Warm-hued walls with a hint of orange are illuminated by soft lights and hung with watercolors of Oregon State University’s most prominent buildings. Frosted images of the OSU Beaver adorn the glass walls of meeting rooms, and the familiar orange OS logo is everywhere.
Stepping onto the fifth floor of the Bank of California Building makes a visitor feel that they’ve been teleported directly from the streets of downtown Portland to the campus of Oregon State University, and that’s exactly what Carol Van Natta, OSU Foundation Vice President of the Portland Center, hopes to achieve.
The OSU Portland Center is a bridge between the Corvallis campus and the many alumni, donors, faculty and staff who live in the Portland Metropolitan region. OSU Foundation is the primary tenant, and shares the space with the Alumni Association, E campus, Beaver Sports Properties and the Open Source Lab. In addition to providing offices for 25 Portland-based staff members, the center also serves as a “home away from home” for OSU Corvallis staff and faculty, offering conference rooms, office space, and even cubicles for staff who are visiting Portland and need a temporary work spot or gathering place. There are also two kitchens and state of the art teleconferencing capabilities.
The space has great views of historic downtown Portland buildings, and is located in the heart of the city, close to restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues. The center has hosted gatherings of up to 100 people in its elegant fifth floor setting, including a Benny Beaver holiday event at which the children of alumni decided that Benny was even cooler than Santa Claus.
But from the outside, no one would realize that the OSU Portland Center even exists. Van Natta is waiting on street-level signage that will help draw visitors up to the fifth floor, but right now, they’re depending on word of mouth to draw those connected to OSU to their door.
“We’re working on a campaign to help people realize that we do have a presence in Portland,” Van Natta said.
And there are a lot of Portland-OSU connections. There are approximately 40,000 OSU alumni living in the Portland area, which is about 26 percent of the living alumni in the country.
“This is clearly the largest concentration,” of alumni in one location, with Seattle and San Francisco the next two urban areas with large concentrations of OSU graduates. With so many OSU connections in Portland, it’s important to have a presence in the city, both for the purposes of money raising and keeping alumni connected to their alma mater. OSU already has niche programs in the Metro area, including the Institute for Natural Resources, the Center for Food Innovation, and OSU Extensions.
Portlanders already make up 35 percent of donors to the OSU Foundation’s current capital campaign. And with most major industries and a majority of alumni located in the state’s only major metropolitan area, “We neglect Portland at our peril,” Van Natta said.
Cathy Marshall, director for regional programs with the OSU Alumni Association, couldn’t agree more.
“It’s a really valuable city in terms of reaching alumni,” she said. And while academic programming is not a focus of the Portland Center, creating events where alumni can connect with OSU faculty and students is a major emphasis.
“Alums benefit from being exposed to students (of) today,” Marshall said. She focuses on creating programs that are both affordable, and offer alumni something they might likely do anyway, but with an OSU twist. For instance, they’ve created an OMSI after-hours event for alumni and their guests that allows them to view the current exhibit and listen to a special talk related to the exhibit by OSU history professor Lisa Sarasohn.
Other events include making special seating available at PGE Park for Beaver baseball games, and the Alumni Association’s premiere event, the annual Orange and Black Evening at the Governor Hotel, which raises money for scholarships. Last year the Alumni Association offered $219,000 in scholarships to OSU students.
Smaller events, such as the Benny Beaver holiday visit, are equally successful.
“Benny will hopefully be spending more time here,” Marshall said.
And, hopefully more OSU staff and faculty will be spending time at the Portland Center as well. Use of conference and office space is free from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, but after hours use of facilities is possible for a small fee.
“There are lots of OSU people in Portland all the time,” Van Natta said. “This is their OSU home away from home. We’re here to serve them.”
To find out more about the OSU Portland Center, see http://osufoundation.org/portland. The Center is located at 707 S.W. Washington St., Ste. 500, in Portland.
To find out more about Alumni Association events going on in Portland, see http:// www.osualum.com