Portland State’s 20 bright spots in 2020

Esmerelda Valdez: “Perfect depiction of what it feels to be a part of the Graduating Class of 2020!”

By Portland State’s Social Media Team

Unprecedented. Surreal. Socially distanced. No matter how you choose to describe it, 2020 has been a year like no other. But it hasn’t been ALL bad. Though the threat of COVID-19, urgency around racial equity and a strife-filled political climate have dominated our thoughts and lives, we didn’t have far to look to find uplifting PSU stories that will give you all the feels.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. We just didn’t have time to include more before 2021 is upon us.


20. Those beautiful blooming blossoms

Every spring like clockwork, 100 Akabono cherry trees bloom along Portland’s southwest waterfront a few blocks from campus, transforming the esplanade into a pink wonderland (and popular selfie opp.) In spring 2020, they provided a moment of much-needed normalcy against a decidedly abnormal backdrop. Fun fact: The trees were given to Portland in 1990 by the Japanese Grain Importers Association.


19. Athletes transform obstacles into opportunities

Viking men’s basketball coach Jase Coburn and Lindsay Coburn Meiggs held an impromptu wedding at Boise’s CenturyLink Arena.

Remember the canceled tournament that turned into a wedding? Or the drive-by retirement sendoff for beloved trainer Jim Wallis? It would have been easy for Viking Athletics to throw in the towel (bad pun intended) after facing challenge upon challenge this year. But that’s not the Viking Way. So when our student-athletes were sidelined from the sports they love, they responded with an overall 3.34 GPA for the year, including a remote spring term GPA of 3.56 — including 78 who achieved a 4.0 and 155 who ranked at 3.5 or above. #goviks


18. Star-studded Zoom drop-ins

Most of us agree that virtual gatherings just aren’t as good as in-person — but there is one advantage: cameo appearances. Comedian alum Ian Karmel graciously dropped in on a spring scriptwriting class to talk comedy. And soccer legend Abby Wambach and her bestselling author wife Glennon Doyle surprised the women’s soccer team. We can’t wait to find out who will show up next!


17. PSU steps up in early days of the pandemic

When COVID-19 first reached Portland, teaching and research labs around campus donated over 1,000 boxes of gloves as well as hundreds of masks and other personal protective equipment to local hospitals. The PSU Center of Entrepreneurship printed and distributed 1,000 face shields to Legacy Health. And they were just getting started!


16. Getting a second chance

Sentenced to 15 years at age 15, Josefina Ramirez this year was the first incarcerated youth in Oregon to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, part of the university’s effort to increase educational opportunities for people in detention facilities around Oregon. In the fall, Gov. Kate Brown granted Josefina executive clemency and she was hired by an outpatient treatment facility.


15. Alumni spring into action

  • Recent Portland School of Business grads Sharona Shnayder and Wanda McNealy were looking for ways to contribute to their communities last spring, and realized that picking up trash is a simple and safe way to practice environmental activism that anyone can do wherever they are. The Tuesdays for Trash grassroots movement was born! (Find them on instagram at @TuesdaysForTrash) 
  • School of Architecture alum Lisa Patterson designed a hub in Portland that provides bedding and clothing exchanges, medical aid, showers, bathrooms and an outdoor warming area for Portland’s houseless community.

14. Students go the extra distance

Morgan Godvin
  • Public health student Morgan Godvin moved to Tijuana last spring to serve the houseless community there while taking classes online between shifts. The experience made a deep impact, and Godvin now plans to pursue a career in public health and human rights law. 
  • In true Viking spirit, College of Urban and Public Affairs student Lauren Everett transformed an empty lot near her home into a temporary park last summer, a place for people to safely gather. “The amount of dedication and sweat equity that went into this project has been really inspiring” she said. “I hope this inspires similar efforts in other neighborhoods, to create spaces where people can gather safely during COVID and beyond.”

