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Welcome to the blog

We are a student blog that captures the Portland State student experience. There are nearly 30,000 students at PSU and we want as many of them to find themselves in the voices of our bloggers.

Three Management Tools to Help Students Succeed

Andreea Nica_bio photoMany students get overwhelmed with the amount of readings required in each course. If you’re a graduate student putting together your literature review and/or dissertation proposal, organization is crucial. As a doctoral student, I have mounds of journal articles to sort through each week, and without the help of certain technological tools I would definitely find myself drowning in an abyss of academic articles.

I use several tools that support my process that I think could be useful for students at all levels.

Google Docs: I primarily use Google Drive Docs to jot down notes, research ideas and organize my projects. One idea that I recently started to implement is sharing a Google Excel Doc with my advisor, so that I can easily update him on my research process and findings. Try it!

Mendeley: This nifty tool is a reference manager, and it’s a lifesaver! You can access it from anywhere in the world, and you can also download it onto your desktop. Basically, you upload your PDFs, read and annotate (very useful – think of digital post-its all in one place), create groups and collaborate with others. And, last but not least, you can file your PDF articles in appropriate folders.education and organization

Zotero: Similar to Mendeley, it stores your articles and readings. You can also add images, audio and video files, and snapshots of web pages. A unique differentiation from Mendeley is that Zotero is the only research tool that identifies content in your web browser, allowing you to easily add the content to your library.

If you want to learn more about citation management tools, visit the PSU library for more information.

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Why I Left the Vanguard

By Shezad Khan

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  • I didn’t get paid the first three months I worked for the Vanguard. The director lost my paperwork which included some sensitive information. It was later found after I was asked to fill all the forms out a second time.
  • One of my articles was attributed to someone else. This one really upset me. How can you take the time, work, and effort of a writer and put someone else’s name on it? I only heard from the chief editor once via a short email. Nothing was done to correct the problem. I was told the following issue would offer clarification. It didn’t. It was a stupid error for the Vanguard to make, and the way they handled the problem was nothing but a slap in the face.
  • They cut our pay by 33% (the least of my worries). For months I was making $45 per article if my articles were over a certain word count. After a new managing editor and a new editor for my section arrived, however, our pay was dropped to $30 dollars. Why? Because apparently the last managing editor had been mistaken about our pay. So it didn’t matter how long of an article we wrote, the pay would be the same. Did they bother to tell me that before I wrote articles nearing or reaching a thousand words? Of course not.
  • They changed the title of my article – twice. When this happened with the new editor, I was told that these things happen all the time. This would be the deciding factor in my choice to leave the Vanguard. I wrote an email asking why they would change the title without telling the writer, or why they wouldn’t give the writer the chance to come up with a new title if they didn’t think the original title was sufficient. The answer I received was that it would simply be a waste of time for the Vanguard to consider the writer’s thoughts. It doesn’t matter to me if publications feel they “have the right” to do this, I still think it’s wrong.
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Tuition increases, this is really happening right now…

By: Sharon Nellist

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The PSU Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow, March 12, to vote on the proposed tuition increase for the 2015-16 academic year.

The potential 5% increase will leave resident undergraduate and graduate students paying around $330 more each year. Non-resident students will have to pick up the tab with $500 more each year.*

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Students are affected by tuition increases: fewer enroll, they graduate later based on the course load they can afford, work longer hours at demanding jobs that interfere with academic performance, and drop out because they do not have enough money and cannot get more!

PSU’s Board of Trustees claims that the potential increase is due to flat enrollment, decreased state support, increase in costs, and the previously negotiated salary increases.*

Higher education is an important part of our country’s economic advancement. Free higher education, as in other developed countries, would ultimately save money with a $15-$30 billion investment. The staggering 70% of Americans who start college and do not graduate is evidence to the billions of dollars currently wasted. The more people there are in college, because they can actually afford it, the less unemployed people there would be seeking government assistance. College graduates without debt would stimulate the economy with the money they do have. Also, an educated society reports a higher level of health and happiness. (Bob Samuels Huffington Post)

I kept my tuition loans low by attending a community college before transferring to Portland State; however, with the consistent increases, I am seriously worried that I will be unable to get the funding for graduate school.

