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ReTHINK PSU proposals unveiled at Winter Symposium
Author: Suzanne Pardington, University Communications
Posted: January 17, 2013

Portland State faculty unveiled a sampling of 162 ideas for ways to adapt to rapid shifts in the world of higher education on Jan. 16 at the 2013 Winter Symposium. 

President Wim Wiewel welcomed participants by asking them to become leaders in a period of “transformational change” for the University and higher ed.

“The change is going to happen now, and it’s going to play out in the next five if not 10 years,” Wiewel said. “If we do not take it seriously, if we do not try to become a leader, we will be among the road-kill.”

Among the challenges: the growth of online education (including free Massive Open Online Classes or MOOCs), declining state funding, shifts in student demographics, rising tuition costs, and increasing demand for data-based results. 

In the fall, Provost Sona Andrews initiated a campus wide conversation on how to rethink PSU and put out a call for proposals. She offered $3 million in one-time grants for the most promising ideas. Hundreds of faculty and staff members responded with a range of innovations, from interactive classroom strategies to new online degrees. 

“This is all about putting students first, being honest about the changes and challenges, creating a process that fosters ideas across campus, and enabling action, ” Andrews says.

Keynote speaker George Mehaffy of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities said: “We are confronting a period of massive change and great uncertainty. The speed of change is what is as impressive as the nature of change.”

In a panel conversation in the afternoon, Mehaffy complimented PSU on the provost’s challenge process and how it will help PSU stay ahead of the fast moving curve. His presentation can be found at the Rethink website

Wiewel said that many proposals won’t be successful, but “we’ve got to fail fast, because we’re going to learn from everything we do.”

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to view and comment on all the proposals at rethink.pdx.edu. Proposers will use those comments to further refine their proposals and find ways to combine projects. The deadline to finalize and comment on proposals is 5 p.m. Feb. 15. Finalists will be announced in March, and awards will be made in April.

Pictured above: Renjeng Su, dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, watches a presentation with James Hook, associate dean, at the 2013 Winter Symposium on Jan. 16.