Some folks might be wary of returning to a job left behind some 10 years ago, but not Lindsay Desrochers. She resumed her position as vice president of finance and administration at Portland State Dec. 1, and said she is pleased to see how the seeds she sowed back in the early ’90s have bloomed.
“15 years ago, PSU received zero attention from the City of Portland. While in the city, it didn’t define itself as ‘of’ the city. PSU was a closed institution that didn’t expect much from local government entities,” Desrochers said.
Getting the University District adopted by the City of Portland when Vera Katz was mayor is something Desrochers said she is particularly proud of.
“We were trying to say to the larger community, ‘We’re not just the quiet little institution at the end of the Park Blocks. We have a lot to offer.'”
Questioning what it meant to be an urban university, she worked closely with the faculty in the School of Urban and Public Affairs to define how to build relationships with city entities. This process continued after she left in 1995.
“[PSU President Dan Bernstine] has really done a terrific job at taking the university to the next level, really putting the institution on the map,” she said. “The people who followed after me really started doing things to change the [university] district’s feel. We now have the Urban Studies School and brand new Broadway housing, for example.”
Desrochers left Oregon to take a position as senior vice chancellor for Capitol Resources and treasurer of the Board of Regents for the University of Georgia. There, she managed a $4 billion budget and was accountable for the success of 34 institutions.
In 2000, she moved to the University of California at Merced as their vice chancellor of administration. Over the following five years Desrochers headed a unique project: building a campus from the ground up.
In her new position just over a month, she is just starting to get settled in.
“Even though I know the institution quite well, I have a lot to learn about the changes that have occurred, a lot of new people to meet,” Desrochers said.
Her broad perspective is a welcome addition to the leadership at PSU. “She’s had a lot of experience, and having spent time here before, she knows PSU,” Bernstine said. “I’m happy she’s agreed to come back. She’s a great member of the team.”
Roy Koch, vice provost for academic affairs, agrees. “Lindsay has the capability to deal with both the financial details and with large scale planning issues. She also brings a deep understanding of the academic mission of the institution based on all her past experience.”
But Desrochers said it is not all sunshine for the new VP. “We don’t lack for challenges. For example, the budget and the declining support from the state is very worrisome.”
Desrochers voiced concern as well for faculty salary. “Our faculty works very hard at this institution and they are very good. Their salaries are way below where they should be when you look at other institutions, and that’s a serious matter.”
However, for now, Desrochers is happy to be in Portland, contributing to an institution she feels has a real sense of direction.
“It’s a great city and a great place. It feels like coming home.”