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Portland Business Journal: New PSU president says partnering with local businesses is a top priority
Author: Clare Duffy, Portland Business Journal
Posted: August 22, 2017

Read the original article in the Portland Business Journal.

A new leader has taken the reins at Portland State University, and he may soon become a leader in Portland’s business community as well.

The new PSU president Rahmat Shoureshi, an engineer who has worked as an administrator, researcher and academic for close to 40 years, started last week. Most recently, he served as interim president at the New York Institute of Technology.

Shoureshi has big ambitions of working with and playing to the needs of local businesses. He cited this as his top priority other than getting to know the culture of PSU and Portland.

“When you talk about relationships, they have to be mutually beneficial — otherwise, why would you even want to bother?” Shoureshi said. “So I want to make sure that we are going to be able to provide the understanding that whatever we do here, it’s going to benefit the business sector as well as our students and faculty.”

This goal could set Shoureshi apart from his predecessor, Wim Wiewel, who had a somewhat fraught relationship with the Portland business community after business leaders opposed his plan to implement a payroll tax that would have raised money for scholarships.

Last July, after announcing his retirement from PSU, Wiewel told the Business Journal: “Our graduates get hired by the business community. That’s the best way to describe the relationship. It’s not about whether I’m personally loved.”

Shoureshi’s career has taken him to a number of higher education institutions, and he says partnering with businesses was a defining part of many of those experiences.

Shoureshi helped to start the biomedical engineering program at the University of Denver, where he worked as dean of the School of Engineering, after spending months with executives and engineers at Lockheed Martin to understand what they would need from new employees in the future. The program was so successful that Lockheed halted a similar program they had with Stanford University to focus their attention exclusively on the Colorado school.

While working on his PhD in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shoureshi also participated in a program at the university’s Sloan School of Management, where he learned about creating business relationships across industries.

He said one of the draws of Portland is the range of industries that call the city home. He is eager to look into potential partnership opportunities with companies like Daimler, Intel and Nike, in addition to academic partnerships with other major universities like OHSU.

“You want to look at major industries and spend time with them and with businesses to try to understand what type of expertise and skills they need five years from now, 10 years from now,” Shoureshi said. “And that gives you a great starting point for where you need to focus the new programs that you will develop.”