Ivy in the city
Wim Wiewel is facing the same issues that most university presidents are facing today: increasing student enrollment at a time when in-kind giving is down and states are dealing with budget shortfalls; keeping up with master plans that include major renovations and construction projects; staying on top of faculty research as well as students’ needs—and that’s just skimming the surface.
Wiewel is also trying to make Portland State University’s (PSU) a national leader in sustainable higher education. Recipient of a $25 million grant from The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation for sustainability education, PSU is gaining even more traction in the sustainability arena. But the current recession could force Wiewel and other university leaders to take fewer risks on things such as new courses and degrees in 2009.
A native of The Netherlands, Wiewel is known for his charismatic leadership and his ability to ignite success in those around him. While the dean of the business school at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Wiewel took the business college from 94th to 49th on the U.S. News & World Report’s national business school rankings. Sustainable Industries caught up with Wiewel on the downtown campus of the state’s largest university to talk about Portland State’s role in helping Oregon become a world leader in sustainability and how his approach to leadership has changed during the current recession.
SI: You’ve said that part of your attraction to Portland and Portland State was the opportunity to apply research to tangible projects in the city. Now that you’ve been at PSU for a year, where do you see the biggest opportunities?
WW: One of the things I had not spent much time thinking about until I came here is the sustainable practices of the institution itself. We are a large corporation, so how we conduct our business obviously matters. Here 62 percent of the faculty, staff and students use transportation other than the automobile to get here. We make the place attractive to bicyclists. We are a co-investor on many projects with Tri-Met. On the facilities side, we go beyond state requirement for green building.
Our Green Building Research Lab, where we develop and test new green building technologies provides workforce training and facilitates the adoption of energy-efficient technologies throughout the building industry.
We are working with Glumac, Interface Engineering, PAE Consultants, Gerding Edlen, David Evans and Associates and we will be involving others.