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


Shannon Looney
Deputy Director

Lynn Brabender
Program Manager, Urban Initiatives

Andréa Rodriguez
Assistant Director, USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives

Christel Perkins, Ed.D.
Assistant Director, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities

Adrianne Thomas
Staff Associate,
USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives


Jennifer Danek, M.D.
Senior Director
USU Health Initiatives

Coalition of Urban Serving Universities

The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) is a president‐led network of 37 public urban research universities working to drive transformational change throughout their institutions and the communities they serve. USU’s work centers on two reinforcing pillars: initiatives working to advance student success through innovation and initiatives aiming to achieve community transformation through partnerships. By collaborating across universities with shared challenges and functions, USU institutions can pilot, refine, and share the most effective practices to accelerate innovation across higher education.

Advancing Student Success through Innovation
USU's work starts with student success. USU supports a set of institutions that plan and implement groundbreaking reforms to facilitate student success, boost degree completion, and revitalize their communities in the process. Student success reforms are particularly focused on recruiting, admitting, retaining, educating, and graduating high‐need, traditionally at‐risk students while reducing costs, reexamining campus business models, and fostering mutually beneficial campus‐community engagements.

Community Transformation through Partnerships
USU also helps institutions transform their communities through partnerships. Guided by the belief that public urban universities are anchors in their regions, USU undertakes a variety of efforts to build a skilled workforce, drive robust economic growth, address inequities, and enhance community sustainability. To achieve these aims, USU institutions partner with key stakeholders in their communities such as K‐12 systems, local businesses, health systems, workforce organizations, community organizations and philanthropic foundations.

USU's members partner with cities and metropolitan regions to prompt transformative investment in four priority areas: 

  • Building Smart Resilient Cities,  
  • Improving the Health of a Diverse Population,
  • Fostering Student Achievement,
  • 21st Century Workforce Development.

The Coalition's work revolves around three, key programmatic initiatives and its federal advocacy. 

USU is a 501 (c) 6 membership organization, which has established a permanent partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to share a joint USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives. 

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