Reflections upon entering my fifth year at PSU
THE START of a new academic year at Portland State is always exciting, with shining examples across campus that showcase our rising faculty excellence and vibrant student life. This fall also marks the start of my fifth academic year at PSU, so it’s a good opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.
When I arrived in the summer of 2008, we didn’t yet know how deep the recession would become in Oregon and across the nation. Despite our economic crisis and severe cuts to higher education, PSU has experienced steady growth in enrollment, record numbers of graduates, improved student retention, new and renovated facilities, and significant increases in research funding and private philanthropy. That makes me optimistic about our future: If we can do all of this when times are tough, imagine what we can accomplish when times get better!
I was drawn to Portland State and to Portland by the quality of the people, the strong campus partnerships with all sectors of the community, and the open social and cultural climate of the city. Still, there was a persistent notion that PSU didn’t get the respect as a university that it should, and we’ve worked hard to change that perception. After years of being satisfied to be a school of convenience, PSU is emerging as a school of choice for high-achieving students, out-of-state and international students, transfer students, and students of color. At the same time, we remain committed to our mission to be accessible to all students and create opportunities for them to succeed.
There have been many pleasant surprises over the past four years. For example, both my wife, Alice, and I have found the community to be warm and welcoming to newcomers. And like many Oregonians, we have come to love the natural environment here, from the coast to the mountains. It’s a beautiful place, and that shared value contributes to PSU’s devotion to sustainability.
A not-so-pleasant surprise has been the chronic decline of state funding for higher education. Oregon ranks in the bottom five states in the nation in support for public universities, and keeping a PSU education affordable continues to be our biggest challenge. As the economy rebounds, we will do everything we can to show lawmakers and the public that investing in universities yields direct educational, cultural, and economic benefits essential to securing Oregon’s future.
LOOKING FORWARD, I see Portland State continuing to grow in enrollment, improved facilities, and influence. Our focus on sustainability will guide us over the next 10 years, and I envision our partnerships will flourish with OHSU, Intel, PGE, the city of Portland, Multnomah County, public schools, and many other organizations. I also predict that our educational delivery model will change with technological advances and more online learning opportunities. Ten years from now, I can imagine a Portland State where students no longer have to attend lectures to learn general information, enabling faculty to go deeper with individual students to engage them in academic projects and real-world problem solving.
I feel lucky to be part of a team at Portland State working every day to make a difference. Our ambition is to become a model for urban universities across the nation, and we’re on our way. Of course we have our challenges, but as we start a new year at PSU, I feel more than ever that we’re faced with insurmountable opportunities.
PRESIDENT, PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY