Jack H. Knott, Ph.D. and one of three final candidates for Portland State president, spoke in Hoffman Hall to PSU students, staff, and faculty about his vision for the university on March 8. Upward of 200 people were in attendance for his speech which was followed by an open question and answer session.
Knott has served as Dean of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California since 2005 and has held a variety of other administrative positions for the past 32 years. His resume outlines an extensive career in education, with many awards and honors including a “Diversity Award” from USC’s Sol Price School in 2016 and professional, academic and international experience.
“I have several reasons that have attracted me to [PSU],” Knott started. “One of those dear to my heart is you are very engaged in the Portland community in public policy. You’re a university that connects theory to practice…that’s been a hallmark—a main feature—of my career. I have had a tremendous amount of experience, and I believe that’s central to what a university ought to be about.”
In addition to PSU’s commitment to engaging in public policy, Knott also remarked on his attraction to PSU’s “really fine undergraduate and graduate programs” ranging across a variety of fields, the partnership between [Oregon Health and Science University] and PSU, and the expansive, dynamic nature of PSU’s campus and its geographic location.
“[PSU is] the hub of creativity,” Knott said. “It’s where economic growth is taking place. It’s where cultural exchange is happening. And being on the Pacific Rim is a huge advantage in this time and the world’s history moving forward.”
Knott outlined his vision for Portland State if given the leadership position. He touched first on his commitment to diversity, including gender, race, ethnicity, religion and veterans, and his commitment to continue PSU’s recruitment of people of varied backgrounds.
Part of this commitment is to improve the “quality of opportunity,” as Knott put it. “[A] university should have a national reputation [of] educating the whole person for success in life and in a career.”
During the Q&A session which followed Knott’s speech, he expressed his strong belief in a liberal arts education. He expressed the belief that students need to be educated on institutions, democracy, economics, as well as to learn both the standard written literacy and technological literacy. He states a goal of fostering a learning environment that encourages students thinking creatively and using their imaginations to solve problems.
He also emphasized the need for PSU to expand both its research program and partnerships with other universities, such as OHSU, Oregon State University and others.
Knott pledged to make the university more global through fundraising, something he has a lot of experience doing: strengthening and deepening academic programs across all platforms to match students’ demands and attract more local, national and international students.
The Vanguard asked about how he planned to engage with dissident student groups on campus whose views may oppose his own views or those of PSU.
“Engaging students where they are, and that is meeting with students, listening to what students care about and the kind of issues they have, communicating effectively and then acting on those things,” Knott replied. “It doesn’t mean that this, obviously, eliminates difference of opinions; in fact, differences of opinion are good. We are at a university, and we want to have differences of opinion. Everybody needs to say and feel, and feel the freedom to do that. But we try to create the venues for that…where we can come to some kind of agreement.”
Knott continued, part of this engagement would include open forums with students, where students were able to freely voice their concerns and work with the administration toward finding solutions.