Editorial: Build community with the university Studies program

    Portland State always talks about community-building. Through diversity, through sustainability and through the classroom, the PSU administration encourages students to feel as if they’re a part of an often-disconnected university.

    Administrators and faculty tried to connect students to the university 12 years ago by creating the University Studies program. And the program has worked, connecting freshmen and sophomores to a non-traditional campus and helping students feel comfortable in at least some of their classes.    

    Despite the program’s successes, it is still working out structural kinks.

    Having spent a year assessing the program in an ad hoc committee and now taking that committee’s results and putting them into action, the Portland State administration is making an effort to work through those kinks.

    A new council on University Studies will look to resolve the problems University Studies is facing. With members from the ad hoc committee, founding members of University Studies and outside Portland State faculty and staff, administrators are hoping the council can provide solutions.

    As the Vanguard’s series on University Studies reported, the PSU administration has some ideas for building a better program, but still nothing concrete.

    University Studies needs three real solutions.

    The program needs a revised funding model. Money and student credit hours are routed through the University Studies program and given to other departments to pay for capstones, making the University Studies program a bank for capstones. Unlike most banks, University Studies is in a perpetual deficit because it does not receive the funding it deserves.

    The program needs to adapt to the needs of transfer students. Portland State is difficult for everyone to adapt to – some students think the university is cold and institutional, others think it is nothing more than the state’s largest community college. The Freshman Inquiries and Sophomore Inquiries help those more traditional students adapt to the unfamiliar Portland State college life. Transfer students often fall through the cracks and should be afforded similar connections as their traditional counterparts.

    The program needs to help faculty remain connected. Many core University Studies faculty members worry about their jobs – most are fixed-term and lack guidelines for promotion. Some of the University Studies’ core faculty have been at the university since the program’s inception and have helped establish the program, but have not been promoted. As in the rest of the school, University Studies faculty members need to be appreciated and feel a part of the university. They need to feel worthwhile.

    Portland State students and faculty need concrete answers from the administration about University Studies. Portland State is always talking about community-building, but we need results, not just words.

    The program has produced fantastic results in the last 12 years – but University Studies still needs reviewing.

    The new University Studies Council may bring those ideas for redevelopment of the program, but that is not enough. Those ideas must be put into action.

    Portland State is excellent at developing ideas for what we need. Now we just need to see the results of those ideas and make a difference in the University Studies program.