100 students from Benton and Franklin counties are enrolled in Eastern’s graduate programs. The top three majors are education, business administration and social work.

The majority of EWU students come from Spokane County, where it is located.

Declining student enrollment has been a cause for concern at colleges across the state and country in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nationwide, undergraduate enrollment accounted for most of the decline, dropping 4.7% in spring 2022, or over 662,000 students from spring 2021, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Statewide, undergraduate enrollment fell 13.5% between spring 2019 and spring 2022, according to the center’s data.

And EWU is no different. Fall 2021 enrollment was 10,892, down nearly 12% from fall 2019’s 12,326.

McMahan’s main message for the Tri-Cities? She encouraged students to choose EWU.

“Come to Eastern. We’ll wrap our arms around you,” she said.

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