Portland State University has many different programs that help prospective students decide if PSU is right for them and one of these programs is the Students Ambassadors. This group of students is often the first connection that future students have to the university. They are hired to represent the student and campus experience. Ambassadors come from all walks of life and represent every college on campus.
I am not an ambassador but my friend, Sophia Hogan, has been involved with this program for the past year and is preparing to continue her involvement the next term.
The different activities that she has done this past year include giving tours, currently virtual, to prospective students. As they would do in real life, she shows all of the different buildings on campus and shares the history behind them all.
She has also been a part of different student panels. These panels are moderated by PSU counselors who describe the admission process and what the school is like. The counselors then ask the ambassadors about their experiences at their specific school.
This spring, she participated in Admitted Students Day where they help admitted students decide if PSU is right for them. This is when students can talk to ambassadors in their same pathway to get an idea of what the culture is like. The ambassadors also have questions for themselves to answer if the prospective students are nervous to ask.
PSU is currently in a transition toward being back on campus where the ambassadors are holding “live from PSU” tours, where Sophia and other ambassadors will livestream a tour of campus.
Giving these tours has actually helped Sophia still feel connected to her acting side which she hasn’t been able to do since she was in high school. These tours allow her to memorize lines and “give a show” of the campus which gives her a little break from her academics.
Sophia has had a fun experience while at PSU and she has been wanting to share her experience with others. She also comes from an immigrant household so she is able to help prospective students who come from the same background feel welcomed.
If you are a prospective student and would like to get to know more about campus, college life, and academics, you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with a student ambassador who will tell you everything you need to know about PSU!
If you are currently a PSU student and are interested in becoming an ambassador, applications open every Winter term. Information about this process can be found here!
Now that I’ve graduated from Portland State University and I’m moving on to the next big thing, I’ve made it a goal of mine to finish up as much personal art as I possibly can for my ever-changing and evolving portfolio. Since graduating high school, I’ve challenged myself to finish at least two sketchbooks a year, if not more. This goal has largely taken a backseat since my progression into digital art, and I don’t often feel the incentive to doodle on paper, but I’m going to make a serious effort to pick it back up and keep at it. I honestly can’t think of anything more satisfying than flipping through a sketchbook that’s been finished cover to cover and I want to see how much I’ve improved since completing my last one a little over a year ago.
So, my new goal is to to complete a halfway decent and a mostly finished portfolio by the end of summer, if possible. There’s a long way to go but I know that I can see it through if I push myself hard enough. In my previous post, I mentioned not being entirely sure of what to do with my psychology degree. That’s still pretty true. So, at least for the time being, I’m waiting on it before potentially pursuing anything with it to make sure, to make sure I don’t make any impulsive decisions. If possible, I want a career that’ll allow me to combine my degree with my passion for art— and make something out of that, which is what I’m aiming for! I’ve always done things with a bit of unconventionality, so why not? I don’t see why that wouldn’t be an option for me.
There’s a world of possibility out there, from art therapy to other professions that will let me use my art skills in ways that relate back to my degree. Besides, who knows what else may happen along the way? New opportunities show up left and right all the time., There is always something waiting for me, it’s just up to me to go out and find it.
In July 2019, I got my lower lip pierced in some 2005-throwback-glory. I got snakebites and I love them SO much. These little pieces of metal have quadrupled my confidence and I don’t regret them.
I have had the itch to get another piercing every day since then. Little things have gotten in the way: unexpected bills popping up, opportunities for tattoos instead, etc. When I received my stimulus check, I was determined to put it in savings … and do one nice thing for myself. One self-indulgent, unnecessary, fun thing. I thought about buying some new clothes, but couldn’t find anything that caught my eye. I thought about splurging on some first-edition books I’ve had my eye on, but couldn’t justify the several hundred dollars it would have cost. And then it hit me: I’m gonna get another piercing!!
I considered what kind of piercing I wanted for days. Another lip piercing? No, my lips might look too crowded. A belly-button piercing? I’d always wanted one, but it took my fiancee’s piercing a year to heal, and the thought of not wearing high-waisted pants made me want to cry. An ear piercing? Unfortunately, due to a misadventure at Claire’s, my earlobes are so heavily scarred that it would take a miracle to get a needle through them. An eyebrow piercing? I couldn’t think of any negatives! I’d always wanted one, and I thought it would make me look like the 2005 punk-rocker I’d always wanted to be!
