Four PSU graduate programs listed among top in nation

Four graduate programs from Portland State made it into the top 25 programs in the nation: Social Work; Urban and Regional Planning; Biology; and Linguistics, according to the spring 2015 rankings for, a website that provides resources and program ratings and reviews for prospective graduate students.

The ranking, based on student feedback, is a guide to graduate schools. Between September 2012 and March 2015, more than 70,000 recent or current graduate students reviewed and rated their programs. More than 1,600 graduate programs nationwide were evaluated. ranks PSU 8th for top Social Work Schools, 13th for Urban Planning and Policy Degrees, 18th among best Linguistics Programs, and 21st for best Biology programs.

Last year, Social Work was ranked 14th, Biology 28th and Linguistics 22nd. Urban Planning was recently added by as a new program category and therefore not reviewed in 2014.

Scott Gallagher, PSU’s director of communications, said he is not surprised and very happy about the outcome of’s ranking.

“Across all the rankings we see yearly, [PSU] is an up-and-coming university,” he said. “We’re getting more research dollars, we’re tracking fantastic faculty and we’re attracting some of the best and brightest students in the world.”

PSU programs benefit from good ranking positions and the resulting circle of overall regard. According to Gallagher, PSU’s Social Work program and the Urban and Regional Planning program are especially well-respected.

Kurt Bedell, marketing and communications manager of the School of Social Work, is excited to see a gain of six places from 14th to 8th over the previous year.

“One thing I could highlight which might be an influence is the brand new online master’s program we began last year,” Bedell said.

The first cohort of students recently finished this online program. Bedell notices a strong interest in high-quality online programs in general. “Our faculty team worked really hard for that,” he said. “The school was selected to receive funding and support to develop the program.”

Funding was provided as part of the Provost’s Challenge, which allocated $3 million to fund and support 24 innovative faculty-staff activities at PSU.

PSU’s School for Social Work is involved in working within Portland, the county and the state. It’s also the only public, non-online Social Work graduate program in Oregon.

Tracy Braden, Student Services Coordinator of Urban Studies and Planning, said Portland is known as a model city in terms of urban planning, particularly for alternative transportation.

The program is incredibly well known, nationally and internationally,” Braden said. “The students in the master’s program are able to be very actively engaged from the start. The program is very hands-on practically oriented—and enables students to really get into the field and develop skill tools.”

“When it comes to Urban Planning, we have a long history of being directly related to improvements and developments in the city,” Gallagher said. “[PSU] has worked with city planners since the ’60s.”

There are many rankings with different methodologies.’s ranking works by taking the average score out of 15 ranking categories to determine the position of each graduate program.

The categories consist of topics like Academic Competitiveness, Social Life, Career Support and Campus Safety. For example, for Campus Safety you might respond to the line, “How safe you felt; the efficiency of and access to campus security” on a scale from 1 (not safe) to 10 (absolutely safe).

The scores of the graduate programs are then compared and ranked across all schools. Only when a minimum threshold of graduate students reviews their program is it ranked. This minimum threshold varies from program to program.

“For a program less than 50 students, we like to have no less than 10 percent of the total number of graduate students taking the particular program,” said John Karageorge of “For larger size programs, we require a minimum of 10 completed surveys.”

By completing a survey, grad students can participate in the ranking process. For example, 3,000 graduate students from more than 150 accredited social work programs across the United States reviewed their programs and submitted a survey.