A year in the interim: (Another) year to remember

Rather than being content to serve as a placeholder during his one year as interim provost, many faculty members said that Michael Reardon has moved the university forward on its march toward academic excellence and reputation.

On July 1, Reardon will relinquish his one-year assignment to make way for Roy Koch, the new provost. Koch has spent his last two months preparing for his new position while juggling continuing responsibilities as a professor of environmental science and civil engineering.

“We were fortunate that Michael was here and was willing to step in and get us through this transitional period,” Koch said. “He’s been anything but a placeholder.”

As a previous provost, Koch said that Reardon “knows the institution intimately. He didn’t actually have to learn anything. He was well-prepared. He understands where we are.”

Reardon served as provost for seven years before Mary Kay Tetreault took the position in 1999. Tetreault resigned in May of last year amid a flurry of complaints from faculty concerning a lack of communication.

One of Reardon’s great advantages, members of the faculty said, is that he knew how to communicate with the faculty.

“[President Bernstine] is a nice guy but he basically doesn’t talk to the faculty,” history professor Jon Mandaville said. “There’s a deliberate disconnect between president and faculty.”

In March, the faculty senate voted to form a committee to probe the effectiveness of the University Studies program after Reardon sent a memo to several university administrators advising them to take a critical look at the 10-year-old program. Reardon was concerned about unclear learning objectives in the junior cluster system and how the general requirements for undergraduate degrees tie into student majors.

“He brought new energy and proposals to the international program,” Koch said.

In comparison to Reardon’s tenure as provost, Koch said, “We seem to be on the same trajectory.”

“I think we have had a number of improvements in terms of academic programs,” Reardon said in assessing his extra year. PSU is now offering a doctorate in applied psychology, he said, as well as a proposed doctorate in biology in the first stage of approval by the Oregon University System. A number of graduate certificates have been approved, including one in real estate development management. Reardon said they also plan to submit proposals for a doctoral degree in engineering technology and management. A master’s in art history is also in the works.

Reardon’s office has helped establish a junior-level program that would integrate the international experience into University Studies.

Reardon professed a particular interest in building up the international connections of the university and he found himself pulling in tandem with President Daniel Bernstine.

“We are trying to investigate more possibilities of PSU faculty doing research in foreign universities,” Reardon said.

Reardon said after he bows out as interim provost, he might continue to work on the international program. He has traveled to Japan to further develop cooperation with Waseda University of Tokyo, which brings Japanese students here.

“PSU is now in the top 150 schools in number of international students who study [in the U.S.],” Reardon said. “In terms of urban universities, we’re in the top 20.” Reardon feels that the pressures – which include regulations on travel in and out of the U.S creating tension for international students – affect PSU less than other universities.

He would like to see the university cast its net even wider and attract students from Vietnam and Thailand.

Since 1999, Portland State has seen almost a 50 percent increase in international students, although international tensions have exerted pressures on foreign students since the Middle East wars and the events of Sept. 11, 2001. There are now about 1,000 foreign students from 94 countries at PSU, comprising about 4 percent of the student body. Another 100 students are enrolled in an English Language Learning program.

Marcia Fischer, assistant dean for enrollment and outreach in the college of engineering and computer science, said Reardon influence has helped her college expand.

“We saw a new Ph.D. program applied in civil engineering,” she said. “Our first civil engineering Ph.D. will be awarded at spring commencement.”

Several new courses and degrees have been added to the Engineering program while it awaits the completion of new facilities.

The college is bringing some engineering components into a new freshman inquiry course in University Studies to serve the increasing demand for computer science, she said.

“We are committed to making computer courses available to all those interested,” she said. “We feel our academic program has remained strong and growing under Provost Reardon.”

Mark Gregory, executive director of information technologies, teaches an occasional class in the business school. Regarding Reardon’s term, he said, “I don’t see any problems. Michael’s been good to work with.”

When Koch takes over, he will concentrate on what he considers the core issues and what appears to be the inevitable growth of the institution. He sees continuing associations with the community colleges, and a whole range of operational issues around the university.

Koch said the faculty is looking at how to introduce more global issues into the curriculum. There is also the question of how the university will devote more attention to its global relationship while preserving its commitment to diversity.

“We have people looking at diversity issues as international issues,” Reardon said.

Just before Tetreault resigned, it was announced that Lawrence Wheeler would be stepping down as director of the Honors Program. One day later, Tetreault was gone and Wheeler remained. Reardon predicted that Wheeler will continue to lead the honors program.

In the last week of May, Reardon announced the appointment of a new dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, Kristine Nelson. Nelson had been filling the vacancy as interim dean. She had held the title of associate dean since 2001 and has taught as a professor in the school since 1993.