I found myself lying face-up on a table with a needle through my face a week later. And I have to say! I love it! I’m so happy I did this little thing for myself, and I can’t wait to rock a face full of metal in the next few years.
Video games are not only a huge hobby of mine, they’re also a form of stress relief. They can serve as both an art form and a way to decompress. I play a lot of games normally, but over the past year that we’ve been in the pandemic, I find myself turning to more calming management-style games. They’re distracting and perfect when I need to relax. I thought I’d recommend some of my indie favorites in case you’re also looking for your next fix. I tried to include several, but realistically, I could go on forever. These are either games I’ve played myself and have given a happy stamp of approval, or that have received raving reviews from friends. I could also recommend several other games that wouldn’t quite fit the management tag, but that’s a list for another day.
Personally, I feel like Stardew Valley is super well-known, but I still haven’t played it! I’m hoping to remedy that soon. However, almost all of my friends have played, and no one has anything negative to say about it. In Stardew Valley, you take over a farm and make it the best it can be, while getting to know the townsfolk and exploring a gorgeous world. Stardew Valley has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 290,206 reviews. It’s available on multiple consoles, but if you play on PC, you can find a lot of mods that people have lovingly made to enhance your experience.
Slime Rancher features you taking the role of Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher living on a foreign planet who spends her days wrangling various types of slimes and exploring the Far, Far Range. Slime Rancher is super charming, with many different environments to explore and cute characters to meet. You can combine slime types and grow their favorite foods, while keeping an eye on the changing market prices. In my opinion, Slime Rancher does an excellent job of balancing exploration with management that actually feels necessary and real! You’re required to pay attention to your ranch and venture out in order to advance the game. It also has a timed mode and a relaxed mode so you can customize your experience. Slime Rancher has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with over 54,461 reviews and took me about 20 hours to play through.
Potion Craft isn’t released yet, but you can play the demo. It looks like a unique, promising concept. You play as an alchemist in a small town, taking the townspeople’s various requests for potions while trying to figure out how to make most of them through wild experimentation. What charmed me the most was the art style of the game — it looks like a medieval text. I found the demo extremely fun to play and spent time exploring what happened when I added various ingredients together. I’m really looking forward to spending hours in this game, managing my little alchemy shop when Potion Craft releases.
I’ve saved the best for last. Spiritfarer was my personal game of the year in 2020. You play as Stella, the newest Spiritfarer replacing Charon, and sail around a beautiful world in your massive vessel with your cat Daffodil. Your goal is to find lost spirits in the world and help them pass on, while discovering more about yourself. You complete charming tasks, like cooking, gardening, building workshops and spirit houses, and chasing adorable nebula rollie-pollies that sink onto your boat like falling stars. (Extremely important note — you can hug Daffodil at any time!) Spiritfarer is ultimately a game about loss, death, and grief, and it definitely made me sob every time I helped a spirit pass on. With the disclaimer that it’s a sad game, it definitely struck a chord with me as a sentimental, beautiful work of art about how those you love will never be far. The soundtrack is incredible, the quests are charming, and I literally cannot say enough about it. The developers are releasing new spirits this year, which has motivated me to start a new playthrough and experience it all over again. Spiritfarer has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 7,340 reviews, and I have almost 40 hours in the game — but disclaimer, I did spend extra time getting all of the achievements.
I hope that this list gave you some inspiration for calming management games to try!
It’s no secret to anybody who knows me, even in passing, that I don’t like change. Whether it’s something big like moving, or something small like not having Thai food for dinner as planned, change feels disruptive and sudden to me. This is exacerbated by severe anxiety, which is notoriously triggered by disruptions to routine.
However, change is unavoidable, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a change for the better. If I hadn’t come to Portland State University, I never would have seen Little Cow Pigeon. (Yes, I will take any opportunity to use a picture of Little Cow Pigeon.) If I hadn’t started working at my new job, I never would have met my fiancé. Starting therapy was terrifying, but it changed my life for the better. Life doesn’t stay the same forever, whether or not you want it to, so I’ve had to learn coping mechanisms. One of the most useful techniques is what I call the Rule of Three.