13. International students show resilience

Portland State’s international students had to contend with multiple stressors all at once this year. Thousands of miles from home, students worried about their families and friends abroad, had flights canceled and suffered financial hardship and homesickness — all while having to cope with changing immigration policies. Amazingly, they persevered. This fall, just over 1,000 international students enrolled at PSU. “There are some incredible stories out there of what students are doing to try to keep up,” said Christina Luther, director of International Student and Scholar Services. Read some of their stories here.


12. PSU names new chief of Campus Public Safety

Willie Halliburton

In July, Willie Halliburton was sworn in as PSU’s new Chief of Campus Public Safety. Halliburton has been at PSU since 2016, following a 32-year police career. He has since announced his commitment to unarmed campus patrols. “I believe deeply that safety comes from developing relationships in the community and treating people with respect,” Halliburton said. “My ultimate goal as chief is to build trust between CPSO and the PSU community — staff, faculty and particularly students. I recognize the need for change and to honestly address the concerns of the PSU community.”


11. Speech pathology clinic expands reach

While most speech-language pathology programs had to put clinical training on hold last spring, PSU quickly adapted its telepractice to actually expand its services. The clinic did not abandon a single client and, with the addition of four clinical supervisors, were able to increase their caseloads! “In the COVID-19 crisis, we have found an opportunity to innovate and deepen our commitment to serving the community and families in need,” said Claudia Meyer, director of clinical education at the Speech and Language Clinic at PSU.


10. PSU gave $8.3 million to students in need

The pandemic and corresponding shutdown was a financial disaster for many students. So when the federal government stepped up with $8.3 million earmarked for financial relief for students, it was gratifying to hear what a difference these payments made. “I can finally sleep at night,” was how one student expressed her profound relief after receiving the financial assist.


9. Researchers deployed smart trees in crusade to understand climate change

Hannah Prather, a certified arborist and postdoctoral researcher who is part of a team from Portland State, Reed College, Washington State University and The Nature Conservancy, spent the summer getting up at 4 a.m. to install sensors high up in Portland-area Douglas fir trees. These “smart trees” will become part of a study to better understand the impacts of climate change on urban trees. The Smart Trees team uses a range of technologies to monitor the health of the urban tree canopy, a key resource for reducing the social and environmental impacts of our warming climate.


8. Taking strides toward racial equity

Ame Lambert

As part of President Stephen Percy’s commitment to promoting equity and justice at PSU, the university will hire a cohort of 7 new scholars in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Gender, Race and Nations in fall 2021. The school — made up of Black Studies, Indigenous Nations Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies — seeks to better understand and advocate for historically underserved populations. PSU also welcomed the esteemed Dr. Ame Lambert as Vice President for Global Diversity and Inclusion. In October, she and President Percy convened five cross-campus task groups to organize a Virtual Equity Summit and developed a learning and action agenda to make our vision for a racially just and equitable future a reality at Portland State.


7. An unprecedented milestone

In June, Rachel Esteve became the first student with Down syndrome to graduate from Portland State with a four-year certificate from the Career and Community Studies program. Part of the first cohort of graduates from the program designed for students with intellectual disabilities, Rachel was joined by Lucy Balthazaar, Wyatt Isaacs, William Larson and Sawyer Viola.


6. PSU faculty among the best researchers in the world

Thirty-three Portland State researchers are ranked among the world’s most-cited and the top researchers within their discipline areas, according to a recent study that looked at more than 6 million researchers in 22 disciplines and 176 subdisciplines. Of course, we already knew this but it’s nice to be recognized!


5. PSU choirs make beautiful music

When it became apparent that in-person concerts were not possible in 2020, Portland State choirs quickly adjusted, practicing outdoors in small, distanced and masked groups. The PSU Chamber Choir, recognized as one of the finest choirs in the world according to Classics Today, created several live concerts online, partnering with the Rose Choir and Thorn Choir. And the Portland State Community Choir chimed in with a beautiful rendition of “Tender Love.”


4. School of Public Health helps with contact tracing

Students Hunter Peterson, Joyleen Mabika, Taurica Salmon and Shabir Sawary

When COVID-19 hit Oregon, Portland State public health students sprang into action, partnering with OHSU and Oregon Health Authority to perform contact tracing, conduct case investigations and help manage the outbreak. The partnership provided not only real-world experience, but also opportunities for careers after graduation. These inspiring Viks did more than study the issues — they addressed real-world problems with hands-on solutions!


