A new, independent governing board is bringing focused and experienced oversight to the University.
RAYLEEN MCMILLAN had five minutes and the full attention of the 15 people who will determine Portland State's future path: the new Board of Trustees.
The moment was significant both for her and the University. It was the first time a student had immediate access to a governing board solely focused on PSU. McMillan, a student leader, has an open invitation to speak on behalf of the Associated Students of Portland State University at the beginning of each board meeting.
"She doesn't have to go to Salem to meet with people who have 100 other issues on their plate," says Peter Nickerson, interim board chair. "We are here specifically for Portland State."
PSU's new board marks a major change in the way Oregon runs its universities. This year, oversight of the state's three flagship universities—PSU, Oregon State and the University of Oregon—is shifting from a state Board of Higher Education with responsibility for all seven state universities to independent boards for each campus.
For PSU, that means a local board of community, business and campus leaders—including six alumni—who will help set budget, academic and capital project priorities, while the president and top administrators continue to run day-to-day operations.
"This is the beginning of a new chapter for Portland State and a new era for higher education across the state," says President Wim Wiewel. "Students will be the ultimate winners under the new system, because the board members will focus primarily on helping them succeed."
At the board's first regular meeting in January, McMillan used her time to update the board on student government and establish a positive working relationship for future tough discussions on issues such as tuition rates.
"Our voices at the table do matter," McMillan says. "I think the familiarity that students will be able to have with board members as individuals and the board as a whole will be beneficial."
BOARD TRUSTEES, who were appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, are Swati Adarkar; Erica Bestpitch MS '12; Pamela Campos-Palma; Gale Castillo MA '74; Sho Dozono MS '69; Maude Hines; Thomas Imeson; Margaret Kirkpatrick; Irving Levin; Fariborz Maseeh '80, MS '84; Rick Miller MBA '91; Peter Nickerson (left photo); Peter Stott HD '11; Christine Vernier; and Wim Wiewel. They officially take over July 1.
Nickerson says he agreed to join the board because he respects Wiewel's leadership and wants to support his goals.
"I think we are still deficient in blowing our horn loud enough so that the community knows what impact Portland State has, and it's huge, bigger than most people understand," he says. "The more community members get involved, the bigger the role Portland State can play in shaping our community."