Wiewel holds annual fall convocation

The top brass of Portland State held its annual fall convocation—the celebratory kick-off event of the academic year—before a gathering in Hoffman Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 22. 

The top brass of Portland State held its annual fall convocation—the celebratory kick-off event of the academic year—before a gathering in Hoffman Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 22. 

After a welcome speech by Maude Hines, professor and presiding officer of the Faculty Senate, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Roy Koch handed out the faculty excellence awards to four distinguished PSU faculty members: Kenneth Ames, Kenneth Peterson, Rose Jackson and Mary Beth Collins.

This awards ceremony was followed by PSU President Wim Wiewel’s convocation speech, during which he outlined PSU’s obstacles, opportunities and objectives for the coming year.

Oregon’s fiscal crisis supplied a somber motif that ran throughout Wiewel’s speech, reminding the PSU community that the state’s economic conditions are not expected to change anytime soon.

“We will continue to see cutbacks,” Wiewel said. PSU has had to give $11.5 million of its $132 million budget back to the state, most of it in the latter half of this biennium. Fortunately, the money came from a university reserve earmarked for this purpose.

These fiscal problems are, of course, occurring within the context of the current organizational restructuring of the Oregon University System. The planned restructuring

is driven in part by these fiscal problems and, according to Wiewel, will likely save PSU money by making the system “more nimble, more flexible and, frankly, more able to adjust to what we are faced with.”

PSU’s “key obstacle” is its uniquely poor retention and graduation rates, the latter of which is currently at about 34 percent, according to Wiewel. If these rates are not raised in the near future, the university, unable to enhance its accountability to Salem legislators, “will be in a world of trouble,” he said.

Apart from such measures as mandatory advising and enforcing admission standards, PSU should focus on helping culturally specific groups such as its Latino student population, Wiewel said.

For example, PSU has recently established a taskforce whose mission is to boost the university’s outreach to Latino students in Oregon’s middle schools, increase PSU’s percentage of Latino faculty and staff, offer scholarships to Latino students and create a university support center for those students.

Wiewel reaffirmed PSU’s commitment to further develop an increasingly sustainable campus, and to reform the cradle-to-career “pipeline” that is Multnomah

County’s K–12 education.

“If K–12 cannot do its job, we cannot do our job,” he said.

In addition, PSU will work to strengthen its partnerships with Oregon Health & Science University, Portland General Electric and Intel, as well as nurture a burgeoning partnership with the Portland Art Museum. Wiewel also suggested that a partnership with Regence Health Insurance may be on the way. Such partnerships are expected

to increase PSU’s access to private funding, decrease the likelihood of further

tuition hikes and position the university as a productive economic actor in the Portland region.

Winners of the faculty excellence awards

  • Kenneth Ames, professor of anthropology : Branford Price Miller Award for Faculty Excellence
  • Kenneth Peterson, professor of curriculum and instruction: George C. Hoffman Award for Faculty Excellence. 
  • Rose Jackson, associate professor and librarian of the College of Urban and Public Affairs: Kenneth W. and Elsie W. Award for Library   Faculty Service.
  •  Mary Beth Collins, former director of Student Health and Counseling Center: Mary H. Cumpston Award for Service to Students