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Washington State University
CAS Connect September 2014

In Motion: Lori Wiest encourages diverse voices at table

How long have you been at WSU and what brought you here?

Lori Wiest, CAS associate dean, faculty development; professor of music; director of choral activities; and voice area coordinator
Lori Wiest, CAS associate dean, faculty development; professor of music; director of choral activities; and voice area coordinator

I joined the faculty in 1991 and it was my mentor at University of Arizona who encouraged me to investigate the opportunities available in the Northwest. When I arrived in Pullman to interview for a choral conducting position, I was immediately struck by the similarities between this area and my home state of North Dakota, but it was the collaborative spirit and talent of the School of Music faculty and students, the active music and arts scene in the region, and the welcoming atmosphere of WSU and the surrounding communities that sealed the deal. I knew this was the place where I wanted to invest my energies and build a vibrant choral and vocal music program.

What is your favorite type of choral music and why?

Trying to identify my favorite type of choral music is akin to asking me who is my favorite child! I enjoy almost all types of choral music, but tend to be the most excited about early music—the Renaissance and Baroque periods—and modern choral music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Composers during Renaissance were prolific and you can clearly see and hear the spirituality, passion, and innovation of that time in the music. Today, whether composers are building upon or trying to completely deviate from a particular era, there are basic commonalities woven into the uniqueness of each composition. As a performer, I enjoy being a central part of bringing each song to life.

Wiest, right foreground, conducts the WSU Concert Choir during a performance in Bryan Hall Auditorium.
Wiest, right foreground, conducts the WSU Concert Choir during a performance in Bryan Hall Auditorium.

What is one of the most interesting pieces you have conducted?

Perhaps my favorite and most interesting opportunity was working with Morten Lauridsen, a noted American composer of choral music, in 2001 during the School of Music’s annual Festival of Contemporary Art Music. Lauridsen was born in Colfax, Washington, and has been teaching at University of Southern California for many years. His music simply embraces the heart and soul of singing. As the artist-in-residence for the festival, Lauridsen worked with students in Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers to prepare a number of his choral works for performance, and also with me to prepare one of his solo song sets for the same concert. Through the opportunity to interact with him and learn more about his personality, we became more in tune with his intentions in creating the work, which enhanced our ability to lift the music off the written page.

How does your music experience help you as an administrator?

I enjoy the process of collaboration and allowing everyone to bring their voices to the table. It’s very much like what I do every day with the choirs I conduct.

My focus on choral and vocal music is inspired by poets, languages, and cultures, so when I was asked to serve as interim chair for the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures, I felt it was an interesting opportunity to bring a number of different experiences and ideas to the unit. I learned so much from my DFLC colleagues during those two years and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future.

Prior to my service in that role, I was associate dean of the Graduate School for eight years. Many of my duties involved bringing pieces together for recruitment marketing, improving technology, and coordinating the individual interdisciplinary doctoral program.

Wiest holds a DMA in choral conducting and music theory.
Wiest holds a DMA in choral conducting and music theory.

Why is faculty development important for the college and the University as a whole?

We have outstanding faculty and staff at WSU and I am looking forward to working with Rebecca Craft, my fellow new associate dean, to identify programs and processes that will enhance everyone’s career opportunities. The role we are initially taking is to build our community by listening to concerns and ideas, assisting with framing expectations, and working with each of the academic units in the college to create an environment of mentorship.

What do you see as the biggest strength of the College of Arts and Sciences?

The diversity of our programs is definitely our core strength. Not only does our college significantly contribute to the strong academic foundation of the University, our students—and our faculty—have opportunities to collaborate across disciplines, to blend ideas, and interact with innovative experts in teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activities. We are a college of leaders united by the spirit of inquiry and our collective dedication to disciplinary excellence.

Our History in 100 Words

The College of Arts and Sciences, albeit in various forms, has been part of WSU from the beginning.

In 1909, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was created within the broader then-named State College of Washington. Elton Fulmer, a nationally known chemist, head of the chemistry department, and dean of faculty, was appointed dean.

A reorganization in 1917 brought about a reorganization of our college’s name, too. The new moniker—College of Sciences and Arts—stood until 1993.

Following a relatively brief separation, the two core academic units of the University were reunited in 2012 as the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

A college for the 21st century

Thompson Hall, built in 1894 as the administration building for the new land grant institution, is now our college’s administrative home.

In addition to Dean Daryll DeWald, the CAS leadership includes five associate deans serving our faculty, staff, and students in four strategic areas:

  • Faculty and academic affairs
  • Research and graduate education
  • Student affairs and global education
  • Faculty development

All of the associate deans are active faculty members and continue to teach and/or conduct research in their respective disciplines of mathematics, psychology, Spanish, and music.

Supporting roles

With more than 500 faculty and 200 staff spread across four campuses statewide, staff of the Office of the Dean are crucial to overall operation of the college. Their primary areas of support are:


Coordinate a comprehensive professional advising structure across the college and for deciding students University-wide.

Business Development

Build industrial research collaborations; implement entrepreneurial graduate training programs.


Contribute to the visibility of the college; assist with marketing for departmental and college events; publish CAS Connect.

Development and Alumni

Manage the college’s fundraising efforts, including major gift contributions and corporate and foundation relations; support engagement with more than 60,000 living CAS alumni.


Strategically manage finances; conduct long-range fiscal planning; develop and monitor budgeting; conduct fiscal analysis and reporting.

Information Technology

Manage computer resources; provide technology set-up and repair; maintain server operations.

Recruiting and Retention

Coordinate undergraduate recruitment activities with all academic units; oversee CAS student ambassador program; organize student retention activities.

Secretarial/Office Assistance

Coordinate daily operations (a.k.a. the glue that holds us all together).