A “Swan” Summer

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

This is my last term of college, and my classes are different than usual. This term, I’m taking my senior capstone and my last four University Studies credits…which is how I ended up in a Japanese Manga class. 

First of all, it’s a four-week class, which I’ve never done before. And it’s no joke! We have the same amount of content, but it’s squished into four weeks instead of the usual eight or ten for non-summer terms. Every day, we have a discussion assignment due, and every week we have an essay and quiz. It’s vital to write down my assignments and cross them off when I’m done so I don’t get confused.

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While it certainly isn’t stress-free, I’ve really enjoyed the texts we’ve read so far this term. One of the manga we read is Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi. I fell in love with it from the first page. It’s the story of a teenage ballerina and her struggle to get into a prestigious ballet school. Since I did classical ballet as a teenager, I took to the story right away and liked it so much that I ordered the next book in the series immediately after finishing. 

I never would have discovered this book if it weren’t for my manga class. And I wouldn’t have signed up for this class if it weren’t for University Studies. It turns out that this manga class is the perfect way to finish my English major, expanding my knowledge beyond Western literature. It just goes to show that you should keep an open mind, because you never know where you’ll find your new favorite book.

Honoring Juneteenth at Portland State

An Emancipation Day celebration in Richmond, Virginia, in 1905

June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth – is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free.

Some 155 years later, we at PSU continue to take steps to engage in lifelong learning and create a campus that honors our Black students and employees and embraces social justice.

  • Portland State will hold a Speak Loud & Be Proud Virtual Town Hall meeting from noon to 2 p.m. on June 19 that will address African, African American, Black, and Pan African Diaspora experiences and concerns at PSU. If you would like to attend, register here.
  • Shirley Jackson, a professor in PSU’s Department of Black Studies, will be appearing on “AM Northwest” at 9 a.m. and “Afternoon Live” at 2 p.m. to discuss Juneteenth. She will also speak at the Juneteenth Celebration March from 3-6 pm at Millennium Park in Lake Oswego.

For our Black colleagues and students who find that freedom remains an elusive concept in so many arenas, please know that we stand with you and will continue to work for true and full liberation and participation at PSU.

Crafting in Quarantine: “Quaranzines”

By Erika Nelson

Whether in mandatory or self-imposed isolation, people are turning to hobbies like arts and crafts to keep themselves occupied.  One fun project having a moment on social media is zine-making: The hashtag #quaranzine has over 5,000 hits on Instagram.

Merriam-Webster defines a zine as “a noncommercial often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter.” There is no right or wrong way to make a zine — it can be handmade or digital; thrown together or carefully planned. Zines can be anything you want — a mini-book of self-published poetry, a political manifesto, your own comic book…the possibilities are only limited by your imagination and materials available. 

I made two different zines using this paper-folding tutorial. One is called This is Your Life Now, and I used acrylic paint and magazine clippings to create a tongue-in-cheek manual for embracing the new normal. 

I included a spread featuring things I do in quarantine, such as sleep, play games… 

…and fantasize about being productive. 

My second zine was a parody of Time magazine: The cover features an image of more innocent times — a crowded beach — and the headline, “There will be no summer (and probably no autumn).” 

Of  course, I had to include fake advertisements. 

I encourage everyone to try making their own quaranzines! Arts and crafts do more than just fill free hours — they can be therapeutic during scary and uncertain times, and sharing your art on social media can help foster community in a time of isolation. So grab some art supplies, fire up the publishing software, or simply use a paper and pen — let’s do some quarantine crafting!

Showing Solidarity From Home

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

Life has been overwhelming lately, to say the least. It seems like I go from a news article about the COVID-19 pandemic to a coverage of protests in Portland. More than anything, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness. I want to help the Black Lives Matter cause. But how can I do that from home?

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graphic from blacklivesmatter.com

For anyone else who feels this way, I’ve rounded up a short list of ways that you can help from home. Although the protests are necessary, it’s also dangerous to congregate in public when coronavirus is still spreading. Luckily, you can still support the cause from the safety of your own home.

If you’re a white person like me, you can educate yourself and other white people. This could mean having difficult conversations with your family members who may not be very aware of what’s going on. You could share helpful articles on your social media. What’s important is doing the work to become informed. 

You can donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Every little bit helps. Many of us are unemployed college students, which means we aren’t exactly showered with money, but if everyone donated the price of a Starbucks drink, it would add up. 

I’ve been making a concerted effort to support black artists, authors, and creators. A book that helped me learn a lot is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is a young adult novel about a girl standing up against police brutality. I read it from the library a couple of years ago, but I finally bought a copy because it’s such an important book.

There are many ways to show your support even if you aren’t on the front lines, and I encourage you to do so. Together, we can make a difference.

