Up, up and away

After years of preparation and hopes for approval, the State Board of Higher Education passed the Graduate Certificate Program in the Center of Transportation at Portland State on Nov. 4.

With the center’s recent research grant for being designated a National University Transportation Center, director of the Center of Transportation Dr. Robert Bertini feels that the Graduate Certificate will only add to the efforts to expand the transportation program at PSU.

“The certificate is basically a carrot to get people into the graduate program,” Bertini said. “[The certificate] may inspire them to look towards a graduate degree.”

Amin Wahab finds this to be true. As a current student taking classes towards the Transportation Certificate and working for the City of Portland Bureau of the Environment Services, Wahab has found the classes he has taken to be quite helpful in his work.

“My interest has only increased after taking these classes in transportation,” Wahab said. He mentioned that he will be looking into the possibility of working towards a full graduate degree in transportation because of his interest in the certificate program.

“We deal with many day-to-day activities where transportation is an important part,” he said, agreeing that he will look more knowledgeable if the certificate is on his resume.

David Woodall, chair provost of the provost council at the State Board and provost at Oregon Institute of Technology, said the certificate passed because of the well-prepared, thorough proposal made by the Center of Transportation and that it is a program that serves regional and state needs. He added that the involvement the Transportation Center has with Oregon State, University of Oregon and OIT in the research grant was a positive asset towards the decision.

“We like the partnering of PSU with OSU and OIT,” Woodall said, adding that the board looks at universities working together as a positive thing.

Woodall believes the certificate program will allow students from many different areas of study, such as engineers and scientists, better understand how transportation applies to their fields.

Bertini said that the proposal, which was originally drafted in 2003, approved by the university’s faculty senate in 2004 and finally passed by the State Board in 2005, was written in response to an online survey the center held, asking what was desired in terms of education. He added that the certificate program is a good place for those who already have a bachelor’s degree to start off, if they aren’t sure they want to go for the whole 45-credit graduate program.

“Twenty-one credits is a less daunting commitment,” Bertini said.

The State Board provost council recommended the decision be passed. This council consists of eight total members, one from each of the main public universities in Oregon, including OHSU.

They receive proposals for programs from the universities, put the proposal through a rigorous and extensive review process and then decide whether to recommend the proposal to the 11-member Board of Higher Ed or return it to the university for revisions, according to Woodall.

“We look carefully at everything,” Woodall said, mentioning that around 25 to 30 proposals are sent in each year. “It is not uncommon for about 20 percent to be returned to the universities for revisions.”

Woodall added that most of the returned proposals are not resubmitted to the council, but usually dropped.

If the council does recommend the proposal to be passed, it is brought as a docket to the Board of Higher Ed., which reexamines how the program benefits students, the university and the public, said Secretary of the State Board of Higher Education Ryan Hagemann. He added that, typically, if the provost council recommends that the board approve, it happens.

“I can’t think of a program that has not been approved if the provost council recommended it,” Hagemann said.

Woodall alleviated the seeming authority the provost council holds in the format by explaining his understanding of it as an intensive peer review process, allowing the provosts to ask important questions.

“Are these important programs for the region?” Woodall said.