3. Spring Term pivot

Yes it’s the most overused word of 2020, but we don’t care. Portland State faculty and staff delivered a full-on, jaw-dropping pivot this spring when classes moved from in-person to remote in a matter of days, and our students found new ways to learn and connect.

A few highlights: The Offices of Academic Innovation and Information Technology sprang into action to provide guidance and technical help. Faculty members adjusted their teaching methods and curriculum on the fly (and still kept their good humor).

Students shared their study spaces, quarantine routines and survival tips — which even included dancing on the roof.


2. The unexpected duet

It became the national anthem heard around the world. School of Music & Theater graduate Madisen Hallberg was recording the national anthem for PSU’s virtual commencement ceremony last spring in the park blocks when local artist and singer Emmanuel Henreid, who goes by Onry, walked by and asked to join her. This simple moment between two strangers was a balm for our souls during a divisive moment in our country, reminding us of the uniting, healing power of music. Thanks to the College of the Arts, the duo reunited this holiday season to bring us a beautiful rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem, translation: Grant us peace.


1. Celebrating The Class of 2020

Yessica Villegas

The Class of 2020 will have a distinct place in Portland State history. Participating in the first-of-its-kind virtual commencement after enduring four (or more) years of hard work, thousands of grads took photos in their regalia, celebrated at home or in their backyards … and made the best of it. And our faculty, staff, alumni and community stepped up to help make the moment special. Grads, you did it. We could not be prouder of what you accomplished and can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.


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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.

PSU’s unsung heroes: Janitors keep campus buildings safe during pandemic

Janitorial Supervisor Gloria Agnew

PSU SOCIAL MEDIA CONTRIBUTOR

While most Portland State students, faculty and staff are at home learning and teaching remotely, one group is still on campus despite the pandemic: PSU’s janitors. These unsung heroes are busy cleaning the main campus buildings, student housing facilities, Little Vikings Daycare and the Student Rec Center.

According to Relay Resources, the nonprofit company that trains and employs PSU’s janitorial staff, employees prioritize high-touch, high-traffic areas and use a health clinic-grade cleaner  known to kill coronaviruses. Relay employs 85 PSU janitors, who clean more than 2 million square feet across 20 buildings — including libraries, research buildings and parking areas.

Mina Salihovic

Still ahead: Deep cleaning approximately 1,400 PSU dorms this summer. The Relay staff is ready.

As part of its mission, Relay Resources hires people with disabilities and other obstacles to employment like language barriers, offering them new opportunities to make a positive impact on the community and do meaningful work.

Sending out warm virtual vibes to all the committed workers at Relay, who are on the front lines helping make all of us safer. Thank you for your dedication!

9 ways to get ready for remote learning at PSU

Spring term usually coincides with lounging in the sun on Urban Plaza, a plethora of festivals and activities and a humming, vibrant campus. But this year, spring at Portland State will look a little different.

The trees will still be in bloom, but a global coronavirus outbreak has prompted a shift at universities nationwide — and PSU is not exempt.

Folks in our Office of Academic Innovation and Office of Information Technology have been hard at work making sure our students, faculty and staff are ready for an all-remote spring term, and have created this Remote Learning Checklist:

  1. Learn what the plan is for each of your courses. Look for communication via email or D2L from your instructors, and read your courses’ syllabi carefully.
  2. Check out the Student Guide for Learning Remotely which covers many technical details and the Remote Learning Kit which covers additional tips for learning remotely.
  3. Get Zoom-ready. You’re very likely to have at least one instructor using this video conferencing software for virtual meetings this term. If you’ve never used this before at PSU, we have a few suggestions for getting started on Zoom.
  4. Schedule yourself. Look over the dates in your course syllabi, keep track of tasks in a calendar or planner, and give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete your work. With no in-person class meetings, it’s extra important to pay attention to how you’re spending your time.
  5. Take care. Give yourself regular breaks from your work. Exercise, eat snacks, and gift yourself with treats when you finish tasks.
  6. Stay tuned to PSU communication. The university is regularly sharing updates and resources to support you through this remote term via emails, Virtual Viking newsletter and on our social media channels.
  7. Ask for help when you need it. See more information about accessing campus resources remotely.
  8. Stay connected to friends, family, and classmates remotely. Social networks are more important than ever right now.
  9. Take a breath. Be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors. Everyone is trying to figure this out for the first time together.

