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History of PIA


PIA celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017! As part of that celebration, we invite you to look back at the history of PIA.

Reflections from the President

Rahi Ghazimorad has a unique position in the history of PIA as the only person who has been with the school since its founding. Here, he shares a few thoughts about the past twenty years and the future.

Q: Where did students come from the first term?
A: Taiwan at the beginning of the term, but by the end of that term we had some Thai, Japanese, and Turkish students, and one Azeri student.
Q: Tell us about the first few years.
A: Our survival was by no means guaranteed. Enrollment was tough and the university’s relationship towards us was a very cautious one. We had to operate very frugally and needed to continue to provide excellent service in order to distinguish ourselves from the other schools in the area. By the end of that first year, we had an enrollment of nearly 30 students.
Q: 9/11 had an impact on international education – how did it affect PIA?
A: The impact was not immediate, but it was severe. That fall term, most of the students had already received their visas, and some had already arrived. The downturn started the following winter term and lasted nearly two years. The passage of the PATRIOT Act and the mandate to implement student tracking through IIRIRA and eventually SEVP caused a great deal of stress among international educators, fearing bottlenecks in students’ ability to gain visas and travel to the US.
Q: What was the impact of the Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission scholarship on PIA?
A: The impact was substantial. The increased enrollment allowed PIA to hire additional staff and faculty. The influx of lower level students also led to the development of the English Basics level course curriculum.
Q: What are you most proud of about the past 20 years at PIA?
A: My fondest memories of the past twenty years is when students meet here and decide to start a family together. To date, I am tracking nearly 20 PIA babies from moms and dads who met at PIA and have started families.
Q: What are some ways PIA has changed over the years?
A: PIA’s heart and soul have remained steady – provide a caring school environment balanced with excellent academic offerings. The school has had to continue to innovate in order to remain competitive. The introduction of Service Learning was a good example of innovation leading to growth.
Q: Where do you see PIA in 20 more years?
A: I hope to see the school expanded onto other campuses and offering its blend of strong academic and student support services.

History of PIA


Important Events


Pacific International Academy at Marylhurst College is founded
Classes begin in Fall 1997
Rahi Ghazimorad joins PIA


Marylhurst College becomes Marylhurst University
Some students are able to live in dorms on campus
First short-term course


 PIA begins offering a GED course


PIA begins offering Language Foundations classes for students transferring to Marylhurst University
Barney Lindsley joins PIA
Began hosting students from Germany in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program


9/11 causes sharp reductions in international travel and study
PIA staff present for the first time at the NAFSA Conference in Philadelphia
PIA establishes a conversation partner program to connect students with community members for discussion practice
PIA joins NORIE – Northern Oregon International Educators


PIA adds Level 5 for advanced students


PIA is accredited by ACCET for the first time



The King Abdullah Scholarship Program greatly increases the number of Saudi Arabian students in the US
PIA joins AAIEP – American Association and Intensive English Programs


 High school program from Ibaraki prefecture begins annual fall trips
Sarah Shoemaker joins PIA


 PIA celebrates its tenth anniversary


The Great Recession begins to have a negative impact on students’ ability to study abroad
Erik Thorin joins PIA


 Nichidai High School begins annual spring course with PIA


PIA begins offering volunteering and service learning courses
Brandon Kurtz joins PIA



Abigail Pecore joins PIA
Haley Murphy joins PIA
PIA begins producing a weekly bulletin with reminders, news, and events for students
PIA establishes the ESL Tutoring Center to provide students with free tutoring appointments


PIA introduces English Basics for low-beginning students, bringing the total number of levels to six
AR Sutton joins PIA
Diane Murphy joins PIA


PIA offers Experience America for the first time
Steve Roberts joins PIA


Erica Fulton joins PIA
Azumi Stapp joins PIA
PIA earns a rare five-year accreditation from ACCET
Kelley Ofoni joins PIA
PIA establishes the weekly conversation forum to give students an opportunity to practice English outside of class


PIA signs agreements with several area universities to provide pathways for PIA graduates to attend college in the US
Michael Bess joins PIA
PIA begins producing a monthly newsletter with in-depth articles and information about current events for students and partners


Kelly Bryan joins PIA
Bridget Wells joins PIA
Satoko Kawai joins PIA
Becky Fox joins PIA
PIA celebrates its twentieth anniversary