Portland State University (PSU) is the second-largest university in Oregon, but it’s often overshadowed by both private and public universities in the region.
Last Friday, Dr. Rahmat Shoureshi, the new President of Portland State University, spoke at City Club’s Friday Forum. Shoureshi discussed his personal background and how he hopes to raise the profile of the university by expanding opportunities for students while continuing to foster access and diversity.
President Shoureshi opened his talk saying, “I am a person whose life was transformed by education.”
He grew up in Iran at a time of relative peace and prosperity. In the mid 1970s, he took a national exam that allowed those who scored in the top ten percent to pursue their education abroad. His score was high enough to earn a scholarship to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but while he was in Boston, the shah was overthrown and Iran became an authoritarian theocracy. Suddenly, his scholarship was gone and his future uncertain.
Dr. Shoureshi drew parallels to what other immigrants experience when coming to the United States, especially in the support he got from MIT, which allowed him to stay and complete his studies.
“We are committed to providing a strong education for our Dreamers,” he said.
President Shoureshi outlined an idea that’s still forming and will require significant investment in time and dollars to pull off. He sees the opportunity to create what he calls “centers of excellence” around topics of particular importance to Portland and the state of Oregon.
For example, he mentioned the possibility of forming a center of excellence to find solutions to the homeless crisis in our region. He mentioned there is the need for other centers of excellence in technology and education.
Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui and Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero attended the event and represented a unified presence across the three major educational institutions in Portland.
Shoureshi emphasized that he sees further opportunities to work with students beginning in middle school, ensuring that they find their path to a meaningful education. He believes there are many untapped opportunities to build relationships with businesses in the region.
“Expect me to reach out to you seeking new partnerships,” he said.