For additional information, visit PSU’s Coronavirus Response webpage.

Sophie Soprani, Office of Academic Innovation

PSU Athletics Director Valerie Cleary on the power of women in sports

1988 Vikings volleyball national championship team
BY VALERIE CLEARY
Director of Athletics

It’s been a few days since the Super Bowl. Typically, on this hallowed day, two teams of men battle it out on the football field, while millions gather to cheer on their favorite team and cast their votes for the best commercial. This year felt a little different. There was a subtle, yet powerful message being sent to millions of women and girls.

  • Katie Sowers, with the San Francisco 49er’s, made history as the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.
  • Numerous commercials prominently included women and advocated for inclusion.
  • The half-time show headlined two powerful Latina performers — Jennifer Lopez and Shakira — and numerous young girls.
Then-freshman Desirae Hansen celebrates after her shot with 20 seconds left gave the Viks the Big Sky title win in 2019.

The message was clear: Women and girls are important contributors to our world — including sports.

This week marks the 34th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a week in which we celebrate and inspire “girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full power.” In my role as the Director of Athletics at Portland State University, I have the opportunity to witness firsthand the impact sport has on women. I see the leadership, communication and teamwork skills our student-athletes develop through their sport, I see the impact that strong female mentors have on our young men and women, and I see the future in the eyes of young girls who come to cheer our teams on each week.

The power of sport is undeniable. The impacts of participation will last a lifetime. I encourage you to advocate and support the girls and women in your life in all they do — it might just change the world.

GO VIKS!

PSU Black Studies professor reflects on MLK’s legacy

BY SHIRLEY JACKSON
FACULTY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

This marks the 20th year that all U.S. states recognized the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a national holiday. 

The idea of the MLK or King holiday, as it is referred to be many, started with Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow. After her husband’s assassination in April 1968, Coretta wanted to find a way to honor his memory and the work he was doing. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta was the result. 

Coretta continued to work diligently to have King’s birthday recognized as a holiday.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that recognized King’s birthday as a national holiday. Some states began celebrating King’s birthday in the mid-1980s, a few southern states celebrated it along with the birthday of Civil War Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, but it took until 1990 for all states to observe the King holiday.

King’s birthday gives us the opportunity to remember the things that he did in his lifetime and spurs us to continue this work. 

His legacy includes the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the many speeches and marches he gave, and his writings such as his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” which was a response to white religious leaders who warned him against embarking upon his nonviolent activities. 

In this letter, King vocalized the importance of his actions, writing, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” King’s statement makes clear that while things look as though they will not change, with time, they will — and not because we are loud or quiet, riotous or righteous, but because we are sound and right. The key is understanding that there are different ways of going about it and some may be quick, and some may be slower than others.  

“Make it a day on, instead of a day off,”
by engaging in service activities. Let us remember why we celebrate this day.

Following the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill in 1965, King moved to other issues such as employment, housing, and opposition to the Vietnam War. 

His assassination at the age of 39 did not end the work he set out to do. 

As we celebrate his birthday, many opt to “Make it a day on, instead of a day off,” by engaging in service activities in their communities. Let us remember why we celebrate this day. 

Happy Birthday Dr. King!

Shirley A. Jackson, Portland State University Professor,
PSU Black Studies Department

5 Portland State year-end highlights

As 2019 draws to a close, we look back at 5 ways Portland State University is making a difference in the lives of our students and region.

1.

PSU launched a campus-wide effort to help students graduate by using data to spot signs of trouble and intervening quickly, as well as opened a new advising center for transfer students.


2.

PSU renovated Fariborz Maseeh Hall and opened the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, bringing art and opportunity to all.