I developed this rule during college, when I had to change classes every term. It was difficult getting used to a new classroom, subject and teacher every ten weeks when it felt like I had just gotten used to the last term. However, I always ended up settling in and feeling more comfortable…it just took me a couple of weeks. So I learned to give it three weeks before deciding the class was a lost cause.
Sometimes the change is smaller — a restaurant I was planning on going to for lunch is unexpectedly closed. This used to ruin my day. But there’s always an alternative, and sometimes that ends up being just as good as the original plan. I learned to pause and take three minutes to process my disappointment and consider the new options. That’s usually all it takes to I feel a lot better about things.
Same thing if someone asks me out of the blue if I want to go on an outing with them — say, a hike in the park or a trip to a food cart. My initial reaction is always to say “no.” I started wondering why that was, because I’m not a negative person. In fact, I’m generally rather optimistic. I figured out it was my anxiety getting in the way, because anxiety does not like spontaneity. Now I ask the person to give me a few minutes to think about it. More often than not, after I have three minutes to consider the question, I end up wanting to go out after all.
What if the change is massive? I moved twice during my childhood — I’m originally from Michigan — before moving to Ohio and then to Oregon. Those were huge changes. In this case, the rule of three had to be three months. That was how long it took me to adjust to my new home, city, neighborhood and friends.
The Rule of Three has worked well for me when it comes to adjusting to change. Perhaps it will be useful for you, as well, if you also struggle with new things. I’m always trying to remember that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It might be scary at first, but more often than not, it’s a change for the better. And that gives me the courage to power through.
As I have shared many times in my Chronicle articles, I am chronically ill and disabled. I have a compromised immune system, I am hard of hearing, I walk with a limp, I am allergic to everything from pet hair to plants to hand soap, I have fibromyalgia, crippling pain, I have intense sensory issues, I have delayed motor skills, I have multiple mental illnesses, I have plantar fasciitis, GI issues, I’m severely anemic … I could go on. This makes my daily life no less joyful, but pretty complicated. What can exacerbate the difficulties is that 99% of my illnesses and disabilities are invisible.
If someone looked at me, they would see your average Portland twentysomething: skinny jeans, T-shirt, high-top shoes. If I were to walk, they may notice the limp. But from the outside, I look able-bodied and neurotypical. While this does include some inherent privilege that I want to acknowledge, it can also make things quite frustrating. One cannot know that I am in so much physical pain I can hardly walk, or that I am covered in painful hives under my long sleeves because I pet my dog.
Because of my complicated health, I have had to be my own fiercest advocate in the medical field. I’ve been told my pain is all in my head, that I’m just suffering growing pains, that my pain tolerance is just bad. My favorite is when a family doctor told me at thirteen, “Well, your weight just puts too much strain on your body! Of course your knees hurt!” I was a hundred pounds soaking wet.
Recently, I had to go to the ER. It was the first time my pain levels had landed me somewhere of this caliber. I’d had to go to urgent care several times, and been to my PCP countless times. I was scared out of my wits of the ER, especially as an immunocompromised person in the middle of a pandemic! I had woken up at 2 a.m. sure I had broken every rib in my body. I could hardly breathe, and felt a stabbing pain and then a crunch with each breath I took in. It was terrifying. I’d cried for hours until my fiancee urged me to go to the ER at 5 a.m..
The pain was indescribable. I could barely breathe, let alone sit up and walk. Even still, I felt that I was over-exaggerating. The pain will probably go away in a few days. The medical bills aren’t worth it. I can’t breathe, but maybe I’m just being hysterical. They won’t believe me anyway. Maybe the pain will go away if I just buck up and deal with it. The denial was real.
Unfortunately, all my worst fears came true at the ER. I was treated exactly as I’d feared: like I was making everything up. The doctor insinuated that I was there trolling for pain pills. When I explained that addiction ran in my family and I was very wary of pills, the physician leveled a look at me like I was lying. An exact quote from him was, “Well, it’s not like you’re having a heart attack! It’s not a real emergency.” At that moment, the pain in my heart was worse than the pain in my ribs. Another useless trip. Another doctor acting as if I was some kind of hysterical hypochondriac. He interrupted me as I rattled off my list of diagnoses to say, “But are you actually diagnosed with that?” Of course I am. I’ve had to fight like hell for these diagnoses since I was thirteen years old.
