Q & A with Wim Wiewel

The opportunities with the Oregon Health and Science University are relatively new and I think that is a great chance to grow the science side of the university in alignment with OHSU…

You’ve talked about ideas for change at Portland State University. Can you talk more specifically about that?

The opportunities with the Oregon Health and Science University are relatively new and I think that is a great chance to grow the science side of the university in alignment with OHSU, and the whole sustainability notion, which again, was I suspect already here in the’90s but has become now such a worldwide issue of importance. And in that I almost feel we cannot waste any time because there are a lot of other institutions jumping on that bandwagon as well.

So we have to take advantage of the competitive niche we already have and really move forward very aggressively to further that, to strengthen our research capability and to find new ways of sharing that knowledge with both the metropolitan area, the state but also worldwide, so we can be seen as a real leader.

You’ve got three months left in Baltimore before your move here. Talk about what that will be like for you, what leaving Baltimore and making Portland your new home means to you?

I will be coming in several times, for a couple days a month during the next few months. So that will give me a chance to really learn what is going on here, without yet having to be involved with any day-to-day stuff or being asked to make any decisions so I can fly under the radar a little bit and really expand my knowledge of the institution and its opportunities and challenges.

I still do have a job in Baltimore that I have to do also, but it also works out well there because it will give the University of Baltimore a chance to figure out how to transition to a new leadership there so we will be working on that and we still have to work out the details of my wife’s transition.

You have already had some time to spend with those whom you will be working very intimately with during your presidency here at PSU, names like Rod Diman and Lindsay Desroches. What relationships have you already established with them and how do you see those partnerships working out?

Institutions do a lot of things that will go on no matter who is the CEO and good institutions will continue that way. But leaders do make a difference; they do set a tone, and that is true up and down the organization. That isn’t just true for the president, its true for vice presidents, its true for deans, its true for directors and its true all the way. And so I am very much looking forward to finding out what the priorities and the challenges are that each of the people have so I know how to help make the organization work and provide them with the proper tools so they can do their job.

What are you looking forward to the most moving to Portland?

I love biking and hiking. We do a lot of that of that in the Washington area. The advantage there is the area is flat so it’s easy to bike around. On the other hand, the hills and the mountains are gorgeous, of course. … I’m really looking forward to getting rid of my 46 miles commute. I drive 46 miles each way to work. I’ll be very happy to not have to do that anymore.

How visible do you plan on being on campus?

Because part of what makes a university effective, able to attract the best faculty, is that the university is known nationwide. So I definitely intend to continue to play a role nationally as I have, particularly in the areas I have extended knowledge, like the role of universities and cities.

One of the things I hope to do very quickly is to convene a major one-day conference on the university as civic partner that I would love to do jointly with the public sector in this region and bring in a lot of other people from around the country who are leaders in thinking about how universities and cities collaborate and help each other grow and thrive. That is the key thing that attracted me to this position. The opportunities to do that and the openness that people here have to that.