Summer Woes

by Beth Royston

While I am eagerly awaiting finals to be finished, I’m not exactly looking forward to summertime either. I’m a student that chooses to take a break over the summer and not take any classes, and work to save up as much as I can for expenses throughout the year. I usually approach summer with mixed feelings. I enjoy the break from classes, but I also miss them! However, I think this year will be different, and not in a good way.

I really despised the summers during high school — it’s an easy recipe for my depression to fester, sitting at home with not much of a structure and things to do. Now, my life is a lot busier, with a side business to run, a garden to take care of, novel chapters to write. However, there’s a looming possibility I won’t be able to go anywhere or see friends often — something else that echoes high school — and I’m worried about my mental health. While I’m happy to have a break from classes, as all-online learning has not agreed with me, I’m worried about the lack of deadlines. 

I appreciate that PSU has been asking for student input on what fall term will look like. I’m really hoping that classes are ideally split between online and in-person, which is the type of schedule I prefer anyway. If things are due to be all online again, I think I’m going to have to avoid taking the full course load I usually do, as I’m not confident my grades will be able to stick with another entirely online term. Thankfully, I have some leeway in my graduation plan where I can take less classes now and more later. 

A lot of friends and family I’ve been talking to have also been struggling with their mental health during this time, and worrying about their future when they are forced to perform as usual during these incredibly stressful circumstances. I’m also a planner, so I like looking forward to the future. However, when times are uncertain, it’s not easy to plan for things five months from now, because it’s impossible to tell if they’ll be open. I appreciate the opportunity to still be able to take classes and work on my degree during this time, but I feel my resolve and determination slowly slipping through my fingers.

Now Is Not The Time For Silence

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Had you asked me a year ago what my last blog for PSU Chronicles would be about, I would’ve said my upcoming graduation. Instead, the recent protests and riots against police brutality and racism that have rocked our nation have completely occupied my mind and heart. 

When I moved to Portland from Idaho, my eyes were opened to my privilege and the many racial injustices embedded in the criminal justice system. I have spent my years here listening and learning as much as I can. In those same years, I also allowed the fear of saying the wrong thing strangle me into silence. Once I realized my silence enables an oppressive system, I felt even more shame. A broken system can only find true long-term reformation if we fight for change in the system and within ourselves.

I have witnessed many who speak, “Well, in my experience…” in an attempt to use their personal reality to disregard the experiences of communities with identities different from them. In order to change, we need to let go of defensive tendencies that manifest themselves in phrases like “not all cops are bad” or “All Lives Matter.” Defending the reputation of good cops is not the priority, focus, or issue; police brutality is. Black Lives Matter because as a white person, I will never understand what it feels like to fear death by the very hands put in place to protect me. 

Just to feel anger, horror, and outrage at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others is no longer enough. As the protests and riots unfolded, I thought to myself that “this time feels different.” But why? Perhaps, for the first time, I understood that in order to help make any difference that I can’t simply feel outraged or listen and learn from afar; I must join the discussion. We all must so that when our nation finally undergoes the changes it needs, no individual will allow it to fail again.

Social Distance Summer

By: Ragan Love

With summer just around the corner, I have been wondering how to enjoy the next few months. I don’t want to just sit inside, but I want to keep myself and loved ones safe. I love being around people, and this is a time where that really won’t happen.

When I envisioned summer 2020, I knew that I would be back home in Colorado. I was going to get a summer job and work full time for a few months. I wanted to do some fun adventuring with my friends and maybe travel somewhere with my family. My brother is going to college in the fall so this will be the last time where we are all hanging out together, and I was hoping that we could make it memorable. 

Luckily, I can still enjoy some of my favorite summer activities. I can still go hiking. It will be easy to distance myself. I also like to drive in the mountains and see nature, which I can do by myself right now and hopefully at some point with one friend. My town also has one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country, so I can go there for a movie and stay safe in my car. 

There are things that I know won’t happen this summer because of the pandemic. In recent years my family has been spending a day at a local adventure park, but we all know it won’t be safe to go. Water World, a local water park, has announced that they will be closed all summer, and we are waiting for the other parks to follow suit. The county fair I go to happens at the beginning of August and marks the last summer adventure for the kids, but I am expecting those events to also announce that they are closing.

It has been awhile since I have seen my family in New Hampshire, and it looked like this might have been a summer where we could go visit. We did get some unexpected news, and we had to postpone a celebration of life until the end of the summer. My high school friends and I were also planning on hanging out in a little reunion this summer, but we know now that it will not happen for us this year.

I will be sad to not have an adventurous summer like I had planned, but it will be one of most memorable summers for all of us. I know that if I do what I need to this summer, even if that means missing out on fun events, life will soon come back to normal.

