January 4, 2021 message


January 4, 2021

Dear PSU community,

Welcome to 2021 and the beginning of a new academic term. It brings hope for an end to the pandemic and the promise of restored togetherness. I am so impressed with all PSU students, faculty and staff as you find ways to continue learning and sustain your academic research and engagement despite the physical, mental and economic challenges presented by COVID-19. I thank you for your resolve and your commitment to create a brighter future for one another and our community.

2021: A milestone year

2021 is an important year nationally and here on our campus. Later this month, we will see a new administration take office. As you know, Kamala Harris becomes the first woman, and woman of color, to assume the office of Vice President. In addition to this significant milestone, the incoming administration is signaling possible changes to programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as other new initiatives in support of higher education — changes that, if adopted, are critically important to many PSU students.

It is also a milestone year on our campus, as Portland State celebrates its 75th year. We were founded in 1946 as the Vanport Extension Center to educate servicemen and women returning from World War II. We grew into Oregon’s most diverse public research university, but our history is punctuated with adversity, beginning with the 1948 Vanport flood and now with COVID-19. What built PSU then sustains us to this day: A deep commitment to emboldening students and challenging the status quo. More details on our 75th commemoration are coming next month, as we continue to align our activities with our commitment to public health.

Strategic priorities

The past year, like you, my efforts were consumed with responding to the global pandemic. I am indebted to the PSU community for its compassionate and comprehensive response. Yet we must now begin to imagine a post-pandemic PSU. As we have for 75 years, we will emerge from this event a different, but stronger institution. Defining our next quarter century is the work of all of us, but as PSU’s President, I will be guided by three strategic directions.

My highest priority is sustaining and amplifying our commitment to racial justice. PSU is Oregon’s most diverse university and our actions must honor and harness the power of that diversity. It is imperative that we collectively engage in conversations that support transformation and act to deliver on our desired future, recognizing that the work will be different based on our positionalities and identities. The work is already underway, including October’s Time to Act summit, a cluster hire in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences School of Gender, Race and Nations, and other important initiatives. I challenge each of you to take action to imagine and create a more just and equitable PSU.

At the heart of achieving our academic, research and equity goals is our commitment to student success. Our Students First initiative is focused on keeping students moving forward, achieving academic success, maintaining affordability and providing a rich student experience that includes regular advising, robust faculty and student research engagement, and increased access to internships and other career-boosting programs. Together we can ensure every student attains a PSU degree and realizes the promise of a rewarding future.

Finally, Portland State University is synonymous with our Portland community. As PSU will be changed by the past year, so too will Portland. We must ask ourselves: How can our research, our programs, our students, our alumni and our campus be part of a different, better, more just community?

I’ll be talking more about these strategic priorities in the days and weeks to come.

Moving forward

As we enter what we hope and believe will be the final stretch of the global COVID-19 pandemic, I urge all of you to stay safe, stay strong and support each other as we continue to exercise caution and adhere to public health guidelines. Together we will get through this crisis.  Together we will strengthen ourselves, reinvigorate our community and reimagine PSU.

Finally, I welcome you to join me in celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a campus with events planned on several dates. These events — including a panel discussion on Jan. 26 featuring members of our own outstanding faculty — will continue to advance our important campus conversation on racial equity. Learn more and register for these events online. 

I wish you each and all success this term and, as ever, remain grateful for everything you bring to PSU to make our community thrive. 


Stephen Percy

President, Portland State University