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Type: University Policy
Division: Academic Programs

Contact Phone Number: 503-838-8271
Contact Email Address: provost@wou.edu

Centers and Center Directors
Provost & VP for Academic Affairs Office of Academic Affairs

This policy adopts specific language to define the activities of its academic-, service-, and research-related centers and institutes and the roles of center and institute directors.  Centers and center directors will work to help the university achieve its strategic mission.

All academic-, service-, and research-related centers and institutes, whether externally or internally funded, including such centers and institutes in existence prior to the effective date of this policy; and all university employees, including internal and external partners and collaborators. This policy does not apply to internally funded, service-oriented units that do not engage in research. Examples of units to which the policy does not apply include the Student Health and Counseling Center and the Center for Academic Innovation.

The following definitions are in order of scope, from single-focused to multi-focused efforts:

Project.  A project is a supported effort.  Projects are fiscally dependent on funding sources and can be internally or externally funded.  Projects are limited in scope and outcomes.  A project can have active involvement by faculty, can reside in centers, institutes, colleges, departments, units or other non-academic units and are aligned with faculty instructional and/or research interests and/or with university strategies.  A project leader, also referred to as a Principal Investigator or Project Director, is different from a Center Director due to the project’s limited scope.

Center.  A center is a single or multi-disciplinary unit organized to conduct education, research, and/or services activities and projects.  While centers are fiscally independent from other academic units, they are aligned with university strategies and/or with faculty instructional or research interests.  A center resides organizationally in a college, a similar academic unit (e.g. Library) or an institute and typically has several projects associated with its efforts.  A center has more than one limited-in-duration project and is led by a Center Director.  Centers may collaborate on projects and/or share staff with other centers or other university units.

Institute.  An institute is a single or multi-disciplinary unit organized to conduct education, research, and/or service activities.  While institutes are fiscally independent of other academic units, they are aligned with university strategies, and/or with faculty instructional or research interests.  An institute may include multiple centers.  An institute reports to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and has multiple projects and centers associated with its efforts.  An institute is led by an Institute Director.

Director.  A Center or Institute Director is a faculty or staff member who provides vision and leadership in directing the business functions and projects in a center or institute, including responsibility for strategic planning, shepherding policies and procedures, budget and expense development and reporting, allocation of resources, and personnel management of the center or institute.  Center Directors and Institute Directors report to the Dean of Graduate Students and Research.  For the purposes of this policy, “Research Center” or “Center” refers to both centers and institutes and “Director” refers to both Center Directors and Institute Directors.


(1) Center Scope.  The purpose of research centers is to strengthen and enrich programs at the university related to teaching, research, and service; provide undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students with additional research opportunities; establish a strong positive impact on the economic development of the state; enhance the image and outreach of the university locally, nationally, and internationally; and assist with fulfilling the university’s strategies and mission.

Center activities include research, scholarship, teaching, and service.  Centers are intended to serve university interests by producing the highest quality scholarly work, research, teaching and community service in support of the university’s mission, which is an overriding objective that transcends other considerations.

(2) Center Requirements.  Each center must be a value-add for the university’s strategic investments.  Each center will create and maintain documentation that justifies their activities, including:  

(i) Executive Summary

(ii) Mission Statement

(iii) Budget.  The budget should include years one through five with future projections.  Portions of the budget may be speculative, depending on the details of the relevant grants and contracts.  Speculative items should be identified as such in the budget.

(iv) Potential for revenue generations (e.g., federal grants, training grants, service income, private and corporate donations)

(v) Organizational Chart

(vi) Strategic Plan, including identifying goals, objectives, benchmarks, and evaluation

(vii) Implementation Plan, including identifying how and when deliverables or outcomes will be achieved and by which employees.

(2.1) Centers report to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and when housed in a College will work closely and collaboratively with the Dean of that College.  Centers submit an annual report to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.  At minimum each annual report will include a three-year, longitudinal budget and management plan, as well as any supplemental information requested by the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.

(2.2) Each center is encouraged to have an advisory board that is comprised of members representing a mix of university employees, partner colleges and universities, federal, state and local governments, private industry representatives, and other non-governmental organizations.

(2.3) Centers should strive to offer programs that involve university faculty, staff and students from various academic and university departments.

(2.4) Whether managing current centers or starting new centers, the university should have a budget and management stake to establish central authority and control.  Examples of how to accomplish this area to include institutional leaders in the center’s advisory board or in the center’s faculty and staff, or for a portion of the Center Director’s salary to be funded internally by the university.

(3) New Centers.  Centers should only be created when the academic mission of the university cannot be achieved within existing structures.  A proposal for a new center is brought to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, who, in turn, bringing the proposal to the president’s cabinet for approval.

(3.1) A proposal for a new center must include both (1) the documentation listed in Center Requirements section of this policy and (2) letters of support.  The proposal and supporting documents must demonstrate a commitment to scholarship in the field of activities relevant to the center’s purpose.  The center’s mission must also help the university achieve its strategic initiatives.  The proposal must also identify at least one funding source for the center.  

(4) Existing Centers.  Centers in existence on the date this policy becomes effective (“Existing Centers”) are subject to all provisions of this policy, except as noted below:

(i) Existing centers may continue to operate when this policy becomes effective and are not required to seek approval through the New Centers section of this policy.

(ii) Within one year of the effective date of this policy, Existing Centers must submit the documentation and materials required for a proposal for a new center, as described in the New Centers section of this policy, to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.

APPROVAL DATE: 03/05/2021
EFFECTIVE DATE: 03/05/2021
LAST UPDATED: 03/05/2021


Reviewed by Academic Affairs Executive Committee (July 11, 2019; March 12, 2020); Faculty Senate Executive Committee (May 6, 2020); President’s Cabinet (April 22, 2020); Faculty Senate (May 26, 2020); Principal Investigators, Project Directors and TRI staff (June 10, 2020)

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