Faculty, administrators discuss Portland State’s future at Winter Faculty Symposium

Faculty and staff gathered inside Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom on Tuesday, Jan. 27 for this year’s Winter Faculty Symposium. Portland State President Wim Wiewel and the Coraggio Group oversaw the event. The goal of the symposium was to discuss strategic planning for the next five years.

The new strategic plan is an attempt to overhaul PSU’s current plan, undertaken in the 2007–08 academic year, as well as to address conflict between faculty and administrators, which came to a head in last year’s American Association of University Professors contract negotiations.

“Clearly there was a sense that somehow…there were discrepancies between how we’re going forward as an institution. Do faculty want to go one way while administrators want to go another way?” Wiewel said in an opening speech.

The plan also takes into account changes in the university’s infrastructure, notably last year’s addition of the Board of Trustees.

“I was pretty sure that this board was going to push big on accountability, and in order to [create] accountability they wanted to know, ‘Okay, what’s the plan, where are we going in terms of the university?’” Wiewel said.

Strategic planning project manager Kari St. Peters stressed inclusiveness when electing members to serve on the Strategic ­Planning Initiative Team.

“We created the Strategic Plan Development Team, and this group is made up of faculty, administrators, students—a little smattering of everybody,” St. Peters said. “We’re trying to pull not only individuals who have a stake but to try to contact individuals who are already doing that work.”

The team is a response to requests by the Board of Trustees to renovate PSU’s current plan, which the board feels is out-of-date, according to Wiewel.

It will consist of eight topic teams. Each topic team will handle specific themes related to academic success. Topics range from Equity, Opportunity and ­Access to Student Learning and Academic Success.

“It’ll be an iterative process until we land on something that everyone can agree with,” St. Peters said.

Attendees of the event were separated into planning stations, and members of each topic team moved between stations to ask attendees questions related to their respective topics.
The Student Learning and Academic topic team sat down with one of the planning stations to discuss their work in the strategic plan and to ask questions to faculty.

Michael Bowman, an associate professor of engineering at PSU, asked, “How can we improve faculty accessibility to students?”

Discussions also touched upon the differences between services for graduate and undergraduate students. One participant commented that graduate students have less access to student services.

Other topics of conversation included PSU’s expansion into online coursework. One faculty participant commented that while online classes increase student accessibility to a larger audience of students, the quality of the coursework can be lacking.

Wiewel stressed the importance of communicating with faculty about the means by which administrators will go forward with changes to the strategic plan.

“It’s not so much the product at the end that matters, but how it creates conversation and discussion,” Wiewel said.