Vision, Mission and Values
Our vision: Portland State University leads the way to an equitable and sustainable future through academic excellence, urban engagement and expanding opportunity for all.
- We serve and sustain a vibrant urban region through our creativity, collective knowledge and expertise.
- We are dedicated to collaborative learning, innovative research, sustainability and community engagement.
- We educate a diverse community of lifelong learners.
- Our research and teaching have global impact.
We promote access, inclusion and equity as pillars of excellence.
- We commit to curiosity, collaboration, stewardship and sustainability.
- We strive for excellence and innovation that solves problems.
- We believe everyone should be treated with integrity and respect.
Engaged with the community
Portland State University is a nationally recognized leader in community engagement, combining academic rigor in the classroom with community-based learning. With a student body of 28,000, Portland State is selected by a wide range of students from the U.S. and abroad. The university’s urban setting and focus on community partnerships, acts as a “living laboratory” that successfully prepares tomorrow’s forward thinking leaders with the experience needed to succeed. Portland State’s growing reputation prompted U.S. News & World Report to rank PSU among the top 20 "most innovative" universities in the nation in 2015-16.
Distinguished programs and faculty
Many of Portland State’s disciplinary programs are nationally ranked in the top 20 in the United States, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked Portland State’s curriculum among the best in the nation for the past 10 years. The innovative University Studies program, a four-year general education program which promotes community-based learning, interdisciplinary teaching and learning and engagement in real world problems, has established Portland State as a national model for other colleges and universities, seeking to adapt their curriculum to better engage with their own communities.
Portland State professors are prized for their knowledge, research, achievements, and, ability to engage students. 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 be part of the University’s exceptional approach to learning, engagement, and research.
PSU’s motto, “Let knowledge serve the city,” inspires faculty research locally and around the world. Many professors conduct research that addresses some of society’s most perplexing 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.
Research and Strategic Partnerships
Research at Portland State University harnesses the strengths of community engagement to establish PSU as a leading urban research university. Through strong alliances with industry, government agencies, and other universities, we serve as a catalyst for innovation and prosperity for the region. PSU has made significant contributions in research areas ranging from signal processing in biomedical applications to life in extreme environments. Our faculty include internationally recognized researchers in engineering and physical, social, and natural sciences.
PSU partners with our sister institutions in Oregon through Signature Research Centers in nanotechnology, drug discovery, and sustainability in the built environment. We collaborate with Oregon Health and Science University through interdisciplinary research where our expertise in social science, biology, and chemistry add value to their clinical expertise. Our research strengths in specialized fields such as invasive species and ecosystem services bring world-class partners like the Smithsonian Institution. And our strong relationships with companies like Intel and Portland General Electric provide partnerships in cutting edge research as well as training opportunities for students and employees.
Green: It’s more than our school color
At Portland State University, students have the opportunity to do more than study sustainability, they engage directly with the community to make sustainability real. Portland State strives to harness the strengths of the university—with new ideas, innovative partnerships, and academic rigor—moving closer toward solving the environmental, social, and economic problems of our time.
Green school spirit can also be seen on the campus itself. Each new building or major renovation on campus over the past eight years, has received at least a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. The new buildings include such sustainable design features as ecoroofs, rainwater harvesting, and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Working with like-minded sustainable businesses, individuals, and organizations, faculty and students are performing valuable research on alternative energy sources such as solar panels; aggressive waste reduction and recycling programs; sustainable building practices; and much more. Many of the University’s 213 bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees encourage students to 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 sustainable world, one idea at a time.
Portland: The community is our campus
Portland State University’s prized location in the middle of a major city guarantees students are always within easy reach of something exciting. Parks, museums, cafes, theaters, shopping, acclaimed restaurants, and professional sports are all close by.
Since its establishment 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, yet still retains a park-like beauty within its urban setting.
The Park Blocks, a natural gathering area for students and faculty, provide a place to talk or study. East of the Park Blocks, 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, in 2009, its MAX light rail line come together. Bicycling to campus is not considered an alternative transportation method, but a main way students get to campus.
With urban sophistication, small town accessibility, and the many outdoor activities, Portland and Portland State offer a great living and learning experience.
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; and
- Wim Wiewel, 2008 to present.
From Creating Portland State: 1946-1955.