New faces for a new era

She’s done this before. Less than a decade ago, Lindsay Desrochers held one of the most powerful jobs on this campus. Now she’s a finalist for the same position. The third candidate for vice president of finance and administration stressed her appreciation of Portland State and previous experience in an open meeting with students yesterday.

The vice president of finance and administration is on the second power rung, answering to President Daniel Bernstine at the same level as the vice presidents for academic affairs and university relations. The finance and administration position has been open since Jay Kenton left last summer for a post at the University of Idaho. Cathy Dyck is the interim vice president.

As student government Vice President Ryan Klute pointed out at the meeting, Desrochers’ announcement that she had walked away from this job in 1995 begged several questions including why did she leave, and why does she want to come back?

Desrochers left PSU to serve as a senior vice chancellor for capital resources and treasurer of the board of regents for Georgia’s 34-institution university system. It was a chance to take on a lot more responsibility, she said. Georgia’s budget at the time was $4 billion; 10 years later, Oregon’s projected higher education budget for 2005-07 is just over $697 million.

"I liked the assignment very well," Desrochers said, adding that she and her husband missed the West Coast, leading her to take a job as vice chancellor for administration at the University of California Merced.

At UC Merced, she oversees construction of the system’s newest university from the ground up, from purchasing campus property to finding funds for residence halls and parking facilities – things the state won’t pay for.

So why does she want to come back?

"Number one, because it’s Portland State University," Desrochers said. "I wouldn’t go back to Georgia," she added.

It’s not the first time Desrochers has sought to return to PSU. During her time in Georgia, she applied to replace former president Judith Ramaley, eventually losing the bid to current president Dan Bernstine.

Like many another PSU enthusiasts, Desrochers cited the university’s integration to the urban environment and diverse influences as PSU’s highlights.

"I think it draws more interesting students," she said. "It’s just an intriguing place, that’s part of my motivation."

She gave credit to Bernstine and power players including several former vice presidents, including Jay Kenton and George Pernsteiner.

Desrochers noted PSU has dropped its image as "the third sister" of the university system in record time.

"PSU was [seen as] a school of convenience. Look what’s happening now. There’s $38 million in faculty research. That’s a very significant growth. I think there’s a much greater recognition of PSU," she said.

She’s impressed with efforts to connect students to the rest of the city, from bringing the streetcar to campus to requiring community involvement though the capstone project. "Everybody has gotten more involved with the city."

At the same time, Desrochers referenced the influence of her own work on the PSU vision.

Desrochers was in charge of PSU’s finance and administration "at a time when the campus more specifically defined what it means to be a urban university," she said, emphasizing that PSU’s growth since her absence is partly due to groundwork she laid in 1991-95.

"I’m very happy and impressed with progress that has been made," she said, referring to PSU’s land acquisitions, new building projects and streetcar connection.

Later, speaking about PSU’s growing alumni and business community support, she pledged to keep building those relationships.

"I was right here at the inception and I will continue to do that," she said. With Bernstine’s blessing, of course, she hastened to add.

The student audience, weighted heavily with student government representatives, wanted to know how students would be involved in the budget decision process. Desrochers said she had previously had a process for students to review and comment on the budget annually, and stressed the importance of vice provost for student affairs’ role of acting as a representative for students.

Real estate development professor Will Macht pointed out that PSU faces several challenges in buying property. Land around the university district is becoming more expensive while the need for classroom space increases, putting PSU "in a relatively weak bargaining position," he said.

Due to shrinking state funds, Desrochers said, schools everywhere are forced to get creative even to fund basics.

"States have rarely been willing to fund things like housing, parking, rec centers and dining services," she said. "In fact, the problem now is just holding on to basic funding for instructional programs."

Unlike existing services that can pay for their own expansion, such as parking permits supporting construction of more parking, classrooms don’t have a ready income source, she said.

Desrochers sees the Broadway as a success story and partial solution to classroom shortage problem. PSU’s newest residence hall used money designated for student housing – meaning it couldn’t have been dedicated to purely instructional uses – "but they managed to sneak in five classrooms on the second floor," she said.


Vice president of finance and administration: the other candidates

V. Scott Cole

Currently deputy executive vice president for university services at Arizona State University, V. Scott Cole met with Portland State students Jan. 11. He focused mainly on student involvement in university processes.
"In my job in previous years … I would meet with student government and give them some insight on the master planning process that is going on," Cole said. He also said, however, that there are certain decisions students need not be involved in.
Cole has also held administrative positions at George Washington University and the University of Montana.

Monica Rimai

In a meeting at Portland State Jan. 6, Monica Rimai said that she sees the vice president’s position as a supporting role.
"I see the role of administration as really there to facilitate the mission of the university," she said.
In response to questions about student involvement in university administration, Rimai emphasized the importance of "transparency" in university processes.
Rimai is currently interim chancellor for administrative affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a position she described as equivalent to the vice president of finance and administration at Portland State.

Eugene Gilchrist

Eugene Gilchrist is currently assistance chancellor for the health sciences at the University of Louisville. He has also filled a variety of senior administrative positions for the State University system in New York. An apparent last-minute add-on to the list of finalist candidates, he will meet with students at 12 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 in SMSU 238, and with faculty and staff Friday, Feb. 4.