Through Sickness and Health

by Beth Royston

My partner and I will celebrate our five-year anniversary in early July. Last year, we took a trip to the coast after realizing he’d never been, and visited a lovely aquarium, which was very nostalgic. One of our first dates was at an aquarium — that first date was on our one year anniversary, after he’d flown out from Ohio to California to see me. It was a beautiful trip, and I can’t help but feel tinged with sadness this year. We’d hoped to do something similar, but my health makes it uncertain if we’ll be able to complete another drive to the coast. However, I’m grateful I even get to think about that at all. 

This has been the toughest year of my life with my health scares, but the steadfast presence throughout it all has been my partner. We spent every hour of the day together for a week in a tiny hotel room, and then a hospital room, while I was the sickest I’ve ever been. He saw me at my worst and took such good care of me any way he could while we were both terrified and alone on the other side of the world. One of the most vivid memories I have, among the fear and despair, was feeling overwhelmed with how in love and grateful I felt to him. I had always been sure he was the person I wanted to spend my life with, but this was beyond certainty — an assurance that no matter what happened, he’d be there.

 I’ve been grateful that we’re quarantining together. We both value our individual space, and sometimes, that can be difficult to get when my roommates also need the downstairs area. Tensions and worries are high. While my health struggles have improved, they’re certainly not over, and we frequently have to navigate the ups and downs that this new reality requires. It’s caused us to take a look at our relationship, what we both need and how we communicate. Thankfully, we’re going through it stronger than ever. I wouldn’t choose to be stuck inside with anyone else, and we make it a priority to do things together and talk frequently about how we’re both doing. No matter what we decide to do to celebrate our anniversary this year, I’m glad that we have each other.

Feeling Helpless in a Time of Great Need

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the cornerstones of my job as a Resident Academic Mentor —programming—came to a complete standstill with COVID-19. Throughout the term, I normally put on programs that promote holistic wellness in order to achieve academic success. With its absence, I honestly feel like the rewarding aspect of my job has been ripped away. All of us in Housing have lost the in-person connection to residents and we miss providing them the support of programming. I continue to live on campus, and my residents know I’m still here because I send out weekly emails, but I feel more like a ghost in their inbox than anything else.

It  is hard to know how to support my residents and other students during these times. This has been echoed by my teammates and other student leaders. PSU students are experiencing financial, mental health, academic, and other hardships that are all unique. I’m not qualified to provide specialized help in those areas.  I have to refer students out to online counseling services with SHAC and virtual appointments with the Financial Wellness Center. I hold zero sway with unaccommodating and unsupportive professors. All I can do is listen and offer resources, and it makes me feel useless.

My position as a Resident Academic Mentor gave me a sense of purpose in the past. I built a community at PSU through this role and really found my place on campus. I enjoyed helping people and feel privileged to have heard so many life stories. Now, with the pandemic, I feel like I’m just going through the motions of my work. In the halls I strove to build connection, I have never felt so disconnected. Throughout this term, I’ve struggled to find meaning in my work when I am so utterly powerless to change my residents’ situations.

What it’s like to study engineering remotely

By Wiwin Hartini

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been taking my engineering courses remotely these past six weeks. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to studying engineering remotely. This is my last year studying electrical engineering at Portland State University. I was a transfer student from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and my time at PSU was enriched by hands-on experiences.

Electrical engineering has branches, and I’m focusing on power engineering, or how engineers generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to households and other entities. It would be hard for power engineering students to do labs at home. I miss the hands-on experiences in the power lab, where students have access to different types of motors and generators, transformers, power supplies, relays, and other types of equipment that must stay in the lab for safety purposes. 

AlthoughI’m missing the hands-on experience, the main path to learning is, fortunately, still available. I can still ask questions of instructors who are also working in the industry, and I can still use free software for simulations and course materials.

In my electronics class, my professor conducts experiments at his home-lab, and students focus on conducting simulations and comparing results with his measurements, which has been very useful in filling the gap. 

Many engineering courses also rely on simulations that can be done remotely. So spending more time on simulations allows me to learn more about the software. 

The circuit built on LTSpice to run a simulation

My typical day studying engineering remotely involves spending hours in front of my laptop, which I think most of us are doing now. On the other hand, I am excited to learn more about what students are capable of doing while working or studying from home. Maybe there is a potential for hybrid engineering courses in the future, where students can take the courses online and attend labs in person. 

I would say that I’ve gained some extra time during this quarantine which I can use to focus on studying, reading, and other activities that I would not be able to do if this term was in-person. My peers and I used to joke about the fact that engineering students rarely get enough sleep. I’d say it’s true for most of my terms in the past, but this term, I have been able to get enough sleep, work part-time, and go to school remotely.