By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium
Washington State University (WSU) recently appointed Seattle native Dr. Paul Pitre as chancellor of their new state of the art satellite campus in Everett. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics Pitre aims to expand access to high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs that will provide young people with an opportunity to better themselves through education.
“Education is key in the new millennium,” says Pitre. “If our young people are to achieve their goals and dreams, as an educator it is my responsibility to help them achieve it.”
Pitre, a native of the Mount Baker community of Seattle, was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. A graduate of Roosevelt High School at the height of busing in 1980, he went on to receive a degree in Broadcast Communication from Western Washington University (WWU) in 1986.
With a dream to establish himself in the media/broadcast industry, Pitre began working for media outlets in the Seattle area after graduating from WWU.
However, a surprise phone call altered his career path to one that would allow him to help others realize their potential and dreams.
“While working in media I got a call from the University of Washington’s Minority Affairs Office offering me position in recruitment,” said Pitre. “So, I worked for a six-month period, traveling the state, meeting great kids and offering them the opportunity to change their lives. That’s when I knew my place was in higher education and they offered me a full-time position.”
With an offer on the table, Pitre contemplated his choices. It’s good to have choices, for some young people grow up without them. Growing up in a large family, in his household his parents’ rule of law on education and your studies were paramount in relations to other activities such as sports or hanging out on corners. Whereas, as soon as young people step outside into reality, the temptations of the world swirl around an adolescent’s head like insects, but with the support of family and friends Pitre was fortunate to have choices.
“Unlike some kids who thought the only way out was through hustling, my parents made sure we understood the importance of education, they were a major influence in my life,” states Pitre.
He had put in the work and it was time to decide. Media was the pathway he had set for himself and was on his way, but the satisfaction he was experiencing knowing that he had the opportunity to positively influence the life of a young person pulled at his altruism and so after working a job in media and education he chose education and stuck with it.
During his tenure at the University of Washington mentors such as Enrique Morales and Dr. Millie Russell helped provide a clear understanding that education and not media was his pathway. It was at that time Pitre had his epiphany
“One thing important that I share with my students and potential students is that somewhere along your journey, as long as you do your part, there will always be someone, people there to help you,” Pitre shares.
“Millie Russell, Enrique Morales and Louis Ramirez all these people helped shape my career, along with coaches, family and their mentorship helped me to make my decision, education this is where I belong,” added Pitre.
In 2005, Pitre began his work at Washington State University. With a sound work ethic he established himself, working up the ranks to become the Chancellor of WSU’s new satellite facility in Everett. Here he was given the opportunity to provide leadership and collaborate with other institutions like the University of Washington, Eastern Washington and Western Washington, with each playing a pivotal role on the new campus.
Pitre’s goals are to build the school into one of region’s top trade programs. He is also very proud of the diverse student population that the new school has been able to attract, and is optimistic about the future of the campus under his leadership.
“Our campus is very diverse,” said Pitre. “With students of color representing thirty percent, around six to eight percent of that being African American students.”
“Accessibility, affordability and efficiency is our campus’s model for higher education,” says Pitre.
“[We’re] helping students to look beyond the Associates degree,” he added. “We work with the local community colleges as well as high schools to encourage students to reach for and attain the Bachelorette.”
Asked if African American students were receptive to mathematics, science and engineering and to the program’s outreach? Paul replied, “some are but we have to do a better job early in their lives, letting young African Americans know that there are options, letting them know how important engineering is to the world at-large, how when math and science converge to make important things, they fall in love with it.”
According to Pitre, the school’s strategic placement has been beneficial to the area.
“Washington State University has revitalized the area much in the same way the University of Washington has impacted Tacoma,” says Pitre.
One of the most important keys to the success of the program is that all of the young people whether they go into a trade or some type of profession, education or training beyond high school is essential. The program wants students to begin thinking about careers and what it will take to succeed and make it appealing to students with respect to those career goals and their future.
Pitre believes that getting students to focus on their talents and finding themselves is a key component of education. However, many students, no matter how smart they are, may struggle with their sense of purpose and direction.
“Once a sense of direction is established it makes it easier to move them towards a pathway that will provide them career success, but they have to get on a path working towards something,” says Pitre.
Education is Pitre’s calling and he avoids trying to predict the future, but for now Washington State University is his present moment and he is good with that.
Like all of us we experience many things in life that help shape who we are and what we will become. In those experiences there will always be a person of significance that helps us, mentors us, shapes us and nudges us in the right direction.
While working for a stint for the Chamber of Commerce before landing the Washington State position Pitre remembers one such person named George Duff told him, “if you look at your future and decide exactly what it is or who it is you wanna be or become, it makes it easier to put the pieces together.”
The new Chancellor of Washington State University’s wants the opportunity to be that significant person in a student’s life.