While pundits nationwide continue to churn out article after article predicting the demise of higher education as we know it, it gives me great pride to see the PSU community moving aggressively to chart our own course.
The enthusiasm with which faculty and staff have embraced the change initiative we’re calling reTHINK PSU is a case in point. When the initial phase of that effort - the Provost’s Challenge - was announced in November, more than 150 teams of faculty and staff responded with creative ideas about how to transform how we deliver education in an era of increased competition, dwindling public resources and burgeoning student debt.
Among the many innovative responses are a cluster of proposals which would significantly enhance the School of Business Administration’s ability to meet student demand through development of online programs, use of credit for prior learning and reduction of time to degree. Another grouping includes a series of STEM proposals to move parts of the science curriculum online and look at new ways to deliver content. Still another would convert certain General Studies programs to an online format and create a platform from which other online degree programs could be constructed.
Provost Andrews is working with the Deans, faculty and other institutional leadership to vet the reTHINK proposals and decide which will be funded in this initial round. Whatever the decisions, look for much more to come as we work together to further enhance the value of a PSU education.
Thanks to the quality and hard work of our faculty – and despite federal budgetary challenges - research funding levels remain strong. PSU received 50 new awards totaling $10.7 million during the winter quarter alone. Among this year's significant new awards are a 5-year, $5-million grant from the Department of Defense to Leslie Hammer (Psychology) to assist in reintegrating returning veterans into the workforce and a $3.4 million award to Jennifer Dill (Oregon Transportation, Research, and Education Consortium) for sustainable transportation research and education.
PSU research also is being applied in the real world more than ever before. Five of PSU's seven start-up companies were established within the past two years, including two new companies this winter. Three PSU affiliated startups are currently semi-finalists for $250,000 in entrepreneurial investment funding through Angel Oregon. And for the first time, the university is expected to bring in over $450,000 in licensing revenue from university-owned intellectual property, more than quadrupling the level from just two years ago.
The legislative session has been busy - and productive – for PSU. Supported by testimony from PSU students, faculty and staff, tuition equity moved quickly through the House and is now in the Senate. House and Senate education committees are working out the details on bills that would establish institutional boards for at least PSU and UO, and probably OSU. On the capital funding side, the SBA expansion project ranked number one on the OUS capital funding list and was also ranked highly by the Governor. The Stott Educational Center/Viking Pavilion was not ranked as high on either list, but was mentioned in the Governor’s press release as a project that deserved consideration. The Stott Center project has also received strong endorsement by The Oregonian (http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/03/portland_states_stott_center_i.html).
Broadening Knowledge and Understanding
PSU continues to attract outstanding speakers and presenters who engage the university community and the public in discussion about critical issues of our day. Notable speakers this academic year have included George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, who keynoted the Winter Symposium with a thought-provoking talk about the changing face of higher education.
PSU’s guest for the Martin Luther King Day was Princeton University professor emeritus Cornel West who challenged a sold-out crowd in the Stott Center to confront our own prejudices and continue to work toward true equality. The university also co-sponsored a discussion that brought faculty, staff, students and community members together at OMSI to explore ways to challenge racial stereotypes and promote inclusion. We will continue these important conversations April 10 with a talk by noted author and racism lecturer, Tim Wise, at 6 p.m., in the Stott Center Gymnasium.
This year has also seen the launch of Portland State Convenes, a once-a-term forum where PSU serves as the convener for a discussion on a topical public issue. The first of these fora was a well-attended Fall debate between then-leading Mayoral candidates Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith, which was co-sponsored by KOIN. And just this week, 250 community members, students, faculty and staff turned out for a vigorous discussion about legislation to change sentencing laws and redirect funding for public safety and corrections. Moderated by Oregonian editor Peter Bhatia, the panel featured PSU alum and former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Muniz, the head of the state department of corrections, the two legislators who co-chair the committee considering the legislation and the chief critic of the legislation, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote.
Philanthropy on the Rise
Private support for PSU continues to increase. Some $16.6 million has been raised so far this fiscal year, up 64 percent from this same time last year. Faculty and staff alone have increased their giving by 16 percent from last year, for which we are very grateful. Highlights of giving to date include $11.3 million for future scholarships, $10 million for the Stott Educational Center expansion and $5.7 million for the School of Business expansion. Major gifts of note include a $2.3 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer for the College of the Arts glass tower and a $1 million investment in the Stott Center from OHSU.
Other Points of Pride
Finally, in other points of pride, PSU has joined an elite group of universities, including Brown, Duke, Tulane, Cornell and Johns Hopkins, in being named a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U. PSU was recognized by Ashoka for working collaboratively with the community to drive social change and innovation. Early information from The Princeton Review and US News & World Report: 2013 America’s Best Colleges also indicates that PSU will once again be acknowledged for its work in the community, its efforts to improve student success, its outstanding business programs and its delivery of early college credit for high school students. More on these rankings as information becomes available.
Enjoy your Spring break – and see you all back here for a wonderful Spring term!