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End of year message from President Wiewel
Author: Office of the President
Posted: June 15, 2011

Portland State University Year in Review, 2010-2011
A message from Wim Wiewel

Each year at this time, we celebrate with our students the completion of classes while reflecting back on the academic year.

This past Sunday we recognized the largest graduating class in PSU’s history, and in the history of any Oregon university.

The Class of 2011 includes some 5,620 graduates, hailing from 49 states and 51 nations. Of those graduates, 60 are earning PhD’s and another 1,735 master’s degrees.

At spring commencement, we also acknowledged faculty and staff recognized for excellence by their peers this year:

  • Branford Price Millar Award for scholarship and research: Professor Laurie Powers, associate dean for research in the School of Social Work and director of the Regional Research Institute for Human Services;
  • George C. Hoffmann Award for distinguished contributions in instruction, service and scholarship: Professor William Tate, Department of Theater Arts;
  • Butler Award for Library Faculty Service: Cris Paschild, University archivist and head of special collections;
  • Mary H. Cumpston Award for Service to Students: Dan Fortmiller, associate vice provost for academic and career services.

Let me take a moment to highlight some of our achievements of 2010-11.

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Fall began with the enrollment of nearly 30,000 students—a modest increase over the prior year, in line with our more rigorous attention to admission qualifications that resulted in fewer first-time freshmen and transfer students.

We launched Éxito, our initiative to recruit, retain and graduate more Latino students. Just last week, we opened La Casa Latina, a Latino student support center in Smith Union.

Éxito is part of an overall commitment to diversity, inclusion, and student success that also includes expanded student advising, selection of a major by the end of sophomore year, and mandatory orientation sessions for first-year and transfer students. By creating clearer pathways for students, we hope to improve retention and graduate rates.

To do this, we also must address college-readiness in the K-12 system. That’s one of the goals of Cradle to Career, a broad coalition led by PSU, Mayor Sam Adams, County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen, the Portland Schools Foundation, and educators across Multnomah County.

This approach recognizes not only the critical role of schools but also emphasizes how families, the community, socioeconomic conditions and other factors shape the outcome. And it establishes key metrics that track student progress, and holds educators, service providers and others accountable for success.

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One of the perennial challenges facing Portland State is the lag-time between public perception of our institution, and reality.

External rankings contribute to that perception. And this has been a great year for external validation of PSU in the rankings:

  • The Princeton Review’s "The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 Edition" named Portland State University as one of the nation’s best for undergraduate education. This is the first time that the annual guide has included PSU.
  • Entrepreneur magazine, with The Princeton Review, included PSU on its list of 16 “top-notch MBA programs for ‘green business.’” PSU also made the Princeton Review's “Guide to 311 Green Colleges” and “Best in the West” editions.
  • The 2012 edition of U.S. News’ Best Graduate Schools includes top-50 rankings for five of our graduate programs: Environmental Policy and Management (#13), City Management and Urban Policy (#17), Rehabilitation Counseling (#23), Social Work (#36) and Public Affairs (#49).
  • U.S. News & World Report also rated us among the nation’s top-10 choices for transfer students, and among “America’s Best Colleges” for programs that lead to student success.
  • PSU earned a Gold STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System STARS) rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Our score was the nation’s third-highest.

Visit for a regularly updated list of rankings.

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We continue to upgrade and expand facilities across campus to better serve our students and community.

Lincoln Hall reopened last fall, completing a $30.7 million remodel and upgrade of this century-old facility that served as our first building on the South Park Blocks. A second phase of the project will include a new street-level entrance and lobby on Southwest Broadway. We are also raising funds for a stunning three-story glass tower that would allow us to expand programming for the School of Fine and Performing Arts.

Science Building 2, the campus’s major sciences teaching and research facility, nears completion of a massive $46.5 million renovation and modernization project funded through state bonds, federal grants, economic stimulus funds and private donations. Look for a grand opening this October.

Through partnerships with the Portland Development Commission and others, the Portland State Business Accelerator added specialized “wet lab” space, which supports work in the fields of bioscience and medical devices. Home to nearly two-dozen start-up science and technology companies, the PSBA offers affordable space and support services, as well as access to PSU faculty and student expertise.