Our Student Body President Eric Noll is raising a rallying cry against the increase to put pressure on the board. Students are encouraged to gather in front of the Millar Library from noon to 1 p.m. this Thursday. #NOSTUDENTVOICEPDX

What do you say? Hope to see you there!

*Proposed agenda for the PSU Board of Trustees Meeting March 12, 2015

Photo credit to Shockoe.com

Real Talk About Internships

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Photo credit to Internships.com

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

We’ve heard it before: Internships are a key part of your education. They provide valuable experience, they present networking opportunities, they look good on your resume, they help you transition from academia to the workplace, etc. We get it already. They’re important. What’s lacking in the conversation about internships (at least the ones I’m hearing) is how to really make them work for you. I’ve had three so far, and I’ll be the first to admit I made a few mistakes along the way. Here’s what I learned from them.

Like any relationship, it’s important to know what you want going into one so that both parties are on the same page. I’ve seen internships range from one to six months in length and require anywhere between one and 25-plus hours per week. Before you do anything else, figure out how much time you can realistically devote to interning. I made the mistake of overestimating how much time I had to give, and as a result, I’m writing this blog post at 4am. Sleep is important too, as is scheduling time for things that help you relax and genuinely make you happy.

When you interview, remember that it goes both ways. You should be asking questions and making sure that this internship will be mutually beneficial. Some things to consider: Will this internship provide you with new skills, or do they expect you to already be competent? Do you need to generate work samples for a portfolio, and if so, will this internship help you do that? Are you going to be exposed to networking opportunities? Will you be working on your own or as part of a team? Telecommuting? Not only will you impress your potential employer, but your internship experience will be that much more rewarding because you know what you want out of it.

Finally, no internship discussion is complete without acknowledging the elephant in the room: compensation. The ethics surrounding paid vs. unpaid internships deserve a blog post – or even a book – all their own, but I’ll say this: I’ve had one paid and two unpaid internships, and they ALL were irreplaceable parts of my education. It may seem incredibly unfair to have to pay tuition and fees for seemingly free labor, but you aren’t really working for free. You are gaining otherwise unattainable experience, academic credit, and networking connections. In many cases, you are also helping small businesses stay afloat in a difficult economy. My internship with local independent publisher Hawthorne Books taught me not only about publishing, but how small businesses interact with their communities.

In short, don’t just sign up for an internship to fill a requirement or a line on your resume. Be selective, know what you want and what you have time for, and do your research. Seriously… internships quite literally changed the course of my education. If you’d like to know more, feel free to ask in the comments. I’m out of room here, but I’m always happy to help a fellow student.

If you’re on the hunt, the following resources are super helpful:

  1. PSU’s Career Center
  2. PSU’s Jobs & Internships Database
  3. Career Workshops, Classes, & Events
  4. 10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship
  5. Pinterest’s surprisingly good internship advice
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For the Sake of My Sanity, Please Change the PSU Payment Plan!

By: Chelsea WareChelsea 2

I am an out of state student and PSU has offered me many opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have if I went to school back home. I have fallen in love with Oregon and don’t plan on leaving when I graduate. That being said, being an out of state student has also been expensive. While loans and help from family make my education possible, it’s hard not to cringe every time my quarterly bill is posted.

The PSU payment plan has given me even more reason to cringe. Implemented fall quarter of 2014, the payment plan allows students to pay their tuition in three installments due on the 6th of each month. If a payment is missed, we are charged a $100 late fee. However, all students, not just those on the payment plan, must have a zero balance on their Banweb account on the 6th of each month. If they do not, they are automatically enrolled in the plan and charged the $100 fee. While I paid my tuition in full at the beginning of the term, I was charged the late fee because I didn’t know that I had a small bill from the student health clinic that had been posted the day before.

College is a privilege, and many students struggle to afford an education so that they can better their future. There are many international, out of state, low income and minority students who have unique funding structures that don’t mesh with PSU’s new plan. Some students I know didn’t get their financial aid before the 6th of the month, which happened to be only a few days into the term this winter. As a result they now have late fees to add to their already growing student debt.

