Our vision: Portland State University leads the way to an equitable and sustainable future through expanding opportunity, serving our city, and promoting academic and research excellence.
With 27,000 students, Portland State University is a nationally recognized leader in community engagement, combining academic rigor in the classroom with community-based learning.
Students from within Oregon, throughout the United States, and across the world choose Portland State because its urban setting and ties to businesses and service organizations make it a living laboratory that prepares tomorrow’s leaders with the experience they need to succeed.
Portland State’s growing reputation for excellence prompted U.S. News & World Report to rank PSU among the "most innovative" universities in the nation for the last several years.
Distinguished programs and faculty.
Many of Portland State’s disciplinary programs are nationally ranked in the top 20 in the United States, and the Princeton Review lists PSU among its Best Colleges.
The innovative University Studies program, a four-year general education program which promotes community-based, interdisciplinary learning, and engagement in real-world problems, has established Portland State as a national model for other colleges and universities.
The University Honors College is the only urban-focused honors college in the country. Here, a small, dedicated community of highly motivated students and engaged professors explore an academically intense curriculum through the lens of the culturally rich, ever-evolving city of Portland.
Portland State professors are prized for their knowledge, research and service. Faculty come to Portland State from colleges and universities around the world. Though diverse in culture, background, language, and ethnicity, they come to Portland unified in their commitment to the University’s exceptional approach to learning and engagement.
PSU’s motto, “Let knowledge serve the city,” inspires faculty research. Many professors research some of society’s greatest challenges—providing students with firsthand knowledge and opportunities for involvement and collaboration in their communities. Faculty use their expertise to serve the region through their work with businesses, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies and by holding key posts in professional, cultural, and civic groups.
Portland: The community is our campus.
Portland State University’s prized location in the middle of a major city guarantees students are always steps from excitement and action. Parks, museums, cafes, theaters, shopping, acclaimed restaurants, and professional sports are all close.
Established in 1946 to meet the educational needs of GIs home from World War II battlefields, Portland State found its first home in Vanport, a former federal housing project along the Columbia River. The campus moved to Lincoln Hall in Portland’s South Park Blocks in 1952 and now encompasses 50 city blocks, retaining a park-like beauty within its urban setting.
Students and faculty often gather in the Park Blocks to talk or study. PSU’s Urban Center stands at the busiest public transportation hub in the city. It’s the only location in the city where TriMet’s bus system, Portland Streetcar, and MAX light rail line come together. Thousands of students get to campus under their own power, commuting by foot or bicycle along Portland’s pedestrian and bike-friendly streets.
With urban sophistication, small-town accessibility, and many outdoor activities, Portland and Portland State offer a great living and learning experience.
Sustainability: It's what we do.
In 2016 Sierra magazine ranked PSU 14th in the nation, and first in Oregon, for its commitment to sustainability. Sierra commended PSU for its innovative strategies for reducing waste, conserving resources, and advancing environmental research.
The Portland State campus itself is a model for sustainability; each new building or major renovation on campus since 2004 has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Portland State students can take sustainability lessons beyond the classroom, engaging directly with the community and businesses to solve real-world problems and achieve further sustainability at the local and regional levels. Portland State strives to harness the strengths of the university to move closer to solving the environmental, social, and economic problems of our time.
Faculty and students are performing valuable research and developing solutions to address issues related to homelessness, climate change, public health, and urbanization. Students in departments across campus consider issues that integrate economic, social, and environmental viewpoints. Armed with this knowledge and experience, they will join a generation of leaders building a more equitable, livable, resilient world.
Research & Graduate Studies
PSU is the region’s leading urban research university and offers wide-ranging research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students who aspire to be explorers, innovators, problem-solvers, and change-makers.
Our faculty includes internationally recognized researchers in engineering and physical, natural and social sciences, making vital contributions in research areas ranging from the development of new treatments for diseases to blockchain technology to discovering life beyond earth. Our research strengths in specialized fields such as early childhood learning and biochemistry attract world-class partners like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. And programs like the PSU Co-Op and Build EXITO provide students access to cutting edge research as well as training and professional development opportunities.
Researchers at PSU work across disciplines and partner with industry, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other universities to address the critical challenges of the 21st century and improve life in Oregon, the nation, and the world. We collaborate with Oregon Health and Science University through the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and interdisciplinary research where our expertise in data analysis, social science, biology, and chemistry add value to their clinical studies. PSU and our sister institutions in Oregon participate in transforming research into real-world solutions through state-sponsored Signature Research Centers focused on innovations in nano- and micro-technology, biotechnology, life sciences, and clean energy sectors. At PSU, we are catalysts for innovation.
The Founding of Portland State University
Portland State University’s roots trace back to the summer of 1946 when the Oregon State Board of Higher Education approved the opening of a temporary school in North Portland to offer lower-division coursework. Vanport Extension Center (VEC), named for its location between Portland and Vancouver, was situated in Vanport City, a wartime housing project that promised resident and classroom space for the students attending VEC. Spearheaded by founder and director, Stephen Epler, VEC soon became known as “Vanport College” and was immediately successful in meeting local demands for higher education by returning World War II servicemen and women. When fall term registration closed at VEC, more than 1,400 students enrolled, eclipsing the projection of 500 and signaling future success for the center.
Seemingly ending VEC’s future, the 1948 Memorial Day flood of the Columbia River destroyed Vanport City, including the center. Epler and his colleagues kept the school alive, using federal funds to reinstate the campus at “Oregon Ship,” a former Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation site. The school’s commitment and fighting spirit earned it the national reputation as “the college that would not die.” Students, faculty, community groups, and legislators were strong advocates for the school, spurring its permanence and move in 1952 to its present location in Portland’s South Park Blocks, where it became the Portland State Extension Center in the former Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall).
In 1955, the legislature created Portland State College as a four-year degree-granting institution. Graduate work was added in 1961; doctoral programs began in 1968, and the institution became Portland State University in 1969. The University has grown from an initial enrollment of 1,410 students in 1946 to become one of Oregon’s largest universities.
“Portland State formed a legacy of courage, leadership, dedication, and collaboration during its founding years, 1946-1955. These qualities enabled a small extension center to become a four-year, degree-granting college. Today this legacy inspires Portland State University to enhance the intellectual, social, cultural, and economic vitality of Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.”1
The Founder and presidents who have served the University are:
- Stephen E. Epler (Vanport Extension Center), 1946 to 1952;
- John F. Cramer, 1955 to 1958;
- Branford P. Millar, 1959 to 1968;
- Gregory B. Wolfe, 1968 to 1974;
- Joseph C. Blumel, 1974 to 1986;
- Natale A. Sicuro, 1986 to 1988;
- Roger N. Edgington (interim president), 1988 to 1990;
- Judith A. Ramaley, 1990 to 1997;
- Daniel O. Bernstine, 1997 to 2007;
- Michael F. Reardon (interim president), 2007 to 2008;
- Wim Wiewel, 2008 to 2017;
- Rahmat Shoureshi, 2017 to 2019; and
- Stephen Percy (interim president), 2019-present.
From Creating Portland State: 1946-1955.