Education | News

Kitzhaber Puts Forward Names For University Boards

OPB | Aug. 19, 2013 4:54 p.m. | Updated: Aug. 19, 2013 6:40 p.m. | Portland

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What do a former chief justice of Oregon’s supreme court, an immigrant rights activist, and a network television journalist have in common? Well, Paul De Muniz, Ramon Ramirez and Ann Curry are all nominees to one of four new university governing boards. 

There are 56 nominees in all. Three quarters of them are for new boards to run University of Oregon, Portland State, and Oregon State. If approved by the Oregon Senate, Ann Curry would join the board at U of O. Businesswoman Pat Reser would join Oregon State’s board. And former Supreme Court justice, Paul De Muniz would be on Portland State’s board.

“Paul DeMuniz, for instance, is a PSU alum,” says Wim Weiwel, president of Portland State University. He’s pleased with the governor’s nominees for his institution. And says it doesn’t hurt to have board members Oregonians have heard of.

“Having a number of people that are kind of household names around the state — or around the region — does matter, because people want to feel ‘oh, I know this person’ and hopefully they have a good reputation. So that people will feel that there are people they know who are helping steer this ship.”

The governor’s education policy advisor, Ben Cannon, says the biggest concern was finding a diverse set of nominees with interest and expertise around higher education. But he says the board members will likely be asked to raise money and the public profile of Oregon colleges.

“So while our foremost priority and commitment is to their ability to serve the state of Oregon and Oregon students, we also appreciate the opportunity that we had through these boards to deepen their partnerships with national and international communities,” Cannon says.

The most powerful set of board members nominated Monday, however, isn’t connected to a single university.

Legislators approved creation of a Higher Education Coordinating Commission last session, to tackle functions that used to sit in at least three other boards: the state boards of education and higher education, and the student assistance commission.

Ben Cannon says the new commission will bring different institutions together, and will keep the public universities and their new boards, on the same path — especially when it comes to college affordability.

“In a world where we need increasingly to be looking at transfers between community colleges and four-year universities, online education, and even the role of private education, we have an opportunity to be much more student-centered, and much more collaborative,” Cannon says.

Among the nominees for that board are former chair of the state board of education, Duncan Wyse, and immigrant advocate, Ramon Ramirez.

All the nominees need approval of the Oregon Senate.  

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