$1 million gift to the PSU Graduate School of Education establishes the Vernier STEM Classroom


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June 11, 2018 – Education advocates and philanthropists Christine and David Vernier have donated $1 million to Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education to create a fully equipped STEM training classroom for PSU’s new 4th and Montgomery building, expected to open in 2020.

“We are grateful for this generous gift in support of STEM education,” said PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi. “This philanthropic investment will create new opportunities for students to learn by doing, preparing them to lead as educators in our region.”


Sybil Kelley and Jean Aguilar-Valdez help make STEM classroom a reality

Sybil KelleyJean Aguilar-Valdez

Two GSE faculty members were recognized by the PSU Foundation for their leadership in acquiring $1.25 million in funding toward the GSE’s new home that opens in fall 2020. Assistant Professor Jean Aguilar-Valdez and Associate Professor Sybil Kelley are leaders in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) instruction. The PSU Foundation presented them with the Philanthropic Leadership Award at this year’s Commencement Ceremony. Aguilar-Valdez and Kelley have played significant roles in developing programming that led to the philanthropic gift to build the Vernier STEM Classroom in the new 4 th and Montgomery building.

Aguilar-Valdez teaches science methods and social justice courses for the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This includes working with teachers in the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program and with students to develop community activist approaches to education.

Kelley leads the Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program in the Educational Leadership and Policy Department. In addition, she teaches the elementary science methods course for GTEP in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and is also the faculty coordinator for the Learning Gardens Laboratory in Southeast Portland that provides garden- based education for public school students, university students, and community members.

Dean’s reception honors GSE supporters and scholarship recipients

The annual Dean’s Reception was held last month to honor GSE supporters and the students who received scholarships for GSE programs. Three GSE students were asked to speak, along with special guest Matt Morton, Equitable Education Portfolio Director, Meyer Memorial Trust.

This year’s student speakers included:

  • Marcos Rodriguez Romerez—Friends of the Graduate School of Education Scholarship. Romerez Rodriguez is working on a master’s in education in the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program.
  • Lucy BertoloPivotal Scholars Fund for Math/Science Teacher Education and Renaissance Foundation Graduate School of Education Scholarship. Bertolo is studying for a master’s in secondary education in the Graduate Teacher Education Program.
  • Yennifer Chavez—Jorgensen Family Endowed Scholarship. Chavez is a master’s student in elementary education in the Graduate Teacher Education Program.

GSE scholarship recipients spoke about how much the scholarships have helped them with their goals and how important it is to continue to support GSE scholarships today. GSE students received more than 60 scholarships for the 2017–18 school year. As tuition and other costs continue to escalate, the GSE scholarship program becomes even more critical. Thanks to our supporters, though, the number and amount of scholarships awarded to students has steadily increased each year.

GSE Dean’s Fund for Excellence: FY16 Impact Report

Your support of the Graduate School of Education (GSE) Dean’s Fund pays big dividends.

Because of generous community members like you, the GSE is able to launch timely initiatives, increase student support, and strengthen community engagement.

In fiscal year 2016, Dean Hitz invested $15,000 from the GSE Dean’s Fund for Excellence to the School’s Fostering Mutually Beneficial Partnership grant program. Local school districts are important partners for the GSE, and these competitive grants to faculty are supporting projects that allow them to work closely with professional educators in partner schools, benefitting the GSE, our students, and local schools. Past district partnership projects have accomplished important goals such as implementing EdTPA (a performance-based, subject-specific assessment and support system used by more than 600 teacher preparation programs across the U.S.), and establishing co-teaching arrangements and clustering of teacher candidates to create professional learning teams.


“This Dean’s Fund grant will allow us to bring together teacher candidates, cooperating teachers, and professional arts educators together in a conversation about the role of arts integration in the elementary classroom.”
– Jan Abramovitz, GSE Assistant Professor and grant recipient


dfir-chart-102616Gifts to the unrestricted Dean’s Fund allow the GSE to invest in opportune and beneficial projects, which improve the School, our community, and the education profession. Your contributions to the GSE Dean’s Fund are making a significant social impact, and are greatly appreciated!

For more information about how you can support the GSE, please contact:
Jaymee Jacoby, Director of Development
jacobyj@psuf.org or 503.725.4789

GSE alumna Marilyn DeVault donates winnings to GSE scholarship

Marilyn DeVault displays one of her cakes, with professor emeritus Steve Brannan

Marilyn DeVault displays one of her cakes, with professor emeritus Steve Brannan

Alumna Marilyn DeVault, MS ’71, has parlayed what she learned in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) Special Education program at PSU into a career, “creating desserts that are amazing and that all can enjoy.” This includes her patrons with special dietary needs. And, thanks to her skills and talent, she is able to donate $10,000 toward a scholarship to support students in the Special Education program.

DeVault studied special education under Professor Steve Brannan, one of the founders of the Special Education Department, and received her master’s in 1971. After graduating, she taught students with disabilities for several years. In 1978, she made a career change, opening the Piece of Cake Bakery in Sellwood. Here, she combined her love of baking with her interest in supporting people with special needs. Abundant research exists on the impact of nutrition and learning. Devault’s teaching experience inspired her to address dietary issues, developing formulas that are gluten-free, organic, and vegan. Her bakery offers a wide variety of items that meet the needs of people who are pursuing gluten-free or other food sensitivity–related diets. Continue reading

Bill and Ricky Korach establish endowed GSE scholarship

Bill and Ricky Korach, two well-known Lake Oswego educators and PSU Graduate School of Education (GSE) alumni, have established a new scholarship for aspiring teachers. The Bill and Ricky Korach Graduate Teacher Education Endowed Scholarship will continue their lifelong legacy and dedication to the profession. The scholarship will support GSE students preparing for careers as K–12 classroom teachers. Academic merit and financial need are both considerations. The scholarship will be awarded for the first time in 2016.

The establishment of this endowed scholarship is no surprise to anyone familiar with the Koraches and their enduring passion for learning. “Education is about hope, promise, and possibility,” they stated. “We feel fortunate to be able to provide an additional opportunity for PSU students now and beyond our lifetimes.” Continue reading