PSU used to structure their payment system like many universities in Oregon do today. A 1-2% interest is added to outstanding payments each billing cycle. Therefore, the late fee is a reasonable amount compared to the student’s outstanding balance. I personally would like to see PSU go back to this system, what do you guys think?

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It’s that feeling…

By: Jasmin Landa

It’s that feeling when you put all your effort into a goal and the result comes back as both a surprise and a disappointment. It’s a feeling that brings you down and saddens you with all its might. It tells you your efforts weren’t good enough and makes it hard to keep moving forward with your head held high and a smile on your face.

I have felt disappointment numerous times, and it feels like there is a barrier that I can’t quite figure out how to break through. I have pushed, pulled and plotted ways to demolish this impediment, but solutions have remained a mystery.

I am definitely not perfect, but I have grown and have not forgotten the people and experiences that have formed my identity. I learn from my leaps in life and I cherish my triumphs. Yet, even with a real identity and the knowledge and wisdom I practice, I endure a lot of disappointment. It’s like a roller coaster: I get thrills, but sometimes it seems I am perpetually falling, and it constantly tests my faith.

When I get that feeling I try to see my life’s journey elevating to another triumph. I begin to realize how much faith can carry me up to my next point in life. Faith is a powerful weapon that gives strength to my internal and external being to keep proceeding forward. Without it, I would be a destitute soul who has given up and settled for what is.

So yes, disappointment is a part of my daily life, but only a small percentage of what influences me. My life is not a sweet symphony of perfection, but one in which I’ve learned, tripped and excelled. Disappointment is vital to my identity because without it, there is no need to find a way to succeed at another level or desire. I want to be the change I want to see in the world, and one day the world will change with me. For now, I will take every outcome or state of mind I’m in as an opportunity to be grateful that I can take this day and turn it into an opportunity.

Lauren Singer can fit two year's worth of trash into a single mason jar. Photo credit to Trash is for Tossers.

Let’s Talk Trash

By Brooke Horn

Brooke Horn

Lauren Singer’s green philosophy is pretty simple: produce as little waste as possible by making smart, sustainable lifestyle choices. As a whole, our society subscribes to the disposable model. We have disposable plastic ware, drink cups, water bottles, napkins, food wrappers, product packaging… the list is seemingly endless. Generating no trash might seem like an impossibility but, as Lauren shows us, we can get pretty darn close.

I discovered Lauren through this EcoWatch article last week and became really intrigued by the concept of zero-waste living. Amazingly, almost all of the trash she’s collected over two years fits in a single mason jar. Her blog, Trash is for Tossers, provides tons of useful information on how she pulls her zero-waste lifestyle off. After doing a lot of research and taking a good, hard look at my own habits, I’ve decided to follow Lauren’s lead and implement some changes in my own lifestyle.

While I don’t think that I’m ready to transition to zero-waste, I DO want to transition to zero-plastic (or as close as I can get). Plastics have been shown to leach toxins into food, and while they can be reused, they don’t decompose like other materials. Does this mean immediately disposing of all plastics in my household? No, and it shouldn’t. Throwing away these items would only ADD to the problem.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf... I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf… I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

Instead, I plan on gradually replacing my plastic items with glass, wood, or stainless steel equivalents (which you can find here, or even at your local thrift shop). The plastic items can either be donated or recycled as I exchange them. And while I’m generally pretty good about bringing a reusable water bottle and canvas shopping bags with me wherever I go, I’d like to go one step further. By using linen bags like these when I purchase produce and bulk items, I eliminate most plastics from my shopping routine. BAM. No more plastic bags, no more plastic Tupperware. One step closer to zero-plastic and zero-waste.

For tips on how you can live a more sustainable lifestyle on campus, check out PSU’s own Green Campus Living. The blogs Project Green Dorm, Zero Waste Home, and, of course, Trash is for Tossers are also really great resources. Wish me luck on my journey to zero-plastic! Feel free to share your own tips, recipes, resources, and ideas in the comments below.