Storytelling is an art that has been around for thousands of years. Cultures around the world have used storytelling as a means of entertainment, preservation and transmission of knowledge from one generation to the other. However today, in most Western cultures, this beautiful form of art has almost been lost. With the exception of many of the Native American tribes, the only stories that are now shared unfortunately are those that are read to children. Even then, not many remember those stories anymore, because we “have them” in our books that most often never leave our bookshelves after they are read once or twice. Read more
Posts by Flamur Vehapi
Often students wonder, “Am I ever going to use all this knowledge when I am done with school, and if so, how?!” Well sometimes the doors of opportunity open only because you have specific knowledge, and it becomes your education that gets you the job you never thought you would get. I simply speak from experience.
After finishing my master’s courses at PSU, I went on a search for jobs. I really did not know what I was looking for. Portland, I thought, would be a good place for new opportunities, but five months later, nothing came up. I finally realized I had to look beyond my comfort zone and be open to other possibilities. Read more
People often make mention of nationalism, but not many actually take the time to study it thoroughly. But of course, why would they? The topic itself is very uncomfortable for many, and in the beginning it is like studying the official diagnostic manual for mental disorders — while reading it, you begin to “diagnose” yourself and start panicking.
Last year, I took Dr. Anastasiou’s class, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, offered in the Conflict Resolution program at PSU, and it was an absolutely eye-opening experience for me. Because of my experiences with it, I began the class believing that I knew a great deal about nationalism, and finished the class realizing that I had known nothing about it; I mean nothing at all.
Among the many things I learned about nationalism, was the way nationalism disguises itself. This fascinated me the most. Unlike the popular belief today that religion is the main cause of conflict, looking at cases of conflict around the world, one cannot help but notice that it is actually nationalism that is responsible for most of the bloodshed in the world. To make matters worse, and cause a great deal of confusion among people, the nationalists have often hidden their agendas under the cloak of religion, and rallied people behind their agendas under the motto “God wills it!” This should make one wonder, because these guys speak as if they are in direct contact with the divine; history, however, tells us that they are delusional.
Would you like to learn more about nationalism but are not sure where to start? I started with Dr. Anastasou’s article “Encountering Nationalism: The Contribution of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.“
Ever since I got accepted to do my MA at PSU, I have been hoping to get into a PhD program at PSU as well. I know many prefer to move to a different school once done with one degree, and that can be a good idea for the sake of getting a broader experience. But PSU and Portland already offer a fairly broad and diverse experience, in my opinion, and I speak from personal experience. Plus, this school is one full of new doors to great opportunities.
As far as I am concerned, at PSU I found the program I always wanted to study: Conflict Resolution. During my first year of study, I received a scholarship from PSU, and the following year, I received the assistantship of my dreams as a University Studies mentor. And not only did I have a great time with my mentees, I also received tuition assistance and got a great teaching experience out of it—an experience that I proudly present in my resume and applications.
For those who did not know, Portland State University currently offers 18 doctoral programs, more than 70 master’s programs, and over 35 graduate certificate programs. If you are not sure what is offered or where to start, check out the Graduate Degree Programs page, and you might find exactly what you were hoping for: http://www.pdx.edu/ogs/degrees
The thing about college is, it’s not all about college. There is just so much more going on, especially if you are in a place like Portland State. You can explore college life and go to a wide range of events put together by students, if you are not too busy with school, of course. But more importantly you get to meet people that you never thought you would, people from all corners of the world, and that, I think, is what makes college an enriched experience.
For most of my life, I have been more of an introvert. Nothing wrong with introverts, of course, but I have had a hard time connecting with people until I started going to college. After taking some classes, I somehow grew out of that introversion; I just had to, without even noticing it. Slowly I began making more connections and making new friends, and I do not mean just Facebook friends. Life in college opened up new doors for me, doors that I had never really knocked on or meant to open.
I had lots of connections before coming to PSU, but once I started attending PSU, my connections became more global, and that, I think, is very important in this day and age, especially for some of us who do not get to travel the world as much as we want. Today, we might make a connection and a friend, but tomorrow that connection could lead to a new career—you never know—it could be a career and a future that you only dreamt of! So make connections while you are at PSU.
Last year, I did my practicum at PSU’s Middle East Student Advisor’s Office of International Affairs. Initially, I had no idea where and what I was going to do for my practicum. I had been looking around for weeks, but it never occurred to me that I could do my practicum on campus until I crossed paths with a friend who suggested that I check out the Middle East Student Advisor’s office!
The office is located on the ground floor of East Hall, on the corner of Broadway and Hall Street. Among other things, this student center provides one-on-one advising to hundreds of Middle Eastern students every week, organizes bilingual orientations for incoming students, plans cultural events, helps students with documentation and translation, and most importantly, although not spacious itself, provides the needed space for many Middle Eastern students to feel at home. The work that is done in the office is hardly noticed, mainly because the PSU community is not familiar with this center. And this is why, you should check them out!
