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WSU's New Power Couple Aims To Advance University -- Together

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Noel Schulz took a break from unpacking the presidential mansion in Pullman to explain her new lean-in role at Washington State University as the new president's wife and an electrical engineering professor.

Monday is Kirk Schulz’s first official day as the 11th president of Washington State University. In some brief public appearances across WSU’s campuses, the president’s wife has been greeting students and colleagues too.

And you can call both of them Dr. Schulz. Noel Schulz starts as an electrical engineering professor at Washington State in August.

While her husband takes the podium, Noel smiles and nods. And when he’s done, she steps up to the mic. Often she tweets seconds before or after her husband. It raises eyebrows. After an event, one person said they wondered who would make the top decisions for WSU.

Noel said Kirk will, but the old model of a president’s spouse staying behind the scenes is no longer the norm. ?

“Part of it too is Kirk and I and our relationship. We’re a couple. We work together, we work together in activities to help advance the university,” she said. “And we’ve done that for the last seven years at Kansas State and we’ll continue to do that.”

Some of Noel's top priorities are promoting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and women and minority faculty.

Universities are now recruiting and hiring power couples with spouses who might have their own careers in medicine, business or academics. Noel has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and specializes in power systems and making those systems smarter with computers.

Throughout their lives they’ve shared their careers. Kirk stayed back with the kids when Noel lived apart from the family to earn her doctorate for two years. The Schulzes married in 1984.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.