Another exciting project that gained momentum this year was the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, a joint development with OHSU and Oregon State University in the South Waterfront scheduled to open in fall 2013. 

The College Station residence hall is now taking shape on the south end of campus. A partnership with private developer American Campus Communities, this 978-bed housing development will also include academic and recreation space, as well as retail when it opens in fall 2012.

This year we moved closer to final design and budget on the Oregon Sustainability Center, a high-rise, net-zero facility that will, upon completion, be an internationally recognized hub for sustainability teaching, research, partnerships, and entrepreneurship.

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Despite these improvements, these are difficult times for public universities. Financial support from the state continues to shrink. Today, the state contribution to our overall budget is barely 12 percent. Increasingly, the burden falls to our students, who face a six- to nine-percent tuition increase this fall.

That reality is reflected in the 2011-2012 budget, developed under the cloud of a projected $29.4 million shortfall to cover current services and rising costs of health care and retirement plans, while making selected reinvestments in strategic areas.

In addition to tuition increases, academic and administrative units will take a 3-percent cut next year, and return 30 to 40 percent of fund balances carried over from the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

For more details on next year's budget, visit

This past year, we’ve labored with other education leaders on a proposal to restructure the higher education system in Oregon. Senate Bill 242 would give us more control of budget and tuition at the campus level. This won’t solve our financial challenges overnight, but it will help us in planning and managing resources more effectively.

Legislation is just one of several steps we’re taking to keep the cost of a quality education within reach for Oregonians. For us to keep the cost of quality college degree within reach, we must manage resources effectively, and expanding funding through research, grants, and private gifts.

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We welcomed several individuals to leadership positions here at PSU:

  • Monica Rimai, vice president for finance and administration. Formerly the senior vice chancellor and chief operating officer for the State University of New York (SUNY) system, Rimai will steward PSU's financial, human, information and physical resources when she arrives in August.
  • Jonathan Fink, our first vice president for research and strategic partnerships. He joins us from Arizona State University to lead efforts to establish PSU as a national leader among urban research universities. Research expenditures have  doubled in just seven years, reaching $65 million in 2011.
  • Françoise Aylmer, vice president for University Advancement, overseeing fundraising, stewardship, and alumni relations at PSU. Aylmer is currently laying the foundation for a new comprehensive campaign.
  • Jilma Meneses, PSU’s first chief diversity officer, a position created to build a more inclusive, diverse community at PSU. She heads up the Office of Diversity and Equity, which supports a wide-range of diversity related programs.

We also said goodbye to several who’ve had a tremendous impact during their time at PSU:

  • Marvin Kaiser, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who stepped down in March, after nearly 18 years leading the college. He will serve as a senior fellow in the Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies and as a professor in the Sociology department.
  • Kristi Nelson, dean of the School of Social Work, who stepped down this year after strong leadership of the school for the past several years.
  • Helen Spalding, University Librarian, who concluded a 36-year career in academic librarianship, including the past six at PSU.
  • Mike Soto, chief of the Campus Public Safety Office, who retires this summer after 31 years of service.
  • And finally, Craig Wollner, associate dean of College of Urban and Public Affairs and noted scholar, who passed away in November.

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This was the year that cars became “alternative transportation” at PSU. A transportation survey found that three in four students and employees at Oregon's largest university commute to campus without a car, making Portland State University a national leader in alternative transportation.

That ethos carries over to our research and partnerships; we’ve worked with Portland General Electric, car companies like Nissan, Toyota, and Ford, and government agencies to help pave the way for electric vehicle infrastructure.

Student athletes found success in 2010-11, particularly the Vikings women’s teams, which captured conference or tournament championships in volleyball, basketball, golf and softball. Cross country and track and field teams also sent several individuals to NCAA regional events.

Vikings football returns to a renovated Jeld-WEN Field (formerly PGE Park) for kickoff September 3rd. I hope to see you there.

I believe that Portland State University can serve as the model for urban universities in the 21st century—a place where campus and community are inextricably linked, and where we can find solutions to the seemingly intractable challenges that face societies locally and globally.

This year’s achievements serve as reminders and markers of the progress we’ve made thus far. Thank you for your continued scholarship and service.

Wim Wiewel
June 15, 2011