I wanted to lay down and give up. But I refused. I have repeated it a million times: if I don’t advocate for myself in the medical world, no one will. If I don’t demand the treatment I deserve, I will not receive it. And so I went on another endless visit with my PCP. I was firm: I wanted a blood test, I wanted referrals to a chiropractor, and I wanted suggestions for how to engage in pain management. I wasn’t rude, but I was steadfast. And I received all of these things. The blood test gave me answers I’d long been seeking, the chiropractor is incredibly helpful, and the pain management skills are at the very least helping my mental health.
I am ill. I am disabled. But I am proud of myself, and I am not making my conditions up. I am someone who suffers greatly, but someone who advocates for himself fiercely and firmly. And I’ll just have to keep doing it!
The past 12 months have felt like a chaotic decade and with the vaccine coming out at the same time as the warm weather, it feels like we are finally out of the dark winter. With this new light there are so many new things I have been excited about.
I have only lived in Oregon for about a year and have not explored as much as I wish I could have. So for spring break my roommates and I took a day to see the coast. Luckily this kind of trip does allow us to social distance and stay safe from the general public. We drove to Pacific City and spent the day walking on the beach and the sand dunes. It was so beautiful and I am so glad that I got to spend a day with my roommates looking at some pretty sites.
Since moving out to Oregon, I have not been able to see my dad or brother in almost a year. It has been hard because we are really close but we knew that it was safer to wait to be together again. With this spring and my family getting the vaccine I have been able to make the choice to make a trip to see my family at the end of this summer.
This spring term, I am taking my first music education class. For the past year, I have been developing my music skills in theory and aural practice. I have enjoyed these classes and have learned so much but it’s not what I have wanted to do. I have been wanting the opportunity to start observing classes and learning the techniques I need in the classroom and that’s what I have been able to start this term!
PSU’s CAT program teaches all facets of IT infrastructure in a professional environment
The CAT (Computer Action Team) is a hands-on, IT training program for student volunteers. PSU’s University Communications spoke to the CAT’s Department Manager, Brittaney Califf, and Communications Student, Brian Koehler to find out more about the opportunities CAT provides for students. Interview edited for clarity and length.
Q: What does the CAT do and what does being part of the team entail?
Brian Koehler: The CAT (Computer Action Team) provides IT support throughout the Maseeh College of Engineering (MCECS). With a primary focus on instructional needs, we support many large-scale computer labs (both college-wide and departmental), remotely accessible computer/session servers, various remotely accessible services as well as the server and physical network infrastructure that binds it all together. Where possible, the CAT is also able to leverage its infrastructure to support research and special projects in the college.
The second purpose of the team is to provide an invaluable resource to all students of Portland State University, regardless if they are students of MCECS or not. We provide IT training and skills via our brain dump program to students as well as Help Desk Work experience in an IT environment.
Brittaney Califf: We do everything here! We have our own admin side, our own user services, all the way to the end to our own surplussing of equipment and recycling, so we run the gamut.
Can you tell us more about the Braindump program?
BK: The Braindump program is the major part of being in the CAT. Every student who joins the CAT is expected to participate in this program. It is a weekly 3-4 hour class that is taught by one of our full-time employees or a student leader that has to do with IT. In return for this free class, we ask that students volunteer 3-4 hours per week working on our front desk helping MCECS students and faculty with their IT issues. Students then can put what they learned in the Braindump class in action while on the front desk.
BC: The program is only offered once a year, in the fall. The next brain dump batch will be starting Oct. 8 for this year and we only take one set per year because it’s really like an 18-month program — one batch ends up teaching the next batch. They get a broad range of skills to be at the front desk. Probably within 3 months, they’re on the front desk and by 6 or 8 months in, they’re alone on the front desk, helping people. The best way to learn around here is just to help other people.
What kind of skills are developed in working for the CAT?
