CLAS Dean Team committed to advancing student success, research
Author: Cristina Rojas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Posted: January 18, 2019

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Dean Team understands the power of a college education and the potential it has to transform a student's life. Like many of PSU's students, Associate Deans Matt Carlson, DeLys Ostlund, and Todd Rosenstiel were the first in their families to attend college.

"We represent the kinds of students that we teach at Portland State," Ostlund said during the annual State of the College address on Tuesday. "PSU is a place where students can literally be successful in a way that they couldn't otherwise."

The deans said that despite the budget uncertainties that loom over the College, they are committed to advancing student success and research innovation — a challenge that requires collaboration at every level.

"Many of our students have considerable financial, academic, and social support needs to be successful," Carlson said. "It's a really important time for us to work together to ensure the success of all of our students."

During the address, faculty and staff heard updates on the College's budget process, new initiatives to help boost student success, and how the College is working to ensure faculty and students have the support they need to be world-class researchers and scholars.


Carlson, who serves as Interim Dean, said CLAS is preparing for a budget that includes reductions, but by how much remains unclear.

"We do know that our costs are going up for many reasons we have no control over … but we're not exactly sure how much revenue we're going to have to cover that," he said. "Our team will focus on full transparency and we're going to make sure that we keep you informed of any budget changes as we become aware of them."

In the meantime, the Dean Team and senior fiscal officer John Hawley will meet with each of the College's 24 departments as they have done in the past. An advisory committee made up of CLAS faculty and staff will also be formed to provide input into the budget process.

"Our college is full of smart, educated and experienced people and it's really going to take all of us working together to figure out the plan for the future of our college," Carlson said.


Key to the success of the College is the success of all its students, Ostlund said.

"We have a lot of nontraditional students at Portland State — students who work, students who are parents, students who are homeless," she said. "We need to understand the students that we're serving in order to help them be successful."

As part of their efforts to ensure more students are graduating, the Deans have asked each department to develop a persistence plan. For the first time, the college has also hired a director of student success to help departments implement their plans as well as carry out college-wide initiatives. Carol Gabrielli will facilitate a student success working group as part of her new role focused on student success within CLAS.

"Those of you who are faculty know that faculty make a big difference in students' lives," said Ostlund, who serves as Associate Dean for Faculty. "We're going to be doing some best practices and communications to help us all better help our students be successful because it's not only good for students, it's good for the financial health of Portland State to keep students."


Despite the budget constraints, Rosenstiel said CLAS will continue to make supporting research and scholarship a priority.

"This is both a place that transforms undergraduates because of teaching, but also transforms just what we know about the world and the way it works based on our research and scholarship," he said. "We want to make sure that however we look to the future, we stay focused on research."

Rosenstiel, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate programs, listed some highlights:

  • The research clusters that bring together faculty from across the college around six big themes continue to do impactful work. Migrations Studies is working to develop a program that would take scholars and undergraduates to the U.S.-Mexico border to study immigration issues first-hand, and Environmental Extremes is applying to the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program.
  • The college and the Office of Academic Innovation are continuing efforts to provide graduate students with more professional development opportunities through workshops and the Certificate of Innovation in College Teaching program.
  • The college is taking a serious look at how research spaces can be more equitably distributed.
  • A humanities research advisory group has been formed to help find ways to support that kind of research and scholarship.
  • To further support researchers, a greater portion of indirect costs will be returned to principal investigators, starting with 3 to 5 percent but hopefully increasing to 8 percent over the next several  years.
  • The deans will be working with employers in the healthcare industry who can provide guidance on how best to support the roughly 3,500 students who have declared interest in the health pathways at PSU.

Carlson ended by urging faculty and staff to join him in contacting the governor's office, state legislators and the Higher Education Coordinating Committee to make sure they understand the important role CLAS and Portland State play as an economic engine for the State.

"We graduate more Oregonians than any of the other schools," he said. "We're the most diverse university. We have students with the greatest academic and social needs and what we're doing is important and transformational work for our region and Oregon."