Rahmat A. Shoureshi, Ph.D., a candidate for president of Portland State University, was on campus on March 13 to speak to faculty and staff in Hoffman Hall and explain his qualifications to lead the university.
One of three presidential candidates visiting campus, Shoureshi is a petite man who was dressed in a dark business suit. His hands were animated while speaking and he displayed a sense of humor; he was gracious, although not humble.
Shoureshi earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology in 1975 and a Master of Science in 1978. He completed his doctorate in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
In 1979, Shoureshi started as an instructor and teaching assistant and since, except for a sabbatical leave in 1991, he has worked as an assistant professor, founding chairman, professor, director, chair, associate vice president and director, and a dean. He also holds a number of external positions, holds patents, has overseen building projects and, among other accomplishments, has published over 60 articles.
Shoureshi currently serves as interim president at New York Institute of Technology, where he started in November 2016 as provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Inclusiveness and diversity in education
“I am bringing experience from a number of universities,” Shoureshi said. “I build relationships, I build programs, I have built development activities, you name it; I’m a builder.”
Stating that Portland offers opportunity, he believes that he can have a major impact at PSU. “I appreciate what PSU offers,” Shoureshi said. “I appreciate the mission. I appreciate the fact that there is a great deal of interest in attention to diversity inclusiveness, including diversity of programs.”
“Being a first generation myself, being an immigrant and having gone through experiences of thought, I truly appreciate the richness that diversity brings to any organization,” Shoureshi said. “The number one mission of the university is to educate the next generation.”
Studies have shown that between 2014 and 2016, 55 percent of the nation’s universities have experienced increases in student population and 45 percent have seen decreases, Shoureshi explained. He stated PSU is among the 45 percent. To help grow student enrollment, Shoureshi wants to reach out nationwide to high school students by their sophomore year, repeatedly and through a variety of media. He wants to raise awareness of the value of degrees, especially through faculty and alumni engagement, increasing student-learning opportunities such as online learning, and student retention.
PSU in the global market and the axes of success
Lauding Portland as a culturally significant asset, Shoureshi discussed his vision of global reverberations originating from PSU, which includes partnering with other universities, shared governance, and creating a stronger, smarter and increased student population.
Additional solutions for enhancing recruitment and retention were that degrees should be in line with market demand, the importance of research and the creation of a co-op track at PSU. “The co-op track is that you study for one year, you go and work for one year then you come back,” Shoureshi said.
Using the three axes of art and creative design, technology, and health, Shoureshi talked about building trans-disciplinary opportunities. “You want to make sure that students, when they leave PSU, have what it takes to be successful in their profession.”
The ideal graduate, according to Shoureshi, is someone who brings together the left and right sides of the brain. He wants to further develop and innovate that sort of education.
Money and talent
Regarding university financing, Shoureshi said, “My message is all state universities, whether it is in Oregon or around the country, should forget about support from the state. They should think about that as the icing on the cake. Let’s be independent. It cannot be all tuition.” Emphasizing fundraising and endowments, capital campaigns and corporate sponsorship, he extolled PSU’s foundation. Advocating holding events to generate revenue, he believes that the best way for everybody to contribute is toward scholarships for students.
Another key point Shoureshi made regarded the optimization of resources, such as asking if the right talent is in the right place or if additional training would be beneficial.
Wrapping up his speech, Shoureshi talked of the priorities he would bring to PSU, which include excellence in education, students, faculty, retention, diversity, research, community engagement, global networking, infrastructure, resources, partnerships, relationships, scholarships, resources, resignation and innovation.
“Why me?” Shoureshi concluded. “If nothing else from this presentation, I want you to remember, Rahmat is a builder, not a contractor, a builder. This is all based on experiences.”