I want to welcome you to the start of the Fall Term at Oregon’s largest and most diverse campus. Mixed emotions are always associated with the start of a new school year – anxieties about change, hope for new beginnings and excitement about the unknown. At this particular time, the uncertainties about the new school year pale in comparison to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the toll it has taken.
For the residents of the Gulf Coast, their days are filled with anxiety about living to see the next day and their future requires them to seize opportunities for new beginnings. Their daily lives have been filled with pain and loss. The Portland State community has responded and will continue to respond.
We will never forget the pictures and news coverage that have come from the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina did not discriminate in its destruction, yet the aftermath of the hurricane has focused our attention on the lack of investment in city infrastructure, and the economic and race inequities in this country. These are issues that we tend to ignore and, quite frankly, avoid facing.
Portland State University’s mission compels us to provide relief and to be of service to those in need; our mission also compels us to examine the social, economic and environmental impact of this horrific natural disaster. Portland State’s response is in keeping with its mission as an urban university and its motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City.”
The university is a community partner working to provide relief to those in need. We have opened our doors to students who are unable to attend their home schools in the Gulf Coast; the campus community has donated time and money to relief organizations; and, we have offered a home base to faculty from sister institutions who are without offices, classrooms and research laboratories. The PSU administration has been working with the Red Cross and other community organizations, offering temporary housing and other services to Gulf Coast residents relocating to Portland. Furthermore, the university is a place where the issues associated with Katrina – especially those about disaster preparation, economic disparity, race, health, housing and employment – can be discussed in an open and welcoming environment. Information about the university’s activities can be found at: www.pdx.edu/katrina.html.
Improving lives and helping people realize their hopes and dreams is at the core of Portland State University’s purpose. Building communities and breaking down social, economic and racial barriers are an outcome of a civically engaged and committed society. PSU’s spirit of community engagement has recently received national recognition. U.S. News and World Report lists the University Studies general education curriculum as among the best in the nation. PSU was also selected by Princeton Review as one of the best colleges in the west and identified as one of “81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement” for service learning programs and blending academics with community work. The tragedy of Katrina provides the entire campus community with an opportunity to show the Gulf Coast survivors, the nation and the world that our definition of community and commitment to service extends beyond Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
Talented students, excellent faculty and dedicated staff define Portland State University. At PSU, improving lives and changing communities is what we do. We do it by recognizing and confronting inequality and racial barriers, and promoting tolerance and understanding. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina are not preventable. We can, however, minimize the destruction and devastation on communities and help people pick up the pieces afterwards. We do this through our education, research and service. That is the PSU way.