Harnessing PSU Innovation

Student and campus involvement in the community

It’s not hard to miss the PSU Innovation signs in Urban Plaza. For the past three years, Portland State has made it in the top most innovative universities in the United States. But what exactly makes PSU innovative?

PSU innovation refers to a variety of collaborations, academic tools, program expansion and research accessibility. PSU staff, faculty and students are constantly developing a variety of projects targeted to aid students across all departments of the university.

On-Campus Innovations

One of the many innovation projects currently underway on campus is the development of efficient and effective new approaches to degree planning and mapping. The Office of Student Success is currently developing interactive degree maps, building on past degree planning programs such as myNextSteps, ReTHINK PSU and the Four-Year Degree Guarantee.

“I appreciate the passion our students have for civic and community engagement, and their drive to be innovative leaders in their academic and creative pursuits,” said Kara Hayes, Student Success Coordinator in the Office of Student Success.

Innovations on campus also include the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the University Studies Dept., of which has received recognition and awards and allows students to explore subject matter outside of their majors and academic disciplines.

Faculty and Student Collaborative Innovations

Faculty are always working on research and community projects with collaboration from students. Past projects have included the faculty and student co-authored article, “Comparative Genetic and Genomic Analysis,” and the creation of “The King School Museum of Contemporary Art,” located inside a functioning K-8 public school in Portland by faculty and students in College of the Arts.

Students can also work with Oregon Health & Science (OHSU) through PSU’s BUILD EXITO, a program that matches students with research mentors and exposes students to biomedical fields like psychology, social work and environmental studies. In a similar vein is the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program for engineering students.

“I enjoy the diversity of students at PSU. In addition to PSU, I’ve taught at the University of Minnesota and California State University, Long Beach…I would have to say that consistently, the strongest students that I have worked with during the course of my academic career have been my students at PSU,” said Erik Geschke, professor of art in the College of the Arts.

Student Innovations

Perhaps the most important innovations happening at PSU are those instigated by students. At PSU, student life takes place in the city as much as it does in the classroom.

“The line from city and campus is super blurred,” said Zach Whitworth, an undergraduate in his last year of a BFA in Art Practices. “It’s hyper-urban. That’s what makes us unique; it’s both good and bad.”

Students walk this blurred line between campus life and city life daily. Both University Studies and the Urban Honors College require junior or senior projects that take academics into the field, whether that be in the form of scientific research or a community engagement project. Student involvement in the community not only leads to personal growth, but the kinds of innovative creativity Portland needs. In the PSU Architecture Dept., students have been involved with creating sleeping pod villages for homeless women in Portland, and recently collaborated with the Pickathon Music Festival to design and build a sustainable stage to be reused in constructing transitional houseless villages in Portland.

“What made PSU stand out to me was that it was a campus that would allow me to grow as an adult, not just as a college student” said Kendall Stowell, who is in her final year in the Human Resources Management and Leadership program. “There’s a community here, but it isn’t strongly focused on PSU itself, rather as people in Portland who are growing themselves academically. I sought agency when I signed up at PSU; I’ve definitely found it.”

Portland State University is not typical. With an urban setting, over 200 flexible degree programs and the title of most diverse public university in Oregon, those attending PSU will have unique opportunities not available elsewhere. PSU helps facilitate the deep dive into accessible and rigorous academics, professional relationships and the city of Portland.

PSU will teach you how to innovate, because PSU does it best.