BK: Students in the CAT can learn almost every facet of IT infrastructure in a professional environment. Some of these systems include Windows, Linux, printers, website development, and networking. We also have teams that specialize in technical and wiki writing to record and document all of the Computer Action Team’s training and systems, as well as student leadership roles and a communication team.
BC: If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great place to find out what you enjoy: You can do the purchasing, administrative, and business end or you can join a networking team. You can do hardware, software, development, web administration and we have a video team. We have a huge variety of opportunities where people can mess around and find what they love. People really find their niche here.
What kind of jobs can experience with the CAT lead to?
BK: Many students have found jobs via connections they made at the CAT with Nike, Intel, and other local companies. Our weekly Braindump classes will teach students everything about IT in a professional setting as well as give them hard skills they can use in their day-to-day technology use. They will walk away with one year of IT help desk experience if they complete the Braindump program. They also have the chance to work closely with our full-time employees and get even more directed training in any systems of their choice.
How many people are currently involved in the CAT?
BK: The CAT is run by Janaka Jayawardena, who set up the idea of the Braindump program and student volunteer program almost 30 years ago, and is assisted by Brittaney. The team consists of 8 FTE (that includes a director and department administrator), 7-10 student workers, and an army of volunteer trainees. Technical support for each platform (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc.) has a full-time lead who, in turn, is surrounded by a team that may include full-time employees, student workers, and student volunteers.
BC: There are fewer student workers right now due to current constraints, but the volunteer crowd consists of about 43 people right now.
How has the CAT been operating differently during the pandemic?
BK: The Computer Action Team was one of the driving forces to getting many MCECS systems pandemic-ready; the students and full-time employees worked daily to get all of the labs set up virtually and get the professors and employees of MCECS running. To do this, we had our students in the technical writing team update and improve our website to have the latest information and user guides to getting set up for remote labs.
BC: The Braindump program has also been all online for the first time ever — this is our first remote batch of students. Skills are being transposed into online help, whereas students would usually walk over to a lab and help somebody. Phone calls are usually a big thing for us and those are not happening; they’re being transposed into voicemails and students are then returning the calls. It’s a little weird but no less active. People are not needing less help, they’re just needing different help.
What should students interested in joining the CAT know?
BK: Again, we only enroll students once a year in October; it is the only chance they get to join the Braindump program and become a part of the CAT. They can learn more at our website and they can follow our social media accounts to get a heads up on next year’s orientation.
BC: We take people from all across campus. You don’t have to be studying Engineering, we’ve had folks from Geology, English, Physics — all over the place. We’ve taken folks who don’t know how to turn a computer on! You really do learn from the ground up, if you need to, and it starts wherever you are.
How a Portland State student group makes the major more welcoming for all
If you’re a current or prospective computer science student, you may have heard of We in Computer Science, more commonly known as WiCS, one of PSU’s student-led computer science groups. But do you know much about the group’s goals or what it offers for CS students? WiCS’s 2020-2021 president, Alejandro Castaneda, weighs in on four key things to know about the group.
WiCS was originally founded as “Women in Computer Science” by a group of women at PSU who felt that they didn’t belong and that there wasn’t a space for them in computer science.
That out-of-place feeling was largely due to a general trend in tech: “As courses go on to the upper division, the amount of women and people of color in classes just drops down significantly,” Alejandro explains. “This is something seen throughout the whole industry, where people of color and women have higher burnout rates . . . It’s this culture of tech that is very exclusionary.”
The group was later renamed to “We in Computer Science” as an acknowledgement that several groups —including women and people of color as well as LGBTQIA+ and gender non-conforming people, first-generation immigrants, and disabled people — face this exclusionary culture.
Its name may have changed, but WiCS has always focused on supporting each of these groups that have been historically underrepresented in computer science. WiCS envisions a future in which these groups are truly included — a future in which diversity is celebrated and people can truly feel that they belong in computer science.
WiCS works to build this future by providing a community in which members can receive advice and guidance from people who may have been through similar experiences. Essentially, as Alejandro says, “In case they are struggling, or in case they’re feeling alone, they have this whole community that is also there to support them.”
