Illustration by Whitney McPhie

The search for PSU’s next president

A public forum offers a look at candidate Dr. Ann E. Cudd

This week, forums for the next Portland State presidential candidate search start, marking what could be the start of the end to the long search for PSU’s next president. The quest has been ongoing for years, since PSU’s last president resigned and before current President Stephen Percy stepped into the role. Since then, students have demanded more transparency and openness in electing the next administrative head of the school.


Even then, the subject has been contentious, with different students voicing a diverse slate of opinions on what they wanted to see the most out of the next president. In one of the first interviews this week, Nora Bandhauer, a student attendee, expressed her concern for how one of the candidates, Dr. Ann E. Cudd—the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh—would preside over the school. Bandhauer asked how she would start, keep and maintain personal relationships with the student body.


Dr. Cudd responded by saying that she would be more visible on campus. The presidential candidate assured that she would want to keep meeting with students, going to events and acting as an accessible resource to the student body. For a student like Bandhauer, who mentioned that she hasn’t seen the school’s current president all year, Dr. Cudd’s response assuaged her concerns about the role of presidency.


Transparency is key to leading PSU, and Dr. Cudd has expressed that she is no stranger to it. She said that it will be held in high regard going forward if she is chosen as president. Dr. Cudd understands that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of building trust between the administration and the community, of which she is open to various perspectives and will continue to hold open forums to meet and discuss issues in person.


Dr. Cudd emphasized her own experiences serving in large urban locations and working closely with undergrads, as well as her tenure as the Dean of Arts and Science at Boston University and Provost at the University of Pittsburgh, as good qualities to lead PSU. This has drawn approval from Melissa Appleyard, the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at PSU, who was impressed with Dr. Cudd’s extensive experience, but who understands that PSU is a different institution than those that she came from.


“I was really impressed with her ability to go both big as far as her vision, but also really be sensitive to how our students are,” Appleyard said. “She has a keen sensitivity to our mission of social equity and racial equity.”


Indeed, Dr. Cudd has outlined plans to increase diversity at PSU and foster healthy relationships for existing situations within the school. Among her visions, Dr. Cudd seeks to teach empathy and cultural competency by means of designing courses to fill in gaps in high school education which would be presented as a free, one credit option. Another method would be to generate more peer-to-peer conversations or classroom talk, in which students are further encouraged to interact with one another.


One of the hardest questions that many have tried to answer is tackling declining enrollment at PSU, a headache that has been present for much of the current administration. However, Dr. Cudd’s background and outlined plan has given confidence to both Bandhauer and Appleyard.


“I really like how she didn’t shy away from the difficulties that we’re having now budget-wise and really had her anchor and growth rather than cost cutting,” Appleyard said. “I think as the incoming president, we need someone who has a really extensive network in higher ed as well as ties to the federal government and federal funding source to survive and grow and thrive as a university. She [Dr.Cudd] has an excellent background in terms of really understanding student success, how university works from provost experience and really being able to think about growth and not just cost cutting.”


Bandhauer shared a similar sentiment. “I like her need for a plan so that they don’t have to cut any of the current faculty or any of the current programs, because it’d be a shame to see the teachers and the programs that we currently have get cut instead of having more join us,” she said.


In the forum, Dr. Cudd mentioned that she has dealt with financial challenges before in her role as a provost, where the lack of funding caused programs to close at the University of Pittsburgh. She plans to attract more out of state students, in addition to creating a more attractive environment through multiple changes for local students in order to deal with declining enrollment.


But Dr. Cudd didn’t stop there—the presidential candidate also viewed Portland as ripe for social and economic change. She hoped that a change in PSU can also bring about a revitalization for the city, one which can further realize Portland’s progressive potential.


Reporter Abby Jobe contributed to this story.