Developing a Shared Vision

Gwen Shusterman, Portland State University STEM Institute

The PSU STEM Institute grew from a faculty response to the call from the Provost to discuss our place in contributing to a regional "Cradle to Career" initiative with a focus on STEM. The initial group of faculty, who self-identified as having an interest, gathered to dream big and imagine what STEM would look like on our campus and in the region writ large. We were also tasked to discuss the barriers to achieving that dream. The team was given a short time line of about 10 weeks to complete a set of recommendations, and they were assured that there was no commitment beyond the 10 weeks. The resulting recommendation was to establish a campus wide, interdisciplinary STEM Institute. With a three-member leadership team selected by the college deans representing engineering, education and science, the faculty group continued to meet several times a term and work towards the establishment this institute. All interested faculty and staff were welcome and the group grew by word of mouth and with encouragement by the deans; the group is now known as the STEM Education Collaborative. During the first year, we met with an external facilitator for a full day retreat and revisited the goals and vision presented in the original white paper and penned this mission:

We aspire to enable PSU to be a leader in developing and implementing innovative, student-centered STEM education, in partnership with the broader educational community, responsive to the interests and needs of all learners.

The group also established four key goals for the STEM Institute (see below).

A fully developed communication strategy is still evolving. While keeping a focus on students front and center, how the efforts of the Institute are described depends on the audience. For a campus faculty discussion we might utilize a circle or cycle of education. We teach STEM → our STEM students are educated as TEACHERS → our TEACHERS prepare the students that come to us → we teach STEM. In this view, we would introduce faculty to innovative teaching strategies and how the Institute can support their development and assessment. The discussion might also highlight the student support programs under the umbrella of the Institute, such as LSAMP, NIH BUILD EXITO and McNair Scholars. For an audience of community and industrial partners we might use a tree growth metaphor or model. The roots are all the different paths and supports that students engage in on their way to the university. When they reach the university we provide the rich soil in which they grow and they travel any number of branches to their successful careers or professional programs. Our Institute feeds the soil helping roots to grow strong, coordinates programs and resources, illuminates pathways, improves the strength of the branches through excellent teaching, research and internship opportunities, etc. Feeding the soil includes a close collaboration with the regional state funded STEM Hub, the Portland Metro STEM Partnership (PMSP) with a focus on the pre-college STEM ecosystem, spearheading professional development of teachers around the NGSS and Common Core and facilitating partnerships between in-school and out of school program providers. Strengthening the branches includes the development of close ties to regional employers to facilitate the development of highly qualified STEM graduates. We are still in the nascent stages of this work, our STEM Institute gaining final Faculty Senate approval in March of 2016.


  1. To invest in the capacity of PSU faculty to design and teach undergraduate STEM courses and curricula that better engage students, increase their numbers, and enhance and deepen their learning;
  2. To promote a measurable increase in enrollments and in the diversity of students enrolled in STEM courses and majors and an increase in the number of STEM degrees conferred annually;
  3. To prepare students to be citizens who can address global and local challenges (e.g., energy, environment, health, food) in the context of economic and community development;
  4. To work within the metro area to enhance P-12 students' level of preparation and readiness for college-level work in STEM fields and promote interest in STEM careers


Center Profile: Portland State University STEM Institute