3. Mentorship program
WiCS’s mentorship program is one major way in which it builds this community. Mentees are paired up with a mentor (who can, in turn, also be a mentee if they so choose). It’s one of WiCS’s biggest highlights, Alejandro says. The mentor helps foster connections between their mentee and the rest of the WiCS community, and helps guide them through courses and jobs.
The 2020-2021 school year marks the third year of the program, and with 23 mentors and 36 mentees total, it’s still going strong even in this year’s remote world.
Aside from its mentorship program, WiCS also holds several events throughout the year designed to help and support its community. Here are the big ones:
Annual Winter Career in Tech Night: A workshop in which local tech companies are connected with WiCS members to provide real-world advice for resumes, internships, interviews, networking, hiring standards, and everything else career-related.
Annual Spring Hackathon: Participants work with a team over a weekend on a real coding project to encourage community growth and bolster coding skills for students of ALL levels.
Monthly Town Halls: These often feature presentations from members of the tech community and discussions about how to both improve and thrive within the industry.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about WiCS is that they want you to get involved. Alejandro advises checking out WiCS’s website and its Slack channel, and recommends people who are curious to come to one of the events it hosts.
Just taking the initiative to attend a WiCS event is a fantastic first step. “Even if your video’s off, even if your mic is on mute, you still showed up,” Alejandro says. That bit of involvement can lead to deeper participation and connection, and can potentially create an experience that’ll stick with you for years.
WiCS may focus on supporting groups that are historically underrepresented in computer science in particular, but that doesn’t mean that only people in those groups can be a part of its community. Anyone who shares WiCS’s vision of a future where everyone can feel welcome in computer science is encouraged to take that first step and check the group out!
Welcome back, everyone! I’m excited for spring term. My classes are interesting, my color-coding system is finalized, and I’m confident that this is the term that I’ll finally slay the Procrastination Dragon. And this term, I mean it.
I have the habit of making overly-ambitious to-do lists; both necessary (like re-organizing the closet and taking clothes to Goodwill) and pleasurable (like practicing my art skills). Very rarely do I ever complete even a third of these aspirational tasks.
Maybe I’m lazy and unmotivated. On the other hand, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I’m not the only one who assigns themselves tasks during a period of free time, only to wake up and realize that the window of free time has come and gone. Yet I feel like I do this more than most people. Is it self-sabotage? A mental health thing? Disorganization and lack of motivation stemming from COVID stress?
Whatever the cause (or causes), I’m tired of doing this. I want to be able to set goals and actually meet them.
I decided to look at my lists a little differently. I pulled out my winter break to-do list: was there anything on the list I could see myself doing — actually doing, and not just picturing me doing? Did I write this list for me, or an ideal version of myself? And were my own goals stressing me out; just contributing to procrastination and leading me to not even try?
Ideal Erika — the Erika I want to be — has endless energy and focus. She wakes up at 5:45 a.m. every day to work out. She meets all her homework and blogging deadlines. She has a vibrant social life and devotes lots of time to personal improvement and hobbies. She schedules doctor’s appointments without a shred of anxiety. She keeps her environment clean and tidy and cooks healthy dinners every day in her shiny kitchen with an alphabetized spice rack. Her schedule is perfectly juggled; each ball expertly timed to land in her perfectly-manicured hands, and she manages her stress easily. In fact, stress revitalizes her!
I’m not Ideal Erika. At least not yet. Although the truth is I probably never will be, not entirely. However, I can take steps to get closer to being her, and the first step is by admitting to myself that I have limits. I used to make a lengthy list of everything I wanted to get done in a day, then self-loathe at the end of the day when I didn’t complete it. Now, I’ve started making a list as I would before, but highlighting what’s important … and then highlighting again in a different color once I’ve prioritize from that pool of tasks. As long as I get my Three Big Things done in a day, I feel accomplished.
Some days are better than others, and my Three Big Things turns into Eight Big Things. Other days, I have Two Big Things, or even One Big Thing. And some days I don’t even get One Big Thing done. But since I’ve started prioritizing, life is a lot more manageable and less overwhelming. I’ve completed more projects and been more productive compared to before when I’d load up my plate with endless tasks and self-expectations. And while procrastination is still my biggest obstacle to success, I’ve been paying visits to the Procrastination Dragon less and less frequently.