3.

PSU has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the best institution in Oregon and the Northwest region for social mobility.


4.

PSU marked a record year for research, with recent grants of over 25 million and overall research funding up 10 percent.


5.

PSU poured $1.5 billion into Oregon’s economy.


And now … bring on 2020!

Social Media Contributor

What are the odds of a White Christmas in Portland? Not great

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTRIBUTOR

It’s that most wonderful time of year when we ask ourselves: Will there be snow?

The odds of a “white Christmas” in Portland are … well, not great. Only about 1 percent, as a matter of fact.

Only two years stand out as having true white Christmases in Portland in recent years: 2008 and 2017. If you use the Portland Airport records as a guide, which go back to the late 1930s, there have been a few other years with small amounts of snow, but nothing really accumulating.

If you look further back, there were a couple more minor white Christmases earlier in the 20th century and late 19th century. Using that longer record, the chance of a white Christmas is about … 3 percent.

But don’t get too excited. The forecast for the Christmas right now calls for warmer than average temperatures, which doesn’t support the possibility of snow on Dec. 25.

However, weather is very variable, so we can’t rule it out until the day gets closer.

— Paul Loikith, director of Portland State’s Climate Science Lab

Portland State tackles food insecurity

By PSU Social Media Contributor

Millions of students, including a staggering 42% at PSU, are food insecure. That’s why Portland State University offers many resources on campus to provide access to free food and assistance.

Food Pantry
The PSU Food Pantry is available to any PSU student taking one or more credit hours. Hours are Mon., Tues., Fri. 12:30-3:30 p.m.; Wed. & Thurs. 2-5 p.m.

Free Food Market
Everyone is welcome to come to PSU’s Free Food Market, held on the second Monday of each month, rain or shine. The market has given out over 321,000 pounds of food since April 2015. All are welcome, and volunteers are needed.

Meal vouchers
Students may get up to 5 meal vouchers per term, good for free meals at Victor’s and Ondine. There are only a few vouchers left for fall term, and more will be available for winter term.

Help for students with children
The Winter Wonder program, coordinated through the Resource Center for Students with Children, provides crucial support to our PSU students with children, many of whom struggle to make ends meet during the holiday season. 

SNAP food benefits
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal and state-funded program providing food benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families. Special criteria exist for higher education students, and it’s now easier to qualify.

Hardship funds
Hardship Funds offered to students in School of Business, School of Social Work, College of Urban and Public Affairs, the College of Education and other departments. The Student Financial Wellness Center can connect students to resources and assist with navigating financial hardship. 

Other basic needs assistance

  • A Home for Everyone offers a list of emergency shelters.
    ahomeforeveryone.net/get-help/
  • Showers are available at the Rec Center for students.
  • Call or text 211 to find more resources or go to 211info.org

Historic 1965 College Bowl victory gave PSU national visibility, local credibility

The original team that put Portland State College on the map.
Jim Westwood is bottom row, second from the right.

By PSU Social Media Contributor

In 1965, Portland State College was virtually unknown on a national level. Then a group of nerdy college students rose up and shocked the TV quiz-show world.

Starting in January, the team made an undefeated run through the New York-based G.E. College Bowl quiz game — one of the nation’s most popular TV shows at the time — by beating every one of its opponents in record fashion.

The climax came on March 8, when the team defeated Birmingham Southern “in what NBC producers said was the ‘most outstanding team performance’ in College Bowl history,” according to the story in The Oregonian the next morning.

Afterward, the state legislature invited the team to Salem, and team member Jim Westwood (’67) addressed the Senate and House. Later that month, Time magazine ran an article on how the College Bowl victories helped change Portland State College’s image. “The floodgates opened for higher education funding and the college became PSU a few years later,” says Westwood. “I think the College Bowl really helped turn the corner for PSU.”

This fall, Portland State invited Westwood and other alumni back to campus to re-live the glory and excitement from the historic win.

This fall’s College Bowl event featured PSU friends and alumni, including Pulitzer-winning columnist Jack Ohman (’99), third from the left, who interviewed Westwood, second from left.