BY BRANDON SAWYER
A conversation with Eastern Oregon University's Robert Davies and Jeremy Brown, the new president of Portland Community College.
Dr. Davies became president of EOU in 2009.
OB: Do you favor Eastern Oregon University having its own governing board?
President Davies: What we will be doing for the next six months is analyzing and going through a process of discussion and thoughtfulness of what would the best governing structure be for Eastern. It may end up being its own institutional board. It may be a consortium board. It may be a form of governance that we haven’t thought of yet.
OB: What are your thoughts on recently passed state legislation to provide free tuition to in-state students who agree to pay 3% of their post-graduation earnings for about 25 years?
President Davies: I would not use the words ‘free tuition’ because it’s not free. And I know it’s called the ‘Pay It Forward’ bill, but it’s actually kind of paying it backward, but that’s neither here nor there. I think the challenge with the Pay It Forward bill is it negates the public benefits. It negates the fact that a college-educated workforce is more productive and adds to societies in which we live. And so the concern I have with the model is: Does it even move us further away from the public benefit, and therefore also the public investment that needs to be made into public higher education?
Dr. Brown (left) replaced retiring PCC president Preston Pulliams (right) in July.
OB: As part of the 40-40-20 plan, how can community colleges get 40% of adult Oregonians to achieve an associate’s degree or postsecondary credential by 2025?
President Brown: We want to make sure that we have the adequate resources to make that happen. We’re delighted that the state increased our funding this year over what we had expected in the spring, but it’s still below where we were a few years ago when we had roughly 30%-40% fewer students. The thing is to let people know the opportunities that exist at PCC to achieve an associate’s degree or even to get a GED in some areas. So one of the things we want to do is to encourage people to come back, to let people know the importance of completing an education that will enable them to be more employable. And a lot of times the issue is dependent upon giving people a level of confidence and support.
OB: What do you think of Rudy Crew’s abrupt departure? Is the Oregon Education Investment Board’s objective of a seamless pre-K to college system in peril?
President Brown: I don’t think so. In essence it’s kind of a net zero, because I came from New York and he went to New York from Oregon. And I think, overall, it’s not about one person. It’s about a plan, an ideal.
OB: How will your training in experimental nuclear physics help you in your new job?
President Brown: One of the things that I do find very useful is that I understand the role of the faculty member, having been in the classroom for many years and taught at different places. So I can relate to faculty members, and I really do respect the great work that they do. Sometimes we lose track of that because we kind of see ourselves as administrators, so I really appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with faculty about teaching and advances in technology and how that affects the teaching process. On the nuclear physics side, I’m very comfortable with numbers, both very small and very, very large, so numbers don’t phase me too much. And of course I’ve done a lot of things in administration, even when I was a physicist, on terms of the human side of things, the nonquantifiable things.