SPRING IS A REWARDING time on campus because it brings another record-breaking graduating class to Portland State. We expect more than 6,000 students to receive degrees this year.
This time of year also gives rise to a debate on the value of a college degree. In Oregon, where state support has declined and tuition has increased, it’s a legitimate question: Is a bachelor’s degree worth it?
Research shows that lifetime earnings for a college graduate are 2.3 times higher on average than for those without a degree. A recent national study from the Pew Charitable Trust showed that even during the recession, 21- to 24-year-olds with four-year degrees landed more higher-paying jobs than their peers with high school diplomas or two-year college degrees.
But there is much more to a degree than return on investment and more to a college education than job training. The true value of a university is to create educated citizens, and much of this is done through the interaction between students and faculty.
At PSU, faculty excellence is everywhere. Let me recognize some examples:
Leslie Hammer, psychology professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, heads a team that recently won a $5 million grant from the Department of Defense to train employers of military veterans to provide more supportive workplaces.
Sergio Palleroni, professor of architecture in the College of the Arts, has won international acclaim for his work, often collaborating with his wife, PSU professor Margarette Leite, for projects such as affordable housing and “green” modular classrooms.
Kelly Clifton, civil and environmental engineer in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, won national attention for a surprising study that shows how Portland bicyclists spend more on average at neighborhood businesses than traditional car commuters.
Lisa Bates, urban studies professor in the College of Urban and Public Affairs, embodies PSU’s “Let knowledge serve the city” mission for her work with planners to help create more opportunities in low-income neighborhoods in Portland, New Orleans, Chicago, and other cities.
Another professor whose passion is social justice is Ann Curry-Stevens in the School of Social Work. Her work with Multnomah County’s Coalition of Communities of Color has helped spur reforms to reduce disparities in education, jobs, and justice.
Mellie Pullman, professor in the School of Business Administration, helps Oregon food producers improve their sustainability and market practices—her latest project focuses on teaching emerging craft brewers how to be successful.
Hanoch Livneh, professor in the Graduate School of Education, specializes in rehabilitation counseling and looking at how individuals cope with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, disease, and disability.
These professors and others provide students with invaluable opportunities to assist in their real-world research. That’s the PSU way.