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Campus Symposium, June 1, 2007

Please refer to background summary to read about activities leading up to the symposium. FAQ's is a also a good reference for understanding the Portland State leadership position and priorities.)

Goals and Initiatives

The first part of the June 2007, Campus-wide Symposium provided an opportunity for faculty members to engage in conversations about three of the goals proposed by the priorities working groups. Table groups each selected one of the goals and discussed possible initiatives that would move the work forward. Results for each of the three goals are described below.

  1. Priority - Student Success: Improving student success by increasing the rate of completion for undergraduate students.

    Several initiatives were recommended across the table groups that cluster around five major categories including advising, research, faculty, student support, and communication.


    Specific strategies for improving communication included updating web links, increasing interaction with faculty members, and providing additional resources in the form of peer advisors and dedicated staff positions for program and/or individual advising. The question of mandatory advising at various points in students' academic programs was raised for consideration.


    Studying existing research on best practices (e.g. the Council for Adult Experiential Education) would serve to identify the nature and scope of the problem. Specific projects might involve exploring what other institutions have done, examining completion rates for students in cohort versus non-cohort structures, studying the qualities and characteristics of completers versus non-completers, and supporting Collier's work on first-generation graduates.


    The issue of faculty time for advising was raised, leading to the suggestion for a decrease in the tenure-related faculty to student ratio. Strategies for involving faculty members more directly in students' completion rates might include (i) linking promotion and tenure decisions with measures of student success and (ii) bridging students' lower division and upper division experiences through the participation of tenure-related faculty members from academic departments in Freshman Inquiry sections.

    Student Support

    An essential strategy would be to determine the necessary support systems, including expectations and benchmarks for students, followed by efforts to ensure that faculty and staff members understand and support these needs. Increasing financial aid, including endowments and scholarships, as well as developing flexible course schedules will help serve the needs of our diverse student body. In the area of recruitment into the academy, the suggestion was made to engage potential students in campus activities, such as the Saturday Academy, to support their transition from high school to higher education. The role of community engagement in efforts to both recruit and retain students was suggested, especially in cases where Portland State students co-produce community solutions with high school students.


    Suggestions in this area include determining the structural issues for providing feedback on students' progress towards degree attainment (e.g. DARS), communicating the advantages of attaining degrees and certificates, and developing criteria for instituting requirements for declaring a major at a particular benchmark.

  2. Priority - Student Success: Improving student success by identifying specific and measurable undergraduate learning objectives integrated across majors and general education that demonstrate the value of students' learning experiences, especially including the impact of engagement.

    Efforts are currently underway in the Institutional Assessment Committee to establish learning objectives. Suggestions for further development include reviewing department requirements, modes of delivery, and existing learning outcomes in relation to the LEAP report, the Assessment Resource Networks recommendations, Senate Bill 342, and other professional organizations' recommendations. Admissions requirements should be aligned to established entry level learning expectations and a general accountability process should be established across campus.

  3. Priority - Opportunities: Enhancing opportunities for higher education that serve Portland metropolitan citizens, agencies, and industries by developing and supporting pathway programs to increase participation in higher education for Portland's diverse population.

    The first step in this process would be to inventory existing pathway programs such as the Portland Teachers Program, MESA, the Oregon Leadership Institute, Gear Up, and the Native American Youth Association. Capstone experiences should also be identified as links or pathways to academic careers. Identifying the successes and challenges of these programs and experiences will inform other efforts to develop pathway programs through creating models for department specific initiatives. These initiatives might be in the area of community-based pathways and links to community colleges that provide relevant academics and acculturation efforts for being successful in higher education. Incentives should be provided to departments to create pathway programs with efforts to coordinate funding proposals to private, state and federal agencies.

    It was recommended that the institution assess internal and external communications to students regarding awareness of and information about these pathways, resource availability, and other relevant information, and explore ways of meeting the needs of parents and families of potential students from families with little or no higher education experience. Hiring faculty of color, outreach to underrepresented students, and the development of a university-wide student-learning center were recommended as ways to enhance opportunities to increase participation in higher education for Portland's diverse population.


The last session at the symposium focused on themes. One of the outcomes of the working group discussing the selection of leadership programs was to identify themes that reflect Portland State's academic strengths and leadership in addressing significant global and regional issues. While the original intent was to use these themes as part of the criteria for program selection, the idea has expanded to include more overarching purposes. Themes represent the intellectual dimension of our academic priorities. They are broad but generally understood statements describing areas of Portland State's intellectual strengths and depth. They represent topics of particular relevance to the region but are also nationally and globally significant, demonstrating Portland State's leadership role in engagement.

Themes guide the development of programs that prepare students for their role in addressing relevant and significant global and regional issues. They provide the basis for identifying undergraduate learning outcomes and a focus for our general education curriculum. They will help build stronger and more focused connections with our communities. Finally, themes will be used to align our investments and resource allocations.

Below is a working set of themes that were reviewed during the symposium. They have been based on our collective understanding of Portland State, formal and informal conversations with faculty members and campus leadership, and the input from three faculty focus groups. They are not intended to represent everything we do as a comprehensive university yet are broad in their nature and scope.

  • Creating innovative educational programs and systems that are effective for a changing global society
  • Enhancing the cultural vitality of the metropolitan region
  • Providing leadership in emerging science, technology, and entrepreneurship in a global economy
  • Creating and applying innovations in science, policy, and practice to support healthy, resilient families and communities
  • Developing processes and practices to promote and support sustainable development

Next Steps

Carol Mack, vice provost for Academic Administration and Planning, talked about next steps. Working groups are being formed, in consultation with faculty governance, for each of the three goals, beginning with those related to the student success priority. Where possible this work will begin this summer. Work is also being done with the deans and vice provosts on unit planning in order to explicitly align existing unit plans with the leadership position and academic priorities.

This fall progress will be made on the goal for advancing/nurturing high quality academic and scholarship programs that demonstrate Portland State's leadership in engagement.

Participant were encouraged to participate in this year's Fall Symposium on September 19, where the focus will be on learning objectives. The keynote address will be presented by Dr. Carol Geary Schneider, President of the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Dr. Schneider launched the influential report on Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) and led the initiative on America's Commitments: Diversity, Democracy, and Liberal Learning.