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Portland State University
Shari Garmise, Ph.D.
Vice President,
USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives


Shannon Looney
Project Manager
Adrianne Thomas
Administrative Assistant,
USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives


USU Initiatives

The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) bolsters American cities by concentrating on three areas  improving the health of a diverse population, fostering student achievement, and building strong communities. USU also partners nationally to advance our priority goals.

Improving the Health of a Diverse Population

Chair: Santa Jeremy Ono, President, University of British Columbia

USU reduces disparities in health among urban groups by preparing more culturally diverse and competent health workers.  USU pursuing several initiatives to advance this goal.

Urban Universities for HEALTH: a partnership among USU, APLU, and the Association of American Medical Colleges is a nationwide networks of urban universities dedicated to preparing the next generation of health professionals that improves health and reduces health disparities in urban communities.

National Study on Holistic Admissions:  This report is the first to examine nationwide the impact and use of holistic review – a university admissions process that assesses an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores—for students pursuing careers in the health professions.

Fostering Student Achievement
Chair: Mark Rosenberg, President, Florida International University

USU institutions are working together to identify, assess with appropriate metrics, and disseminate substantive, scalable best practices along the continuum of efforts that support student success and degree completion. USU engages in collective learning to enable urban serving universities to advance efficient, effective, and innovative models to foster student achievement and exceed state and national goals. 

To achieve this objective, USU is doing the following.

Transformational Planning Grant: The Transformational Planning Grant (TPG) project is a one-year initiative that seeks to transform the way higher education is delivered.  In partnership with APLU, Urban Serving Universities (USU) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the TPG project supports a cohort of seven public urban research universities as they spend a year planning and designing new business models and innovative approaches to increase access, improve success rates and find greater cost efficiencies.

Innovation Challenge Pitch:  At the USU 2014 annual meeting, USU designed an innovative session that allowed university representatives to pitch their innovation on ways to strengthen university-employer/labor market relationships to a panel of judges, to win up to $30,000.

Best Practice Database: USU created a searchable portal to share best and promising practices of efficient, effective and innovative models to foster student achievement.

Building Strong Communities
Chair: J. Keith Motley, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Boston

Coalition universities are major contributors to their local economies and have a stake in their success. With their investments, expertise and collaboration with local governments and non-profit organizations, USU campuses are revitalizing urban neighborhoods and researching issues that support city planning and development.  In addition, coalition institutions use innovative research to create new businesses, transfer technology, and develop industry clusters in cutting-edge fields.

Activities USU undertakes are:

Data collection and dissemination including our latest reports, Urban Universities Developing a Health Workforce that Meets Community Needs and The Foundational Role of Universities as Anchor Institutions in Urban Development.

Working Groups:  Currently, USU has several working groups developing initiatives in the area of sustainability, off-campus public safety, and big data in service of the city.

Advancing the work of Urban Universities Nationally

Working with national partners, USU identifies best practices, innovative models that can be developed and implemented nationally.

USU also works with partners to strengthen federal public policy for the benefit of all urban communities and metropolitan regions. USU formulates federal proposals and engages with Congress and the administration on legislation regarding a variety of issues  including K-12 and higher education, national service, economic development, housing and urban development, environment, and health.


Meetings & Events Events

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