My appreciation for the office is that, while promoting diversity, it fosters education, integration and open dialogue with local and international students at PSU about Middle Eastern culture by building bridges of understanding and mutual respect. As I have experienced during my time there, the office does more than it can handle, and I sincerely hope that very soon the office will expand and also receive the support it needs from the PSU community, considering how much PSU itself benefits from having this office and hundreds of Middle Eastern students of all backgrounds on campus.
Are you taking college classes, but you are not sure what field you would like to major in? Or maybe you are thinking about graduate school in the Portland area? Here is a suggestion from someone who went through graduate school at PSU: try PSU’s Conflict Resolution program.
The Conflict Resolution program at PSU was founded in 1993, and currently has 90 students working towards their degrees. The program offers a variety of courses by professors of very diverse backgrounds, who are well educated in their fields, and most importantly, very helpful to work with. This program is broadly interdisciplinary, and currently offers the following areas of concentration: Peace and Justice; Theory and Practice; and International and Intercultural Conflict Resolution.
I have been in the program for the last two years — currently working on my thesis — and I have absolutely come to love it. Considering that I was raised in a region of constant conflict, I have always been interested in studying the causes and possible means of preventing conflict, but never knew how or where I was going to study that. Luckily, through a friend, I found at PSU exactly what I had been looking for.
Usually when anyone asks about my major, I tell them, “even if you do not want to major in Conflict Resolution, I strongly encourage you to take at least a class or two because that might turn out to be a turning point in your life, as it has been for me.” If you wish to look further into the program, or would like to apply, this is the department page http://www.conflictresolution.pdx.edu/ and the application deadline for the following fall term is February 15th.
In my latest blog, I wrote of the high cost of textbooks and the problem of updated editions coming out almost every year, and why both of these are challenging problems for students. In this one, I decided to write about alternative ways of finding those books, mainly through various online sites and sellers like Amazon.com.
First of all, to make this matter clear, I do not work for Amazon or any other bookseller, so my intention here is not to advertise their business but to share some shopping alternatives with students like myself. Having said that, neither is it my intention to put our college bookstores out of business, but they too, I think, need to get real, especially with regards to their high prices; lowering some of their prices would help students and their business as well.
Online shopping, on this note, has been my way of making it through college. Websites like Amazon (or Bigwords.com which compares all the prices) offer way more affordable alternatives for students, even if that means waiting a few days for shipping. And when the term is over, students can easily sell that same book on Amazon for half the price or sometimes the same price as they originally paid for it. When it comes to Amazon, students with an edu email address can sign up for an Amazon Student membership which gives them benefits like six months of free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. Often, students can qualify for online discounts as well.
Where do you get your books from?
The rising cost of textbooks is a challenging problem for students in all levels of education and especially for those who do not qualify for Financial Aid. I remember going to the bookstore after I first started college and finding that the books for most of my classes were unbelievably expensive. What I often did was walk away and check with my professors to see if they had an extra copy, or an older version of the book for me to use; most of them were very understanding.
Book borrowing works, but not always, especially when there is a new book or an updated/modified edition being used for the class. As for updated editions, I believe this issue can be solved too, or made easier for students; with the permission of the authors the department can put excerpts of a chapter on software like Blackbord or D2L instead of asking students to purchase the whole book for a few chapter changes that will be used during the term. Besides money, we could save a lot of trees by not having to buy four to five pounds of paper in a book form.
One can give a hundred reasons for sticking to the status quo with its updated/modified editions, but let’s admit it, textbook publishing has become big business, and that is why we have updated editions every year; it is how publishers make money! Additionally, if we dissect the matter further, paying $150 to $200 per book to me is overstepping the boundaries of reason. As if students are not paying too much already for their tuition, on top of that we have to spend at least $350 more on books per term.
I think students should be able to somehow negotiate with publishers on book prices, don’t you think?
Depending on the program and the focus of your studies, many graduate students here at PSU or elsewhere are required to write a thesis or do a project. That is the case with my program, Conflict Resolution, and I chose to write a thesis.
I don’t know about you, but I detest exams but love writing, especially if it is a topic I enjoy researching. Fortunately, for the last two years in my program here at PSU, I did not have to take a single test; all I did was write papers. As a result, I came to love the program even more. The research, however, is a small percentage of thesis writing. I did not know any of this until I got into it. There are many requirements to be completed before one can get started on the research and that has been my biggest struggle.
Instead of focusing on my writing, first I had to submit a thesis proposal to the department; wait for their OK, and then write a ‘sample thesis’ and fill out an application to be turned in to the research review board known as the Human Subject Research Committee. Then there is more waiting, and at the end they may not even approve your research proposal. That will mean one has to modify the proposal and try again until the thesis receives the ‘blessing’ of the board. By this time, months have passed!
My advice to students who plan to do a thesis is to know exactly what they are getting into; prepare the documentation ahead of time, and be prepared to wait a long time, and finally, be patient and persistent with your work.