Initial Publication Date: May 18, 2016

Portland State University STEM Institute

Portland State University
Established: 2016

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Vision and Goals

Center/Program Structure

Our Institute has a full time director that reports directly to the Provost. There is a steering committee comprised of the three members of the STEM Council, a leadership team appointed by respective deans, and three at large members selected by the STEM Education Collaborative. This leadership structure puts the Provost as the campus director of the efforts but positions the deans of engineering, arts and sciences, and education as lead collaborators. Placing the Institute outside the normal structure of the university, which places departments into college units, both enhances the collaboration across campus units and challenges the funding model.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
One major advantage is the emergence of cross-institutional collaborations that have been facilitated by the process of establishing the Institute. This placement also firmly establishes the efforts around STEM education as belonging to the entire university, not one department or college.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
With this structure, the Institute most easily fits into a self-support model. This results in the challenge of finding funding for routine functions, etc., that don't fall under the scope of grant-funded projects. There are probably other challenges we have yet to discover.


The Institute is intended to be self-supporting either through grants or gifts. Currently, the director position is funded through the Provost's office and the projects underway are funded by specific program grants. The University is embarking on a capital campaign in which STEM Education will be one of the foci, with the goal of building and funding a robust center that supports both faculty teaching innovation and best practices, as well as, student programming leading to excellence and diversity in STEM. The current funding is from both private and federal grants.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
The funding sources have provided the skeletal structure of the Institute's work, funding programs that reside under the Institute. In this nascent stage, the Institute is primarily focused on the programs supported by these external grants. The Institute director is working beyond the scope of these funded projects to continue to build the university and community partnerships to further the mission of the Institute and to support the capital campaign.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
This funding model makes it easier for the Institute to work across colleges (our primary budget unit) and to support collaborations between units and colleges, bringing the best teams together. It also allows the Institute to support faculty endeavors that might be risky and provides institutional "moral" support for innovation efforts.

What are the challenges?
This funding model places the Institute outside what some might consider the core work of the university. Without external funding and support the Institute folds and no longer supports the vital work of providing excellent STEM educational experiences.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
Our institute is brand new, and still establishing the full funding model. We have yet to establish the source of the operating budget, etc

Description of Programming

Successes and Impacts

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
Our center is new and has not embarked on this yet.

Elements Contributing to Success

Supplemental Materials

Essay: Developing a Shared Vision - Gwen Shusterman, Portland State University STEM Institute