PSU named one of 10 ‘Frontier Universities’
Author: Katy Swordfisk, PSU Media & PR
Posted: April 22, 2019
Portland State University has been named one of 10 Frontier Universities nationwide by the Thriving Cities Lab.

The designation was announced in the "Field Guide for Urban University-Community Partnerships," which was developed based on research conducted by the Thriving Cities Lab, a research lab focused on studying what it means to be successful as 21st century urban environments.

 More than 100 universities were studied for the report. The 10 selected as Frontier Universities are "pushing the boundaries of standard practice" in university-community partnerships, according to the report.

PSU’s implementation of an equity lens in strategic planning stood out, which College of Urban and Public Affairs Dean Stephen Percy said is something the lab hadn’t seen before. Using an equity lens ensured that planners consider whether everyone has fair access to opportunities and resources.

The equity lens arose from a report by School of Social Work (SSW) Professor Ann Curry-Stevens, SSW senior research assistant Amanda Cross Hemmer and the Coalition of Communities of Color, a Portland-based nonprofit using policy analysis and research to help communities of color.

That report highlighted considerable social disparities among people of color in Multnomah County, including the ongoing wage gap. For example, communities of color earn half the income of their white counterparts, the study found.

“We were fortunate to be able to draw upon existing community expertise,” said Mark Wubbold, senior policy analyst at PSU. “We were able to include some community members from the city in our topic teams, and they brought their work and perspective.”

The planning effort began in the spring of 2014 when 85 faculty, staff, students, administrative leaders and the Board of Trustees met to develop the university’s 2016-2020 strategic plan.

“It was a very deliberate and thorough effort to bring in students, faculty, administration, unions, everything from outside as stakeholders on the strategic plan,” Trustee Irving Levin said.

Percy said the equity lens is now used in university decision making as a way to ensure those making decisions are considering the impact of those decisions on groups who are traditionally marginalized.

“Long standing practices may, unintentionally, sustain privilege and reduce opportunities,” Percy said. “Application of the equity lens is a remedy. It empowers people to think more broadly about impact in a way that can advance, rather than limit, equity."