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Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions - update 12/27/07

What is Portland State's academic leadership position?
Engagement is PSU's academic leadership position, the integrating principle for the institution's teaching, scholarship and service activities. Three academic priorities reflect activities that enhance the leadership position. These terms (leadership position and priorities), adopted during the 2006-07 planning activities, are used to describe what PSU will be known for and the areas in which we will focus special attention.

What is meant by engagement?
Engagement describes our collaborative approach to exchange knowledge and resources with local, regional, national and global partners for mutual benefit of students, faculty and the community. Engagement contributes to learning and scholarship that is globally relevant and regionally focused.

What are the academic priorities?
Supporting the leadership position are three academic priorities:

  1. Improve student success through engaged learning experiences.
  2. Expand innovative scholarship/creative activities that address regional issues and have global significance.
  3. Enhance educational opportunity in the Portland Metropolitan Region.

The three priorities provide the framework for integrating the traditional activities of instruction and scholarship. An original fourth priority, to advance selected programs that establish our leadership, has subsequently been identified as a goal to advance the institution and the three priorities through investments in selected programs. (See "What are the four goals?")

Why has PSU identified its leadership position and academic priorities?
The competitive environment for higher education has changed significantly. While it may seem enough to state that PSU delivers a universe of higher education options, a diffused approach contributes to confusing or vague notions about what the University represents. Instead, PSU must distinguish itself, concentrating on focused areas of academic leadership, using limited resources effectively and prudently. A leadership position and supporting academic priorities commit us to allocate resources where they will do the most good, and connect activities to our priorities.

How does having a leadership position help PSU?
Having a leadership position is compelling, drawing regional and national recognition to the University. It can focus our activities and attention, resulting in an energized workplace. It also mobilizes external stakeholders, such as potential students and donors, legislators, and community residents to take responsive action on behalf of the University. This will help people know what PSU stands for, differentiating our University from others.

How does having a leadership position help faculty and staff at PSU?
Clearly articulating what distinguishes PSU from others will improve the University's ability to deliver on its promise. This, in turn, adds to PSU's credibility, building trust and enhancing its reputation in the region and beyond. When we differentiate ourselves, it is easier to set clear goals and progress measures. Day-to-day activities are more directly oriented toward longer-term objectives that advance the University's mission. It also becomes easier to explain what PSU stands for and where it is headed. A more precise focus adds to PSU's reputation, making it a place of pride for those who work here and contributes to its mission. Establishing our reputation in engagement will create a magnet for students and faculty and build credibility and influence for programs beyond those first selected for advancement. (See Goal 3 below)

Does this mean PSU is changing its mission and vision?
PSU's mission and vision remain unchanged; what's different is how we will fulfill them. The position and priorities guide the way in which we'll advance our mission and vision, consistent with our established values of respect, learning and discovery, engagement, access, openness and reflection. These values contribute to PSU's positive reputation, an enormous advantage to fulfilling our mission.

How long has PSU been working on this activity?
President Bernstine and his administrative cabinet began meeting with academic deans in fall 2006 to discuss the need to identify a leadership position that would help shape future planning. The leadership position (engagement) and the three broad priorities were drafted in late fall. Recognizing that this process is important to the whole University, the Office of Academic Affairs held a campus symposium in January 2007 to receive input and feedback. About 300 faculty and staff joined this day-long discussion, more than twice the number of participants from similar events in the past. Subsequently, work groups were formed which met throughout February and March, the outcomes of which were shared in May at a poster session and at the Faculty Senate meeting. The priorities and supporting goals and initiatives were further developed at a campus-wide symposium on June 1, 2007. (See "What is the status of the initiatives?" later in this document.)

Did everyone have an opportunity to contribute to the priority-setting dialogue?
Those who responded to the campus-wide invitation to the January and June 2007 symposia were able to contribute to this discussion. Their comments were shared in small group settings, reported to the whole assembly, and recorded in written notes. Summary notes from the January session can be accessed at the OAA Web site. Working group participants used these comments and recommendations to guide their efforts. Notes from the June symposia will be posted soon and inform the new set of working groups that will be appointed in 2007-08 to work on initiatives.

Who has served on the working groups?
Faculty and staff were invited to submit their names for service on one of the academic priority working groups through an online process. One academic administrator led each of the four work groups with 7 to 9 additional members representing academic and service departments. The new set of initiatives working groups will be appointed beginning summer 07.

What was the charge of the priorities working groups?
Using an institution-wide perspective, group participants developed recommendations for how the University can best achieve success in each of the three priorities. Recommendations for four goals were selected following a joint meeting of the priorities working groups and shared with the campus community in May at a poster session and during the Faculty Senate meeting. Discussions of the goals and supporting initiatives were held at a June 1 symposium.

What are the four goals?
The goals are to:

  1. Improve student success by increasing the rate of completion for undergraduate students (in support of the first priority listed above—student success).
  2. Identify specific and measurable undergraduate learning objectives integrated across majors and general education that demonstrate the value of students' learning experiences, especially including the impact of engagement (in support of the first priority listed above—student success).
  3. Implement a process for advancing/nurturing high quality academic and scholarship programs that demonstrate Portland State's leadership in engagement (in support of all the priorities listed).
  4. Develop and support pathway programs to increase participation in higher education for Portland's diverse population (in support of the third priority listed above—educational opportunity).

What are the initiatives?
In this context we are using the term initiatives to refer to specific action-oriented steps to achieve the four goals. New working groups have begun meeting to develop a set of initiatives; the most promising ones will be implemented 2007-08. The groups have recommendations from the June and September 2007 symposia as well as the earlier work of the priorities working groups to inform their discussions.

What is the status of the initiatives?
The First Steps for Student Success & Retention Working Group has begun discussing ways to increase the completion rate of undergraduate students (goal #1). The Institutional Assessment Council helped plan the September 2007 Fall Symposium on the topic of learning objectives and continue to refine the objectives (goal #2). Following an administrative retreat in Fall 2007, the Provost and the Council of Academic Deans selected the theme of sustainability as the initial focus for investment and advancement (goal #3). The Opportunities Working Group began meeting at the beginning of 2008 to propose ways to enhance pathway programs (goal #4).

How can I participate in the priorities process?
This is designed to be an ongoing and enduring process. Goals and initiatives may change over time as progress is made or the institution readapts, but it is critical to continue to intentionally chart our course through this type of process. Upcoming opportunities for participation in the goals will be announced. (The most recently held campus event was the September Fall 2007 Symposium discussion on learning outcomes.) Stay up to date by reading the OAA website. Carol Mack, Vice Provost for Academic Administration and Planning, is available to answer your questions and discuss your ideas.