President Shoureshi emphasizes student success in convocation address
Author: Christopher Broderick, University Communications
Posted: September 27, 2018
Angelica Acosta and President Rahmat Shoureshi

Portland State is making measurable progress to help students from all backgrounds succeed, and an array of new initiatives will help propel them on the path toward graduation, PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi told faculty and staff Wednesday.

In his annual Convocation address, the president said the keys to achieving success are “financial support, mentoring, advising and engagement.” Bachelor’s degrees awarded by PSU have increased by 26 percent in the past decade, including an increase of 22 percent by Latino students. The retention rate for first-time freshmen hit a record last year, with 74 percent staying on track and returning to PSU.

“Many of our students stick it out through tremendous hardship. They reduce their course loads so they can work more hours and pay their bills. But with their degree delayed and their debt mounting, these students often leave PSU,” Shoureshi said.

In addition to current support and retention efforts, PSU has launched the Four Years Free program that pays the balance of tuition for entering freshmen who qualify and the similar Transfers Finish Free program for undergraduate transfers who qualify. Mentorship, advising and engagement initiatives also are being enhanced with programs such as increased advising, personalized degree pathways and PSU Co-ops that enable students to gain paid work experience with employers.

The president cited the example of Angelica Acosta, a first-generation student and young mother who had to overcome difficult family and financial challenges to attend PSU.  Because of the support and mentorship she received, she has been able to attain her degree and is now pursuing her master’s degree in social work.

“Angelica has gone from never believing she could attend college to expecting that her son will,” Shoureshi said. “That’s what education can do for a family.”  

He opened his address with a moment of silence in memory of Jason Washington. He said PSU is launching two reviews in the coming weeks of the June 29 fatal officer-involved shooting and a comprehensive review of campus safety and security.

Provost Susan Jeffords presided over the faculty excellence awards for 2018 that included:

  • Research Faculty Excellence Awards to Dara Shifrer, Robert Strongin and Melissa Lucash.
  • Foundation Excellence Awards to Jean Rockford Aguilar-Valdez, Sybil Kelley and Angela Jackson.
  • Excellence Awards to Andrew Fountain, Linda A. George, Robert Schroder and Christina Luther.  
  • Adjunct Faculty Awards to Staci B. Martin and Marilyn Rampersad Mackiewicz.

Photo: PSU graduate student Angelica Acosta and President Rahmat Shoureshi.