Portland Patch: Portland State University Named Among Top 10 Most Innovative Schools
Author: Ryan Sartor, Patch National Staff
Posted: September 26, 2016

PORTLAND, OR — Portland State University (PSU) has been named one of the top 10 most innovative national universities by U.S. News & World Report as part of their Best Colleges 2017 rankings. Patch spoke with PSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sona K. Andrews about the work that PSU has done to improve the educational experience for their students.

Patch: It’s really exciting that so much of this is done without an incredible amount of financial resources but rather with new ideas and new ways of approaching these things.

Provost Sona Andrews: With the Provost Challenge, we did invest three million dollars into that, but it’s really paid off very significantly. What we’ve been trying to do is invest in some of the infrastructure that provides the space and opportunity for faculty to innovate, so our faculty are incredibly innovative. The thing that stops them is not having the time for access to the kind of tools that they need to do it. So, we’ve really focused on that.

Patch: Can you tell me a little about the expansion of the Urban Honors College?

Provost Sona Andrews: The Honors College has grown to close to 900 students, which is just absolutely amazing with the real focus in the urban areas. Our honors students do a thesis that’s related to community engagement and partnership. It’s really helped us attract students who want an experience that’s a little bit more tailored like you would find in smaller colleges.

Patch: BUILD EXITO is a partnership with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and I was wondering if you had any sort of advice for other universities to partner with each other in that way.

Provost Sona Andrews: The partnership with OHSU runs so deep. For example, we just established a joint school of public health, the first in the country that is a joint school between two universities that, to be honest, are pretty different from one another. PSU has this great ability to adapt and to find partnerships, whether it’s with business and industry or, in this case, with OHSU and it’s very much focused on students.

Patch: It seems like you put a little bit of money into it and then you end up doing such great work. You get that $24 million grant from the National Institute of Health and then the $25 million challenge grant from the James F. and Marian L. Miller Foundation. People recognize the great work that you’re doing and you get more funding as a result.

Provost Sona Andrews: Absolutely. It’s really been very positive and the bottom line in all of this is always student success. We’ve made an investment that hasn’t been huge and the pay off for student success —students being able to get the classes and programs they need, being able to get the support services they need, graduating in a more timely fashion, redesigning advising. We did the four-year graduation guarantee. All of the these kinds of things are saving money for students.

To learn more about PSU's other innovations, including the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, check out

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