Gates Foundation and APLU Visit PSU

It is not every day that we, or many universities, get a visit from the Gates Foundation. In February a representative from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and program officers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation visited PSU to learn about reTHINK PSU as it relates to the Transformational Planning Grant, awarded to PSU in July 2014.

The Transformational Planning Grant supports seven public urban research universities, in partnership with the APLU and the Gates Foundation. It has helped highlight the innovation and progress PSU has made on reTHINK. The one-year grant focuses on planning and designing new business models and innovative approaches to increase access, improve success rates, and find greater cost efficiencies. PSU was awarded $275,000 through the Transformational Planning Grant initiative to accelerate reTHINK PSU.

An engaging conversation
Over the two-day visit at PSU, the visitors talked with about 35 faculty and staff involved in the Provost’s Challenge and other reTHINK PSU projects to discuss innovation platforms, particularly how to use a design-based approach for problem-solving and execution.

What was on the agenda?

  • The Flexible Degrees projects
  • Development of student success projects to assist students with excessive credits graduate and help improve transfer students’ persistence
  • Discussions of PSU’s implementation of project management practices
  • Formation and work of the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI)
  • A faculty and staff innovation project to better serve adult students
  • Our partnership with Portland Community College and other partners to build degree maps
  • Explanation of our Business Model Analysis project and introduction to our team

The discussions generated thoughtful questions and positive comments from the visitors, including a focus on how to sustainably scale innovation across large institutions. The PSU teams received valuable feedback on projects and walked away with a strong confirmation that our innovations are at the cutting edge of higher education transformation.

gates 2What is next?
APLU and Gates were impressed by what they learned at PSU. They extended a special invitation to the Business Model Analysis project team (building a next-generation financial analysis tool to help evaluate the costs and revenues of academic programs) to present on the Transformational Planning Grant eight-member cohort.

Business model team members include:

  • Alan Finn, Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance, Finance & Administration
  • Sukhwant Jhaj, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Success, Academic Affairs
  • Kathi Ketcheson, Director, Office of Institutional Research and Planning, President’s Office
  • Susan Klees, Special Assistant to the Vice President for Finance & Administration, Finance & Administration
  • Andria Johnson, Assistant Budget Director, Budget, Finance & Administration
  • Thuy Vu, Fiscal Officer, University Studies, Academic Affairs
  • Alison Nimura, BI Team Manager, Office of Information Technology
  • Hans VanDerSchaaf, Senior Project Manager, Academic Affairs

We were proud to showcase our work at the March meeting, but even prouder that as we bring the Transformational Planning Grant to a close on June 30, 2015, we have enabled more projects, and the embedding of design thinking and other innovation practices to keep moving the work of reTHINK forward.

Hans VanDerSchaaf, Senior Project Manager in Academic Affairs, co-authored this blog.

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